Posted by: highmountainmuse | January 17, 2009

What’s in your fanny pack?

Well, this is a good a time as any to talk about “What’s in your fanny pack?”  Or back pack, or saddle bags, or survival kit stored in the back of your car.


Last week I was out setting tracks with my snowshoes in the fresh powder.  Forrest was on snowmobile and offered to head out in front of me to pack a trail for me through the woods.  A few minutes later, I no longer heard the roar of his motor and assumed he was far ahead, but after walking just a short distance further, I came across him struggling with getting around some downed Aspen trees that were blocking the trail.  No problem.  I opened my fanny pack, took out my little saw, and we got through in no time. 


He’s one of the most prepared persons I know, but in just a little romp in his big back yard, it didn’t occur to him to take ALL his survival gear.  Where do you draw the line?  I know he always has a fire kit and many basic survival items strapped onto his snowmobile.  But he didn’t have a saw.  I bet he carries one now!  (I’ve yet to meet a snowmobiler who is happy to be “rescued” by a snowshoer… )

Impromptu view of the contents of my fanny pack (note the peanut m&m's are not there - already consumed!)

Impromptu view of the contents of my fanny pack (note the peanut m&m's are not there - already consumed!)




Here’s what’s in my fanny pack, for real:
– pocket knife

– little light weight saw

– string (one or two pieces 5-6 feet long, I like thin paracord)

– cherry chapstick

– a whistle (I don’t talk much, so I imagine I can’t scream much either)

– pencils and a notebook (I get inspired out there!  Also helpful to leave a message if need be)

– tissues/toilet paper (leaves are OK, but hard to find in winter)

– pre packaged  hand sanitizer towels

– bandana/scarf (can keeps you warm, can be a splint or tourniquet, a million uses!)

– flagging (should anything happen, having my boys find me would be a top concern, and the bright fluorescent colors stand out well in the snow and low light)

– fire kit in ziplock (for me, as mentioned in the post on building fire, this means strike anywhere matches, a little candle, and newspaper)

– a large trash bag (don’t laugh – this item is key! can be a great seat on wet ground, or raincoat in surprise storms, or core body warmer if the temps plummet – and they do. so, maybe not real pretty, but it works, believe me)

– water bottle

– food (I bring lots, and a few hard candies too.  my blood sugar has been known to drop pretty fast, and it’s not a good idea to get weak and lightheaded when you’re out there if you can avoid it)

– if the Boyz are around and may need to keep in touch, I carry a walkie talkie.  These things are great – our version of a cell phone.

– the camera.  I’m rarely without it.  Don’t know if it would help me survive, but I sure enjoy it!


Perhaps it is overkill hauling all this gear around with me, even on the short trips, but I’ve been caught unprepared too many times.  Even minor emergencies do happen:  I go further than planned, blood sugar drops, a white out rolls in unexpectedly, temperatures plummet suddenly, snowshoes break (yes, even this has happened to me).  I need to get home.  It’s not like someone is going to be coming up the trail shortly after me here to bail me out.


I imagine all this gear stuffed into a comfortable fanny pack weighs no more than six or seven pounds.


Think I carry a lot in my little fanny pack?  There’s even more I carry in my day pack for longer hikes or snowshoes, and even more in my saddle bags.  There, I also carry:

– complete emergency first aid kit for horse and human (it’s a requirement as an outfitter)

– materials and tools for fixing horse tack, including more string which can work as a halter, lead rope, repair a rein, etc.

– leatherman/all purpose tool

– larger ropers knife and hoof pick

– larger saw or hatchet

– a secondary fire kit (what if one gets wet?  and I want this close and easy to find when my fingers are frozen, which they’ll get up here, even in the summer)

– small roll of TP pressed flat into a quart size ziplock

– headlamp or flashlight

– spare pair of gloves

– maps in a ziplock bag (I get farther on horseback than I can on foot)

– emergency blanket (a neat, silvery fabric that holds in heat)

– extra hefty bag (works the same way)

– hobbles for my horse so he doesn’t run off with all this gear in the saddle bags!


And I’m still probably forgetting some things!


Which of these items should you carry with you?  What else might you need that I haven’t considered or don’t need? Water purification tablets, compass, GPS, maps, money, i.d., medications? Base your needs upon where you are, where you’re going, and where you may end up in a worse case scenario, and be prepared.


Think about it.  Don’t be caught unprepared.  Yes, it is better to be safe than sorry.



  1. Interesting. I drive frequently in north central New Mexico so I always pack a wool ski cap, wool socks, hiking boots, ski gloves, long wool underwear, and a heavy coat. I also include the silver survival blanket, a chemical emergency light strip, and a small maglite. I can pack these even when flying and try to be prepared enough to survive a night in a car if I am stranded in a snowbank, or to be able to walk out if necessary.

    I keep a small backpack at home and grab it even when just going to the pasture, hunting or fishing for a day trip. It holds first aid gear, whipcord, survival blanket, flashlight, sheath knife, TP, ballpoint pen, among other things. Rarely used but comes in handy upon occasion.

    Keep your powder dry!

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