Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Know Your Gear

I was browsing the EDC forums and it occurred to me that there appears to be gear aficionados who may have some excellent lists of gear to carry everyday or to put in their BOB but it also occurred to me that they may not know their gear very well.
Case in point: an everyday carry list that, if you added it up, would weigh about 30 pounds. I love gear about as much as the next person (or maybe more because I really am a gadget person) but I also know the gear that I need and I also know that I don't want to have a standing appointment with a chiropractor. Which means you really need to know the gear you are carrying.
For my everyday carry needs, I know that I don't want to carry much weight. Everything I bring with me on a daily basis needs to do triple duty, needs to be infinitely useful, and needs to be really small.
Some considerations:
  • My basic pocket knife has a few bells and whistles (Phillips and flat screwdriver) but not 25 different blades. I don't need to carry a separate tool box with me every day because I can make the screwdrivers on my knife work for most (maybe not all) situations. I don't carry a razor blade because the knife blade will work well enough. I don't need a saw blade, adjustable wrench, or a multi-bit driver because if I need such a specialized tool, I will ask around and find one or go to the local Walmart and pick it up in a pinch as I would rather do this than carry extra weight.
  • I carry a space blanket with me (weighs a couple of ounces) as opposed to a blanket for emergencies. If I find someone down in the street in shock, my space blanket would suffice or I could ask someone if they have a blanket in their home or car but I would rather cover them with leaves before I would haul a blanket around all day in the off chance that I would need it.
  • Don't carry three of the same thing. On the list that I saw was medical tape, duct tape, and electrical tape. A short piece of duct tape will work in any situation where you would need any of the other tapes (although removing the duct tape from a patient you have taped up will probably leave a hairless patch on the fellow but that is less of a concern to me than the added weight of carrying a whole range of tapes).
For my BOB, I know that my gear needs to meet the above standards as much as possible and it needs to be tested regularly. Some considerations:
  • While having a nice list of stuff to purchase to put in a BOB seems like a good idea, it doesn't mean anything if you end up carrying around a heavy bag of useless crap. I've done this before. I purchased the boots that "everyone" recommended only to find that if I wore them for more than an hour, my feet felt like hamburger. I've bought a nice tactical flashlight when, for my purposes, a headlamp would have worked much better (I'd rather be able to see hands-free than carry a heavy tactical flashlight in the off chance that I would need to use it as a weapon because, quite frankly, I would rather use a weapon in self defense at 10 yards than be 10 inches away from someone who means to do me harm).
  • If you want to know how a piece of gear will function in all weather, in all terrain, in all seasons, there is no other way to find out then get out there and test it...in all weather, in all terrain, in all seasons. A friend raved about his ultra-light down sleeping bag until he weathered a multi-day northwest downpour--he said his bag felt like he was curling up with a wet cat after a couple of days of this weather. Yuck. You may have a great tent in your BOB but can you put it together...at night...in a downpour? Even if you do this, does it meet your needs? Ultralight bivy-sack type tents are not conducive to waiting out a storm. You may stay relatively dry but you won't be able to sit completely up (ie: you won't be the proverbial happy camper if you are left in a semi-prone position for a couple of days).
  • Do you actually use the gear you think you need in your BOB? Go camping for a weekend, take it backpacking for a week or so. A lot of gear that is a good idea "just in case" is usually a lot of dead weight the other 99% of the time. People can be pretty creative when they need to be so consider what you can do without to save weight and what you could use "just in case" you really need an item. I would rather rely on creativity to replace some of the items that I would otherwise carry with me as a security blanket.
  • Skip the niceties. If I am preparing for a disaster, I don't need to pack deodorant. I won't care if I smell. If I do care that I smell, I will go to Walmart and buy a stick. If it truly is a disaster but I really need a stick of deodorant, I would rather dig it out of a destroyed store than carry it over miles.
  • Skip the redundancies. Yep, I like having an armory-worthy set of firearms. If I am holed up in my home or bug out location. I don't plan to carry a half dozen firearms and the associated ammo in a bug out situation if I am on foot. I would rather be lite and fleet of foot rather than armed to the teeth. If I need more than the one or two firearms that I am carrying, I will take them from my downed enemy.

The bottom line is that you can create the most praise-worthy list of bug out or everyday carry gear but if it weights too much, you won't want to carry it. If it fails during a disaster because it was never tested, you will kick yourself (right after kicking the offending piece of gear out of your way). You need to know your gear, and choose stuff that suits you, not everyone else.


  1. Very good post.

    I think that minimizing unnecessary junk from a kit is an art form in itself.

  2. Very good observations. You do see this time and time again - people are advertised into thinking it's the gear they need, and so buy that which is often the most heavily advertised as being the new and improved.

    You can end up with tons of gear that way. Expensive gear.

    I've spent my life living and working in the mountains and this I have noticed - the true outdoorsmen that last a lifetime in the wild places are generally not gear heads. Quite the opposite. They travel light, they make do, and much of what they carry is years and even decades old. Stuff that works. And they know how to use it.

  3. I've been working on a list of things to get for EDC and BOB...I'm sorta new to this (only in name...I've been wanting to do this for a long time now). You've inspired me to RSS your blog and to cut half the items on my Amazon.com wishlist away. :D