10 Essentials

AXP Survival Kits

Long time readers of this blog know that while I am the first to proffer a sarcastic comment, joke, or weird quip about everyday life, or some of my experiences in the wild, I take wilderness safety and preparedness very seriously. In my opinion, being prepared in the wild is the only way to live and survive. This belief was inculcated in me at an early age as I journeyed through the Scout programs; and only grew stronger during my time working for both the State and Federal Park systems when I was called upon on many occasions to rescue and aid people who were not prepared. Aside from my professional experiences, a lifetime of travels and adventures in the outdoors on several continents has convinced me that in order to be a successful outdoorsperson, people need two things: the knowledge of how to respond in an emergency, and the proper gear to do so.

With respect to the gear, for most of my life I've used a modified version of the "10 Essentials" that I had created on my own; but for the next month - or longer, I'll be trying something new, as I'll be testing out the Wilderness Hiking Survival Kit for AXP. In terms of full disclosure, I was contacted by AXP to test out this gear - but after doing my due diligence about AXP, I was excited to do so, because I could see that they were a company that shares my opinions about wilderness preparedness. Plus, they've got a pretty cool motto - "AXP:Anti-Extinction". At this point, I've received my kit, and have gone through it the safe, controlled setting of my house. What's impressed me so far about it are two things: a) the hyperlight AXP roll bag it comes in; and b) the compartmentalization and organization of the kit. In my experience, when a disaster strikes, you need to know where the tools are to respond to it, and you need to be able to get at those tools immediately. The kit I have clearly breaks out items in separate compartments based on different needs.

Obviously, reviewing a kit in a controlled setting is one thing, but to me, the real test of any set of gear is to take it into the wild, so stay tuned as I take my kit on a variety of adventures before issuing my final review in the next month of how the component items hold up under real life conditions. Until then - see you in the wild, be prepared, and don't go extinct!

Gear list for a single day ascent of the Mt. Whitney Trail, Spring 2012

Note: The gear in this photo is not the gear talked about below!

Back by popular demand, it’s the list of gear that I will take up Mt. Whitney in a few days. As always, know the conditions and do not follow my recommendations blindly. Equally as important, know your own body, which will help you determine which items are best for you to keep your core temperature in the proper range during the ascent. As I noted yesterday, the weather on the mountain can change rapidly; and you will need to have the clothes to withstand such climactic changes. Chances are, unless you are some sort of alien, your body will go from cold to hot and back to cold during the hike, which means you will need to layer appropriately to avoid heatstroke or hypothermia. Last, just because I reference a piece of gear in my list that I am using does not mean that you need to have the exact same piece of gear – certain manufacturers make similar gear; some gear I am using may (gasp) be several years old, but reliable; and some gear from other parties may fit you better. Use your best discretion in utilizing this list as it is a mere guide, not the end-all-be-all of gear lists, but you can also be assured that I do know what I’m doing as I’ve been up this mountain 11 times, and summited 7 times, in addition to all of the other mountaineering that I’ve done. So, without further ado, here’s the gear I’ll be taking:

Mandatory (Meaning, I have to have it for the climb in May 2012, and if you are going in May 2012, you should probably have it too):

1)      Backpack: I run a slightly larger Arc’teryx daypack that I’ve been using for several years now. I’m not sure what the model is, but it’s served me well, and I like how Arc’teryx gives you comfortable padding on the shoulders/back/hipbelt. Whatever backpack you are bringing, I suggest that it has a spot to either strap on your ice axe or a loop to attach it. 

2)      Ice Axe/Crampons: At this point in time, there is snow/ice on Whitney, and if you are looking to ascend and descend safely, you will need these tools and the knowledge of how to use them. Both my ice axe and crampons are made by Black Diamond, but there are other solid brands out there. Make sure that the ice axe is sized for your correct height, and the crampons fit your boots ahead of time.

3)      Water: I carry a full four liters, mainly because I like to stay hydrated, which helps with the altitude, and because I hate stopping to filter water. I also like to have extra in reserve for emergencies, and as a bonus tip I’ll admit that I actually carry five liters, in that I’ll probably drink a liter before heading up the trail.

4)      Clothing (to wear): I’m going to be wearing a set of breathable hiking pants; hiking socks (good socks, almost as important as good boots); mid-weight fleece long underwear top; and I’ll bring a soft-shell fleece jacket that’s heavy for two reasons: 1) no need to carry an additional waterproof shell; 2) it will keep you warm when you do stop/protect you from the wind. Chances are I won’t put on my jacket until I get to Trail Crest; at which point I’ll also change my top despite it being a wicking fabric. I will also bring a pair of gaiters, because no one likes snow inside their boots.

5)      Clothing (reserve): Since you don’t want to carry much weight on a one-day climb, you want to keep your reserve clothes to a minimum; while leaving you with room for margin should you need them. Since I carry a soft-shell fleece, I don’t carry an additional jacket. What I do carry is a set of long underwear bottoms, and an extra long underwear top to wear from Trail Crest down. That’s it. The only way I would consider carrying extra clothes than that is if I knew the conditions called for extreme cold or weather, in which case, a lot of things would be different.

6)      Hats: I carry a fleece hat for cold; and a brimmed hat for sun.

7)      Boots: I will be using my set of Asolo Mountaineering boots that fit my crampons. The only good piece of advice I can give you about boots is that you should never take a brand new pair of boots on this hike that have not been broken in. Other than that, it’s personal preference.

8)      Food: Again, for a day climb, you shouldn’t be looking to eat gourmet meals. This again is a personal preference area, but you have to eat. For starters, you are going up 11 miles, and ascending 6,000 feet – you will be burning calories at an amazing rate. If you’re not eating, chances are you’re not going to make it because your body will run out of energy. I personally take energy bars and other high protein sugar fare, and munch through the day, knowing that I can have a good meal the night before and the night after. If you want to take sandwiches/cook food, know that you will be either: a) carrying extra weight; b) taking extra time. If it’s in your timeframe/plan, good for you; I pretty much only stop at Trail Crest and the Summit. Also, as another bonus tip: watch out for marmots when you do stop, because they are looking for food and quite aggressive, and will chew through packs, tents, and other items if you aren’t attentive.

9)      10 Essentials: Some of these are covered above – food, water, clothing. The ones that aren’t – such as matches, water purification tablets, emergency blanket, knife/multitool, map/compass (or GPS), sunscreen, sunglasses, and first aid kit, to name a few, you should have on your person. Even though Whitney is a popular trail, you should always be prepared.

10)  Wagbag/TP: Everyone poos. Chances are you will need to use it. Best bonus tip you will get: bring an extra bag to put the wagbag in, in case of leaks/spills and to cut down on the smell.

 The infamous "Wagbag" - everyone poos!

Optional Gear (You might want it; then again, you might want to save the weight).

1)      Camera: I’ve been to Whitney a lot, so at this point, I rely on my iPhone to get the shots/video. It works great and saves weight.

2)      Trekking Poles: I hear these save knees, but I’m not quite ready to sign up for a set just yet.

3)      Additional Clothes; additional food; additional water; or anything else that you think you need/want in particular. If you think you’re packing too much: you might be – don’t be like this guy here: http://youtu.be/ZzUDr3wdOac, and like me, enjoy your hike/climb!


Going for a Two Day Climb? Check out this list here: http://lastadventurer.com/last-adventurers-fieldnotes/2007/12/10/the-las-list-of-gear-for-whitney-october-19-20-2007.html