I like to think of this as “traveling light and fast, with only the essentials packed”. There are numerous websites out in the web that have devoted their entire presence to being the go-to source for information on ultralight (UL) backpacking. I want to share with you the basics of this concept and get you started on the road to “light and fast traveling” for now.
If you imagine UL backpacking to consist of packing on the bare essentials, or items with multiple uses, while leaving out the heavier things you’d be right on par with the idea. There are tonnes of equipment out there for backpacking that can get very elaborate and end up with you lugging around a 40+ lb pack, or, going in the opposite direction, having a couple changes of clothes, a multi-tool, a couple cooking items and water purifying items thrown into a normal 2-/3-pocket backpack.
I like to keep it simple. When packed correctly, a standard school-book backpack should suffice if you’re needing to make trails in a hurry.
Overland navigation really isn’t all that hard. I’m sure there are a lot of you out there who think that it involves indepth mathematics and compass calculations, but while some forms can get rather complex and involved, or require the use of specific equipment, there are a few simple ways of finding your way when in unfamiliar locations.
Often, I use the cardinal directions (North, South, East, West) and their relation to the position of the Sun to tell which direction I’m heading; even while driving somewhere, I’ll check on the Sun’s position from time to time just to see which way I’m going. I’ve never been lost when it comes to my heading, and the Land Navigation course we went through in the Marines seemed unnecessarily tedious at times; my own sense of direction led me to within 20 feet of every marker I had to find.
One of the most simple techniques is just to identify North based on the Sun/Moon’s travel and use easily identified landmarks as a guide. This isn’t an exact science, but will keep you moving in the general direction of your choice. It gets much easier when using a compass, and can even get quite detailed as far as degrees N/S/E/W, but doesn’t have to. A cheaper compass without all the bells and whistles would do just fine in an emergency situation, as long as you know the direction of your destination in relation to your starting point.
I’ll cover using a compass and get more indepth on this topic as time moves on, but for now I’ll leave you with these basic points: if you’re ever without a compass, determine North and use landmarks to identify and maintain a course of travel.
I’d like to establish and keep a theme of “making tracks in a hurry, without much notice” in my posts and articles here. So, let me ask you this: what comes to mind when you think of survival gear? Is it a large pack full of everything you could possibly need, with a week’s worth of clothes, food and supplies? If so, it doesn’t need to be.
In the event that you have to throw together a bag of the essentials it’s imperative that we keep things simple. Remember earlier when I said, “don’t pack the house”? This is what I’m talking about. There are companies that sell pocket-sized survival tins that have all the basic tools in them to survive for a given period of time. These tins are about the size of an Altoids tin and contain matches or a lighter stick, water purification tablets/drops, string, minimal first aid gear and a blade of some sort or multi-tool small enough to fit. These things run roughly 20 USD and can really be put together yourself for about the same, to considerably cheaper.
Every Day Carry survival kit
Add this to a backpack that contains a change of clothes (keep it simple to keep it light), a cooking utensil/pot, water container, a few plastic bags and some nylon line and you’ve got a quick, but effective survival pack. You don’t need to spend a lot of money to have effective survival gear.