Be aware that whenever you head into the great outdoors, there is a possibility of you getting into a survival situation. Getting lost is easy and so is getting injured.
Be prepared to survive for at least three nights in the wilderness.
In 72 hours you should have either found your way back to safety or alternatively, someone would have come looking for you. Three nights is not a duration written in stone, but three nights is about how long it takes for rescue to be effected. It can be sooner, and of course, it can take a lot longer.
If you have to survive for three nights, you need to be prepared and you need to have the gear and equipment necessary to help you survive for that duration. And 72 hours can seem like a very long time when you find yourself in a survival, self-reliant situation, in territory that is alien and often, unforgiving. Lost and alone, in the middle of somewhere you hoped you would be having a good time, the night sounds take on scary tones, shadows hide frightening creatures, the mind starts playing games, and the mental fortitude seems to ebb away very, very quickly, leading to giving up any hopes of finding civilisation.
However, if one is mentally and physically prepared to face unforeseen circumstances and situations, then life can become relatively easier and panic can be controlled to a large extent.
I categorise these essential items in three distinct groups - clothes, survival items and basic first aid. Ideally, each of these items need to be stored and carried in their own separate packs to make it easier to find what you are looking for ... when you are looking for them.
Of the three packs, the first, larger pack (in volume) is your Day Pack. You will have your clothing in there, and maybe some other essentials. In case you get into a survival situation and need to spend a night outdoors, your Day Pack has the clothing required to guard against the elements.
Clothes are your first line of defense against heat, rain, cold, snow, etc.
It makes sense to find out about the changing weather patterns through the day (and night) in the area you are venturing out and to pack accordingly. Just because it is hot when you leave, does not mean that the nights will not be cold. If it was stone dry in the morning, it does not mean that it will not rain later on. Pack for safety and eventualities.
The Day Pack is something you should carry, even when you are going out ‘for a couple of hours’ and expect to be back ‘soon enough’. This pack is for emergencies and does not replace your main rucksack which should contain all your other necessary gear, and possibly more clothing, your sleeping bag, etc.
The minimum items a Day Pack should contain are a warm full sleeved shirt, a couple of T-shirts, a warm weatherproof jacket, thermal innerwear, a balaclava, three or four pairs of warm woollen socks, a muffler, good insulated gloves or mittens, slippers or camp shoes, a rain suit or poncho, toilet paper, water bottle, etc.
Every person will have different needs, as will every terrain. So the list is not inclusive, nor exhaustive. Just remember, the Day Pack should contain enough clothes to keep you comfortable on a cold night outdoors. When it becomes cold, your Day Pack will be empty with all the contents on you.
Do not be under the mistaken notion that the cold is only limited to winters.
In the middle of the desert, the mid day Sun can be scorching and it can feel like it is frying your brain. But come nightfall, it can fall to freezing or below. Even in a tropical rain forest where it can be very hot and humid, if you get wet and when the wind starts to blow, you can contract hypothermia. The nights can be quite cold and damp, even in the forest.
If you hope for the best and prepare for the worst, you will be more prepared for survival.
I always keep a tarp sheet in my Day Pack, and an extra emergency blanket and an extra space blanket ... just in case. My sleeping bag is in my rucksack, something that is always with me, regardless of where I am going and which hotel I am booked in. But the sleeping bag is not always a part of my Day Pack, primarily due to its bulk. In an emergency, the emergency blanket can double as a sleeping bag.
The Day Pack is essentially that, a Day Pack, containing enough stuff to last you the day. Use your senses to pack it. It need not be very large or very bulky, just enough to contain all the things you will need in an emergency.
One size that is ideal as a Day Pack is the size of a laptop bag that people use nowadays. The one that is shaped like a rucksack. That has enough volume to store the things that you might need. Do not stuff it unnecessarily, you will be surprised with how much stuff you will not use when you come back home and unpack ... even if you have been in a self-reliant situation.
Make a list of the essentials and pack your Day Pack at least a day before you leave home.
If you pack at the last minute, just before your journey into the outdoors, you are bound to forget that one thing that can save your life. If you are a regular traveller, I suggest keeping a Day Pack ready at all times, just pick it up and head out after checking if anything needs replacing or mending. Do the checking, buying and replacing a couple of days before you head out.
Chances are you will never get into a survival situation. Ever.
The best survivalist is one who never has to face a survival situation because he or she is prepared, knows what to do to prevent problems and if and when they, knows how to deal with whatever comes up.
All your trips will be as enjoyable as you expect them to be. But remember, you can do something right a thousand times, but all it requires for things to go horribly wrong is one simple mistake. And it is for this one time that you need to be equipped and prepared for.
Always remember Mr Justin Case and you will be prepared for eventualities. Equip him and he will take care of you.