Working on the Pack List

Search and Rescue volunteers have to carry a lot of stuff.   While I leave out such luxuries as a fancy tent, Thermarest, sleeping bag, and what-not, packing for a rescue is a bit more involved than your standard backpacking trip. You need to carry enough to support yourself, your dog, and a lost person overnight in the woods.

I have done a lot of dumb things myself out in the woods.  I have tried to learn from my experiences and have studied up on what you really need out there.  One of the best places to grab some gear is at a gun expo. Dealers buy huge amounts of surplus supplies from the military.  Do your research first as to get good quality and beware of knockoffs.  Today we had a big show in town for Valentines Day, (how romantic:) I picked up a 2 day assault pack with an internal frame.  Boy did it fit my back nicely.  Yay!  I am so excited to put together my very first SAR pack!

pack contents

It gets heavy fast.

You will notice I have more than one of some things.  As Jack said, “One is None, and two is one.”


  1. Medical Kit – complete with sutures, blood clot, medicines for me and the dog (one serving packs from drug store), butterfly closures, bandages, antiseptic, lidocaine spray, elastic wrap, mole skin, triangle bandages, thermometers, along with the usual band aids and stuff
  2. 100 oz bladder of water
  3. Filtration kit (dehydration is often the #1 thing Rescue people and dogs suffer from)  Drink more! I have the steri-pen filtration.

    water filtration

    Even kills viruses. I take it backpacking too!

  4. Iodine tablets (90% of water is contaminated with something, might as well not get diarrhea)
  5. Waterproof matches – I honestly think they suck (proven unreliable for me when tested out backpacking several times, but they are on the list)
  6. windproof butane lighter – This lives in my pocket no matter what all the time. (It will light thousands of fires and has never failed me)
  7. Cheap Bic lighters – buy a big bag and distribute everywhere.  They are better than any matches (Thanks Les Stroud!)
  8. Fire Starting tablet – Think you can start a fire in the woods in the rain?  Don’t be cocky, be safe
  9. Flint stick or magnesium fire starter – Practice with these often
  10. Nuun sports drink tablets –  (replaces electrolytes.  Its better than sports drinks and easier to carry)
  11. Food you dont have to cook for humans – MRE’s and irradiated stews are perfect as you need TONS of calories.  (Look for vegetarian for the lost person, some would rather die than go against beliefs)
  12. Metal cup
  13. Sterno
  14. Camp Stove – (right now I have my whisperlite camping stove, need to replace with an Esbit)
  15. Sugary drink powder – (Lost person may be diabetic or hypoglycemic)
  16. Tea bag – for hot rehydration and pick me up (No coffee it dehydrates)
  17. Bouillon cubes – replaces lost salt from sweating, easy calories
  18. Chemical hand warmer packets – (Buy a case online)
  19. Chemical Glow sticks (Trust me, there is nothing worse than being scared, lost, and in the dark.  You can use this without fear of burning out a flashlight)
  20. Flashlight (2)
  21. Headlamp – This is essential as you will need hands free.  Many searches are done at night.
  22. Extra batteries and lots of them – (Keep these in your clothes pockets if it is freezing outside to keep the batteries working)

    Mad Bomber hat on dog

    Henry, that is MY hat!

  23. Extra bulbs for lights
  24. Helmet – Climbing helmets work great
  25. Two compasses
  26. Grid square – for working with maps
  27. Survival whistle
  28. Fixed blade knife – Something really sturdy you can beat up and dig holes with.
  29. Folding knife – Good Ol Swiss army with tweezers – (I grew up in the desert, you don’t go anywhere without something to take cactus spines out!)
  30. Multi-tool – I prefer needle nose pliers Gerber’s.  Great for helping you tie ropes and wire when your hands are cold and fixing equipment)
  31. Human Nail Clippers – more uses than one
  32. Dog Nail clippers
  33. 50 feet (Times 2) of 550 paracord – Needed for setting up shelters and other camp stuff.  Really useful.
  34. Camping pack towel or Shamwow – I cannot tell you how many times this has saved me when I got wet.  It is much lighter and absorbent than anything else.
  35. Good leather gloves – Make sure you can work ropes with them on.  Also good for when you play with your dog.  Sometimes his teeth miss the toy:)
  36. Extra socks – synthetic or wool only!  Cotton kills.
  37. Thin wool sweater – army issue is perfect
  38. Contractor Trash bags – I use as a dry place to sit down, also can be cut open as an emergency shelter and gear cover. Invaluable!
  39. Tube tent – another shelter
  40. Thin ground tarp at least 9′ x 12′ (times 2)
  41. Bivy – mine is sized for two – (its kind of like a sleeping bag)


    Emergency Bivy

  42. Emergency blanket
  43. Rain jacket and pants – Make sure they are actually waterproof
  44. Mad Bomber hat (awesome and warm!) – I am a cold weather wuss, but this hat makes me warm and gorgeous. Ask my friends, I wear it as much as possible.
  45. Waterproof gaiters – Your waterproof boots are useless if your socks and pants get wet. Also good forgoing through brush.  My legs are no longer bloody!
  46. Bandana
  47. Surveyors or flagging tape – (That plastic streamer stuff you see tied to trees.)  For marking trails, found objects, search areas, hair ties, etc.
  48. Baby powder or equivalent – Too see where the air and thus scent is going for the doggie
  49. Night Glowing LED dog collar – I have many LED products from this company.  They really take a beating and are VERY bright.
  50. Night Glowing LED leash – Yeah, I got the set, Plus it’s always good to have Two leashes.
  51. Food for the dog
  52. Sunscreen
  53. Insect repellant
  54. Toilet paper – I’m not telling you how to use it. (Take a roll, wrap some around your hand a couple of times, tear off, and put in ziplock bags to store flat)
  55. Can opener – usually found on the multitool
  56. Radio
  57. Gps – don’t rely on it completely, but good to have.

I have some classes in the future that will teach me more of what all this stuff is for and give me a better idea of what I need to carry.

If you are interested in other SAR pack lists.  Check out this site

What do you think I need to carry?


One Response to “Working on the Pack List”

  1. Right on !! Damn I’m becoming addicted to your blog 🙂

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