When you are walking in the city’s botanical gardens, survival gear is not needed, right? How about that 3-mile trail to the waterfall? Or the guided tuck-tuck tour? None of these situations require a machete and dehydrated food in a backpack the size of a Volkswagen. But I think a few small things are essential, whether I’m in an urban park for a couple of hours or spending a few hours trekking through the forest.
No matter the setting, I take the same gear. Many of these things are in a small bag at the bottom of my pack, ready for the next adventure. While I do have a bit of an Inspector Gadget personality, trial and error over the years have shown me what I’ll really use and what things were simply excess weight.
1. Fully Charged SmartphoneShop Now
It’s amazing what our phones can do for us these days. But, of course, most of us don’t go anywhere without our phones, so this item is no surprise. However, some smartphone apps help me get around and find my way when lost.
GPS On And Roaming Enabled
This isn’t an app as much as it is a universal smartphone feature. When GPS (Global Positioning System) is enabled, it lets your phone know your location. This is very useful for getting and following directions. Search your phone to find the controls. The GPS controls are in the “Settings” menu on my ancient LG Android.
As long as you can receive a signal, roaming allows you to make calls, send texts, and use data outside your home network. However, there may be additional charges for the service. Check with your service provider.
A map is essential for travel, but it doesn’t have to be a paper map. Your phone most likely came with a mapping program. Get to know it. Learn how to find things by name and by address. Then learn to follow the directions for walking or driving. I like Google Maps because I use it on my desktop, laptop, and phone. Each device syncs with the others, so I always have the same favorites saved no matter what I use to look at maps.
This is so helpful when the map directions say “turn east,” and you have no idea which direction east might be. My compass app also indicates the closest street address and the current longitude and latitude. If you are a geocacher, this is a great tool. Free compass apps are available on all popular app stores. Just search for “compass.”
Sure, taking photos of your travels isn’t a matter of survival. However, there are a few non-scenery pics that might turn out to be very helpful stashed in your phone’s camera. For example:
- The row number where you parked your car: I admit it, I have to do this — old timers’ memory syndrome
- The license plate of your rental vehicle; same problem as above
- Your ID, in case of loss or theft
- The front of your hotel and the street sign on which it’s located, in case of a language barrier when asking for directions
So handy when it’s dark, but even in the daylight, it’s excellent for helping to read the small type on maps, labels, and more.
Today, many excursions and amusements use paperless tickets. Check your destination’s website to learn how to get and use e-tickets.
I’m a big CityPASS fan. When I visit a city where the ticket bundles are available, I load my CityPASS tickets to my phone so I can go paperless and contactless as I explore.
2. Portable Power BankShop Now
A power bank is a portable charger you can use for your phone or tablet. I’ve even used it for my laptop in a moment of desperation.
These handy devices come in many styles and sizes. I like the lipstick size for my day pack and handbag. The Anker lipstick-sized power bank has been my choice for several years. While the power sticks can’t take you from totally dead to a full charge, they will give you enough juice to make calls or take a few more sunset snaps. It comes with a carrying case and a USB cable.
3. WaterShop Now
Carrying a refillable water bottle when traveling is a habit I had a hard time developing. Still, I suggest a refillable bottle over the throw-away plastic bottles from the market. I’m using an old Stanley that’s wonderful for use with hot or cold beverages. My model hasn’t been made for a long time, but I found its predecessor, the Stanley Classic Trigger Action Travel Mug.
4. SnacksShop Now
It can be fruit, nuts, trail mix, cheese, a sandwich, or an energy bar, something you like that will give you a shot of energy when you hit a slump. My favorite is the RXBAR. It comes in several delicious flavors. It’s a high-protein snack that’s gluten-free. The ingredients are printed very large on the label of this wholesome, free-of-junk snack.
5. WhistleShop Now
A child’s toy whistle is fine. But anything that makes a noise will do. A piercing whistle does the trick when you need to call attention to yourself.
6. Small First Aid KitShop Now
A couple of band-aids and some alcohol wipes in a sandwich bag can be helpful. I take one that I bought in a multi-pack. It’s small and has a plastic case. I’ve customized mine by adding a mask, hand sanitizer, and a couple of bubble-packed, over-the-counter pain relievers.
7. BandanaShop Now
It’s the most helpful piece of cloth you will own. That’s my opinion anyway. A bandana can be used in hundreds of ways — a mask, neckerchief, head scarf, sweatband, washcloth, napkin, flag, and much more. Stash one in your pack in a sandwich bag; you’ll find a use for it your first trip out.
8. UmbrellaShop Now
A small travel umbrella is a day-pack essential. Not only for rain, but it can also be a sun-brella or a windbreak. My black Amazon Basic has traveled with me for about 12 years, always in my day pack. It’s faced some stormy conditions and turned inside-out more than once, but it is still usable. If it ever becomes useless, I’ll get a windproof model.
9. Small Multi-Use ToolShop Now
My little red Swiss Army Knife has admirably performed hundreds of times. The bottle opener and small knife have been the only utensils at an impromptu picnic, while the nail file has smoothed a snagged nail more than once.
Pro Tip: Remove it from your daypack before heading to the airport. It won’t make it through security.
10. CarabinerShop Now
These handy gadgets come in many styles and sizes. I use them in my day pack and handbag, for camping, and at the house. My absolute favorite is the Heroclip. This ingenious device is a carabiner but also unfolds to become a swiveling hook. I put the carabiner through the pack carry loop, unfold the hook, and hang it on a restroom door, tree branch, or on another bag.
12. Small Card With Personal InformationShop Now
Here’s to hoping you never need this card. It should include your name and phone number (or email if you prefer), the name and phone number of your emergency contact, and any medical alerts necessary if you can’t speak for yourself.
About My Day Pack
I’m in my 11th year of travel, hiking, biking, and kayaking with my Amazon Basics day pack. It’s as basic as you can get, lightweight, and very well made. There are three slip-in pockets inside, plus one zippered compartment. Outside, there is one zippered pouch and two slip-in pouches on each side.
I love the inside lining — it’s grey instead of traditional black. Padded and adjustable shoulder straps are helpful whether wearing a cotton shirt or a heavy coat. A loop on the top of the pack is handy for carrying and hanging.
It’s cleanable, too. I’ve thrown it in the washing machine with cold water on a gentle cycle, and it comes out like new. That’s even after being soaked in an Irish squall, put in a plastic bag, and in a suitcase for 4 days where it mildewed.
It’s not waterproof and it only comes in black.
What’s In Your Pack?
I bet you have your own survival items in your day pack. For my friend Shiela, it’s a chocolate bar. For Lester, it’s a paper map and hand-held compass; he’s convinced his phone will fail. I like to have a foldable hat to shield my eyes when shooting into the sun.
No matter what you take along the way, may your journeys be safe and filled with joy.
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