Wednesday, August 19, 2020

The 3P's of Gear Selection

Over the weekend, this thread was posted over at /r/ultralight:

Calling BS on the 10 essentials (for dayhikes)

I get that they're important, and I get why they are important, but do any of you actually bring all of the 10 essentials on all of your dayhikes and trail runs?
...
Can anyone on this sub, realistically, make a case that I needed a: Paper map and compass. Headlamp with extra batteries. Additional insulating layer (I brought a wind/rain shell). Firestarter. Knife. Emergency shelter.

The top answer is currently:

Hey OP- I’m in search and rescue and while I understand your feelings for sure, a lot of the missions that my search and rescue team get are 100% preventable- day hikers with issues that wouldn’t have been issues if they had the 10 essentials with them (dehydrated, heat exhaustion, injuries, lost, ran out of daylight and had no flashlight, etc). There’s plenty of lightweight versions of the 10 essentials. Even if you are experienced and end up never needing them yourself, it’s nice to have them “just in case” as well as to help anyone else on the trail that might need it.

It's followed up by this terse recap:

This. Because not bringing the ten essentials makes you an asshole. Many SARs are volunteers.

Don’t be an asshole to volunteers.

And while the above is solid reasoning, I'd like to pile on with a bit of my own gear philosophy. Anyone who follows my blog or has spent time with me in person, knows that I often carry a bag, and in that bag is a fairly significant amount of gear  (by /r/ultralight standards, it's massive). Why carry all this gear everywhere? The answer: the Three P's.

P1 - Prepardness

In the context of a day hike, carrying a bit of extra gear gives you a chance to respond to the unexpected. The original poster imagined taking an 8 mile hike on a popular trail. Does he really need to bring a flashlight, emergency shelter and map and compass for this? While unlikely, it is possible that emergencies can stack up--a servely twisted ankle, as the sun is going down, with a dead cell phone--that may call for emergency gear.

Not moved by this argument? Not to worry, let's talk about the other two P's.

P2 - Practice

It's not hard to imagine finding yourself finishing the above well known trail in the dark. Depending on the conditions, you may get by on ambient light or your cell phone's flashlight. But this is also a terrific opportuntity to practice with your gear. If you bust out the flashlight that you rely on when backpacking, even though it's overkill for a day hike, you're getting a free opportunity to test it out in a realistic context.

P3 - Psychology

Still not moved? Let's say you decide to only carry emergency gear on truly adventerous hikes. Imagine, like Shira and myself that you find yourself turned around in a canyon filled landscape. In our case, we backtracked to the car and all was fine. But let's say you got turned around and backtracking isn't an option. Night and a storm of what-ifs are closing in. What if you miss your flight? What if nobody hikes this trail for weeks? What if you can't get cell signal? What if your cell phone dies? What if the vague message you sent your family isn't detailed enough to have them find you? What if temps drop and the shorts and t-shirt you're wearing leave you hypothermic? Now is precisely the wrong time to bust out an emergency kit you're not familiar with. If you always carry the same gear, you can take a deep breath and realize you have the essentials covered. It's hard to quanitfy this mindset bonus, but when an emergency happens every bit of familiarity with your gear is going to help.

I do agree with the original poster that the traditional 10 Essentials may not be the ideal prescription. Rather, you want to head into the wilderness armed with a kit to deal with emergenices the 10 Essentials were developed for. This includes: getting lost, getting injured, getting stuck in the dark, getting hit by unexpected weather and needing to shelter in place for the night.

The 3P's suggest you want compile a kit to deal with these scenerios (bonus: the kit can even be ultra-lightweight) and carry it religously.

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