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Let the Survival Begin

What You Don’t Carry in Your Backpack Can Save Your Life

The backpacking market is flooded with great new gadgets and kits that allow you to tuck away just about anything and everything you need for a great trip outdoors. But we at OG Wild have noticed one important factor most of those stores, how-to and survival blogs fail to stress upon the wary hiker – what happens when you have to leave your pack behind?


So many of these neat, new kits have even our mouths watering with the desire to try them out. They come with so many pockets and molle straps, plus they’re scientifically designed for maximum weight distribution to ease the strain of carrying so much gear. There are pockets and compartments specifically for sleeping bags and tents. Compartments are arranged for items you need to access more often like sunscreen or bug spray while the stuff you need at the end of the day stays buried until you make camp for the night. Truly great inventions followed with innovative tutorials on how best to use them.


Let’s say Levi and his wife, Whitney, are hiking in the majestic back country of our glorious Alberta forests with their two dogs Igor and Gidget. They are walking in single file, chatting with each other so the wildlife is aware of their presence and they come upon a fast moving stream they need to cross. Whitney, being the more sure-footed of the pair, wades through without a problem but Levi, being of slightly shorter in the leg, slips on a stone and the current topples him over and starts to wash him downstream.

That’s a problem.

Whitney drops her pack to run after him, hoping to get ahead to a shallow area to pull him out with a sturdy branch but he’s going down fast. His pack has a lot of weight with the extra cans of spam and it’s causing him additional stress to find his footing and keep his head above water. Every so often he is able to bob his out just long enough for a quick gasp of air before he sinks again under the current. He has but one option; he must ditch the weight of his pack so his body will be lighter and he can get to the surface.

By this time, Whitney has been calling to him, trying to get him to push toward the edge where she has a long branch waiting for him to grab onto. Levi is wearing down. The water is cold, stripping him of his energy and his body heat but he needs to muster that extra little bit to reach for that branch and to safety.

Fortunately, he was able to make it back to shore where Whitney and the dogs were very happy to see him safe on dry land. Unfortunately, he sat up in time to peer downstream and the shrinking sight of his backpack bobbing in and out of the water, sailing off into oblivion.

If they were stuck in the wilderness, they might be in dire straits having to survive only on whatever Whitney had in her pack. It may be enough for them to hold on until rescue. That is not always the case though. Many hikers still go out alone, people still get lost and hunters still believe they have an extraordinary sense of direction and it would never happen to them.

But it does.

Our rule of travel is simple. It’s the Three Layers of Life:

  1. What you have on your back
  2. What you have on your belt
  3. What you have in your pockets.

You carry the bulk of your gear on your back, that goes without saying but as in Levi’s scenario, what does he have left after his pack is gone and irretrievable? The other two layers. He has a military waist pack system with shoulder harness that is capable of carrying more than enough survival items to make it through a night or two if the situation calls for it. We all almost always wear cargo style pants with extra pockets on the legs where we keep another supply of essential items, just in case. You may have to lose your pack, you may have lose your belt, you rarely have to lose your pants… Willingly.

I prefer to reuse one of the cheapest and greatest inventions of portable carrying devices – the fanny pack! Of course, we tenderly renamed it a Tactical Waist Attachment cause it sounds cooler. TWA all the way!

What should you put in have in the additional two layers? Anything falling under the 5 C’s – combustion, cutting tool, cordage, cover, container. An extra lighter, pack of matches, or ferro rod; a swiss army knife or Mora Eldris or anything in the Classic series; a hank of paracord or bailer twine; a poncho or emergency blanket; condoms for carrying water. Larger containers to cook with may be more difficult to carry but then a bowl can be carved or coal burnt from wood.

The 5 C’s are the essential tools necessary to maintain a comfortable existence in the wilderness, though nearly all of them can be produced from natural materials if you have the knowledge. We have a field guide on the 5 C’s of Survival available on our store that fits just about anywhere.

Your pockets will have considerable less than what you can keep on your belt using a waist attachment system but if anything, always carry a spare knife because that is the one item more difficult to make. Anything else in the 5 C toolset can be made with a knife.

Having a great time in the wilderness is the key. Proper planning before you make any trek is essential and that includes common sense. Think about your situation, environment, weather and think about any precautionary measures in case something goes wrong. Things don’t always go wrong, but it still happens. It’s far better to have some back up system and be prepared than being stuck wishing you had thought of some sort of back up system. You know everything in your backpack will make for a more comfortable experience but in a situation where you are forced to leave your pack behind, the stuff you don’t have in there because you have two extra layers of survival, can really save your life.


Play safe out there from OG and the guys!

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