Essential Backpacking Items for Everyday Life

Batman and his wonderful Utlity Belt. Developed by years of backpacking and inspired less by my father’s hand-me-down survival training techniques than by Batman’s utility belt, my habit is to go everywhere with the most essential supplies. Everywhere. A bike ride through my neighbourhood is as well stocked against disaster as a trek along the Allegheny Trail.

Of course, “essential” is in the eye of the beholder. But I like to be prepared for any minor inconvenience. “Roughing it” doesn’t have to mean enduring a broken fingernail, does it? Sure, I fall just a bit on the fastidious side, but my Inspector Gadgetism has occasionally come to the aid of a fellow traveller in need.

My inventory is categorized, which helps me retrieve things quicker and replenish supplies more efficiently. If you shop for the smallest gadgets for your own utility belt (I actually use several tiny cloth zipper bags that I can toss into a backpack, fanny pack or suitcase), you’ll be amazed at how much space you can save. Here’s what I usually carry with me, by category:


  • Aspirin – at least 8 protected in watertight plastic wrap.
  • Styptic pencil – kills germs, stops itching and minor bleeding.
  • Adhesive bandages – 4 or 5 of varying sizes, double as tape strips.
  • Compass.
  • Mirror – vanity aside, signals light to great distances.
  • Whistle – signals at night.
  • Magnifying lens – start a fire with the sun.
  • Parabolic lighter – start a fire on a cloudy day.
  • Matches – start a fire at night.
  • Swiss Army knife – blades, screwdriver heads, can opener, scissors, tweezers and toothpick
  • Fishing line and hooks – tiny spool.
  • Razor blade – I don’t shave, but these are handy!


  • Beef jerky sticks – small, light, lots of protein.
  • Spork – my elongated version is a spoon, fork and knife all in one utensil.
  • Mess kit – small aluminum pot, pan, plate, and cup.
  • Collapsible cup – so you don’t have to unpack the mess kit.


  • Tiny sewing kit with safety pins.Soa
  • p bar, toothpaste, folding toothbrush.
  • Moist towelette packs and one washable handi-wipe.
  • Nail board – silicon carbide is best.
  • Insect repellent.


  • Spare contact lenses/glasses.
  • Money – coins for a phone call, credit card for the rest.
  • Pen-size crystal radio – needs no batteries.
  • LED pen flashlight.
  • Pen and paper – I take notes.
  • Foam earplugs – okay, maybe it’s just me.

Hi-Tech (cheating!):

  • Super PDA – Treo, iPhone or Blackberry for phone, Internet, GPS, camera, time, games, and digital books.

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