The five pieces of gear that you should keep on you at all times, particularly when adventure is calling.
We’ve all been there: you’ve got 10 minutes or less to get out the door. The sun is setting, or the tide is rising, or the window of time when it’s feasible you might still nab the summit and make it back down safely is razor thin. And we’ve all whipped our heads around our room or closet thinking that we should have packed the night before. It’s the “your house is on fire and you can only grab 5 items” dilemma except in reverse—your soul is on fire for adventure and you’ve only got so much time to devote to logistics before your heart bursts from sheer anticipation.
Aside from the technical equipment you’ll need for your specific adventure (leave for a thru-hike with just your Crocs and no amount of article-reading is going to save your sorry butt, friend), there are a few do-it-all items that every adventurer should set beside the door. Or, better yet, stow them in your car.
One pair of do-everything shoes
It almost goes without saying, doesn’t it? There are very few items that you can forget that will actually ruin every variety of outdoors plan, but shoes might make that list. Keep an old pair of shoes in the trunk of your car and you’ll be surprised at how often they get used. (Bonus points: make them trail shoes, which are more likely to drain water, provide traction, and fold up small for easy storage.)
Two extra pairs of socks and two Buffs
If Buffs (or any similar product) are the do-it-all adventure fabric, it only makes sense to grab two: one for your head, but another for your forgetful and clumsy friend, Justin Case: Just in case you need to wipe off your grimy feet at the end of a bit of barefooting, or just in case you need to stow a harvest of ripe blueberries.
Buffs get a lot of love (for good reason) but I’m here to tell you that two extra pairs of socks are nearly as handy and twice as often forgotten at home. Does a sudden temperature drop have you clenching your hands against the cold? Rock the socks like a pair of gloves. Wet feet from that jump in the river? Or, god forbid, in need of a tourniquet? Good thing you brought an extra pair or two.
In the thru-hiking world this a no-brainer, but this piece of knowledge has somehow been slow to make its way into made other adventure sports: Candy bars are one of the most calorie-dense and easy-to-carry food sources out there. And Snickers in particular hit that carbs-to-protein ratio sweetspot. Just don’t forget to pack out the wrappers.
If you’ve done your adventure recon right, you’ll know when sundown is and how much time you need to get back to safety before darkness hits. But when adventure goes wrong, or sometimes right, you might find yourself out on the trail after dark. And stumbling down the trail via iPhone flashlight is only fun for the first few steps.
A physical journal (with physical pen)
In 40 years, when smartphones are a piece of ancient technology and our entire photo libraries are accessible by microchip implant, we’re going to look back on our pasts and see nothing but pictures. And I’ll be the first person to admit that many of these pictures will be actual treasures—sometimes a thousand words really do pale in comparison to that perfect snapshot. But what will be more rare than at any other point in recent human history will be pieces of actual, physical handwriting. Instead of a second camera—your smartphone is likely good enough already—take along some scraps of paper, and when the moment calls you, set down a few words about where your feet are and how it feels to be there.
For overachievers, see if you can stow all of the above items in a Buff with a knot in both ends. And there you have it. Happy adventures, y’all.
Ryan Horner is a Roam & Run athlete, as well as a reader, a writer, and an ultrarunner. He lives in Indianapolis, Indiana, and makes running-related videos about his training and his running life on his video blog (ForTheLoveOfRunning) at www.youtube.com/c/ForTheLoveOfRunning. You can also find him on instagram at @ryan_horner_