It's that time of year, the snow is mostly gone, the weather has warmed considerably and the flowers are in bloom! It's time to get on your bike, ATV or climb into your UTV and head for the hills. Whether you are going for the day or the weekend there are a few things you should keep in mind.
Do you have your "10 Essentials"? If you were in Boy Scouts, at some point you probably heard that phrase, probably multiple times. Often we don't think of going into the wilderness on a motorized vehicle the same as hiking or backpacking. But, think about this for a minute, when you are hiking you are mostly likely only a few miles from your vehicle; but when you are in or on a motorized vehicle you could very easily find yourself dozens of miles from your vehicle. What happens if you break down? Or worse, get lost? I know, that would never happen, right.....?
The reality is that getting in trouble on a bike or UTV is very possible and it happens more than you might think. My rule of thumb when I go out is this: do I have the needed gear to spend the night outdoors? In the old days, it was difficult and expensive to get light-weight and compact survival gear; thankfully that is no longer the case. You can, of course, still spend lots of money on gear if you want but you don't really need to. Here are some basic things I always carry with me regardless if I am on my dirt-bike, Jeep or simply hiking.
1) A way to make fire (ooo fire good). Matches are okay, but they don't always work if they get wet or just get old from being in your bag too long. Instead I carry a simple flint and steel as well as a small pill bottle stuffed with cotton balls saturated in Vaseline. Cheap, water-proof and takes very little room.
2) Water and way to purify more water. There is nothing worse than running out of water and looking at that nice cool stream or lake, knowing that drinking it may lead to some serious stomach/intestine issues which in the end (no pun intended) is worse for you than running out of water. I carry a small bottle with water purification tablets, boiling the water will also get you there, but you need some sort of container to boil in.
3) A knife of some sort. There are lots and lots of choices here, but I prefer something small and compact. It's tempting to carry your Rambo survival knife; but the truth is, even though it looks cool, it's not terribly practical and takes alot of room in your pack. In addition a small folding saw is a must, trees are sneaky; they are always looking for a way to fall at just the right time to get in the way.
4) Some sort of shelter; now you might think I am nuts to say this but it doesn't need to be a tent or a big blue tarp. I carry a very compact "space blanket". These are great for keeping warm, but also keeping the rain off your head. They even make them now that you literally crawl into like a sleeping bag.
5) Small flashlight, this one is self explanatory. There are lots of bright LED lights on the market. Personally I prefer a headlamp that takes actual batteries. That way you can carry extra batteries, chances are you won't have a USB charger handy.
6) Food! I always keep 3-4 energy type bars in my pack, in addition to what I brought for lunch. Yes they get sort of squished over time and don't look very appetizing, but when you are hungry they are the nectar of the gods!
7) Small first aid kit, doesn't have to be a big one, but make sure you have band-aides, disinfectant and some sort of pain relief like Ibuprofen. Duct tape, and no not the whole roll. I wrap a bunch around a lighter and keep in my first aid kit. Works great for emergency repairs and blisters.
8) Compass, you might think you don't need this since your phone generally has the ability to tell you direction these days. But again, if you don't have a way to charge it, it's not much good. Even if you don't know how to use it with a map to find your way, a compass will at least help to prevent walking around in circles.
9) A map of the area, with your parking place marked. Again GPS is great and I use it all the time. But I also keep a paper map with me since batteries do go dead and GPS and cell phone signals are not always available.
10) Last but not least is some sort of rope. Parachute cord is what I typically carry since it is light and strong. A good way to carry it is in a weave of some sort like a bracelet or strap of some sort.
This is in no way an exhaustive list, or even a good one! But it is what I carry. You will find over time that you will develop you own list. The thing to keep in mind is finding ways to stay happy and more importantly, alive, if things don't work out the way you planned!