Ensembles & Kits

Organizing a gear ensemble to climb Telescope Peak (approx. 11,090ft.)
from the bottom of Badwater Basin (approx. -282ft.), Death Valley.

Our full load is more than the sum of all the little gear parts. The interaction of our equipment is critical to maximizing performance. These assemblies are the result of our tinkering with that synergy.

Some of these assemblies are meant for those who are very comfortable in their environment. Don't use them unless you feel that confidence. Skill is the sine quae non of any lightweight wilderness endevour. We mortgage our lives on our skill, believing we can compensate for heavy gear. Learning what our own thresholds are is a continual process of training and self-discovery.

We do not back-reference from here into other sections. If you're curious about why something is included (for instance, the garbage bag in the Quickie Survival Kit), we suggest looking the other areas of this site. Any item in the ensembles may be omitted due to mad skills or recklessness.

Demonstrating the power of gear synergy,
these men are not to be trifled with.

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"Ensembles," in our parlance here, are basically full wilderness outfits of clothing and/or full gear compliments.

The Rainforest Ranger. Bushwack in wet, rainy climates.

The Bush Trekker. Customized for light, long trips in northern climates.

The Poor Man's Drysuit. Run rivers & spelunk in an amphibious outfit.

The Dapper Hobo. Travel across barriers, social and physical.

Kits are small assemblies of items that we might have or carry for specific purposes. Note that a "kit" does not have to be self-contained or redundant with your other equipment. If you have all the items in your gear, consider yourself kit-equipped. Especially with survival kits, however, you may wish to gather the items in a special container that you can keep with you even if you have the ditch the rest of your gear.

Hig & Erin's Survival & Jury-Rig Kit. Hig & Erin's kit for Alaska bush trekking.

Basic Bush Repair Kit. Fix your stuff when you're far from home. It ain't pretty, but it works.

Quickie Survival Kit. Make yourself a cheap little survival kit, but be sure you can use it!

The Rainforest Ranger
This ensemble is meant for bushwacking in a wet, cold environment, such as Washington or Southern Alaska's temperate rainforests. It assumes that you'll have to traverse difficult terrain and deal with lots of water. It's suitable for some snow travel, but it's not meant for full-on snow trips.

The Rainforest Ranger in its native environment.



Recommendations: Make sure the raincoat either has a neck cinch or a hood with a drawstring around it, so that you can snug it up around your neck and make a sort of gasket. Then, closing the cuffs and pulling the edges of the neoprene gloves over them, your upper body sheds water much better when you're climbing or traversing heavy brush in the rain.

Stow everything inside your bivy sack inside your pack. This will shed most rain, etc. Consider backing up the waterproofing with a garbage bag or - if you're expecting a lot of immersion - put it all inside a drybag.

This ensembles assumes that you are going to be WET, perhaps repeatedly fording snowmelt creeks in a sustained downpour. The neoprene gloves are for protection as well as warmth. You may wish to replace the wool sox with neoprene sox if you expect constant and/or sustained water crossings.

This kit gives you the capability to do deep water crossings and river descents.

The Bush Trekker.
The Bush Trekker is an evolution of a rainforest-ranger type system, but meant for long range travel in the Alaskan bush. It incorporates more home-made gear, and is designed for long trips in a wet, temperate to sub-arctic wilderness. Hig & Erin did a great deal of system development on this during 2500-odd miles of bush travel on the Alaska Peninsula, the Brooks Range, the Kenai Fjords, and along the Copper River.

Erin outlines this system in detail at www.aktrekking.com.

The Poor Man's Drysuit

The Poor Man's Drysuit suns itself in the Grand Canyon.

We give credit for this to our amigo Ben Hunt. Who knows where he came up with it. The Poor Man's Drysuit is for cold weather river-running when you don't want to break the bank on a fancy get-up. It also works great for amphibious spelunking. You'll need:

The drysuit should keep water out for brief immersions and even the heaviest splash exposure. If the poor man's drysuit does flood (such as in a full, extended immersion), it will act as a quickie wetsuit: so long as you're active, you shouldn't freeze, since your legs and torso are covered by the neoprene chest waders. Adding a kayaker-style life preserver makes the set-up even warmer, and keeps too much water accumulation in the torso.

If the waders tear or puncture, the suit will obviously take on water faster and not insulate quite as well, but it remains basically sound: again, unlike a "real" drysuit, this suit incorporates insulating neoprene. Just repair the damage at your leisure with duct tape and Aquaseal or a similar glue.

A: NO!!!
Unlike treated canvas or nylon waders, neoprene waders float, even when flooded. Furthermore, the belt prevents the suit from "ballooning" full of water. Yes, the suit can flood enough to make you significantly heavier, encumbering movement, but you will not sink. This is not a fisherman's death suit.

The Dapper Hobo
This travel outfit is an ongoing experiment. It's intended for northern U.S. travel in which you need to blend into a variety of situations: airports, seedy parts of town, nice restaurants... anything and everything. You need to look moderately respectable one day, and the next day, you want to look you don't have anything worth stealing. Then you want to spend a few days in the woods. Then, bus to Philadelphia. See your Grandma in Massachusetts. Sleep under a bush in Newark, NJ.

Note: This clothing ensemble comes from a man's experience, and he's not going to try to adapt it to women, because he figures women are much better at doing that than he is.

Clothing Recommendations: EQUIPMENT.
This basic equipment set should ease travel life. We've included just those things we see as the handiest items.

Observations for Guys on Hitchhiking: No hats, no sunglasses, nice outfit. Shave. 1 Boy, 1 Girl is the best combo we've found.

Hig & Erin's Survival/Jury-Rig Kit.
Bretwood Higman and Erin McKittrick developed this kit for long distance trekking in Alaska. For more on Hig & Erin's equipment, stories, and photos, see their website at www.aktrekking.com. Erin comments: We carry all our emergency gear in fanny pack or shoulder pack kits. This way it's always on us, even if we lose or are separated from our packs. We made our own mini-drybags using iron-sealable waterproof fabric to hold all the water sensitive stuff.

Note on the EPIRB: The EPIRB is a rescue beacon that operates on special civilian and military frequencies that are monitored by aircraft and satellites. In the United States, response time to an EPIRB signal is often said to be under 6 hours, but we have not and do not wish to test this.

Quickie Survival Kit.
This kit is a guideline for those heading on long day trips and side trips, traveling light and fast. It's based on what the chief author carries. If you've heard of the vaunted "10 essentials," this ain't them.

The quickie kit is designed to cover the essentials, including an emergency bivouac. Please don't rely on the quickie kit as your primary equipment load unless you feel confident in its use. We're fond of some additions:

Basic Bush Repair Kit
This is a backcountry repair kit pared down to the basics:



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