Top 5 small and inexpensive adventure essentials

Daddy got an unexpected day off, and in this house that might as well be a national holiday. He had packed up the car and told us we were headed on an adventure.  Since we were just heading up above Pine Flat Lake, I grabbed my gear bag and let daddy handle the details. We weren’t even doing any hiking, more like Car Picnicking…What could go wrong???


Luckily for us, not much actually happened. The potential for disaster was evident, though, when we came upon 3 teenage girls. They thought four wheeling on the sandy banks of the Kings River in a two-wheel drive was a good idea. Their jeep was dug in a good foot by the time we got to them and they had no shovel, no rope, nothing. This is an hour (driving time) past the cell phone turnout on a weekday afternoon. I did not see another soul anywhere near that road all day long. If we had not seen them, and then subsequently stopped to help, they would have had a very very long hike ahead of them. Especially considering they did not even know there was a cell phone turnout, and they hadn’t told anyone where they were.


As Aaron got out to see what was what, I started to dig into our gear for tools. You know the tools we forgot to bring. I did find Squishy’s small hand shovel that I got in the dollar spot at Target, and Aaron proceeded to dig these girls’ car out with it (Bless his heart). He used their car mats, some rocks and a lot of brute strength to maneuver them out of the sandy river bank.



I have mentioned before that I always forget one thing when I pack up for an adventure. It is just who I am, and it is never anything major. Things like bug  spray, or toothpaste are not going to make or break an adventure, but I was careless on this trip. I hate admitting it, but it’s true. I left all the preparation to Aaron, and I didn’t even check my gear bag before throwing it into the car. Not only were we without the proper tools if something did go wrong, but as I looked through my bag  I had the realization that we were grossly under prepared for any sort of emergency. Que mom guilt. I had not restocked the first aid kit after our last adventure. I had forgotten our small emergency kit altogether; our compass, matches, signal mirror and whistle.


I am the queen of MacGyver techniques, so in my head I know we would have been fine in any real emergency. I mean, I didn’t forget the duct tape. The “what if” thoughts kept swirling around all day, none the less.  My gear bag is a pack that I keep stocked with the essentials, so we can ditch the city at a moments notice.  I usually check it when I get home and before leaving the house. Obviously that didn’t happen on this trip, so I have been obsessing about it ever since. I compiled a list of  five essential items that must accompany us on EVERY adventure. These are relatively small, inexpensive items that will make a big impact. I then printed it out, ghetto laminated it with packing tape and  pinned it to the inside of my pack.


Note: I have included some affiliate links, which will be marked with an *asterisk . We do get a very small commission if you purchase something after you click on the link.


Top 5 Emergency Essentials:

1:* 5 in 1 Survival Tool: I love these little guys. It clips easily to my pack, plus it’s small. I actually added a small striking strip inside with the matches and a $20 bill. At a little less than $5 for the whole kit you get a compass, a flint strike, emergency whistle, signal mirror, and storage for your matches (or as Squishy calls them, fire sticks). I like to get the waterproof, strike anywhere’s to go inside.

2 *Duct Tape:Because, its duct tape… Is there anything you can’t do with Duct Tape? I am honestly never without some of this stuff. That probably has more to do with being raised by a mechanic than being wilderness savvy. I like to get a bright color, because then you can use it as a flag or trail marker as well.


3. *pocket knife: This is not my camping knife. It’s a small, light weight knife that can be sharpened. I can pull this out of my pack quickly and it doesn’t take up any room at all. I do not bring my big knife to Adventure School, but I do bring my pocket knife. There is always a jar I have to poke holes in for critters we need to bring home and examine, or found fishing line that could potentially wrap around little ankles. it also works to make a spark on my flint strip.

4.*Shovel: It needs to be small to fit in my bag. They make composite or folding metal backpacking shovels, as well. I have found that Squishy is a little too rough on the folding backpack shovels, so I always just pick up a gardening trowel when they are on sale. This also keeps Squishy occupied for hours when we are setting up a camp site.

5. *First Aid Kit: Well, obviously we need something for all the scrapes and owies. You don’t need to pack your whole medicine cabinet, though. Just a few of the essentials. I like to pack; liquid bandages, a couple of regular band aids, cleaning wipes, tweezers, gauze pads, and bandage tape, some witch hazel or anti itch wipes, a couple of chewable Benadryl,  and antibiotic ointment.


Of course there are other things I would want with me depending on the type and duration of our outing, but I could keep us pretty well off in an absolute emergency with these 5 small essentials items. I would love to know what you would add to this list.


We ended up having a pretty relaxing uneventful day, after our early encounter with the girls, thankfully. We found a nice secluded spot, right on the river that has Free camping on a first come first serve basis. Several of the camp spots had the metal ring designated fire pits, as well. We are adding it to our overnight camp spot list, and will probably put it on the spring camping rotation. Squishy found several critters, of course. Knowing that it was September, and the best time for tarantula spotting,  we made sure to warn him that NONE would be coming home with us.










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