The Bagger's Essential Companion


A few weeks ago while running the STORMY 50-miler, I got to chatting with my pals Rick and Ken to pass the time.  The Bagger Challenge and our experiences to date were top of mind.

The objective of the Bagger Challenge is, within a given time period, to get to the top of as many mountain peaks in the area around Vancouver, Canada as possible.  There are many peaks.  Each peak is unique.  Every peak requires that you take a trail.  Some of the trails to the peaks are "runnable".  Others you need to approach on your hands and knees after climbing sheer rock faces, wading through prickle bushes and other bushwackery that most trail runners don't normally bother with.

At the time, I believe Ken was top bagger in the competition.  In any case, he's not only a great runner, but a very experienced mountaineer.  Ken's perspective on mountain safety was very interesting to Rick and me, given that the weekend before, we had our asses kicked while attempting to bag Runner's Peak

Our conversation focused on the stupid shit we had all done at one time or another and how we'd somehow survived to tell the tales.  Given that statistically, our luck will run out one of these days, conversation then turned to the more positive topic of how we might prevent or mitigate damage to ourselves while on the trails in the future.


The objective of this post is to come up with the perfect safety companion for long trail runs where there are no aid stations.  You also might call this the ideal first aid kit or emergency kit for the trail runner.

Of course, since each run is different, the perfect safety companion will be different as well, so the best I can hope to do is come up with a list of stuff you might want to consider packing along for your run, hike or peak-bagging expedition.


  • this kit is for a trail runner
  • trail runners travel fairly light, so all of the gear has to fit in a small pack
  • it has to be affordable to most people
  • the trail run that is being attempted is supposed to take less than 12 hours

How You Can Contribute

At best, this is a work in progress... something to consult for ideas before packing the hydration pack.

Ideally, someone who reads this will create a safety companion and carry it with them and that kit will save their sorry ass.  I hope that person or persons will share their story about how the kit contributed to a happy ending.

I also hope you will have some thoughts on back country safety for runners and that you will share those thoughts here.  Your comments may take the form of a "must have" item in the kit that I've overlooked, a newer or more improved solution, links to good information or simply thoughts on the topic of back country safety from the runner's perspective.

Happy trails!

Ean Jackson


The Essential Safety Kit for Trail Runners


  • this could take up a book, but let's start with things that are lightweight, compact, don't melt or go bad and pack a lot of energy
  • gels, energy bars, electrolyte candies (e.g. sharkies or jelly beans)
  • powdered soup, oxo, bovril cubes and other salty stuff


  • sufficient water is a no-brainer.  Add electrolyte powder for more kick.
  • how much is enough?  Good question!  How far are you going?  What time of year?  Need more water than you can carry?  Think about bringing some iodine tablets or a water filter in case you have to drink out of a bog 


  • lightweight, compact
  • sound travels a lot farther than a holler for help and takes up a lot less energy


  • what is there to say?  If you can't find one that is plasticized, be sure to pack your paper map in a ziplock baggie so it doesn't turn to mush

Compass / GPS

  • should you have one or both?  If you go with the GPS, be sure you have backup batteries.  Either way, be sure you know how to use the thing!

Cell Phone

  • nice to be able to call someone if you get in a pickle.  Not much use if there is no cellular reception, though.  Consider renting a satellite phone for those big backcountry adventures or using something like a Spot


  • lightweight nylon vest or jacket
  • gloves, a hat

Fire Starter

  • any cheap lighter
  • a little piece of fire starter stick could help start a fire with wet wood 

Sun Protection

  • sunglasses
  • sunscreen


  • what if you get stuck outdoors after dark?
  • headlamp, maglite, flashing beacon
  • spare batteries (or at least fresh ones!)


  • no room to carry a house in that hydration pack?  Consider a foil blanket or bivvy sack.

First Aid

  • another topic you could write a book on.  Impossible to cover all possible bo-bos but think about the most common ones like blisters, trail rash and being poked by a stick
  • gauze, duct tape, vitamin I (ibuprofen), a couple of safety pins, needle and thread

Other useful stuff to make room for

  • a knife or leatherman tool
  • a little tin box to stuff everything into.  Ideally, something you can heat over your fire  

Other useful stuff you should do before leaving

  • tell someone where you plan to go, what time you'll be back and what time to call search and rescue if you don't get back on time
  • put a note on your dashboard that outlines your name, contact info and itinerary so if someone finds your car, they will know to call search and rescue
  • have some goodies for when you return.  A cooler, for example, if you arrive back safely, but hungry and thirsty


Here are some links to good articles on this topic:



Ean Jackson's picture

Something for sprains and breaks

What if you or a companion goes over on an ankle and makes a mess of it?  What would you do if someone broke an arm?  A tensor bandage could save the day.

mudrunner's picture

 I did a forensic on my gear


I did a forensic on my gear for our Seymour Day Trip.  The pack & the bladder weight varies depending on the outing (I have a couple of packs to choose from)...same goes for clothing, & fuel. I have listed all of the items below & included a photo of the "Essentials".
Although I did pack a camera, I didn't include it as an "Essential".
Note: individual weights are derived from manufacturer's specifications. The "Essentials" were weighed together using a digital bathroom scale.
Gregory (450gm)
UD bladder 80oz capacity.
-long sleeve Capilene shirt
-lightweight gore-tex rain shell w/ hood
-trail runners
Extra Clothing:
-Craft lightweight ribbed longsleeve (157gm)
-MEC windpants (160gm)
-Windstopper gloves (55gm)
Essentials (see photos):
-Cell phone (not pictured)
-Swiss Army Camping knife w/ saw, awl, two blades, tweezers, scissors, can opener, etc...
-Fox whistle
-Buff (worn as a toque to start, then on my wrist as a sweatband)
-waterprooof matches
-Turtle LED back-up light
-lanyard to hold the knife, whistle, & back-up light.
-Petzl LED headlamp (w/fresh batteries)
- Bivy sack...emergency edition (108gm)
-electrolyte caps
-electrolyte powder in a mini-zip-lock
-topo map of area in a freezer sized zip-lock (the ziplock can also be used to hold tinder & keep it dry)
-small self-wound roll of duct tape
-blister kit that contains a meter of flexible tape
-Bodyglide (miniature version). Rumour has it that vaseline can double as a fire-starter.
-spare ziplock (to hold all those small items together)
-glass of Sangiovese to go with the abundant wild mushrooms & grouse (optional)
Total weight of "Essentials" only (without phone or the wine)...370gm (13oz)
Total weight of Pack, Extra clothing, &"Essentials"...1192gm (2lb 10oz)
The "Essentials" ....
Neatly Packed & Stacked


Ean Jackson's picture

Thoughts from an Experienced Climber - Ken Legg

Ken sent this via email:

Here's a list of stuff that was in my pack for our bagger run along the Seymour Mountain ranges in late September. This ended up being a 13 hr day.  Home before dark. 

  • Running backpack with 3l water bladder
  • Light Goretex pullover
  • Midweight fleece pullover
  • Emergency kit (MSR metal bowl, orange emergency blanket, fire starter, waterproof matches, sugar, bovril package, water treatment) - shelter, fire, hot soup.
  • Duct tape - shoe repair, wound closure, blisters, splints
  • Plastic bag with light toque and gloves
  • Dog leash - got to be good for something
  • Toilet paper
  • Bear spray in holster
  • Cell phone - key emergency numbers in address book
  • Sun hat, sun screen, lip balm
  • Bit of flagging tape
  • Whistle on string (counts as spare shoelace)
  • small knife - this is a bit small, but Glenn had a better one
  • Baggie with ID, cash
  • Map, compass, pencil, printed route descriptions including Google Earth printed pictures with routes and exit routes drawn on in advance - doubles as more fire starter - Copy of same left with wife - I this case told Barb to call if we are not heard from by noon next day
  • First aid kit including butterfly bandages, T3s, benedryl, gauze, tape, pain killers, tensor. 
  • Strong headlamp
  • 2nd small headlamp in lieu of spare batteries

Tundra the Ultradog accompanied Glenn and me.  The above excludes water, food and dog food.


  • Glenn brought the camera
  • Weight of everything in the picture: 6.5 lbs
  • Weight of all excluding bear spray and 2nd headlamp: 5.5 lbs
  • Weight excluding bear spray, 2nd headlamp, pack and water bladder: 3.5 lbs
  •  Weight were done on bathroom scale, which rounds to nearest 0.5 lbs


David Crerar's picture

when I'm being responsible, I

when I'm being responsible, I will always carry two ultra-lightweight and brilliant items:

& I've never regretted wearing light gloves: prevent stigmata symptoms from trees, ropes, and other hazards.

mudrunner's picture

or in your case...

 "I've never regretted wearing light gloves: prevent stigmata symptoms from trees, ropes, and other hazards."

...or in your case, blueberry stains.

First Aid Kit

I would definitely add one more thing to the first aid kit - Benedryl (sp?) tablets.  I react to wasp stings and end up swelling like a blow fish so I now make sure to carry these whenever I'm out on the trails. 

Sibylle's picture

Glad you finally start packing a bit more

Glad you finally start packing a bit more...or at least think about it!

I'd add a small mirror to your list, to draw attention to the search and rescue helicopter hovering above your sorry carcass.

Also, mudrunners garbage bag suggestion is great.  Make that an orange garbage bag to help rescuers find you ;-)

mudrunner's picture

Nice list!

I'm a real stickler for shedding excess weight (mid-riff excepted), so I try to adapt a multi-use strategy whenever possible.

Under the clothing section, I have a very lightweight windshell or some other sort of uber-lightweight shell. If given a choice, I prefer the ones that come with hoods.....a hood can be a life saver when the weather goes foul....cheap insurance. A garbage bag with holes for arms & head is always a decent last minute option. I used to like those cycling sleeves that are so popular now, but a lightweight nylon jacket is lighter, less bulky, & much warmer than those sleeves.

Gloves: I'm usually pretty good at predicting when I need gloves, but for those "iffy" days, a pair of rubber surgical gloves are always good to have in the bottom of your bag (they even fit in your hand-held's zippered compartment).

Head gear: I am a huge fan of the Buff. It is the Swiss Army Knife of the fabric world! I don't leave home without it. On hot days, I'll wear it on my wrist like a sweat band. When I get to creeks or lakes, I dunk it in & use it to cool off my noggin....or I wear it kerchief style around my neck. On cold days, I can form it into a toque (this came in really handy during the '05 Seek the peak, when the weather turned to sideways rain at the top of Grouse!).


Rick Arikado's picture

Agree on those two

Agree with mudrunner, I have a really light weight wind shell from MEC that packs into a tight little ball. This link shows what I think is their current version: http://tinyurl.com/nga5qb

Buff too, I carried mine through most of CCC100, didn't bring it out until the heat & sun really started coming on climbing to No Name Ridge. Dunked it in water and twisted it into a headband.  As the water evaporated it cooled my head. Every so often I would give it another twist and the cool outside surface would be against my forehead.

Just saw this on SurvivorMan, that tiny tube of vasoline you are carrying for chaffing, along with a little wad of cotton from your electrolyte cap vial make for a great firestarter. Rub the vasoline into the wad of cotton, add small tinder on top and light the cotton wad, even with a sparker. Have yet to try with BodyGlide or Hydropel.  Which reminds me to get one of those sparker thingys cause I don't want my life or comfort riding on a cheap lighter or not-so waterproof matches.

I have a little blisterkit that may not save a life but would make the death march home a little easier. It has little folding scissors, alcohol wipes (another firestarter) and bandages.

Bigger than that blisterkit, I have an emergency package I throw in my hydration pack for outings like the Forbidden Forest Run, when one never knows if climbing a ridge overnight will be the only escape. It has a compass, mirror, whistle, more bandages etc, but I see now there are a few things to add to that kit. Powdered broth packets and keeping the whole kit in a tin that can double as a cup-sized boiling pot are the best ideas I got from that chat with Ean & Ken while we were running Stormy.

#1 thing I almost always carry in the bush: small Swiss Army knife.

Sibylle's picture

nice suggestions, mudrunner. 

nice suggestions, mudrunner.  Especially like the surgical gloves idea

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