Chapter 9: The SAR “Ready Pack” and Personal Equipment



o       Ground protection (p. 132)

o       Sleeping bags (p. 132-134)

o       Shelters (p. 134-135)

o       Water containers and systems (p. 136-137)

o       Boots (p. 137-138)

o       Walking/tracking sticks (p. 138)

o       Flashlights/headlights (p. 138)

o       Knives (p. 139)


I. Resources

PowerPoint slides, Chapter 9

Photos of various types of packs, ground pads, sleeping bags, shelters, water containers, boots, walking sticks, flashlights, and knives


II. Teaching Points


A. Adequate pack (p. 128)

  1. Carrying the appropriate equipment is essential for field preparedness.
  2. 24-hour pack is the minimum that SAR personnel should carry during a mission.
  3. Ready packs
    1. Carry equipment adequate to meet medical and survival needs
    2. Additional clothing appropriate for present and anticipated environment
    3. Bivouac or shelter material
    4. Water and food appropriate for mission duration
    5. Personal safety and comfort gear
    6. General SAR equipment
    7. Improvisational tools
    8. Team equipment
    9. The pack itself
    10. Inducement to drink hot/cold liquids


  1. Hydration
    1. Water is often carried on a belt around the waist.
    2. Hands-free hydration systems
    3. Water needs to be consumed continuously during a mission.
    4. At nearly 8.5 lbs per gallon, water is probably the heaviest material that will be carried.
    5. Keep drinking systems full; water systems that are not full tend to shift.


B. Personal body management and protective equipment (p. 131)

  1. Insect repellent
    1. A non-chemical approach includes wearing clothing made of slippery material.
    2. Repellents that contain DEET, Indlone, Rutgers, and DMP are effective, but beware of reactions and allergies.
    3. Skin-So-SoftÒ has been reported to reduce insect attacks.
    4. Avoid perfumes and deodorant soaps before going into the field.
    5. Netting may be required to repel some insects.


  1. Sunscreen/block
    1. Creams and balms may be of value in preventing chapped body parts.
    2. Sunscreen/block can save much discomfort in terms of pain from sunburn.


  1. Eye protection
    1. When working in brush, it is advisable to wear eye protection.
    2. When traveling in hot, sunny areas or at elevation, sunglasses should be worn to prevent eye injuries.
    3. Eye protection should be lightweight and allow for ventilation around the eyes.


  1. Head protection
    1. A helmet may need to be worn during rescue operations.
    2. A hat that provides ear and neck protection is also important in cold environments.


C. Sleeping systems (p. 132)

1. Ground protection

a.       A pad placed between your body and the ground

b.      Can insulate you from the ground

c.       Provides a more comfortable sleeping surface

d.      Should be lightweight, soft, compact, waterproof, and efficient insulators

e.       Traditional air mattresses are relatively heavy, not durable, and least efficient.

f.        Urethane foam is soft and provides good insulation when dry. Its open cell structure is lighter than an air mattress but is bulky.

g.       Urethane foam will absorb water, so a waterproof cover will be necessary.

h.       Ensolite or polyethylene is a closed-cell structure that does not provide much padding, but does not absorb water and is more compact and lighter than foam.

i.         A nylon cloth placed under your sleeping bag or tent provides an additional barrier and will help keep your tent, sleeping pad, and sleeping bag dry and clean.


2. Sleeping bag

                                                                  i.   Full consideration must be given to the intended usage, ask the following questions:

i. What type of camping will the bag be used for?

ii. During what seasons will the bag be used?

iii. What are the general warmth characteristics of the individuals who will use the bag?


                                                                 ii.   Insulating material¾Down

                                                                                 i.      The insulating material affects cost, warmth, weight, and construction method.

                                                                               ii.      Down is the fine insulating, fluffy feathers found under stiffer feathers of ducks and geese.

                                                                              iii.      Popular because it is lightweight and compressible

                                                                             iv.      Soft, nontoxic, breathable, and resilient

                                                                               v.      Expensive and loses its insulation when wet

                                                                             vi.      Requires special care in use and cleaning


                                                               iii.   Insulating material¾Polyester

                                                                                 i.      Synthetic fibers used in less-expensive sleeping bags

                                                                               ii.      Has less loft, is heavier and more bulky than down

                                                                              iii.      Water resistant

                                                                             iv.      Retains insulative properties when wet

                                                                               v.      Examples: PolarGuardÔ, PrimaloftÒ, DacronÒ, HollofilÒ, QuallofilÒ


                                                               iv.   Construction

                                                                                 i.      Sleeping bags are compared generally by their quality of construction, loft, and effective temperature range.

                                                                               ii.      Quality of construction is determined by the reputation of the manufacturer.

                                                                              iii.      Loft is generally used to specify the total thickness of a sleeping bag after it has had time to fluff up to its full thickness.


                                                                v.   Shapes and sizes

                                                                                 i.      The rectangular bag is the roomiest and most comfortable.

(a) The least expensive construction

(b) Heavy and creates superfluous air space to heat

                                                                               ii.      The mummy bag is contoured to the body shape.

(a) The lightest, warmest, and most efficient design

(b) Allows very little room for moving around inside

(c)    Has a hooded closure and enlarged foot area for comfort

                                                                              iii.      The wedge shape is actually a tapered rectangle, with or without a hood.

                                                                             iv.      The modified mummy is barrel-shaped and is widest at the midsection.


                                                               vi.   Baffling

                                                                                 i.      Small tubes or “baffles”

                                                                               ii.      Provides complete and uniform loft and insulation coverage to prevent thin or cold spots

                                                                              iii.      Quilted is the least expensive since it is the lowest quality.

(a)    The outer layers of fabric are sewn together to create the baffles resulting in cold spots along the seams.

                                                                             iv.      The box or box baffle or square box construction is another fairly common type of construction.

(a)    Additional material is sewn between the outer layers to create walls so the insulative material is effectively boxed.

(b)   Inhibits cold spots along the seams

(c)    Adds weight and bulk

                                                                               v.      Shingle construction is the most common design in three- to four-season sleeping bags.

(a)    Has a slanted design with overlapping layers of insulation

(b)   Ensures no dead spots or areas with no insulation

(c)    A bit heavier and bulkier than recreational bags

(d)   Does provide essential protection


                                                             vii.   Care of sleeping bags

(a)    Clean bag when it gets dirty.

(b)   Follow manufacturer’s instructions.

(c)    Do not wash sleeping bags in standard washing machines with central agitators.

(d)   Do not use detergents.

(e)    Do not roughly handle a water-soaked bag.

(f)     Generally, sleeping bags should be stored unstuffed.


                                                            viii.   Ways to sleep warmer inside a sleeping bag

                                                                                 i.      Sleep inside a shelter or tent (10°F warmer).

                                                                               ii.      Improvise a windbreak if no tent is available.

                                                                              iii.      Do not set up a camp in a ravine or valley bottom.

                                                                             iv.      Sleep in one layer of dry clothing.

                                                                               v.      Protect head, neck, and shoulders, and wear a wool stocking hat.

                                                                             vi.      Huddle with others.

                                                                            vii.      Put on socks or booties.

                                                                          viii.      Improve ground insulation.

                                                                             ix.      Keep your sleeping bag dry.

                                                                               x.      Use a vapor barrier in extreme cold.


D. Shelters (p. 134)

1.      Tarps are lightweight and versatile.

2.      Coated nylon with a number of ties allows a variety of ways to rig a shelter.

3.      Plastic tarps are inexpensive but less durable. Their biggest disadvantage is their lack of complete insect protection.

4.      Tents are heavier than tarps and are relatively expensive, but provide maximum security.

5.      Features to consider when selecting a tent:

a.       Tent warmth is a function of size, fabric, and design.

b.      A smaller tent will be warmer than a larger one.

c.       A double-walled tent will be warmer because of the air enclosed between the walls.

d.      Water repellency is provided either with a waterproof fabric or a rain fly.

e.       Weight

f.        Size

g.       Insect protection

h.       Breathability, wear resistance, weight, and wind resistance

i.         Pole design¾Smaller tents are designed to use a pack frame or tree for support. Others use a single pole in the center or at the ends.


E. Food and water (p. 135)

1.      Most novices bring two to three times more food than they will need.

2.      One-pot meals are a quick and easy method of preparing a well-balanced dinner meal.

3.      One-pot meals should consist of carbohydrates, proteins, and seasoning/sauce.

4.      Carbohydrates and fats are important for quick and lasting energy.

5.      Mess kit and utensils

                                                                           i.      Bowl, cup, and spoon

                                                                         ii.      Meals are eaten one course at a time, so the same bowl may be used for an entire meal.

                                                                        iii.      Plastic bowls and cups will hold heat longer than metal.

                                                                       iv.      Metal cups and bowls are easier to clean.

                                                                         v.      Aluminum pots that stack inside each other make good use of space.

                                                                       vi.      Pack all cooking utensils in a cloth bag to prevent soot from rubbing off.


F. Stoves (p. 136)

1.      Always carry recommended tools and repair kit for your stove. Preventative maintenance and use of the proper fuels will help reduce camp stove frustrations.

2.      Types of stoves

a.       Chemical Fire (Sterno, Heat Tabs, Canned Heat)

i. Restricted heat output

ii. Heavy in relation to the amount of heat output

iii. Adequate for heating a cup, but not for heating a full meal


b.      Alcohol stoves

                                                                           i.      Simple to operate

                                                                         ii.      Lightweight

                                                                        iii.      Easy to start

                                                                       iv.      Have relatively low heat output

                                                                         v.      Fuel may be hard to purchase.


c.       White gasoline

                                                                           i.      Widely used and generally available

                                                                         ii.      Extremely volatile (Class I flammable liquid)

                                                                        iii.      Especially dangerous when fumes are allowed to collect in an enclosed space


d.      Coleman® fuel or similar fuels

                                                                           i.      Can be used in stoves that burn white gasoline

                                                                         ii.      Less volatile

                                                                        iii.      Tends to burn cleaner

                                                                       iv.      Less stove clogging

                                                                         v.      More widely available than white gasoline


e.       Kerosene

                                                                           i.      Much less volatile than other liquid fuels

                                                                         ii.      Requires separate priming fuel (usually alcohol)

                                                                        iii.      Distinctive and bothersome odor

                                                                       iv.      Burns with dirty, sooty residue

                                                                         v.      In extreme cold, precaution must be taken to avoid spilling any liquid fuel on the skin. This extreme cold and evaporative cooling can cause instant frostbite.


f.        Gas cartridge

                                                                           i.      Liquefied gases (such as butane or propane) under pressure in sealed canisters

                                                                         ii.      As canister pressure is released, the enclosed liquid boils, releasing the flammable gas.

                                                                        iii.      Most expensive per unit of heat

                                                                       iv.      Extreme convenience

                                                                         v.      Simple stove valve operation

                                                                       vi.      Require no priming

                                                                      vii.      Two types: high pressure and/or low temperature



G. Water bottles and hydration systems (p. 136)

1.      Weight is always a factor.

2.      Must be strong and durable (plastic)

3.      Bladder system (Camelbak, Kelty, Platypus)

                                                                    viii.      Simplest form, two parts¾a thin profile plastic bag of water (usually 2 liters) that is carried on your back and a tube

                                                                       ix.      The tube has a special bite valve from which water can be sucked while the device is worn.

                                                                         x.      Tube may require special attention in cold environments (freezing).

4. Water bottles

                                                                       xi.      Carry one or two wide-mouth bottles.

                                                                      xii.      Filled easily

                                                                    xiii.      Flavorings and electrolyte powders can be added with less spillage.

                                                                    xiv.      Easier cleaning

                                                                     xv.      Snow is easier to pack in for melting.


H. Boots (p. 137)

1. Should be adequate for intended use

a.       Provide good ankle support

b.      Non-slip soles

c.       Waterproof

2. Avoid boots that reach higher than the ankle because ventilation can be hindered and ankle movement could be restricted.

3.      Use a good pair of gaiters with low-cut boots.

4.      Avoid boots with tight-fitting “scree collars” because they cause some degree of tendonitis.

5.      Boots with backs that slope forward above the heel can also cause injury.

6.      Boots must fit properly.

7.      Boots that fit loosely will

i. Be better ventilated

ii. Keep your feet drier and warmer

iii. Cause fewer “hot spots” and blisters

8.      Proper sizing: If your toes touch the end of the boots, they are too small.


I. Walking stick (p. 138)

1.  Can be helpful when carrying a heavy pack over long distances

2.      Can double as a tracking stick or tent pole

3.      Weight is a factor, so avoid large sticks.

4.      Use one that is easily packed but can support your body weight.


J. Headlamp/flashlight (p. 138)

  1. Invaluable in certain situations
  2. In most situations, a little light for several hours is better than a bright light for a few minutes.
  3. Do not become dependent on a light when working in the field.
  4. Always carry extra batteries and bulbs.
  5. A second light source is always a good idea.
  6. When carrying an additional light source, try to use one with interchangeable parts.
  7. Car battery or law enforcement type lights are heavy, use many batteries, and are bulky.
  8. Hand lanterns are fine for most outdoor work, but headlamps are invaluable.
  9. Headlamps keep your hands free and point to where you are looking.
  10. Bright, white light-emitting diodes (LED) can remain lit for hundreds of hours using just one or two small batteries.


K. Knife (p. 139)

  1. Should have the following:

a.   Two blades of different sizes (not over 3 inches)

b.      One sharp blade

c.       Multipurpose applications

  1. Swiss Army knife or multipurpose type utility tool is recommended.



L. Hygiene and sanitation (p. 139)

1.      The following items are considered necessities for most of us:

a.       Toilet paper

b.      Toothbrush

c.       Toothpaste

d.      Biodegradable soap

e.       Sanitary napkins

f.        Tampons (with paper, not plastic, inserters)

g.       Shaving equipment

2.      Most of these items can be done without or improvised from other pack items. Decide for yourself what a necessity is and what is merely comfort.

a.       Toilet paper is so light and useful that no one should be without.

b.      Pack toilet paper in sealable plastic bags to keep it dry.

c.       Rinsing the mouth frequently with water and scrubbing the teeth with a towel can serve the purpose of a toothbrush and toothpaste.


M. Packs (p. 139)

1.      To determine the size of the pack:

a.       Make a pile of the equipment that you intend to carry.

b.      Separate the items into different piles.

i. Items that will go into the pack itself

                                                                               ii.      Items that will be attached to the outside of the pack

                                                                              iii.      Items for your pockets

c. For comparison, the average grocery bag will hold about 1400 cubic inches.

2.      Soft, body-hugging packs that do not extend far from the body are more appropriate for SAR work.

3.      These packs may not as be as comfortable over long distances as externally framed packs.

4.      Soft, internally framed packs are easier to carry when you are climbing or covering difficult terrain. They do not stick out and cause snagging problems with trees and brush.

5.      Externally frame packs allow ventilation under them and keep the back more comfortable when properly packed.

6.      Types of packs

a.       Belt, waist, and fanny packs

                                                                                                                                                         i.      Capacity: 100 to 300 cubic inches (3-10 lbs)

                                                                                                                                                       ii.      Uses: lunches, camera, personal gear

b.      Daypacks¾small packs designed to hang from the shoulders

                                                                                                                                                         i.      Capacity: 700 to 1000 cubic inches (20-25 lbs)

                                                                                                                                                       ii.      Uses: general day-hiking equipment, water bottle, emergency gear

c.   Options include:

                                                                           i.      A waistband helps prevent the pack from shifting on the back.

                                                                         ii.      Vertical or horizontal partitions provide more efficient loading and access.

                                                                        iii.      For larger daypacks, semi-rigid aluminum or fiberglass frames help distribute the load between the shoulders and hips.


d.      Overnight packs are a further development and refinement of the daypack.

                                                                                 i.      Capacity: up to 5500 (up to 60 lbs)

                                                                               ii.      Uses: two- to three-day trips

                                                                              iii.      Characteristics:

(a)    Designed to conform directly to the user’s back for support

(b)   Internal frame pack provides support for the large bag by the use of adjustable metal or synthetic rods or slats sewn into the bag.

(c)    A padded waist belt increases comfort and distributes weight to the hips.

(d)   Internal frame packs are better for activities requiring good balance and movement.

(e)    External packs provide the most comfortable method of carrying large loads.

(f)     Capacity: up to 6000 cubic inches (up to 60 lbs)

(g)    Uses: extended trips over several days, heavy or bulky loads

                                                                             iv.      Options:

(a)    Waist or hip suspension

(b)   Most bags have multiple outside pockets.

(c)    Bags may be a single compartment or may be divided into various arrays of zippered compartments.

(d)   Some bags are waterproof; others provide an optional waterproof covering.


e.       Avoid overloading; place heavier items high near the back, least needed items near the bottom, frequently used items in outside pockets

f.        Waterproof all items individually in plastic bags.

g.       What to look for in a frame pack

                                                                                 i.      Frame construction¾frame needs to be able to support the weight

                                                                               ii.      Shoulder straps¾padded, adjustable, and wide

                                                                              iii.      Stitching¾nylon or cotton wrap nylon thread

                                                                             iv.      Reinforcing¾extra stitching at stress points

                                                                               v.      Hip belt¾a two-piece hip belt will hold the frame too tight to your back; a one-piece will allow the frame to float a bit more as you walk.

                                                                             vi.      Back bands¾help distribute the weight of the pack evenly

                                                                            vii.      Pack fastenings¾four or more points of contacts with the frame on both sides; all grommets and tabs should be reinforced.

                                                                          viii.      Waterproofing¾Use a rain cover designed to properly the pack itself

                                                                             ix.      Storm flap¾Make sure the storm flap covers the top of the pack when fully loaded.

                                                                               x.      Outside pockets¾handy for things that you need often

                                                                             xi.      Zippers¾should be heavy-duty nylon; metal will freeze during cold weather operations

                                                                            xii.      Compartments¾will help keep your pack organized; may limit the positioning of heavy items

                                                                          xiii.      Lash points¾handy to strap gear and equipment on the outside