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What's in my rucksack ?


If you want to find animal bones you have to explore where the animals live. But a lot of the time animals choose to live in wild and isolated places well away from humans. If I want to look for roe deer one of the places I go is a cold and windy moor which is over ten miles long and which is well away from main roads. If I want to watch red deer I have to go up into the hills and I can end up miles from the nearest road.

Often it's snowy or wet which makes it more difficult to keep safe.That means that on on my walks, I have to always carry a rucksack with lots of equipment and clothing to keep me safe and to make sure I can bring back any great things I find. Here's what's in my rucksack at the moment !

My rucksack

My cool rucksack is 25 litres in size, and the top fastens with two straps. It had two side pockets, a top pocket, a waist belt and two padded shoulder straps. It goes with me on every walk. It's so good that you forget sometimes you are wearing it.

Rucksacks that fasten with straps are much better than those that fasten with zips because it's not as noisy and won't come undone as you walk through trees. It doesn't look that mucky but I've had it for three years now.

Survival essentials

These are the most important things I carry.

  • First aid kit: I'll talk about that in a minute
  • A thermos flask OR a water bottle: I only take one depending on how cold it is.
  • A survival bag. This is a bright orange bag which is waterproof and big enough to climb into.
  • A Swiss army knife. I have the "Huntsman" which has loads of blades and a saw. It's on a string which I loop round my belt.
  • Midge spray. If you don't think this is a survival essential then you don't live in Scotland.
  • A Perry Whistle which can clip onto my belt but which usually goes on the top of my rucksack. You can see it here from when I was climbing up a steep bank above a mountain stream below.

First Aid Kit

I made this myself by just adding in what I needed. I carry:
  • 8 plasters
  • 2x 100g bars of chocolate
  • big triangular bandage 
  • 3x stretch bandages
  • hand wipe/antiseptic 
  • hand gel/ antiseptic
  • glow sticks 
  • paracetaemol
  • space blanket
  • waterproof matches
  • heat pad
  • safety pins
I've never had to use any of it yet.

Adventure stuff

This is the cool stuff:
  • Binoculars. These are great for watching wildlife and checking whether something white is a bone or a mushroom before you go over to look at it. I use Bushnell 8x42 waterproof binoculars (FOV368FT) which are pretty good. The "8" means magnification, which is how big things look through them. The "42" is the size of the far lens, bigger gives more light but makes the binoculars heavier. Dad uses 12x50 binoculars. You can spend tons on binoculars but mine were about £70.
  • A special wide strap by Optical Hardwear which is more comfortable than the thin one which came with the binoculars. Dad uses over the shoulder straps which were recommended by the old gamekeeper and which keep the binoculars close to the chest.
  • A torch. In winter I carry a headtorch as well.
  • A camo net used for camoflage
  • A camo tarpaulin. You can make a small shelter with both of these.
  • A climbing rope with a carabiner. The rope has strong enough to hold your weight. I have a carabiner, which is a special rope clip, in a figure of eight loop at the end, then another figure of eight loop about 1.5 metres down, so it can quickly be clipped around a tree for support. 

And I used it when looking at the old mill above the massive waterfall:

I used my camo net to hide from wildlife, so me and dad set up the tarpaulin as a tent and this what it looked like:

These are my Bushnell 8x42 waterproof binoculars. I use elastic bands to keep the eyepieces screwed out:

This is the carabiner. Carabiners for climbers can be expensive but ones used by scaffolders are just as good and much cheaper.


I mainly use maps at home to plan routes. My main map is an Ordnance Survey 1:25,000 map which was custom made for me and is centred on my house. The first custom made map I had from them was in about 2008 and was a bit rubbish because it didn't have a proper cover but the ones now are as good as the regular maps.

There is a lot of stuff that is on the 1:25,000 maps which doesn't appear on the 1:50,000 maps so they are much better. I carry a compass but rarely use it because I know the woods quite well.

I have printouts of satellite photographs of some of the woods I go in a lot. They are a lot more useful for woodland paths. I wrote about using Google maps to plan walks here.

Bone collecting equipment

I don't really carry much specialised bone collecting equipment because you don't need much.
  • Disposable gloves are for when there is soft tissue on bones and got want to get bacteria on your hands. You can also use them to tie small bones or teeth in the fingers of the glove. 
  • Plastic boxes for medium sized bones and skulls. A fox skull will just about fit in the biggest one. These are old boxes from milkshake powder.
  • Tape measure is for showing scale in photographs.
  • Camera phone for taking photographs of bones to help identification.
  • Old supermarket carrier bags for bigger bones.
I use the tubs for collecting smaller bones, like this crow:

I also have a notepad and pencil. I don't use it much, but sometimes I make plans of old buildings I discover.


All my clothing is brown or green or camouflage to help with watching wildlife. A lot of it is army surplus. None is very fancy or expensive.
  • My camo baseball cap mainly keeps branches off my face in the woods, but also protects from sun and rain. 
  • My shirt is long sleeve to protect from scratches, and had a collar to stop pine needles going down my neck, and to stop the binocular strap rubbing on my neck.
  • A waterproof jacket. This goes on every single walkI actually am looking for a new one.
  • Longjohns/thermal vest for walking in cold weather.
  • Normal socks and big walking socks over the top. This stops blisters. I tuck my trousers into the bigger socks.
  • A jumper (I use a British Army jumper) or an overshirt. The one in the picture is a German army overshirt.
  • A fleece jacket for warmth.
  • Hiking boots. I have just outgrown the ones in the picture so I have new leather ones which aren't broken in yet.
In the winter you need all this equipment. This is me on New Years Day this year !


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Ric said...

Great tips. I have the exact same binoculars, Jake.

Jack N said...

Cool I have an epic army surplus jacket that I wear tracking. I'm gonna pack some of that stuff next time I go out.

Jake said...

The German army goretexs are supposed to be very good. My editor recommended this site for stuff as well: http://www.archtools.eu/

Jake said...

Ha ! Small world !

Jack N said...

By the way, what make is your rucksack cos I need a new one.

Jake said...

It's an Airjet: http://www.ebay.co.uk/bhp/airjet-rucksack I have a 25 litre, and dad has a 35 litre.

semious said...

If you
are planning to go on long hikes and you think you need lots of storage, you
should get a backpack with lots of both internal storage as well as external
storage area. 5.11 rush 24

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