People seem constantly amazed at the amount of stuff I carry around with me. It seems like I carry enough paper clips, chewing gum, and duct tape to MacGyver a solution to seemingly anything.
I don’t know what they’re talking about. I carry enough equipment to cover credible contingencies. Right??
In any case, this is a list of the things that I carry around with me. Decide for yourself whether it’s reasonable or not; and maybe start carrying a few choice items yourself.
Worn at nearly all times when out of the house
Steel-cap work boots. These are the “Argyle” model from Steel Blue, with zip-up sides. They are the most comfortable thing I have ever put on my feet, and the zippered sides are extremely convenient. The high sides keep me from rolling my ankles, and the steel caps keep me from stubbing my toes; both of which I tend to do.
I wear these everywhere - with a bit of shoe polish you can even make them pass for formal black leather shoes, so long as no-one looks too closely. I can and have worn them to a [wedding]2, without too many strange looks directed my way.
On my belt is a “Leatherman” multi-tool, made by Victorinox. Most used functions are scissors, pliers, knife, screwdrivers and metal file, in roughly that order. I end up using it nearly every day.
Also on my belt is a small torch - this is a LED Lenser that runs off a single AAA battery. I use it to shine under tables, look around inside boxes, and any other time I need just a little light.
In my backpack - carried to work daily
This is the 3 kilograms or so of stuff that I carry around in my backpack every day. Most of the small items are contained in little pencil cases to keep them organised.
Pencilcase #1: Toiletries
- Toothpaste, travel-sized (45g).
- Dental floss. Apart from flossing teeth, its extraordinary strength and light weight make it useful for all kinds of things, including replacing broken shoelaces (in a pinch) and improvised weapons.
- Hair combs ×2. I always seem to lose these, so I carry spares.
- Disposable razor.
- “Shaving stick” - like shaving cream in solid form.
- Chap stick.
- Bar of soap, in waterproof packet - nicked from a hotel room.
- Dishwashing liquid, in sachet - nicked from a hotel room.
Pencil Case #2: Macgyver Kit
Eating implements: Plastic knife and spoon, titanium spork. For use when take-away plastic cutlery fails horribly. Replace the plastic knife and spoon as needed by stealing more from airplanes.
Spare bootlaces. I once wore out a pair of shoelaces while I was out and about in Sydney and didn’t have any spares. Walking around without shoelaces was uncomfortable. (These double as short ropes.)
Small screwdrivers. Mainly for tightening screws on spectacles frames.
Assortment of small cable ties. Don’t bother taking big cable ties in your carry-on - airport security will confiscate them, because you can use them to restrain people. (Yet they won’t confiscate shoelaces.)
Two small bolts with nuts and washers. For metal things that fall apart. I “temporarily” replaced a broken rivet on my pushbike with a similar bolt three years ago; the bolt is still in service.
Baling twine. For tying things up.
Cut up rubber strips. Also for tying things up.
Foam earplugs. For getting sleep in noisy places. Good foam earplugs can even cut out the noise of crying babies on airplanes.
Pencil Case #3: Medical Stuff
Iodine antiseptic. For small cuts.
“Micropore” medical tape. Some kind of soft paper/cloth adhesive tape which allows the skin to breathe.
Triangle bandage; the “jack of all trades” bandage. Use to treat everything from broken arm (use it as a sling) to snake bite (compression bandage to limit blood flow) to penetrating object trauma (compression bandage to limit blood loss and immobilise the penetrating object.)
Various shapes of band-aids. Including the funny-shaped ones for the fiddly cuts between your fingers.
Steroid nasal spray, for my ludicrous hayfever. Accept no substitutes.
Medical thermometer (digital). For use under the armpit, orally, or rectally. If you have a vagina, you can use it there, too; though I have no idea what base-line vaginal temperature is supposed to be. For telling if people have legitimate fever temperatures, or if they just need a teaspoon of cement.
Pencil Case #4: Random Stuff
- Moist towelettes. For cleaning things up, or a refreshing facial wipe after a long flight. These jumbo-size ones were liberated from Tony Roma’s, the best ribs restaurant in Perth. But the moist towelettes from KFC will work just as well.
- Blu-tac. Wrap this in something (cling wrap?), otherwise it melts in the sun and sticks to everything.
- Plastic bags - in this case, Subway bags. Fold these into triangles for compactness. For bundling things up and waterproofing. In an emergency, plastic bags are also useful as burn dressings (tape them onto the burned skin) and CPR masks (poke a hole in them.)
- AA and AAA batteries. Spares for the LED torches. Cycle through these batteries periodically.
- Post-it notes.
- Writing instruments. I have a couple of the little pencils from IKEA, and a “mini-Sharpie” permanent marker. Don’t forget these. Writing messages in your own blood is difficult and over-rated.
- Alcohol swabs. For sterilising things. Also a convenient way to carry isopropyl alcohol as a cleaning solvent.
- Salt and sugar packets. For emergency re-hydration, i.e. poor-man’s gastrolyte.
- Condoms, for waterproofing things, i.e. gun barrels. And no, “gun barrel” is not a euphemism for “penis” : I literally mean rifle barrels.
- Gastro-stop. Temporary relief from diarrhea. When you need this, you need it.
- Paracetamol, for mild headaches, and ibuprofen, for more serious pain and inflammation.
- Anti-histamines, for my ludicrous hayfever. These are the non-drowsy type.
- Small roll of universal fixing substance, a.k.a. Gaffer tape. This is the cloth-backed stuff. Don’t bother with gray PVC “duct tape”, it is too stretchy to be any good. Keep the tape in a small zip-loc bag, so it doesn’t stick to things.
- Roll-on antiperspirant/deodorant. Much more compact than the spray-on type and won’t get you in grief at airport security.
- Water filtering “Lifestraw”. Lets you drink from contaminated water sources. For an emergency situation where shit hits the fan. Remember - you can go for three weeks without food, but you won’t last three days without water.
- Hand Sanitizer gel. For disinfecting hands before eating or after touching something yucky.
- Wall charger for phone, with spare phone charger cable.
- Paw paw ointment. For really dry/cracked skin, as I get on my fingertips.
- AA torch (mine is a LED Lenser). A bigger torch than the one I carry on my belt. I also have a velcro head-band for hands-free lighting.
- 1 pair spare underwear. Because when you need spare underwear, you NEED spare underwear.
- Raincoat and rain trousers. For when water falls from the sky. Frequent occurrence in my home town.
This stuff weighs a few kilograms, but I’ve never regretted carrying it. When you need it, you need it; and in the mean time, lugging it around is good exercise.
As an added perk, when I’m packing for a trip, I know all of this stuff is already in my backpack - so I don’t need to pack it.
Finally, it lets me spring to the rescue any time someone needs a Panadol, a piece of duct tape, a condom, or a AA battery. It’s not the greatest superpower in the world, but having won the office elections for the “Duct Tape Award”, at least some people seem to appreciate it.
Not like I need to justify my Bat-belt, or anything.