What’s in a Guide’s Pack?

One of the most common questions I receive as a professional guide is what I carry with me during outings. Indeed, the items one chooses to pack will have profound implications on everything from the ease and efficiency of operations to emergency response, environmental stewardship, and personal care and comfort. 

Whether you’re out for half a day or spending three weeks trekking the entire Colorado Trail, there are certain items critical to well-managed outdoor recreation. While you may not use each item every day, having them at the ready will ensure you are able to meet any chance moments with success. Next to each item, I’ve notes the specific make and model that I personally carry with me.

Essential Items

  • Backpack
    • [Deuter Guide Lite 30+ OR Deuter Guide 34+]
  • Navigation Tools
    • Map & orienteering compass
      • [Suunto MC-2 Pro Compass]
  • First Aid Kit
    • Appropriate to the activity and to your level of medical training
      • [Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight/Watertight .9 Kit]
    • Water purification (tablets or filter)
      • [Katadyn Hiker Filter]
  • Emergency Communications
    • Whistle, phone
  • Smart Phone 
    • Programmed with numbers for emergencies and local support       
    • With useful apps such as weather, wind, tides, maps, field guides, night sky
  • Toilet Kit
    • Including hand sanitizer and carry-out storage for paper waste or hygiene products
      • [Metolius Wag Bag Kit]
  • Tools
    • Knife / multi-tool, lighter, pen & marker, headlamp w/ new batteries
      • [Gerber Multi-plier 600]
      • [Black Diamond Spot 350 Headlamp]
    • Repair kit (appropriate to the equipment you are utilizing)
  • Critical Paperwork 
    • Such as permits, emergency contacts
  • Weather Protection
    • Rain jacket, possibly pants
      • [Marmot Precip / Norrona Falketind, depending on how severe the conditions are]
    • Sunscreen, lip balm, sunglasses, brimmed hat
  • Nourishment
    • Water 
    • Meals & snacks

Common Optional Items

  • GPS for navigation
    • [Garmin Gecko]
  • Emergency Locator GPS (SPOT, etc)
    • [SPOT Gen4]
  • Emergency comms: Satellite phone, texting GPS 
    • [Iridium Extreme 9575 / Garmin inReach]
  • Small personal notebook for notes and notetaking
  • Binoculars
    • [Zeiss Terra ED 10X42]
  • Camera
    • [Nikon D750 w/ various lenses]
  • Extra clothing layers
  • Extra snacks

Colby Brokvist is a professional guide who leads worldwide expeditions for some of the most acclaimed companies in adventure travel. When not working in far-flung destinations, he designs and facilitates guide training programs and is the Chair of the Polar Tourism Guides Association. His upcoming book “The Handbook for Professional Guides” is due out in winter/spring of 2022.

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