Ready Pack

One of the precepts of Foothills Search and Rescue is that each team (usually 3 to 5 persons) should be self-sufficient for 24 to 48 hours after leaving search base, even though teams do not routinely stay out overnight. Dog teams are an exception to this, as explained below.

Because a team may find the search subject(s) late in the day with bad weather closing in, it is expected that a team be able to keep itself and the injured search subjects alive through the night, providing first aid as needed.

A 40-70 litre capacity backpack lets you carry sufficient food, water, shelter, and clothing without being too heavy. Since FSAR takes a team approach, don’t feel that you have to be fully equipped before joining FSAR. For example, one team member might not have a first aid kit, but has expertise in navigation and communications and carries extra maps, compasses, GPS, radios, etc., while another team member who is trained in wilderness first aid carries a more complete first aid kit. And a team shouldn’t need four stoves!

Since in southern Alberta night-time temperatures can drop below zero any time of year, there is no division between summer and winter gear. Also, no mention is made of equipment that those trained in wilderness first aid, swiftwater rescue, or rope rescue should or might carry.

Disclaimer: This list is no substitute for knowledge, training, experience, and common sense. This list is geared towards the terrain and climate of southern Alberta, and makes no claim to be relevant for other regions.

So, bearing all the above in mind, here are some items that are suggested, recommended, or should be considered. Take into account your own physical condition and load-carrying ability. The categories below overlap, so some items are mentioned more than once. Also, especially in clothing and food, several possible alternatives are listed. Don’t even think of carring all this stuff; after all, you shouldn’t need four hats and four pairs of pants! You’ll have to pick and choose what to carry and what to leave in the car at search base, depending on the season and situation.

A tired searcher is not an effective searcher. No one else will carry your pack for you, and the more you carry, the faster you will get tired.
Search equipment

  • compass with mirror
  • note pad and pencils
  • Sharpie-type marker
  • watch
  • measuring tape
  • paper or plastic bags for evidence
  • FSAR jacket
  • FSAR T-shirt
  • FSAR fluorescent baseball cap
  • flagging tape
  • headlamp or flashlight, extra batteries, spare bulb
  • eye protection
  • tracking and/or walking stick(s)
  • sunscreen and/or insect repellant
  • whistle
  • nylon rope (6 metres of 7mm)


  • compass with mirror
  • notepad and pencils
  • ruler
  • map(s)
  • large transparent bag for map(s)
  • pacing beads
  • GPS with extra batteries
  • for night navigation add: – eye protection
  • red bicycle flasher
  • flashlight(s)
  • lots of extra batteries


  • toilet paper in ziploc
  • whistle
  • multitool (e.g., Leatherman)
  • good sheath knife or hatchet
  • waterproof matches
  • fire starter (paraffin-soaked sawdust or dryer lint works)
  • water purification tablets
  • space blanket
  • candles
  • bear spray and/or bear bangers
  • flares
  • duct tape
  • safety pins
  • large orange garbage bag
  • 35 cents for phone call

High carbohydrate, high calorie foods are recommended, as are lots of munchies and snacks.

  • water bottles (about 2L capacity)
  • Sport drink (e.g., Gatorade)
  • trail mix
  • instant porridge
  • energy bars
  • prepared meals (e.g., IMPs, MREs or Hotpacks, so a stove isn’t necessary)
  • soup mix, dehydrated meals
  • stove and fuel
  • cooking pot
  • knife, fork & spoon
  • powdered drink
  • fruit leather


  • tarpaulin, tube tent, or space blanket
  • large orange garbage bag
  • sleeping bag or bivouac sac
  • thermorest or ensolite pad
  • parachute cord (10-20 metres)
  • spare stuff sacks

First aid kit

  • Laminated quick reference cards
  • First aid report forms
  • Tylenol
  • antiseptic cleansing pads
  • sterile 4″x4″ pads
  • safety pins
  • lip balm
  • gauze pads
  • moleskin for blisters
  • roller bandages
  • triangular bandages
  • latex or vinyl gloves
  • tweezers
  • tick removal tool
  • insect repellant
  • sunscreen
  • ear plugs
  • band-aids
  • CPR face mask
  • note pad and pencil
  • space blanket

Whether you take any of this stuff depends on your pack space, how much you can tolerate fuzzy teeth and smelling like a goat, and whether you think your teammates are likely to toss you in the creek!

  • personal medication; tell team members about relevant medical conditions!
  • toothbrush and toothpaste
  • waterless hand cleaner
  • hand sanitizer
  • hairbrush or comb
  • razor
  • deodorant
  • tampons or sanitary pads (with ziplocs for packing out used ones)

Because falling in a creek or going through the ice is an ever-present danger, having a change of clothes in a watertight bag in the pack is a good idea. Synthetic materials are generally superior to natural fibres because of their ability to wick moisture and insulate even when wet.
From head to toe:

  • FSAR fluorescent baseball cap
  • warm toque
  • balaclava
  • Tilley-type hat for protection against rain and sun
  • bug hat
  • sunglasses
  • spare eyeglasses
  • ski goggles
  • scarf
  • long-sleeve shirt
  • yellow FSAR T-shirt
  • fleece sweater
  • fleece jacket
  • FSAR jacket
  • rain jacket
  • winter coat
  • thin leather gloves (especially for rope team members)
  • fleece gloves or mitts
  • heavy winter overmitts
  • underwear
  • long underwear
  • rad or cargo pants
  • fleece pants
  • rain pants
  • ** jeans are strongly discouraged because they absorb so much water
  • socks, thin and thick (at least 2 sets)
  • gaiters
  • waterproof hiking boots
  • Winter pack-type boots


Note: The Foothills command post does stock AA batteries for use in the GPSs, but isn’t likely to have other sizes. So make sure you care your own spares for unusual sizes.