Every now and then I run across a “What’s in your bag?” post or discussion on various photography forums. I’ve seen it applied to other subjects such as fishing, or even just travel in general The question really boils down to, “What do you think are the essentials?”
It’s not an easy question to answer. You can’t really grab some checklist off of the Internet and expect it to work for you. Such a list evolves through experience, and as you add and subtract items that either gain or lose their usefulness.
My problem is that I have too many bags. I have several for photography-related gear. I’ve got two dry bags that are always packed with what I consider kayaking essentials. I also have a bag for audio recording gear. Sometimes I’ll mix and match content from these bags for a specific adventure. I have already made a list of some of what I consider to be essentials in general. Rather than look at what’s in a bag, I thought that today I’d consider what was in my car.
This whole line of thought got started on a picnic. We were at Fort Drum Nature Preserve in Florida, and I realized that we didn’t have a trash bag, napkins, or several other items that would have made things go a bit more smoothly. I like to think that I’m prepared, but lacking these simple items really got to me, so I started making a list and assessing what I keep in my car.
First is “the bag.” I started with this one even before I got my Subaru. I got tired of moving sunglasses, iPod, cables, and other items when Laura and I would have to switch cars, or if I switched to the pickup truck. It’s a narrow bag, so it fits neatly in front of my seat while driving – out of the way, yet easily within reach. In addition to the items previously mentioned, I keep some bandaids, aspirin, antacid, breath mints, tissues, lens cleaners, smaller cheap set of binoculars, large knife, a harmonica (I always have some sort of musical instrument with me), LED flashlight, cigarette lighter, small multi-tool, pen and paper, and a small toy phaser. Yeah, it’s a basically a purse.
As for other items…
Of course I have tools. I have a couple of multi-tools stashed around, but I also keep a screwdriver with multiple heads, a couple of clamps, pliers, and adjustable wrenches. I don’t pretend to be a mechanic, and couldn’t really fix anything on the car should something go wrong, but it gives me some comfort knowing these things are around. The larger items are in yet another black bag in the spare tire compartment.
I always keep stuff to attach things to other things. This includes duct tape and tie wraps.
I always have two sizes of rope. I keep a larger piece, as well as smaller cord such as the 550 parachute cord. I’ve also learned not to be afraid to cut it to the length you need. You can buy more.
I have multiple flashlights stashed around the car. In the aforementioned black tool bag I keep a larger Maglight. However, I leave the batteries out of it until needed. These are kept factory sealed until that time. Also in the photo below I have a small folding shovel and another large knife that has a flip blade that converts it into a small saw. The orange stuff is a high visibility vest and hat for when I’m out during hunting season. The blue and gray tube is a compact folding camp chair that I’ll also carry along on kayaking trips. Peeking in from the upper left is a spare ball cap and one of the ubiquitous green Publix grocery bags. These are perfect for carrying just about anything, not just groceries, and are a bargain at $0.99.
All of these items fit neatly in the spare tire compartment, along with a larger machete with a saw blade, work gloves, a small hatchet, jumper cables, a towel, a couple of quarts of oil, and a small tarp.
Tucked into the side panels have other items ready at hand. I have rain gear in the form of a couple of umbrellas and one Frog Togs rain suit. I keep a couple of bungee cords handy. I also have a couple of items you might not think about, but are nice just in case. I keep a few zip lock bags, should we find some shells or other natural specimen we want to keep. I have several sizes of ditty bags with draw strings for similar purposes. Our dentist is always sending us home with samples, so I keep a couple of toothbrushes and a small sample toothpaste tube in one of the ditty bags.
Based on my experience at the picnic, I make sure I have a few plastic trash bags. I also thought it would be a good idea to have at least two sets of plastic eating utensils. Who knows when you need a fork or serving spoon?
You would think I have everything but the kitchen sink. Well…
I also include small collapsible bucket. You never know when you’re going to need to carry water. I also have a small collapsible cup, and I try to always have two sealed bottles of drinking water on hand.
Even with all of this the cargo compartment of my car is open. These are the items I’ve got tucked out of the way various places. I’ll occasionally have a spare jacket, a spare shirt to change into, and a blanket in the back, but I always leave room for the camera gear, etc., that I need for whatever adventure I’m on.
Finally, I have maps. Good old paper maps. Yes, I have my Garmin GPS and my phone, but nothing beats a map. I get freebies from SCDOT and AAA, and I gladly give these away if someone asks for directions.
The contents of my car evolve, and change to fit the adventure, but that’s what I usually have with me. Sometimes it is good to go through, see what you have, and why you have it.