Basic to your effectiveness as a Search and Rescue volunteer is the 24-Hour Search Pack.

Each volunteer must provide their own pack, and is responsible for its development and maintenance -- and ensuring that it is present and ready for every mission. WRSAR considers the 24-hour pack so important that members are required to bring them to all meetings and functions of the team.

One approach is to think of your "24 Hour Pack" as a total package - having 3 levels.

*Level 1: The clothing you wear and basic survival items (i.e. what's in your pockets and on  your belt - like a sheath knife).

*Level 2: Basic operational equipment and other survival items. This level would include  your radio, map & compass, flashlight(s), snacks, grid ribbon, etc. - things you need and use  as you conduct field operations. These items may be carried in a radio harness and a butt  pack, a multi-pocketed vest, or a load bearing harness.

*Level 3: Your backpack. Here is where your extra clothing, water, food, and other bulky  items go. A mid-sized, internal frame pack is probably a good bet for this function.

Your 24-hour pack must allow you to conduct search operations, and safely spend up to 24-hours in the field. Careful thought should be given to the equipment needed for search effectiveness, balanced with how much weight you are comfortably able to operate with.

The inventory of your 24-hour pack should be dynamic, not static; changing as circumstances (i.e. seasons) change. A process of ongoing evaluation is also important; as your experience grows, the items in your 24-hour pack should be adjusted accordingly.

Keep in mind that the 24-hour pack is just one (very important) element of your over-all "search package." Your training, skills, and, probably most important, your physical and mental readiness, are critical for mission success in whatever your team encounters!

The Ten Essentials

The contents of your pack is up to you, but should at a minimum include the "Ten Essentials." Additional Items are strongly recommended. Clothing should be considered as part of the package.

* Map - Topographical maps are strongly recommended. The Wind River Ranger District map   is an excellent choice for this area.

* Compass - Compass know-how and an understanding of declination (the difference   between a 'magnetic' and 'true' bearing) is important. This areas declination is 18-20 east.

* Flashlight - Ensure you have an extra bulb & batteries. A head lamp is very useful.

* Extra food & water - Carry food which requires little or no preparation (i.e. food bars). Sadly,   there is no longer any uncontaminated surface water in the lower 48 states. Bring it with you   and be prepared to treat all other water.

* Extra clothing - Include a hat & gloves with your extra clothing. Rain protection is a must,  wool is always a good choice for layering. A space blanket is an ideal addition to any kit.

* Fire starter - Must be waterproof. It is a good idea to have three options for fire starting (i.e.   a lighter, waterproof matches & magnesium/flint). Practice makes all the difference.

* Candle/fuel tablets - These are remarkably effective as hand warmers, a quick hot   beverage, or for making a fire much easier to start.

* Knife - The Swiss Army knife is an excellent, basic choice. The addition of a larger camping   type knife is also quite useful (i.e. gathering firewood).

* First Aid kit - Basic First Aid & CPR training should be considered a critical part of your First   Aid kit. Latex gloves and a CPR shield are important parts of your kit.

* Signaling device - At a minimum carry a whistle. Signal mirrors are very effective, as are   smoke signals & flares (potential fire hazard).

Note: Some "Ten Essentials" lists replace signaling device with Sunglasses... an item included in our additional items list below.

Additional Items

* Shelter - Tarp, space blanket, poncho, tube tent, large plastic trash bag or a combination of   these. Remember your clothing plays a major role in how comfortably you spend the night.

* Grid Ribbon - Carry at least one roll. A biodegradable version is now on the market and   deserves consideration.

* Gloves - Leather work gloves are great for rope work, Blackberry vine encounters and other   times when durable protection is required. Polypropylene, wool or silk liners are effective   for layering or by themselves. Fingerless gloves provide protection and dexterity.

* Hat - Hardhats offer impact (& rain) protection as well as good visibility. Various liners from   cotton bandanas to wool stocking hats help to meet changing conditions. Some sort of   balaclava (full head/face cover) is recommended.

* Rope - 20' of 1" nylon tubing is very useful, for tying harnesses, hasty rappelling, etc. 100' of   "Parachute cord" or "550 cord" is a strong, versatile item to include in your pack.

* Radio - Communications are critical to the success of missions. At least one radio per   search team is required. Obtaining your Amateur Radio license is encouraged (but NOT   required) as it will greatly increase your communications ability.

* Sunglasses - UV protection of the eyes is especially important in snow conditions. Wearers   of prescription eyewear should always have an extra pair available.

* Machete - Useful for clearing a path for a stokes team, as well as building fires and shelters.   A small folding camp saw also has value in fire and shelter building. Having one of each per   team is recommended.

* Sleeping pad - A light weight, closed cell foam pad is invaluable for sitting or kneeling on   during breaks or fire building, etc. as well as for sleeping.

* Other Items - Toilet paper in a plastic bag, pen & paper, insect repellent, sunscreen, and   binoculars are useful.

Clothing

The fall/winter climate of Skamania County and the surrounding areas present a challenge to those venturing out in it - especially search and rescue personnel who must operate in what are often less than ideal conditions.

* Clothing is your first line of defense. It must be durable, comfortable to operate in, and   layered for adaptability.

* An uncovered head can radiate one half of your body's heat production at 40 F. Nuff said.

* Polypropylene or similar material makes a good first layer for wicking away perspiration.   Often this layer is adequate during active search operations.

* An insulating layer of wool, or synthetic pile or bunting offers warmth even when wet.

* The outer shell must be wind and water resistant. Breathable fabrics are effective, but   expensive. Whatever is worn must be able to withstand the abuse found in the underbrush   and rocks common to this area.

* Your feet, being the basic means of transportation, deserve considerable attention. Sturdy   hiking boots are necessary, as are a couple of layers of socks - including wool. An extra pair   of dry socks in your pack may have a dramatic impact on your attitude in wet and cold   conditions. Moleskin should be carried by everyone, and applied at the first signs of 'hot   spots' which lead to blistering.

* Gaiters are handy in most situations in the woods, by sealing all the brush, dirt, rocks, rain   and snow out of your boots.

* Gloves are important for a number of reasons and consideration should be given to   carrying a few different types.

Experience is the best instructor - enjoy!
Be safe. Be effective.