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Preparing for Year-Round Adventure

By Steven Maynard

Skiing, ice climbing, hiking — you name it — students in the expeditionary studies major take part in backcountry adventures year-round. When they do, we want them fully prepared.

Photo of Keith Madia
Expeditionary studies senior Keith Madia stands on a peak in Utah. Students in the program take part in wilderness adventures year-round.

Two Types of Adventurers

When it comes to packing, adventurers fall between two extremes: minimalists who believe “The less I carry, the faster I will travel, and the sooner I will return” and those prone to overkill, because “you can never have too much.”

To find the right mix, we ask adventurers to think about “The Four Essentials.”

It is not a definitive list. It is a way of assessing what you will need for the conditions you might encounter while ensuring nothing is missed.


The Four Essentials:

  • Fixing People: Bring first-aid materials that are functional and relevant to your experience and training. Items can be simple like tape and gauze to deal with cuts and cover blisters; simple foods for someone with low blood sugar; and a spare warm jacket for someone who may become hypothermic.
  • Fixing Equipment: Carry repair materials, such as Gorilla Tape, copper wire, glue, a sewing kit or a boot lace. Also make activity-specific choices. Have something, for instance, to fix a tent’s poles, a snapped ski pole or holes in a kayak. Don’t forget tools such as wrenches, pocket knives and multi-tools.
  • Navigation: Sometimes following a river or a trail is sufficient, but not always. Maps and compasses are every-time items. GPS, satellite images or photographs may also be appropriate. Guidebooks add weight, but trail or route descriptions, preferably laminated, are easy add-ons.
  • Communication: Identify what you need to contact support for an emergency. Low-tech options include common items such as a whistle, mirror or even a flag. High tech items include a cell or satellite phone or two-way radios. You might also consider flashlights, flares, emergency position-indicating radio beacons, strobes and the like.

Decisions about “The Four Essentials” will vary from situation to situation. However, “appropriate to the situation” should always be the operative principle.

Photo of Steven Maynard in his kayakSteven Maynard is an assistant professor of expeditionary studies at SUNY Plattsburgh. He started kayaking more than 20 years ago on remote sea lochs in Scotland. Since then he has paddled, guided and instructed in the United Kingdom, and throughout Europe and North America.


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