In theory, emergency supplies are those that you should hardly -- if ever -- have to use. The most important of these is the first aid kit. We carry a commercial kit with a moderate amount of items, augmented with extra band-aids, rubber gloves and bandages. We do not carry an extensive range of pain killers and other drugs. Most of the injuries encountered on trips occur around the kitchen -- burns and cuts. A common source of injury among campers is from a misdirected axe. We've managed to avoid this kind of injury because we never carry one, preferring instead to use a folding rip saw. We have never had the need for an axe because we have either found ourselves surrounded by choice firewood or none at all, as we are usually miles from the nearest tree.
Never underestimate the importance of a good repair kit. On the 1994 Heart of the North trip, UV radiation had broken-down a tent fly to the point where we could poke a hole through it with a gentle push of a finger, and every time we put it on, it ripped a little more. The Barrenlands is no place to be without a tent fly -- you need it not only for rain, but to create shade as well. Being on the barrens without a tent fly can mean a patchwork of duct tape and nylon added daily managed to keep the fly together until we reached Coppermine.
In 1988, a more serious situation presented arose. We were caught in a "Century Storm" on the rock barrens of northern Quebec's Povungnituk River. For 8 hours wind in excess of 120 km/hr threatened to blow all our gear away -- one pack skipped across the water, never to be seen again. We had to lie flat on the ground behind the canoes to not only escape the wind, but to hold them down as well: small birds abandoned their fear of humans took shelter beside us. By the time the storm had passed, it had shredded and snapped the poles of both tents (4 of the 6 poles on one tent had snapped in two or more places). With no wood available to fashion new poles (the treeline was several miles to the south) Geoff was able to repair each pole with the following kit -- and lots of lashing twine.
Our basic repair kit consists of the following items:
- Leatherman (or other all-in-one tool with pliers and screwdriver)
- Awl and heavy thread
- Sewing kit
- Thermarest repair kit
- Duct tape
- Epoxy glue
- Aluminum tent pole repair sleeves
- Elastic shock cord
- Nylon fabric (for patching tent)