Trip Essentials


The IMR strives to help individuals meet other outdoor enthusiasts, attain outdoor goals they might not otherwise attain, and to teach members about enjoying the outdoors safely and responsibly. To that end, the IMR promotes the importance of being prepared for the unexpected in the wilderness.


The IMR recommends—and your Trip Leader may require—some essential items for each trip participant to carry in their packs. IMR trip participants need to have their own gear and should not depend on the Trip Leader to carry “extra gear” for the group. Trip Leaders are very friendly, and will help new members learn what to carry for their particular trips.

Some “common sense” should be applied to trip preparation. For example, if you are going to hike up Table Rock Trail in Boise, you may not need every “Essential” in your pack—since it is very likely other people are routinely on the trail, and the trails are well marked (ie, a topo map may not be needed). But in general, the list that follows is a good guideline for every trip—whether you are on an IMR trip or your own backcountry adventure.


  • At least 2 liters of water (more may be required for longer trips without water sources).
  • Lunch, plus extra food.
  • Rain/wind parka and pants.
  • Extra layers of clothing: wool or synthetic insulating layer, gloves/mittens, warm hat and socks (avoid cotton clothing; it does not insulate when wet).
  • Waterproof matches and lighter, plus fire ribbon or other firestarter
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen and lip balm
  • Pocket knife
  • First aid supplies
  • Toilet paper in waterproof bag; also consider carrying a ziplock bag to carry out used toilet paper
  • Compass/topographical map of area


Your trip leader will talk with you about gear if you wish to participate in an overnight activity (backpack, etc). For overnight trips, a sleeping bag (rated to at least 20 degrees below the temperatures expected), shelter, large backpack, stove and utensils, toiletries, extra water and/or water-purification systems, emergency gear, and enough clothing to keep you warm in the evening and early morning are all
essential. Camp is often at high altitude with cold nights. We strongly encourage you to share your shelter and stoves with others on your trip. Please use stoves for all backcountry cooking and heating. For ecological reasons, the IMR strongly discourages wood fires except in emergencies.


The following list of items is designed to support life under any trip emergency in the backcountry, regardless of the season or weather conditions. Learn how to use it. Keep it always in your pack and check the condition of these items periodically. Your life may depend on it.

  • Fire starting kits. Bring two or three, each one different, plus cigarette lighter. Make sure they all work in wet, cold, and windy conditions.
  • Pocket knife and wire saw. The saw is for cutting large pieces of wood for an emergency fire.
  • Space blanket. The space blanket can be used as a wind breaker, heat reflector, and as a signaling device for air rescue. Wave the red side up when standing on snow; the silver side up when standing on dark grounds.
  • 3 large plastic leaf bags. For quick rain and wind protection, put one bag over your head, the second around your legs, and the third over your backpack. Make a gap in the first for breathing.
  • Low temperature electrician tape. This is handy for general repairs to space blankets, clothing, tents, and boots, and can be used in many first aid needs.
  • Ensolite pad. Reduce body heat loss by sitting or sleeping on pad instead of cold ground.
  • Head lamp with spare bulbs and batteries. A head lamp enables you to use both hands.
  • Metal cup to melt snow.
  • Whistle and signal mirror and 100 feet of parachute cord. The whistle has saved many people who have fallen off trail, but within hearing distance of a trail—and search dogs will alert to it from a further distance than humans. Signal mirrors, while small, provide an amazingly viewable reflection from aircraft that may be searching for you.
  • Parachute cord, like electrician tape, is a great backcountry aid in almost any emergency. It can be used for holding splints to helping support a shelter.
  • Snow shovel on trips where snow is expected.

Sounds like a lot? Perhaps. But your preparation may save someone’s life someday—or your own. If you are inexperienced at high elevations or in the backcountry, we encourage you to ask questions through the IMR. Trip Leaders are here to help you even when not leading a trip. And, many non-leaders are very experienced. Come to our monthly meetings, and feel free to ask questions about what you should have in your daypack or backpack.