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The Possibles Bag

The Possibles Bag

For those of you who spend much time in the backcountry, (skiing, riding snowmobiles, hiking, camping, etc.) you have probably at least heard of the 10 essentials for survival. Depending on which list you look at (and there are many out there) you’ll find items such as such as a map, compass, first aid supplies, a knife (multi-tool), extra clothing, headlamp, space blanket, matches, water, etc. These are all great tools to have with you.  But for the majority of us, all of these items don’t go with us every time we go out, especially on a day trip which is only supposed to last a few hours in familiar country. But, when you take into consideration that most Search & Rescue missions are for individuals who were only out on a day trip, we might want to at least look at some items that might lead to a positive outcome.  
In the 1700 & 1800’s the mountain men of the West always carried a pouch they referred to as a Possibles Bag.

Now, depending on which “expert” you talk to, there are a number of explanations as to what a Possibles Bag was.  Many will tell you it was powder & shot for their rifle. 

The thought behind the Possibles Bag was if the mountain man lost everything, yet still had his Possibles Bag filled it, would be possible for him to survive.  The bag would contain such things as fire starter, some food (maybe jerky), some line for fishing or snagging prey, maybe a small knife, etc.  Whatever the owner thought might be necessary to survive.
A couple of things I’ve learned over the years are, one, exposure is one of the leading causes of fatalities of lost individuals in the wilderness.

Two, if I’m lost and they can’t find me, I’m in a bit of trouble.  So with this in mind, I keep a Possibles Bag with me whenever I’m in the outdoors world. I have two items that are always included a fire starter and a signaling device. 

The fire starter can be anything from matches to a cigarette lighter.  The key here is that it has to work. I personally use a system I learned from a friend of mine who is a retired Para-Rescue Jumper.  For me, it always works and is very easy to use.  I can give you more information on the system, if anyone wants it.
The signaling device I use is also very simple to use and it works. It’s a whistle. When it comes to the operation of a whistle, no special training is needed and I can blow the whistle almost all day long.  As long as I’m breathing, I can blow the whistle.  Shouting, well that runs out pretty quick and is not nearly as effective.  Think about sporting events. There can be a few thousand people yelling at a football game and when the official blows the whistle, you hear it.  I personally use a whistle when I’m running a rescue toboggan/sled at Powderhorn.  People here it from a long ways off and sometimes even get out of the way.  It’s pretty effective.
There are a few other things I may carry in the Possibles Bag like food, first aid supplies, water making equipment, small knife, etc., but fire starter and a signaling device are always included.
What’s nice about the Possibles Bag is it can be small, fit in your pocket or back pack, and never really be in the way with whatever you are doing. Whether you’re jogging/running, skiing, climbing, hiking, biking and you’re in the backcountry, you may want to consider having a Possibles Bag along with you. 

It might just come in handy.
By Rick "Grumpy" Smith