Build Your "Always Ready" Kit

MTNTOUGH FOUNDER DUSTIN DIEFENDERFER SHARES WITH US HIS “ALWAYS READY” KIT BREAKDOWN FOR WHAT HE CARRIES IN THE BACKCOUNTRY AND EVERYDAY IN HIS RIG OR BAG. THIS CHECKLIST CAN ENSURE YOU’RE PREPARED FOR ANY STORM OR CRISIS LIFE MAY THROW YOUR WAY.


Always Ready is a lifestyle, and includes being ready for anything life may throw your way. Over the last 25 years of backcountry hunting I've been caught up in some sketchy situations and these hard lessons learned have taught me that an ultralight med kit just won't cut it when things go really sideways on the mountain. Also, with traumatic car wrecks on the interstate to bleeding arteries on the gun range I have learned quickly your kit should be with you at all times, either in your pack or in your vehicle. I have put together my full list of items in my "always ready" kit and can tell you without question that I have needed them all at one time or another.

In recent years I have noticed many close backcountry hunters move to ultralight med/survival kits. With some buddies carrying only a few Advil and a bandaid. I am all for the pursuit of ultralight and am constantly cutting ounces off my gear list but my “Always Ready” kit is not something I negotiate with. For example, hemorrhaging is responsible for a whooping 60-80% of preventable combat deaths and many hunters are not carrying a single tourniquet, the one thing that can easily save you or your friends life.

Hemorrhaging is responsible for a whooping 60-80% of preventable combat deaths and many hunters are not carrying a single tourniquet, the one thing that can easily save you or your friends life.

Several years ago I was on the way to hunt ducks in Billings, MT. It was December and backcountry big game season had come to a close. My kit was in my hunting pack in the garage ready for the next season. As I headed east I encountered a traumatic car accident. I was first on the scene after an SUV driver had fallen asleep, crossed the interstate into the oncoming lane, rolled and slammed into the guardrail. The SUV had 5 total passengers. One was lying dead in the westbound lane from head trauma after being ejected from the vehicle. Two were stuck in the vehicle with minor injuries and two had been ejected into the guardrail causing major trauma & hemorrhaging. I had no kit, I had no gloves, I had no tourniquets. I helped in every way I could but a second passenger did die of a femoral artery bleed before first responders arrived on scene. This was a hard lesson for me. One I will never forget and since that day what I carry in the backcountry and what I carry in my vehicle has changed.

My “Always Ready” kit is constantly evolving and there are additional emergency items I carry in my pack and rig but this is a list of my current kit that is with me at all times:

SOS COMMS
- Sat Messenger, Sat Phone, or Emergency Beacon
- Equipped with "SOS" button

TOURNIQUETS
- Carry at least one and when possible keep one easily accessible on front of pack or hip belt for quick access
- Don't go cheap, get a CAT-7 or SOFTT-W

SPARE HEADLAMP
- With waterproof housing to prevent battery rot
- Make sure it has "lock mode" so batteries have life when you need it

LIGHTERS
- One is none, two is one
- Great place to wrap/store extra med tape for use on minor cuts

COMPRESSION BANDAGE
- For wrist and ankle sprains
- Helps alleviate swelling

EMERGENCY BLANKET
- Raise body temp
- Build an emergency shelter if needed

CHEST SEALS
- Gunshot wounds or broadhead accidents  
- Puncture wounds from falling on deadfall in backcountry 

FOLDING SAW
- Shelter and fire building
- Fast and safe and perfect for tipi tent stove fires 

IODINE TABLETS
- Emergency safe water
- Less bulk than filter  

FOLDING KNIFE
- Replaceable blades are lightweight  
- Steady textured grip is important 

COMPRESSED GAUZE
- Hemorrhage control
- Ideal for wound bandaging and wrapping

BURN TEC DRESSING
- Soothes major burns for 24 hours
- Also works well on insect bites and sunburns

ASSORTED MEDICATION
- Top 3 are Anti-Inflammatory, Anti-Diarrheals, Antihistamines
- Personal medications

SYRINGE
- Wound washing
- Eye washing

FIRE STARTERS
- Carry more than you think you need
- Then add a few more for late season backcountry trips

NITRILE GLOVES
- Tending to others
- Textured for improved wet and dry gripping

SUNSCREEN
- It is easy to get burned at high altitude
- High quality, water resistant

CHEM LIGHT
- Roadside emergencies
- Flag down first responders in the backcountry

SPARE BATTERIES
- For headlamps
- Or bring a lightweight portable charger

WOULD CLEANING AGENTS
- Kill germs
- Fight infection

My "Always Ready" kit certainly adapts and evolves over time, and it definitely changes depending on the trip or excursion. Make sure you personalize your kit to yourself, your environment and your personal medical needs. Focus on life saving medical, SOS, fire, shelter and water.  Lastly, always have your kit with you because you never know when the storms will come.