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Heading into the backcountry? Here's a list of things you might not have thought of that you won't want to forget.

First and foremost, a survival/emergency pack. This can be very small and suited for your own personal needs. You'll want to include some staples such as matches in a waterproof container, a thermal blanket, headache and allergy medicine, and bandages. But beyond that, you can customize your kit for your own situation. Are you on a prescription? It might be a good idea to take along an extra supply. A dry pair of socks kept in a ziploc bag can feel pretty good when everything else in your pack has fallen in the river. These are just suggestions, figure out what's important to you and build yourself a kit.

One common problem we've all had in the back woods is keeping your hands clean. I've come across two different solutions to this. Both are cheap, lightweight, and won't take up much space in your backpack. The first is "wet wipes." These little wet towels are great for getting the gunk of your hands. They usually come with some kind of disinfectant on them as well. And who doesn't like that smell? The other thing I've found handy to keep clean, is "sanitizing gel." This is an anti-bacterial gel you rub into your hands to clean them. Of course you would probably want to rinse them off in the lake or stream first to get the heavy duty stuff off, but if you want to go the extra mile, this product is for you.

Another suggestion for backpackers would be a length of hollow copper or aluminum (or whatever) tubing that can be aptly named a "fire starter." With this handy gizmo you can concentrate and guide your blowing to start a fire quicker and more efficiently. It works as a tiny bellows. No more blowing the ash of last night's campfire into your face. The tube weighs next to nothing and can be lashed outside your pack or placed inside along the frame to keep it out of the way.

An obvious suggestion, but one that is often overlooked, is a map and compass. Nothing like being lost in the backcountry without a clue where you are or which way you're even facing to make you a believer in this suggestion. A good map and compass are good not only in a crisis like being lost, but they can even help you find a good base camp, hidden lake full of fish, etc. And if you get the right map with topographic information you can even tell how steep that day hike you're planning really is without having to brave it uninformed.

And lastly, we would be crazy to neglect our own comfort in the backcountry. Some quick suggestions to make you more at home. After a long days hike, it's nice to take off those hiking boots and put on a comfortable pair of sandals or moccasins. These sometimes can be bulky and weigh a little more but are definitely worth the trouble. And for that down time when you're not hiking, fishing, etc., try bringing along a hammock. Definitely lightweight, these are great for a little nap before dinner. Actually, I even know a person who sleeps exclusively in a hammock while camping. Even when it rains.

Hope these suggestions make your next trip into the great outdoors a little safer and a little more comfortable.