Evolution of the 24-Hour Pack

 A key element of being search-ready is having a fully stocked 24-hour pack.  Contents of the pack are discussed in the Type 3 Academy and each new team member is expected to have the items checked off as a condition of graduation.  Today’s pack list has evolved over the years through constant evaluation and revision.  It’s interesting to look back on what SAR recommended members carry.

The February 1977 issue of Contra Costa SAR’s Lost and Found, the predecessor of today’s The Callout, listed the contents of an “Automobile Survival Kit” in three elements: an automobile first aid kit; equipment for personal comfort and safety or life support; and emergency equipment for comfort, safety, and life support.  The following lists are taken from that issue:


Components of this vital kit may be found in most homes and garages.  Any vehicle can be considered a movable, second home.  Always carry a few items in case of delays, emergencies, or mechanical failures.”

Automobile First Aid Kit

  • Sealable plastic container (holding):
    • 2 compress bandages
    • 1 triangle bandage
    • 1 small roll of 2” tape
    •  6 3×3 pads
    • 25 aspirins
    • 10 band-aids
  • Knife
  • Scissors
  • Bar soap
  • Tube of Foile (for burns)
  • Ampoule of ammonia inhalants
  • Green soap disinfectant
  • Needle
  • Safety pins
  • Matches”

Personal comfort and safety, or life support

  • Empty coffee can, 3 pound
  • Dry foods (crackers, rye crisp, etc.)
  • Freezable liquids (diet food drinks)
  • Chocolate bars (4 or 5)
  • Small can of fruit (303 size) and can opener
  • Woolen blanket or sleeping bag
  • Matches (for fire)
  • Candle

Put all dry foods in the coffee can which can also serve as emergency stove or water container.  In vehicles used for outdoor activities, walking shoes and complete change of old usable clothing is advised, as well as a raincoat.”

The third group, emergency equipment for comfort, safety and life support, included a variety of tools including: tire chains, heavy rope or tow cable, multiple screwdriver set, pliers, short garden spade, pruning saw or axe, small kit of assorted nuts, bolts, small springs, and nails, plastic tarp (9×12 ft), water bucket, electrical tape, small file, six feet of soft steel wire, and signal aids (flashlight with extra batteries and flares).

As you can see, we’ve progressed pretty far in the past 35 years from ammonia inhalants, canned fruit with can opener, and water buckets.  It’s also interesting to consider what the next generation of searchers will carry 35 years from now (in 2047): some type of solar-powered, miniaturized, and computerized link to an all-purpose replicator.  Some believe with increased use and effectiveness of GPS, cell phones, and personal locator beacons, there may not be as many lost people in the future.