Doug Goodman

Texas Horror Writer. Cadaver Dog Handler.

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Packing the Urban SAR Pack

Posted by douggoodman on January 16, 2011 at 2:45 PM

I have written a few blog entries on SAR gear. This one covers one of the lesser-known pieces of SAR gear, the urban SAR pack.


My search team will be doing a mock search exercise in early February, and one of the requirements was that each participating member must bring at least an urban SAR pack. To say I was giddy with the chance to prepare my urban SAR pack is to understate it. I have become a pack nerd. Or as Ralphie from “A Christmas Story” would have said it, “my old man is a pack junkie. A bona fide pack-icanus freak.” That’s me.


Like many pack-icanus freaks, I asked for a backpack for Christmas. I was already looking towards preparing my own urban SAR pack. I knew I wanted a Camelbak. Many of my friends have used them before, and I have one I used to use when running (read: walking with a little jogging) ultras. But that pack was way too small for an urban SAR pack, so I asked my wife to get me something like a MULE or a Rim Runner. I didn’t tell her, but secretly, I have wanted a MULE for years now. Some kids want puppies, others ask Santa for ponies. Me, I hoped to see a mule under the Christmas tree, and I got it!


I brought the MULE out to only one previous training, and it was perfect. Lightweight, with 3 liters of water, and four storage compartments (more on that later). The MULE is designed for breath-ability along the back, which can never be underestimated when working in the summer in the South. I loved it.


What To Put In The Urban SAR Pack

NASAR provides a list for the urban SAR pack, which is kind of a “SAR pack” lite. Take away the first aid kit, the ropes, the tarp, and the basic survival gear (e.g., fire starters, cups, carabineers, etc.), and that is what you are left with. Here is a pic of my almost-complete Camelbak:


I tried the MULE on after I finished. Man, is that thing light. Especially when compared to my NorthFace Terra 60. Great pack, but it can be heavy when fully loaded. The tricky part about packing the urban SAR pack is including the walking stick, which is used for mantracking. The stick is way too long to realistically put in the bag. (TWSS.) So I hooked the walking stick to one of the Camelbak’s loops using a carabineer, which is required on the larger pack.


Note: I used my SAR pack as a template for my urban pack. . Both packs have a similar structure (minus side pockets), so having similar items in similar places makes it easier to remember where things are located.


Top Storage

Usually, I like to place in the top storage unit items that I am most likely to need. In my SAR pack, they are a pair of worn working gloves. The urban pack does not require gloves. However, as an HRD handler, I decided it best to place some disposable gloves here. Also, I included my Buff (which replaces the bandana). The last thing that goes in here is an inventory list, with any additional materials noted on the list.



Small Storage

So in here went a bunch of little things that are required in the pack like pad, pencil, SAR ID, compass, and flagging tape. I also added my counter to keep track of pace counts. In the corner you can see dog bags, a necessity for canine handlers.

Open Storage

What to put in a big open storage area that is unprotected by the elements? Why not the rain jacket?



Large Storage

There are not many things left that are required in the urban pack. Instead, I placed in here items from the ten essentials for every backpack. Why these items are not included in the urban pack, I do not know, but I don’t want to go on a search without them. So my pack has a snack (chips, which also make great firestarter), two firestarter sources (flint and matches), duck tape, a whistle (unseen) and a space blanket. For good measure (again, for HRD work), I placed a respirator mask at the bottom of the pack. I hope I don’t ever need to break into the large storage container, but if I do, I am prepared…


So there it is: the complete urban pack, at least as I see it. There are basically three kinds of items: items required by NASAR, items from the ten essentials list, and HRD equipment.  It is going to be fun testing this equipment in a few weeks. Can’t wait!

Categories: Search and Rescue, SAR - People Training

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