Your 24-Hour Pack

Basic to your effectiveness as a member of Tarrant County RACES/ARES is your 24-hour pack.

 You should be ready to provide emergency communications, anytime, anywhere. You are expected to motivate and lead other amateurs to become better prepared by setting a good example.

The area in which you live may be unaffected by a current event. You may live in the city, and not think that you really need to carry a map & compass, pocketknife or fire building materials. During a disaster declaration, your RACES/ARES team could be activated to provide mutual aid away from home, in a neighboring county, perhaps in an unfamiliar, rural area. So carry at least the Ten Essentials."

"Additional items" on the list are highly recommended. The clothing that you wear deserves thought, because it is also part of the "package."

The concept of your 24 hour pack is that its contents are up to you, but it must enable you to:

  • Provide communications while traveling, stationary, moving on foot, outdoors, in varied terrain, away from your vehicle, usually for an 8-hour shift

  • Provide food and shelter supplies to rest during breaks until your next shift, and remaining available up to 24 hours or until relieved

  • Enable you to operate a portable handheld radio for up to 24 hours

  • Be prepared (in a worst case) to spend a night on site, if necessary

  • Be equipped to perform your mission safely, in relative comfort.

    Attention must be given to the weight of necessary items that you MUST carry to safely complete your mission, your physical condition, and your need for mobility.

The approach for the 24-hour pack, widely used by search and rescue groups and highly recommended by many RACES/ARES groups is a total package consisting of three LEVELS.

Level I:

Is the clothing which you are wearing and your pocket contents: Minimum survival items such as a "Scout" or "Swiss" type pocket knife, lighter or matches, eyeglasses, small "backup" flashlight, and your cell phone and/or pager. Carry your cell phone or pager if you use one for alerting, or a 2-meter or dual-band HT whenever you can


Level II:

Level II items can be carried easily in a lumbar pack, a day pack, multi-pocket vest, or zippered waist pouch which you can keep in a handy location to wherever you are.

Consists of basic operating equipment, comfort and safety items: Your first aid kit. "Stuffable" rain gear and hat. Keep your HT here if not carried for Level I. Include an extra HT battery and alkaline AA battery case, earphone, notebook and pencil, map and compass. Here goes your larger primary flashlight with extra bulb and batteries, water bottle, snacks and personal medications for a day, sunglasses, multi-tool or pocket knife (if not carried at Level I), and roll-up J-pole, telescoping 1/2 wave antenna or "long" flexible dual-band 1/2 wave antenna with "tiger-tail" counterpoise.

Level III:

Your radio and Level II accessories should be able to be attached to this Level III pack , carried inside it or carried in addition to it. There are lots of options for level III

There are three types of back packs (unframed aka a "day" pack, internal frame, external frame), a lumbar pack is an option, or a duffel bag.

Keep in mind that the majority of  RACES operators are "middle aged" and older and not in the prime of physical condition they once were. A pack weighing 25 to 30 pounds is the maximum which a 30 to 50 year-old male in "relatively good" physical condition, with no medical problems, should carry on easy terrain, without undergoing medical evaluation and a stress test, and when necessary followed by a structured conditioning program under proper medical supervision.

 The inventory of your 24-hour pack will "evolve," as you become more experienced. You are expected to periodically inspect and adjust its contents as the seasons, or circumstances change. Being able to share what you have learned with other RACES/ARES members (such as what equipment works and which doesn't) is valuable and is why we ask you to bring your 24-hour pack to all RACES training sessions, functions and exercises. At minimum, your 24-hour pack should include what search and rescue groups refer to asà


The Ten Essentials:

  1. Map(s) At minimum you should ALWAYS carry a Texas Dept. of Transportation (TxDOT) state road map.

  2. Compass. Learn basic map and compass skills. It is vital to understand the difference between a "magnetic" and "true" bearing. An orienteering compass on a "dummy cord" with luminous dial is recommended.

  3. Flashlight Two flashlights are better than one. Rugged, sturdy lights using common AA batteries, of the same type used as auxiliary power for your handheld radio are recommended. A single cell LED such as the CMG Infinity« Ultra Task Light is a good backup light which runs 24 hours on a single AA. It is adequate for writing messages and in your radio log, searching for items your pack or finding your way around a familiar area. A stronger light such as a 4-AA Pelican StealthLite« is better general use. Carry an extra set of AA alkaline batteries for each flashlight, and enough to refill the dry cell battery case for your HT.

  4. Water/Food All surface water in the lower 48 states is contaminated. You must either bring 1 gallon of water per day with you or be prepared to purify or treat all water. Carry a minimum of 2 liters of drinking water at all times. If you expect to be away from a water supply for more than 4 hours, a backpack hydration unit of minimum capacity of at least 100 ounces is recommended. Water purification tablets or an EPA-rated personal water filter is also highly recommended. Drink continuously at regular intervals. For easy walking in flat terrain, you must consume 1 pint of water per hour. Increased water consumption is needed for strenuous activity. Carry a day's supply of food that can be eaten cold with little or no preparation. Energy bars, trail mix, peanut butter, raisins, jerky and tortillas are all good choices. Two military "MREs" are adequate and convenient.

  5. Extra Clothes Rain and wind protection is necessary. A hat prevents excessive body heat loss and reduces UV exposure. Wool or polypropylene fleece is warm when wet and best for layering. Space Blankets« have multiple emergency uses.

  6. Fire starter Always have three methods for building a warming fire which are waterproof. Waterproof matches, a lighter, and either a magnesium and flint starter or burning lens are recommended. Practice using these before you need them! Cotton balls, stored in a 35mm-film canister, liberally infused with petroleum jelly are recommended by search and rescue groups as an excellent fire starter. The cotton is a wick for the petroleum jelly, which lights easily with a match. You can easily make waterproof matches by coating the heads of wooden "strike anywhere" kitchen matches with clear nail polish.  Make sure the matches are "strike anywhere" and not the "strike on box" variety.

  7. Candle/Fuel Candles or fuel tablets are effective as hand warmers, to make a quick hot beverage or making a warming fire easier to start. Six "tea" candles in cans and either a 9-hour survival candle or six (two packages) of military compressed Trioxane fuel bars are recommended.

  8. Knife "Boy-Scout style" pocket knife, Swiss Army Knife, Leatherman« SuperTool or Gerber« multi-tools are recommended. A larger camp knife suchas a K-Bar is useful for digging and gathering firewood, etc.

  9. First Aid Kit Basic first aid and CPR training are recommended. Appropriate contents for your first aid kit will depend upon your level of training. All RACES/ARES members should be trained in at least basic first aid. A relatively complete first kit should include a dozen antiseptic prep pads, ten Bandaids«, tweezers, medic shears, two 2" stretch roll gauze, twenty 4"x4" gauze dressing pads,  4 triangular bandages, adhesive tape, a trauma dressing or military wound bandage, twenty Tylenol« or Advil« tablets, Immodium AD«, ACE« wrap and/or SAM splint, Latex gloves, CPR mask, foot powder, Spenco Second Skin« or moleskin for blister management, antibacterial hand cleaner, lip balm, and SPF30 sun block.

  10. Signal Device At minimum at least carry a whistle. Coast Guard approved models are recommended.  A flashing strobe light is best at night. Flares are a fire hazard and frowned upon in dry areas. Chemical Light Sticks are also a good option.

Additional Items

You won't have room to carry all of this "stuff" within a practical 25-30 pound limit. Therefore, you must make decisions regarding what is important for YOUR situation, taking into consideration shared items, which may be carried by other team members.

  • Radio Remember that your RACES/ARES mission is communications. Your portable radio is "Mission Essential" if not "survival essential." You may also be trained to function as a full member of a CERT, damage assessment or ground search team, but ensuring the safety of fellow team members depends on maintaining radio contact with your base. Your 2-meter or dual-band portable should be capable of 5w transmitter output, and be frequency-agile with a minimum of ten field-programmable memories per band. Carry a high capacity NiCad or NiMh battery pack, AA alkaline battery case with two sets of batteries, external power cord and sealed gel cell battery of 2ah or greater, plus either a 1/2 wave telescoping VHF or a full-sized 1/2 wave flexible dual-band antenna with a "tigertail" counterpoise, and an ear phone for listening. "Hands free" carrying is highly recommended for carrying your radio, accessories, compass and flashlight.

  • Shelter Clothing and rain gear are important for preventing hypothermia as well as determining how comfortably you may spend the night. A large plastic trash bag is far better than nothing, and takes little space.  A second choice is a commercial-grade 55gal drum liner.

  • Mess Gear The Sierra cup is too small, GI and mountaineering mess kits are too big. A GI canteen cup with folding handle and nesting warming stand enables a quick hot beverage when warmed with a Trioxane fuel bar. Tie a military stainless steel mess kit spoon on a lanyard over your head and poke it in your shirt pocket. You will always have mess gear. Sharpen one side to use as a knife.

  • Hat. Hardhats offer impact and rain protection and improve visibility. A full brim model meeting ANSI Z89.1-1997, Type I specification with a chin strap is recommended. A full head /face cover (balaclava) of polypropylene or wool provides warmth. 

  • Rope 20 feet of 1" nylon, tubular "flat-line" is useful, for typing harnesses, securing equipment, etc. A 50-foot length of parachute cord is another useful item.

  • Glasses UV protection is important in snow and desert conditions, or on the water. Impact and splash protection is important if you work with lead-acid batteries, use hand tools, or walk through heavily wooded areas. Eye protection with protective side-guards meeting ANSI Z87.1-1989 is recommended. Wearers of prescription eyewear should always carry a spare pair.

  • Spade For field sanitation and digging fire pits. A folding military entrenching tool (One per RACES/ARES field team) or individuals may carry a gardenerÆs hand trowel.

  • Sleep Pad A light-weight, closed cell foam pad for sitting or kneeling during breaks. Insulates you from the cold ground, protects you from jagged rocks and for sleeping.

  • Poncho A military poncho rolls compactly and can be used as improvised shelter, worn as rain protection or used as a ground cover. Also good are  rescue-type Space Blankets«, which also function as a signal panel.

  • Adjustable open-end wrench, to turn off gas and utilities.

  • N95 or P100 respirator, protects from most common biohazards, noxious fumes, dusts, or mists (required for CERT, and damage assessment teams)

  • Toilet paper roll sealed in a plastic bag or travel-pack baby wipes.

  • Grease pencil and/or Space Pen«, writes anytime, anywhere

  • Insect repellant

  • Sunscreen. SPF 30 is recommended.

  • Duct tape for repairs

  • Fire fighter gloves or leather gloves give puncture protection when handling debris.  Firefighter gloves are warm when wet



Clothing is your first line of defense against insects, abrasion and exposure to the elements. It must be durable, wind and rain resistant, comfortable to operate in and layered for adaptability. Being able to add or remove layers is necessary to maintain body heat, and to regulate body temperature during and after exertion.

Boots. Protect your feet and prevent injury, especially falls. Your feet are your basic means of transportation and deserve careful attention. Sturdy hiking or work boots having a lugged traction sole and safety toe construction meeting ANSI Z41-1999 with impact and compression ratings of 75 are recommended. Boots should be of all-leather construction and waterproofed. Nylon uppers may breathe well, but are not as waterproof or protective from sharp rocks, snakebite and other penetrations as leather. Stay away from heavy "pac" boots or low-cut, walking or running shoes which don't provide adequate ankle support. You want uppers with a height of 6"-10". 

Socks. Wear light non-cotton sock liners next to your skin to wick away moisture and control abrasion. Over those wear heavier wool or wool-blend boot socks for cushioning and warmth. This combination is suitable year-round, to control blisters and keep you comfortable. An extra pair of dry socks, sealed in a Ziploc« bag in your pack has a dramatic effect upon your attitude in cold/wet conditions. Moleskin should be carried by everyone and applied at the first sign of "hot spots" which lead to blistering.


For disaster deployments expected to last several days, a 72-annex to the 24-hour pack is highly recommended. The 72-hour Annex is kept in your vehicle and is best thought of as a re-supply point for your 24-hour kit. In the 72-hour Annex you should have:

  • 2 full changes of clothes, including socks and underwear

  • Personal hygiene items - soap, shampoo, hand towel, razors, deodorant, toothpaste, floss

  • Food for 3 days - 6 meals are recommended as a minimum

  • Water û 1 gallon per day as a minimum, a 5 gallon container is recommended

  • Sleeping bag, wool blanket or poncho liner

  • Cold weather clothing û insulated coveralls or trousers, extra socks, parka

  • Rain gear

  • Stock of AA batteries for radio and flashlights, 24 total are recommended