Two is one, and one is none!


An outdoor version of Murphy’s Law is that anything that you actually need on an adventure will have been forgotten, lost, or broken, and anything that you don’t need will be right there in your pack for you to have to lug around the whole time.

One good way try to minimize Murphy’s influence upon your outdoor adventures is to build in redundancy in your planning.  A mnemonic that we use to try to remember to plan for redundancy is, “Two is one and one is none!”

That is, if you only pack one of something, it will end up lost or broken so you will have none.  But if you have two of something, You’ll still have one after the other is lost or broken.


But who wants to carry around two of everything!?  Here’s what you do.

Sit down before hand and think of all the things that you might want to do on your outing.  Make a list.  It might include things like…

  • hike to a lake
  • catch a fish
  • set up a rain fly
  • start a fire
  • cook the fish

Once you know all the things that you are likely to want to do, you can make a list of all the gear that you’ll need to do each item.  This is where your gear list can grow out of control, and this is also where the redundancy planning comes in.

If you figure to need 2 hiking poles to hike to the lake but don’t want to carry 3 or 4 poles just in case one breaks, think about a piece of gear that would substitute for poles or allow you to make poles or which would serve more than one of the purposes on your list

Like a knife!  With a good knife, you can cut a walking stick when you get to the trailhead or anytime one breaks, but you can also cut the fish, make kindling for a fire, or cut rope for a rain fly.  So a knife is so multi-purpose that it should definitely be on your final pack list.

What if you get injured while hiking to the lake.  You might get a blister or sprain an ankle or lots of other things.  But you might not!  So should you pack your first aid kit full of moleskin and SAM splints and gear to handle every other thing that might happen to you?

No, because if you prepare for everything then you’ll need an ambulance instead of a backpack to carry all your gear to the campsite!

So you choose the least amount of gear that will handle the most common things that could happen.  Like duct tape!  Duct tape works much better than moleskin for blisters and hot spots, and it can be used to repair a hiking shoe that is coming apart or a tarp that has a hole or a grommet ripped out of it, or it could be used to fashion a splint.  So duct tape (for instance) could replace a bunch of the gear that you might need for this trip.


See how this is working?  I’m not trying to sell you knives and duct tape.  I’m tryingto get you to plan ahead to carry all the gear (and back-ups) that you’ll need for a successful outing while still carrying as little gear as possible!

Here are two pretty simple rules that will help you prep for everything while keeping your pack list minimized.

  • Make sure everything that you carry has 2 or more expected uses – Like the knife can be used to make a walking stick or to cut fish.   Like the duct tape can be used to cover a blister, repair a shoe, or make a splint.  Make everything that you carry as multi-purpose as you can.
  • Make sure you carry at least 2 ways to accomplish each expected activity – If you want to go fishing as a major part of your trip, you might want to carry a fishing pole AND a knife (that can be used to improvise a pole, cut fishing line, etc…).  You might want to take fishing line AND paracord (which could be taken apart to make fishing line or used to set up a dining fly or used as part of a splint…)  That is, think of a backup plan that you can implement in case each piece of gear that you carry gets lost or broken.

Remember – two is one, and one is none!  so make sure to have two ways to do everything that you want to do and make sure each piece of gear that you carry is as multi-purpose as you can get it.


Categories: Skills, Survival