T here’s an old saying, “Two means one, and one means none.” I believe I first heard it in the Navy. But, regardless of origin, the expression reflects a simple subtraction that all outdoor-oriented enthusiasts should heed.
We’re concerned here about backing up the small accessory items that can be important to comfort and success during an extended trip. Several of these replacements might be good insurance even during a one-day trip, but that’s a judgment call.
Regardless of the trip’s duration, if the single item breaks or gets lost, you have a potential setback. Sounds obvious but we often blow it off, thinking, “Oh, nothing’s going to happen.”
Polarized sunglasses are a fine example. Virtually all-serious anglers wear them, both for improved visibility and protection from harsh glare or errant hooks. But even the best glasses are fairly fragile. Rare is the hard charger who, with careless handling, has not popped a lens from its frame or snapped a temple—or, for that matter, flat-out lost a pair.
You don’t realize how important the shades are until the “one means none” factor kicks in. Then, the shallow-water sight caster really suffers. The extra pair takes up little room in a camera bag or boat duffel, but I remain amazed at how many anglers fail to tote backups on big trips.
Glasses also apply in target shooting and hunting, especially upland wingshooting. High contrast, impact-resistant lenses should be mandatory in the dove field or on the quail lease. A good quality pair might deflect a pellet or turn a mesquite thorn, sparing an eye.
The camp flashlight is another accessory worth doubling. Some remarkably powerful compact lights are available, but the darn things have a way of fading when you need them. A puny trickle of yellow glow is not what the pre-dawn duck hunter wants when he is pacing across the black muck of a narrow rice levee. Ditto, for scouting a southeast wind (mild “snaky” weather pattern) marsh blind for active and irritable cottonmouths. Nor is it much help when you sit in a deer stand until dark, then try to thread your way through several hundred yards of thornbrush ridges or palmetto bottoms.
Once, stumbling behind a mutinous flicker in Dimmit County, I blundered into a pack of huge feral hogs. The point-blank beasts scattered left and right. In the vague darkness, the smallest looked about the size of a refrigerator.
Well, maybe more like a big ice chest.
Another time, while spooking without a light through the pre-dawn Trinity River jungles, I stepped into blank space and fell six or eight feet into a ravine. I was either attempting to go cat squirrel hunting or greenhead mallard hunting. The fall sort of addled my memory.
Gangs of squealing hogs and bottomless chasms aside, without a reassuring light you never know if the bogeyman is out there. The best way to avoid these unsettling situations is to have a small backup in your blind bag. To repeat, even the best beams have a knack of going bad—often at inopportune times.
Back to fishing, an extra needle-nosed plier (or, for fly fishing, a hemostat) can spare of lot of frustration on a long trip. Rare, indeed, is the veteran coastal wader who has not ham-handed a slippery, splashy unhooking detail and donated a plier to the tide.
Pliers fall with a solid “Plunk!” and, being constructed of solid steel, sink quickly from sight. Maybe this isn’t such a drama on a knee-deep flat, but the waist-deep surf wader is facing a lot of foaming, washing uncertainty. Several inadvertent steps or shuffles only add to the problem.
The no-nonsense pliers usually are carried on a belt sheath; the smaller hemostats typically are clipped to a shirt pocket or wader strap. Either way, they can vanish even without pilot error. I suspect that pliers are the most frequently lost of all fishing accessories.
Back to hunting, an extra set of earplugs can spare your hearing—well, at least maybe minimize the damage. The little rubbery twist-in plugs do a reasonable job of baffling concussive noise, but these gadgets are easy to misplace. A backup set can be carried in a vest pouch or jacket pocket.
Come to think of it, whether you’re hunting or fishing, earplugs can be a valuable ally against a snoring roommate. Regardless of venue, it goes without saying that the most notorious snorer in camp can plump the pillow, roll over twice, and promptly start honking and braying. You will rue the oversight if the plugs or muffs are missing.
Other accessory items that deserve backups include gloves, caps, and face masks. Any in a careless moment can get ripped away by a running boat or plucked from a pocket by thick brush. Maybe you get it back; maybe you don’t.
A bottle or can of insect repellent might run dry. Or, most frustrating, the aerosol nozzle or pump mechanism might break, rendering the canister useless. Ditto with sunscreens. A small personal tube tucked in a shirt pocket can spare a lot of misery.
On an extended outdoor expedition, an extra waterproof wristwatch has a place. Batteries tend to fail and bands are known to break.
Frankly, I can speak from personal experience on each one of these items. If cost is an issue when outfitting, keep in mind that the backup does not necessarily need to be of the same high quality as the original.
The primary purpose of a functional spare is to get you through the remainder of the trip after a bumble or fumble. Sometimes a just a dose of bad luck results in the simple subtraction of “one means none.”
Email Joe Doggett at [email protected]