Never neglect your Deep Shit Kit.

I've dicked about a bit in life.   Mainly physically but a good deal of mental.  My boss gifted me a book for Christmas by David Goggins "You Can't Hurt Me" (it's well worth reading) but there's a few bits in it where I've been wanting to scream "WHERE'S YOUR DEEP SHIT KIT???"  Goggins has done some really insane stuff, and in retrospect I've done some stupid things too.   There are a number of parellels.   His book has a lot of helpful tools such as the Accountability Mirror and the Cookie Jar for mental preparations and life guidance, but the one which I think he misses is the Deep Shit Kit.

So I'll introduce you to The Deep Shit Kit.

Something a don't care to open to often.

In short, The Deep Shit Kit (DSK) is the pack which goes around with you, cared for, maintained and shouldn't be needed EXCEPT for that time when shits gone wrong.   If you can think back to school when the kids had to carry around a bag of flour because of teenage pregnancies and they wanted to instill an idea of responsibility, the DSK follows me on adventures.   My DSK is my responsibility.  If when doing something adventurous and everything goes sideways with the phrase "we're fucked" running through your head, that's the time when you're reaching for the DSK.  It became something that was always enforced in my white-water kayaking days but I've had less formal DSK in the walking and fell running days.   There's been days we've canned whatever adventure we had planned because we haven't had a Deep Shit Kit with us.   I always have a DSK while riding (different versions of it for different styles) but there's is always some element, some part or some version of it in the bank, saddle bag, tool bottle, back pocket, rucksack or in the boat because you don't know when the shit goes down.   I also quiet like the analogue to life - "Keep it close and respect your Deep Shit Kit."

The physical kit has changed with different sports, and at time I've had multiple kits running side by side; or I've adapted kits from one sport or event to another.   There isn't a single one-size-fits-all DSK, you have to build your own for your own needs, events, conditions and environment.   In walking, it was a first aid kit, bivvi bag, spare clothes and gloves, spare food, glow sticks, batteries, head torch, spare compass and whistle along with other essentials.  In kayaking, the DSK is similar, but with a throw rope, bits of chord for prussiks, pulleys and a few screw gate crabs, knife, rescue equipment, emergency shelter, anything that'll warm you up and sometimes split paddles for if yours either brakes or is taken away from you.  It all has to fit in the back of a boat in a dry sack because when river accidents do happen, they go bad and get serious very quick and the risk of death on grade 4+ rivers is extremely serious.   In cycling, my DSK runs from tyre levers, tubes, puncture zits and CO2 cans through to spare clothes, hand warmers, glowsticks and battery banks along with a phone.   It needs to fit either in a back pocket or saddle bag depending on ride style. 

Basic/minimal cold weather, hub gear Deep Shit Kit.

What no cyclist should leave the house without.

The idea is always to have packed a core DSK and then a halo of additional items for that days sport/weather/conditions/duration.  My cycling DSK sits in a zip case I picked up while stuck in Amsterdam and get transferred between my Carradice and Apidura.  On basics, it fits in my back pocket for the 2hr out and back 6am training ride   My core cycling DSK is useless while walking or kayaking, but can be adapted for mountain biking.  The essential role of any DSK is always the "stuff" needed to get me from the shitty situation where I risk real danger of life to somewhere stable, warm and protected and shout out to help if needed.   If the item in the DSK doesn't address this primary requirement, it's questionable it should be there.  To be blunt, you don't fuck about with your DSK.   It's something that you've invested in, maintained, cleaned, stocked, repaired and groomed because the one time you need it, you don't want to be thinking "shit, I used that to fix that DIY job around the house and forgot to replace or repack it."   It's also the thing that when people curiously ask what it is or what it does, you protect it to stop idle hands damaging and taking from it.  You never know which day you'll find yourself in deep shit, so your Deep Shit Kit becomes your partner that you never want to use.  You don't want it fingered by someone at your desk because they're bored.

Which brings me back to Goggins.  In the book Can't Hurt Me, Goggins details about some of his ultra-endurance events and details how arduous and difficult some of it was with things either unprepared or breaking.   OK, some of it may be for the bravado of hardmanship to inspire and sell books and enforce his message, but part of me thinks "WTF?   Why didn't you prepare for it??   If it's gone to shit, why aren't you breaking out the Deep Shit Kit??"

In ultra-endurance, outdoors challenges or life; shit happens, shit goes wrong and shit can happen to anyone.   This is regardless of 900 miles into a cycling event, 300m into a river trip, 1km into a run or 16 hours into a walk.  Weather changes, road conditions can flip, routes may be blocked, the river level wasn't what you expected or someone else in the group isn't feeling their fittest and brought down the group.  I'm not saying that the DSK should be strapped to your hip like a diabetic with an insulin pump (and never left behind, that's a medical DSK) just to walk your dog half a mile around the park at the end of the road, but if you're doing an activity where there's the potential for you to get stuck:  Deep Shit Kit it.  So regardless of the size of the challenge ahead having the DSK is something that is there "just in case."  Over the years, there's been a number of times where the DSK has been opened in anger.   Some have been very minor (a puncture on a commute home last week) while others have been major (I was nearly killed pinned submerged under a tree in my playboat on a spate run river in North Wales).  But the common theme through every adventure, challenge, long-distance ride, river run, hike, mountain bike, sailing trip etc has been "Have I got a deep shit kit?"

So my inspiration for this post.   I've recently applied for a new employment position, done a 300km ride a few days ago, walked around town and replaced inner tubes for my DSK.  I've grown a reputation for doing some stupid things over the years and can rack up a few bar stories about adventures, mistakes and what reaching for the Deep Shit Kit means.   In a way of preempting the regular interview questions of "tell me about a time you overcome something difficult" it got me thinking about those mistakes and learning experiences, Goggins, DSK's and other things, and how the DSK slips into everyday life.

The physical DSK is that pack in the saddle bag; the dry sack in the kayak; the first thing packed into the rucksack.  It's a very obvious and tactile item.   The mental DSK is a bit different as it's built up of experience, knowledge, knowing your exit routes, contact points and what to do if different situations arise.  Like the physical DSK, no one size fits all and different situations pull on different experiences and knowledge.   It's the principles behind it which make up the mental DSK.  So to do that, I start to pack my mental DSK for the fights.

Goggins talks about the use of the Cookie Jar.   I like to think of a Grit Bank on a similar principle.   It's a jar (figurative or physical) which contains all the times you have achieved something against adversity and when you're found in a difficult situation; you pull a cookie out of the jar.  You add cookies by achieving things and adding them to your jar.   For me with a physical activity, reaching for the figurative cookie jar can be when I'm near exhaustion alone in the dark fighting to get back on a long ride.   In my cookie jar is the sweet cookie of the end of the London Prudential 100 in 2014 when I did 4hrs 30mins, aced it in the pack to the finish line, enjoyed the sun on the Mall and cruised back for a fantastic BBQ.  I take a bite on that cookie and think what it felt like to finish that ride and ride on with a bit more determination.  Equally, it can be a bitter dark chocolate cookie - one where the DSK has been deployed because shits gone wrong but I'm still alive today.  When I take a bite of the bitter dark chocolate and think that whatever situation I'm in now can't be as bad as that.   The relative hardship means I can carry on.   The Cookie Jar gets packed into my mental DSK

In personal life, I need to improve my cookie jar mentality.   I'm dyslexic which has a whole host of knock on effects.   The hardship doesn't stop at reading and spelling, but effect confidence, hearing, co-ordination, comprehension, attention deficit, procrastination, understand, social awareness and emotional sympathy and reaches into shame and insecurity when you feel like you've worked extremely hard to keep up with the curve but ranked as "at expectation."  It's a bit of a kicker in terms of ability, but it's not a pitty thing.  So what I need to do is stock my mental DSK with cookies where I have overcome my dyslexia and recognise them.   Dyslexics don't tend to do that as they're far harsher and more critical of their achievements, but I have a Ph.D, post-doc done, climbed career ladders, been a teacher, overcome a lot of life challenges and succeeded.   My cookie jar has a Ph.D. in it.

In summary, being prepared and practiced is different to being over cautious.  Having, maintaining and never needing a Deep Shit Kit is far better than being in the shit, and not having the kit to take it on.  What goes on in adventures, is all part of life.


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