When heading out into the wilderness, some people try to have a plan for every possible situation, and others just "go for it". I'm forever the anal retentive planner, which probably comes as no surprise if you follow my blog. I attempt to make sure every situation is well thought out so I'm prepared (I may have learned that from the Boy Scouts of America).
What's in my pockets is no accident, and is there for both convenience as well as a margin of safety. What if you got separated from your pack...took it off during a break by a cliff to enjoy the great view, and somehow you let it slide over the edge? If you couldn't get it back, would you be able to survive?
Shown above is two ounces of stuff I like to carry in my pockets. My modified Backpacking Journal slips into my rear pocket, and along with my UltraLight Pen, I am ready to journal or write down contact information of people I meet on the trail. There's also a safety factor here, because if I was ever lost, I could leave notes for other people, or write things down to keep my thoughts in order so I wouldn't start to panic.
My MSR Packtowell Nano rides in my front right pocket, well at least 1/4 of one. I use it to blow my nose (using the inside folded portion), wipe the sweat off my face (using the other side), or at a water source I rinse it out and wash my face. You always feel better when you're clean.
Speaking of clean, perhaps on of the most versatile items I carry is my Dr. Bronner's Peppermint Soap. I use just a few drops on my wash cloth for a quick cleanup, to wash my hands after doing my business, to clean my cook pot, and also as toothpaste. One soap fits all, so I repackage it into a 0.20oz dropper bottle and keep it handy in my front pocket at all times.
My cash and credit cards ride safely in a zippered thigh pocket because I definitely wouldn't want to lose them. If I did get separated from my pack, this would allow me to pay for supplies or transportation.
My tiny pocket knife is attached to my mini fire steel with a length of thin cord. This helps me keep from losing one of these little items, plus they work together for fire starting. The scissors are used to trim my nails or a piece of mole skin, and the knife for many things including cutting a piece of parmigiano reggiano, my favorite backcountry cheese.
The file seems obvious, and I do use it to file my nails, but I have also ground an edge on it that doubles as a striker for my mini fire steel. This allows me to leave the striker at home, and not dull my knife blade by using it as a striker. I don't leave home without some lip balm, and Burt's Bees is my protection of choice. Also if I'm having trouble finding dry kindling, I can always use some of my Burt's Bees as a fire starter.
My wrist watch has a digital compass on it for navigation, as well as time, date, etc. I hope I will never be separated from my pack, but if it ever does happen, I'm prepared with what's in my pockets.