The Ten Essentials

revised 05/11/2012

NAVIGATION: map and compass. Both are still mandatory, along with the knowledge of how to use them. The map should be topographical and carried in a waterproof container, such as a large ziploc plastic bag. Off-trail travelers often also carry an altimeter and a GPS unit. Snow travelers sometimes use wands to mark routes, and at times bushwhackers use colored surveyor’s tape in dense brush. If you do, remember to Leave No Trace and remove these markers on the way out.

SUN PROTECTION: Tthis is critical on paddle trips and in the mountains, especially on snow. Sunglasses should provide UV protection. Sunscreen should be rated at least SPF 15.  A Wide brimmed Hat and a Cotton long sleeved shirt.

INSULATION: This one used to be listed as Extra Clothing, but the new category includes proper footwear, socks, long johns, warm hat, gloves, and at least one extra warm top layer such as a sweater, vest or shirt. Your insulation should allow you to survive the worst conditions that can be realistically expected for the time of year. In winter that means a blizzard and sub-freezing temperatures. In summer, that means rain and windy conditions at any altitude. Use synthetics such as polypropylene or nylon, or blends of the same with wool or silk. This category includes full rain gear—pants and jacket, and do not skimp on these, especially if you are outdoors year round. If you need wetsuits or jackets, you can shop at Buy4Outdoors and get them at a good deal!

ILLUMINATION: Many hikers these days are opting for headlamps with light-emitting diodes instead of the traditional flashlight and bulb. LED’s do not throw a beam as well as traditional flashlights, but they are lighter, and use batteries more efficiently. Three AAA batteries seem to last forever. Carry an extra set of batteries to be safe, and if you use a flashlight, an extra bulb.  The objective is to be able to see your gear or inside your tent at night.

FIRST AID SUPPLIES: Many pre-packaged first aid kits are inadequate except as a starting point to add additional gauze pads, tape, triangular bandages, butterfly bandages, neopreme gloves, ziplock back (for bio disposal) and other necessary items. Keep your kit well-stocked.

FIRE: This used to include matches in a waterproof container, and those are still good. Many climbers and hikers now carry at least one disposable lighter in addition. This category also includes a fire starter, such as candle stubs, chemical heat tabs, fire ribbon, or cotton balls saturated with petroleum jelly.

REPAIR KIT AND TOOLS: This category replaces the simple pocketknife, which is still an essential, but perhaps in combination with a multitool, today available in reasonable weights. The small pair of pliers on a multitool can be unbelievably useful. Depending on what you’re up to in the wilderness, you may also want to include safety pins, spare pack parts, zip ties, parachute cord, duct tape (an old-timer’s trick is to wrap several feet of duct tape around their water bottles), bailing wire, and paracord

NUTRITION: Carry at least enough food for an extra day and night in the woods. It should require no cooking and store well: granola bars, jerky, nuts, hard candy, dried fruit.

HYDRATION: Carry at least one liter per person and have a plan for how and where water will be acquired on your outing.

EMERGENCY SHELTER: On day trips you should at least pack a space blanket, tube tent or an extra large trash bag in addition to your rain gear.  A lightweight tarp is also recommended.