The Ten Essentials

Whether going out for a day hike or going for a multi-day excursion in the backcountry, there are a few items that should always be packed. These items have been summarized into what is known as the ten essentials. The ten essentials date back to the 1930’s and were created by The Mountaineers, a Seattle-based outdoor organization.

The list has evolved from just 10 items, into 10 categories or systems.

The Ten Essential Systems

  1. Navigation
  2. Sun Protection
  3. Insulation (extra clothing)
  4. Illumination
  5. First-aid Supplies
  6. Fire
  7. Repair kit and tools
  8. Nutrition (extra Food)
  9. Hydration (extra water)
  10. Emergency shelter

1. Navigation

Each person that goes into the backcountry needs to have the ability to get back out. Having the proper navigation tools will help each person be better prepared if they get off course or lost. A compass and a map of the area in which you are going to be going is an essential part of this system. GPS units are also a great tool in locating a specific location as well as returning to home. But remember knowing how to use these tools is just as important.Take a class and some time before you go out and to aleast get a basic knowledge of how to you a compass, map and GPS.

2. Sun Protection

Sun protection can be an easy thing to over look. But having sunglasses and sunscreen can save a trip. Wearing a hat can also be an easy way to protect your face, ear, and neck from the sun. Whenever possible wearing long sleeves is also another easy way to fend off the sun.

3. Insulation (extra clothing)

Think of the worst case scenario, and take enough clothing for that scenario. If you are going on a hike in the mountains in the spring, realize that a snow storm is not out of the question. A hat is always a great item to pack that does not add that much weight but will help you stay warm.

4. Illumination

Even if you plan on making it back to the car before sun down, it is always a good idea to carry a light. Flashlights can provide light after the sun is down. Headlamps are a great option in that they keep your hands free.  Remember to check your batteries before you go and it is also a good idea to pack an extra set if you are planning a longer outing.

5. First-aid Supplies

The first-aid kit that you take should be sufficient for all members in the group. But having a first-aid kit doesn't mean you are safe or in no danger. The Mountaineers recommend getting mountain-oriented first-aid training or wilderness first reponder training. You might be the only person that can help fo hours.

6. Fire

Having a way to start a fire is a must. Carrying a butane lighter or waterproof matches are two good ideas. There are other fire starting products on the market right now, so find one that you trust and load it in your bag each time you go out.

7. Repair Kit and tools

The classic ten essential list included a knife. Do not think that because it is not listed as a category or system that it is not important. A knife has many uses and should be part of your system. Having a multi-tool is another great option when repairs are needed. Put a repair kit together yourself or buy one that is pre-assembled that will have enough items to repair most common problems that you might experience on the trail.

8. Nutrition (extra food)

The shorter the trip you plan the least food you have to take. On most trips having at least an extra days food is important. One never knows when they might have to spend a night or two in the wilderness.

9. Hydration

Knowing how much water you will probably use on an outing should be part of you planning. Then carrying extra water or having the ability to obtain water if needed is essential. Water filter, iodine pills or steri pens are all great ways to get extra water if needed.

10. Emergency Shelter

Exposure is a killer. If your not carrying a tent, have some sort of emergency shelter. A large trash bag or emergency reflective blanket are two light weight options.

There are many other items that are useful to take along with you on outing, but these ten essentials should be some of the first things that you pack when you are going out.

You can find out more about the ten essential system in the book Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills”.