The 10 essentials: What you need to know

originally published February 11, 2020

No one wants to carry stuff with them that they won’t need. When we are preparing for an outdoor adventure, we pick and choose what will be most useful and ditch the rest. Usually, if you have brought something on the last couple of hikes, and din’t need it, it goes back on the shelf. There are however, things that you might never need, but should always bring with you:The Ten Essentials. 

The Ten Essentials are actually more then ten items, it is broken down into “systems”. I actually bring them with me on every outing. It is easy because I have a pouch that has it all together. If something happens to me, and it is survivable, I am pretty confident that I will make it. Let’s take a look at each “system”.

1. Navigation- this used to be Map and Compass, but now also includes GPS and personal locator beacons. I will leave the PLB’s up to you, but you should always have a map and compass with you. If you are not comfortable reading a map and using a compass, there are great local ways to learn. Quantico Orienteering Club  offers many opportunities to get out in the woods and practice your skills. They always have someone on hand to work with you. REI  offers a really good map and compass course. 

2. Sun Protection- this includes sunscreen, sunglasses with 100% protection from UVA and UVB, and proper clothing. While going out on a summer day in a tank top and shorts may feel nice at first, it offers little to no protection from the sun. Once you burn your skin, it makes it more difficult the thermo-regulate and takes the fun out of your outing. 

3. Insulation (extra clothing)-you may think that you do not need that spare shirt, but after you unintentionally soak through the one you are wearing, you will be grateful you had it. It is recommended that you have the clothes that you would need if you get suck out there overnight. If it is supposed to be in the 60’s during the day but drop into the 30’s at night, grab a long sleeve shirt just in case. This also includes rain gear. Make sure if there is any chance of rain, you bring it with you.

4. Illumination-head lamps and 12 hour light sticks make good options. Even if you are only planning a day hike, make sure you have something to light your way. 

5. First Aid Kit-Well, you know I could go on and on about first aid kits! You don’t need an ambulance worth of medical supplies. If you have the knowledge on how to treat injuries (by taking a good class, you will realize that with just a couple of items, you can treat most injuries. Here are some of our favorite first aid kits: The Humor MeThe Humor Me Survival, and the ERT Perfect Kit.

6. Fire- Honestly, I suck at starting fires. I have a cotton ball soaked with Vaseline, a fire starter, matchers and a lighter. You do not need all of these things, just make sure to store them in a waterproof container. 

7. Repair kit and tools-Duct tape is always in my pack, I can use it to repair gear, clothes and sometimes in medical situations. A good multi-tool can come one handy for any adventure. If you are riding, make sure to have a good bike tool.

8. Nutrition-Throw a couple of energy bars into your pack “just in case”. Trail mix is always a good option and even a couple of GUpacks or gel blocks can give you that extra energy you needed. 

9. Hydration- Always carry more water with you then you think you will need! I like the hydration bladders (this is my favorite) because you don’t have to stop what you are doing to hydrate. I also carry a water bottle with electrolytes (i.e. low sugar Gatorade) as a back up and as something to break the monotony of water. You should also have some way to purify water like tablets or filtration system. For simple day hikes, I carry tablets and for backpacking I have a gravity filtration system.

10. Emergency Shelter- If you are backpacking, chances are you already have something. A simple tarp will also do the trick. Everyone should be carrying an emergency blanket with them at all times. It can make the difference between life and death. 

11. Signaling/Communication- What?! There are eleven TEN essentials?! Yes there are! No one should hit the trail without a good whistle. That whistle (and no, the whistle on your chest strap is NOT considered a good whistle), should be easily accessible on the outside of your pack. In addition, a cell phone, walkie-talkie, or personal locator beacon could be beneficial. 

None of the Ten Essentials will do you any good without some common sense (sorry, we don’t sell that). Make sure that in an emergency you take stock of the situation and don’t panic. If you have the Ten Essentials with you and use your head, things will have a better chance of working out.

What are some of the things that you won’t hike without? Let us know in the comments. 

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