10 Essentials for Outdoor Adventures

by Justyna Frank

The Ten Essentials List, originally developed by The Mountaineers, a Seattle-based organization for climbers and outdoor adventurers, included 10 actual items.

Over the years, and as more modern gear became available, it had become more of a “system” approach. So, it is less about specific item recommendations, and more about the basics you really should have with you as a matter of habit whenever you disappear into the wilderness –even it it’s only for a day. I have been caught by surprise in enough seemingly innocent places to vouch for the fact that that in the great outdoors, safe is definitely better than sorry.

Though you may never use any of the items, or perhaps just one or two, when something goes wrong you will not regret that little extra bit of weight and caution.

Ten Essential Systems

  1. NAVIGATION: Map, compass, and GPS system. You’ll use these items when planning your your trip, and when you need help orienting yourself in your surroundings during your outing. It is essential that you familiarize yourself with the electronic navigation devices, and that you bring and know how to use a topographical map and analog compass in the event that your electronics lose power or reception.
  2. SUN PROTECTION: Sunglasses, sunscreen, and hat. These are indispensable to ensure your comfort and safety whenever you’re out in the elements, even on days that appear overcast. For long days on the bike or on the water, it’s a good idea to wear full-coverage UV-ray blocking garments.
  3. INSULATION: Jacket, hat, gloves, rain shell, and thermal underwear. Spending time outside puts you at the mercy of the elements. Be prepared for sudden changes in weather conditions by packing an extra layer of clothing appropriate the most extreme conditions you could encounter. This is always a good idea, but most important if you are on the water, in areas with sharp changes in elevation, or during seasonal shifts.
  4. ILLUMINATION: Flashlight, lanterns, and headlamp. You must bring reliable lighting in the outdoors where no conventional light sources are available. Pack rechargeable bike lights, flashlights, lanterns, and headlamps. Headlamps are extremely useful because they allow you to set up camp or prepare food hands-free. Pack duplicates, as well as extra batteries, since power sources may be unavailable.
  5. FIRST-AID SUPPLIES. Always bring first-aid supplies with you. You can start with a pre-made all-purpose kit and modify it to fit your trip and your medical needs. Check the expiration date on all items and replace them as needed. It’s not a bad idea to include an emergency guide in case you are faced with an unfamiliar medical emergency.
  6. FIRE: Matches, lighter and fire starters. In addition to cooking and keeping you warm, fire can be deployed an emergency signal. Pack redundant ways to start a fire: waterproof matches, lighters and and sparking fire starters, plus tinder or fire-starting wicks that will sustain a flame for a period of time. Familiarize yourself with the fire use regulations of your park before heading out. 
  7. REPAIR KIT AND TOOLS: Duct tape, knife, screwdriver, and scissors. Carry a basic, general repair kit with you to help repair equipment. The kit should include items such as duct tape, a knife, and scissors, and a multi-tool (compact version of many tools that can include a knife, screwdriver, can opener, etc.) Be sure to bring any tools specific to your trip and your activity (eg. bike repair kit, tent and sleeping pad patches and so on).
  8. NUTRITION. Always be prepared for the possibility of unexpected changes to your trip plans. Pack an extra day’s supply of non-perishable food, preferably items that have good nutritional value in order to keep your energy high which don’t require cooking. Salty and easy to digest snacks (nuts or nut-butter packets), packaged energy bars, jerky etc. are good choices.
  9. HYDRATION: Water and water treatment supplies. Physical activity increases your risk of dehydration. Loss of water, salts and electrolytes from the body can lead to unpleasant or possibly dangerous health consequences. During any outdoor activity, including hiking, biking, running, swimming, etc., especially in hot weather, you should drink water frequently and before you feel thirsty. Either carry sufficient water with you or, before heading out on your trip, identify possible sources of of water along your route and at your destination. If you plan to drink from natural bodies of water, bring along a portable water filter or treatment tablets.
  10. EMERGENCY SHELTER: Tent, space blanket, tarp or bivy. Shelter is crucially important in emergency survival situations. It can protect you from severe weather conditions and exposure to the elements. A small tent, tarp, bivy sack, or emergency space blanket are all light weight options for emergency shelter.

The specific items from each system that you bring can be tailored to the trip you’re taking. When deciding what to bring, consider factors like weather, altitude, difficulty, duration, remoteness and distance from help.

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