The 10 Essentials

Whether you are experienced in the backcountry, or new to hiking, you have probably heard of the 10 essentials. If you haven’t (I didn’t know about them when I first started hiking!), let me clue you in. The 10 essentials are the items that are recommended for survival and travel in the backcountry. Many scouting organizations teach members how to carry and use these items to stay safe or even alive when in a survival situation. When my dad and I hiked the West Rim Trail in Zion, we didn’t see another person for a good 10+ miles. That’s a long way to go for help if you aren’t prepared for the unexpected. I’d rather hike knowing that I have the tolls and knowledge to keep myself and others as safe as possible.

Not all hikers or backpackers will always carry all 10 essentials, as people develop their skills and adapt to traveling in the terrain and conditions of their geographic area, they may opt to ditch a few of these items. However, we greatly encourage everyone to carry and know how to use all 10 items, as you never know what you may encounter in an emergency situation.  I would go so far as to add an 11th item to the list: a water purification method.

So what are the 10 essentials?

  1. Map
  2. Compass (optionally supplemented with a GPS receiver)
  3. Sunglasses and sunscreen
  4. Extra clothing (or emergency blanket)
  5. Headlamp (or flashlight)
  6. First-aid supplies
  7. Firestarter
  8. Matches
  9. Knife
  10. Extra food

How you choose to carry these items is up to you. Many people choose to put together their own kit based on items they already have. The obvious issue with this is when you unpack at the end of a trip remembering to grab each of these the next time you head out. I can’t tell you the number of times I have left my knife or multi-tool in another backpack or on a belt. Having a kit that contains most or all of these items greatly simplifies the process and ensures you are always prepared. One kit that we love is the Fieldcraft “Green Beret” mimimalist survival kit. It contains all the essentials (including water purification!) except for a map and extra food. The items are contained in a small kit so you never have to worry about forgetting something or trying to located it in your pack in an emergency.

In our years of hiking and backpacking, I can say we have easily used every one of the 10 essentials numerous times. Having a simplified and lightweight way to carry them is helpful on so many levels. We also carry a more robust first aid kit than most, you can learn more about that here.

How do you carry and keep track of the 10 essentials? Let us know in the comments!

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