10 Essentials

My 10 Essentials

The Ten Essentials that we all know and love were originally laid out by The Mountaineers (an organization from my hometown of Seattle, WA) during the 1930’s and published in their classic work Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills. The original Ten Essentials weren’t updated until 2003 when the following list was published in an updated version of the book:

  1. Navigation (map and compass)
  2. Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
  3. Insulation (extra clothing)
  4. Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
  5. First-aid supplies
  6. Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candles)
  7. Repair kit and tools
  8. Nutrition (extra food)
  9. Hydration (extra water)
  10. Emergency shelter

What is interesting about this list is that it is made to be interpreted and implemented in a unique way be each individual who sets foot in the backcountry.  If the gear you bring with you isn’t customized to your specific skill set and the terrain you will be traveling in you might as well not be carrying it.  I’ve laid out my personal interpretation of the Ten Essentials for travel in my local stomping grounds – the mountains of the Pacific Northwest.

  1. Navigation
    • I bring two sets of navigation gear – a traditional map and compass as well as a GPS unit.
  2. Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
    • Drugstore sunglasses, a baseball cap, and stick sunscreen (sunscreen that looks like a large stick of chap stick – easier to apply IMO than liquid sunscreen).
  3. Insulation (extra clothing)
    • My take on #3 adds “and weather protection”.  Insulation doesn’t do you much good if you are soaked to the bone and temperatures are hovering 40’s.  Depending on the conditions I will either pack a full set of rain gear or a poncho.  For insulation I bring with me a down jacket and, in the winter time, down pants as well.
  4. Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
    • A headlamp for sure.  I don’t bother with flashlights anymore.
  5. First-aid supplies
    • Generally this is a collection of blister treatment, chap stick, some medical tape, TP, pepto bismol pills, and painkillers.
  6. Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candles)
    • This means 4 things to me – waterproof matches, water proof fire starters, a bic lighter and someway to process firewood (a small folding saw – not pictured).
  7. Repair kit and tools
    • Tenacious tape, some lightweight cord, a small multi-tool that includes pliers and scissors, zip ties, and a tent pole sleeve.
  8. Nutrition (extra food)
    • Snickers bars.  They are basically a power bar but taste way better (not pictured)
  9. Hydration (extra water)
    • This is another item I add an “and” too – hydration and water purification.  Bringing enough water for the expected outing is essential but you should also be able to produce more water if needed.  I like any of the water purification tablets on the market today.
  10. Emergency shelter
    • I pack a SOL Emergency Bivy.  These things are brilliant.  They keep you warm and dry if you need to spend an unexpected night in the woods.
  11. An “Oh Shit!” button
    • Sure its the “10” essentials but this is one “extra” item I never leave home without.  What do you do when you break your leg or get bit by a rattlesnake? I’d prefer to not need to cut my arm off with a pen knife so I bring an InReach emergency beacon with me.

10 Essentials Numbered

This is a pretty simplistic look at my personal Ten Essentials.  To dive deeper check out my seasonal packing lists (located in the top navigation bar) well as my list of Emergency, Medical, and Personal items I take with me into the woods.  Happy camping and stay safe!

NOTE: This list by no means guarantees you will come home alive and unharmed.  Good personal judgment is the best tool in your arsenal of survival gear.  Go slow, think it through and make good decisions if you want to enjoy your time in the backcountry.