Ten Essentials for Hiking and Camping

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10Essentials
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Ten Essentials: Classic List VS. Systematic Approach

The most important part of hiking and camping is preparation. The Ten Essentials are designed to address two concerns.

  • Are you able to manage an emergency or accident?
  • Could you safely spend an unexpected night – or more – in the wilderness?

  • Initially developed by The Mountaineers, the list has evolved over time but has been taught since the 1930’s. Take a look at the classic list and the updated systematic approach and use it to prepare for your next adventure.


    The Classic List: Ten Essentials

    • Map
    • Compass
    • Sunglasses and sunscreen
    • Extra clothing
    • Headlamp/flashlight
    • First-aid supplies
    • Firestarter
    • Matches
    • Knife
    • Extra food

    The Ten Essential Systems

    • Navigation (map & compass)
    • Sun protection (sunglasses & sunscreen)
    • Insulation (extra clothing)
    • Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
    • First-aid supplies
    • Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candle)
    • Repair kit and tools
    • Nutrition (extra food)
    • Hydration (extra water)
    • Emergency shelter (tent/plastic tube tent/garbage bag)
    1. Navigation

      When it comes to navigation, it is simple…Stay Found. Pack a topographic map of the area in which you plan to recreate. A compass is vital to pinpointing your location and helping to navigate when you become disoriented. To safely land navigate, you need an altimeter to follow contour lines. The use of electronic GPS systems and apps are great tools but rely on battery power and we all know that batteries can die in the backcountry – rendering the electronic useless. Make sure to back these devices up with the knowledge to use your classic navigational techniques.

      Most importantly, make sure you are familiar with these navigational tools. You can learn how to use map and compass by taking a Wilderness Navigation Course.

    2. Sun Protection

      Make sure you protect yourself from the most powerful heat source. Bring sunglasses or glacier glasses to protect your eyes. A ball cap will help protect your face and eyes from the harmful sun rays. Bring sunblock to keep exposed skin protected from sunburn.

      There are many clothing items that are lightweight, wicking and provide UPF protection. You may want to invest in these.

    3. Insulation

      Conditions change rapidly in the mountains and hyperthermia sets in quick. Make sure to check the weather forecast and understand the trending patterns. Always bring extra layers to stay warm when the weather cools.

    4. Illumination

      It is nearly impossible and dangerous to navigate in the dark. It is easy to get lost without a proper headlamp. This wearable light allows you to remain fully functional with your hands and provides the necessary light. Make sure you bring extra batteries. Flashlights and lanterns are useful around camp.

    5. First Aid Supplies

      Preassembled First Aid Kits take the guess-work out of selecting the supplies and contents of your emergency kit. Depending on the length and location of your adventure, the contents of your kit may change. For longer and more remote trips, pack more.

    6. Fire

      Carry supplies to start and sustain an emergency fire. Waterproof Matches are lightweight and functional in most circumstances but lack the durability of fire starters such as flint and strike plate. Lighters provide ease of use but are unreliable if they get wet. Cotton balls soaked in petroleum jelly ignite in all environments and burn for a good amount of time.

    7. Repair Kit and Tools

      Things happen unexpectedly in the backcountry and equipment breaks. A Knife or Multitool is priceless when its called on. If you can’t fix it with duct tape then it may be unrepairable. A small but comprehensive repair kit will go a long ways when things go wrong.

    8. Nutrition

      Pack more than you expect to eat. Extra calories may be needed for an extended, unexpected stay in the backcountry or for a long evacuation. Bring an extra days worth of food – or more – to be safe.

    9. Hydration

      Pack more than you expect to drink or bring a water filtration system or chemical treatment to make sure the water you collect in the backcountry is safe to drink.

    10. Emergency Shelter

      The elements can be relentless and fatal. Make sure you have the ability to protect your party from the rain, wind, snow, and sun. In an emergency shelter may be the most important asset to your survival.

      1. Adapted from the Freedom of the Hills.

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