Whether you are on a short hike on a populated trail or on an epic adventure deep into wilderness there are some essentials that everyone should bring.
What you bring will depend on what type of adventure you’re on, and how many people are in your party.
There are two main “essentials” lists that are circulating right now. One is the Classic Ten Essentials which was created in the 1930’s. This list focuses mostly on specific items to bring. This is that list:
Classic Ten Essentials
- Sunglasses/ Sunscreen
- Extra Clothes
- First Aid Supplies
- Extra Food
While the classic list is great to go off, this article will concentrate on the updated version. The Ten Essentials was updated in 2003. The difference being that this list concentrates more on categories of items rather than specific items.
The Updated Ten Essentials
There’s a wide variety of items that can be used for outdoor navigation but none of them will work without knowing how to use them. The most basic and traditional form of navigation is a compass and map. BUT, most people do not actually know how to use a compass and map; rendering them useless. If you plan on using this form of navigation, take some time and learn the basics. To learn this skill you may want to check out the many articles and tutorials online, you can ask a friend or family member or you can take a class somewhere like REI.
If a map and compass really isn’t for you then another option can be apps for your smart phone that track the trail and where you have walked. If you are going with this option make sure your battery is full when leaving and you have a charger and cord if your battery dies. Hand held navigation devices may also be used such as the Garmin In Reach, but they are expensive and require a charge or batteries. These options are great but are heavier, more expensive and may run out of batteries in an emergency situation when you need navigation the most; so we really recommend learning how to use a map and compass.
2. Sun Protection-
Sunglasses and sunscreen are a must even in the winter time when the sun can reflect off of the snow. It is recommend to use a broad spectrum SPF no lower than 15. Chap stick with SPF in it is also recommended. Hats with a wide brim and your choice of clothing may also protect you from the sun.
Bringing an extra layer can save you from the elements if the weather changes while you are out on the trail. What type of layer depends on what time of year it is and what types of conditions you may run into on the trail. Do some research on the weather where you will be going and remember that if you are hiking to a higher elevation you make encounter different weather than at sea level. Some layers to consider are: a fleece jacket, rain jacket, beanie, gloves, puffy jacket, extra socks etc.
The most popular light on the trail is a headlamp because they are handsfree and most of them have emergency lights. Other options are flashlights and lanterns. Make sure to test your light before you leave and have extra batteries.
5. First- Aid Supplies-
Activity specific first aid kits are sold at most outdoor stores or can be found on websites such as Amazon. It is a good idea to have your kit in some type of waterproof bag. If you want to make you own first aid kit there are plenty of blogs, webpages and videos that will outline what you need for the type of trip you are taking, number of people and how long you will be out. It is a good idea to have a smaller kit that you can easily throw into your bag for day hikes and a more extensive one for longer trips. One thing that first aid kits usually do not have in them is bug spray. It is a good idea to keep this on you as certain bugs/ticks can make you very sick if they bite you.
It is also good idea that on top of having the supplies that you have some knowledge on basic first aid. There are plenty of classes that you can take to become first aid certified. I can say from first hand experience that accidents do happen. Nobody ever thinks that they will happen to them or someone that they are with until they do and being prepared can make a huge difference.
In case of an emergency a fire can keep you warm and help people find you. Waterproof matches can be found at most outdoor stores and are a better choice than regular matches. Lighters are easy to use but may run out of fuel. Other fire starters can create a spark, but make sure to bring some type of tinder like wood chips or dryer lint for the spark to easily catch onto.
7. Repair Kit / Tools-
Your repair kit will vary greatly depending on what type of activity you are doing. If you are going on a simple short hike a small knife and some duct tape may be all you need. If you are going on an intricate adventure that includes hiking, camping and canoeing with a bunch of your friends, you will need a bigger repair kit. You may want to include a multitool, duct tape, patches for your tent, puffy and sleeping pad, tent pole splint etc.
Always pack at least one days worth of extra food in case of an emergency situation where you get lost. Food that can be eaten as is, rather than cooked, is a good option because it’s one less step to getting fast nutrition. Extra food means more energy to spend getting back to safety. Another option is to always keep something like survival tabs or other emergency, long shelf-life food always stashed away in your pack.
Extra water is essential in case of an emergency situation. It is a good idea to do research on how much water is recommended for the trail you are doing. Always bring more water than you think you will need and also some type of water purification. That may be chemical treatments or a water filter or UV light made for water purification. Make sure you are familiar with how to use your filter or treatment and also do research before your leave on where possible water sources may be.
10. Emergency Shelter-
If you are on a backpacking trip you will most likely have a tent or some other type of shelter on you already. For people doing other activities it is good to bring something to help keep you warm and dry over night if you get lost. Those silver emergency space blankets are a very light weight and small option. Other options are an emergency bivy sack, a tarp that can be hung or wrapped around your body or a hammock with a tarp that will keep you off of the ground and away from bugs and animals while keeping you dry.
This list is a great starting ground for what is recommended to keep in your bag while out on an adventure BUT it is just a guide line. Every trip and person is different. Your needs may vary from the person next to you and from trip to trip. With each trip it is good to go over the ten essentials and add or omit items from your pack. Use your best judgement when packing and do your research on where you are going. Spend time gaining knowledge on how to use all of the items on this list and have fun exploring!