Ten Essentials

Ever since I was a youngster the ten essentials had been ingrained into me. From before graduating from the National Outdoor Leadership School  to working at REI to backpacking on my own as an adult I have always followed the list of the ten essentials. Knowing this list is the basis for everything I pack in my 72 Hour Bag and my backpack when going out on an excursion. Here is the classic list created by the Mountaineers back in the ’60s. 

Classic Ten Essentials
  1. Map
  2. Compass
  3. Sunglasses and sunscreen
  4. Extra clothing
  5. Headlamp/flashlight
  6. First-aid supplies
  7. Firestarter
  8. Matches
  9. Knife
  10. Extra food
Since the ’60s this list was pretty much the staple for planning a trip, but things have evolved from the days when Yvon Chouinard was doing summit ascents. So REI came up with a more updated list to reflect newer technology and modern methods of hiking. As recent as the mid 1990’s you wouldn’t go backpacking with a pack weighing less than 50 lbs and wearing leather hiking boots. Today, Ultralight backpacking and Fast Packing are very popular. With a fully packed pack as light as 12 lbs and people wearing trail running shoes we are able to reach out further into wilderness areas and cover more distance. Because of this here is an updated 10 Essentials list from REI which covers needs in a slightly more philosophical way- classifying essentials as systems, not items. Notice number three, Insulation, instead of Extra Clothing. Only you know what you are going to be doing and it is up to you to be responsible and figure out what level of insulation or gear you’ll need. Each System has redundancy which is very important.
List found on the REI website:
Updated Ten Essential “Systems”
  1. Navigation (map, compass, GPS) 
  2. Sun protection (hat, loose shirt, sunglasses and sunscreen) 
  3. Insulation (extra clothing, layers and weather gear) 
  4. Illumination (headlamp/flashlight/extra batteries) 
  5. First-aid supplies Adventure Medical Kits Weekender Medical Kit
  6. Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candles) Light My Fire Swedish FireSteel 2.0 Scout
  7. Repair kit and tools for stove, duct tape, multi tool
  8. Nutrition (extra days worth of food)
  9. Hydration (extra water bottle, filter, iodine tabs) 
  10. Emergency shelter (tent, tarp, bivy, emergency blanket) Adventure Medical Kits Thermal Bivvy SOL
Here’s the thing with everything I write about. There are the rules and knowing the rules are paramount for survival. But only you can bend, break and rewrite the rules for your individual needs. Most accidents and tragedies don’t happen because of one major event, they happen from a series of small blunders – “death from 1,000 paper cuts”, so know full well that these ten essentials can prevent that, tread carefully when bending these rules.


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