The Ten Essentials

Imagine this scenario: Hiker Bob decides to go on a last minute afternoon hike in the nearby woods. He has been on this trail many times before so he feels comfortable not telling anyone where he’s going nor bringing a day pack. Bob feels great getting on the trail again and everything is going well. After a ways of hiking, he comes upon a side trail that he’s never been down before and, in the spirit of exploration, he takes it. The sun starts to set and he turns around to head back to the trailhead. In the twilight of the day, Bob doesn’t see a root sticking out of the path. He trips, badly spraining his ankle. No one is around and it is getting dark and cold. As Bob lays there in the dark, he wonders how the heck he got into this situation. Two days later, a trail runner find Bob passed out on the trail suffering from hypothermia, exposure, dehydration and an extremely wounded ego. He survives, but just barely.

So where did everything go so wrong for Bob?

In many rescue situations, the hiker has usually made many small errors rather than one big error leading up to an extraction from the mountain. The first error Bob made was not telling anyone where he was going. He could have sent a quick e-mail to a friend or family member with the name of the trailhead and the time he expects to be home. While Bob was laying injured on the trail, he could have been a little assured of being saved knowing that someone knows he’s late. Although he did take an unexpected trek down a different trail, the fact that someone knows where Bob started hiking is much more helpful to search & rescue teams than not having any info at all.

Another error Bob made was not packing a day pack. When you prepare for a hike – no matter what the distance or difficulty level – always pack items that could save your life if the trip turns for the worse. These items are known as…

The Ten Essentials:

Below you will find the list of items one should consider carrying on a hike.  Not all items are required for every scenario, but better off than Bob, eh?  Print out this day hiking checklist on REI.

  1. Navigation
    • Map (with protective case)
    • Compass
    • GPS (optional)
  2. Sun protection
    • Sunscreen and lip balm
    • Sunglasses
  3. Insulation
    • Jacket, vest, pants, gloves, hat (see Clothing)
  4. Illumination
    • Headlamp or flashlight
    • Extra batteries
  5. First-aid supplies
    • First-aid kit
  6. Fire
    • Matches or lighter
    • Waterproof container
    • Fire starter (for emergency survival fire)
  7. Repair kit and tools
    • Knife or multi-tool
    • Duct tape strips; repair items as needed
  8. Nutrition
    • Extra day’s supply of food
  9. Hydration
    • Water bottles or hydration system
    • Water filter or other treatment system
  10. Emergency shelter
    • Tent, tarp, bivy or reflective blanket
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