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The ''10 essentials'' for hiking and camping safely

  • Apr 5, 2017

In the 1930s, a Seattle-based organization for outdoor adventurers called The Mountaineers assembled a list of 10 essential items everyone going into the wilderness, even just for a day hike, should bring to be prepared for emergency situations. The list was revised in 2003 to cover essential systems rather than specific items - so a flashlight and extra batteries now fall into the illumination system, for example - but otherwise it has remained relatively consistent over the decades, even against the changes in technology and environment which have altered how people experience the outdoors. The 10 essentials have been recognized by hiking and Scouting organizations around the world.

What's on the list
These are the 10 essential systems you should always have covered in your supplies for any wilderness expedition.

1. Navigation: A topographical map of the area you'll be in is always a good place to start when thinking about preparedness. A compass is also considered a vital tool and an altimeter is a worthwhile navigation accessory for reading the elevations on a map. The Pro Trek triple sensor PRG600Y-1 watch includes both a compass and an altimeter for easy, portable navigation.
2. Sun protection: The U.S. National Library of Medicine recommended using a sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30 and sunglasses which block harmful UVA and UVB rays.
3. Insulation: In this context, insulation means extra clothing to prepare for sudden weather changes. Ask yourself, "What are the worst conditions I could realistically have to deal with on this trip?" and pack accordingly.
4. Illumination: Even if you're only planning a day trip, an emergency can easily turn a daytime hike into an unexpected overnight stay. To prevent being stuck in the dark, pack a flashlight and extra batteries, or a head lamp for hands-free illumination.
5. Fire: You should have a way of creating fire, which can provide heat and light, whenever you go into the wilderness. Carry waterproof matches in a sealable container to keep them dry, and a fire starter, like a candle or dry tinder, in a separate container.
6. Repair kit and tools: A good pocket knife or multi-tool can be invaluable in survival situations. Other lightweight, versatile tools include glue, string and duct-tape.
7. Nutrition: Pack more food than you need - REI recommended an extra day's worth. Beef jerky, energy bars and dried fruit are all lightweight but rich in calories and nutrition.
8. Hydration: The Mountaineers advised packing at least one extra bottle of water for every trip.
9. First-aid supplies: If someone in your party is injured, first aid in the field is important for preventing further complications until proper medical attention can be obtained. According to the Red Cross, a well-rounded first-aid kit should contain gauze pads and bandages in assorted sizes, a thermometer, scissors and tweezers, antiseptic solution and gloves to prevent cross-contamination while treating bloody injuries.
10. Emergency shelter: Like an illumination system, an emergency shelter of some kind is something you should always bring, even if you don't plan on staying overnight.

What's not on the list
The enduring popularity of the 10 essentials list is a testament to its relevance and usefulness, but the list fails to account for the mental attitude of preparedness which is also essential to spending time outdoors safely. Don't let a full backpack delude you that you're prepared for anything - the idea, after all, is to avoid emergency situations where these items are necessary. In addition to the items on this list, you should always carry a strong awareness of your own physical limits and never push yourself past them or compromise your group's safety just for the sake of sticking to a plan. Pack these items whenever you go into the wilderness, but also try to maintain a healthy respect for nature and any safety guidelines advertised by the area you'll be exploring.

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