As a young Boy Scout who went on monthly hiking and camping trips, the Ten Essentials for survival was drilled into me as the items I always needed to have with me, even if I was on a day hike. In the last few years, Search and Rescue teams have become increasingly busy, in large part because novice hikers hit the trail unprepared and get in over their heads, relying on only their cell phones for help. With that in mind, revisiting the Ten Essentials seems like a good idea.
POCKET KNIFE – Never underestimate the many uses of a pocket knife for cutting, whittling, cleaning fish or game and more. If you want to get even more use out of a pocket knife carry a Swiss Army Knife or Leatherman Tool which gives you all sorts of tools at your disposal.
FIRST AID KIT – It’s all fun and games until you fall, cut yourself or otherwise become injured. That’s why a basic first aid kit is needed, especially since you will not be anywhere near a medical facility.
EXTRA CLOTHING – Layered clothing is a must when out for a hike. That sunny day can cool down in a hurry when the sun goes down or even if clouds obscure the sun.
RAIN GEAR – Those clouds can turn into rain and especially in the mountains, thunder storms and rain can happen fast. That’s why a lightweight rain jacket should be part of your extra clothing.
WATER BOTTLE (filled) – Hydration is key and a filled water bottle (or two) will not only be needed, but appreciated while hiking on a hot day.
FLASHLIGHT – Why would you need a flashlight for a day hike? Because sometimes things go wrong and you are stuck in the woods when the sun goes down. Fortunately, cell phones have flashlights in them but a small (and more powerful) flashlight is easy enough to carry with you.
TRAIL FOOD – It’s amazing how much energy you burn hiking, especially if you are going uphill. Trail food that includes protein can give you a quick pick me up. Some of my favorites include trail mix, jerky, or protein bars.
MATCHES AND FIRESTARTERS – If you get caught in the weather or are forced to stay in the woods overnight a fire provides both warmth, comfort and the opportunity to cook a meal. A box of waterproof matches, a lighter or a flint or carbide fire starter are all easy to carry and worth their weight in gold.
SUN PROTECTION – Its easy to get dehydrated while on a hike or camping and not only do you want water to replenish lost fluids, but also protection from the sun. Sunburnt skin or lips are not only uncomfortable, but also a major factor in dehydration. Use sunscreen with a high SPF, lip balm and wear a hat to ward off that sunburn.
MAP AND COMPASS – Orienteering is rapidly becoming a lost art but having a map of the area along with a compass can be very handy, assuming you know how to use them. It’s an enjoyable skill to learn, and a reason to get out into the woods in and of itself. It’s also a lifesaving skill if your smartphone battery dies or if you are out of cell range and can’t access digital mapping.
ADDITIONAL MODERN DAY ESSENTIAL: COMMUNICATION – Cell phones can give you a false sense of security, with many novice hikers assuming they can just call 911 and get rescued if they need help. Unfortunately, a lot of wild places do not have cell service. A better idea is a satellite phone or a less expensive satellite messaging device that works anywhere on earth.
Speaking of communication, another essential thing to do occurs before you hit the trail. That would be telling someone where you are going, when you plan to return, and when to call the authorities if you don’t arrive back at a specified time. In the event you are incapacitated or can’t call for help, someone else can do it for you. Be safe out there on the trail, and don’t forget the Ten Essentials.
John Kruse – www.northwesternoutdoors.com and www.americaoutdoorsradio.com
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