Embarking into the outdoors can be an incredibly rewarding, fun, and even transformational experience. However, it is important to recognize that things don't always go as planned, so it is ideal to be prepared for the worst case scenario. Yet it isn't possible or practical to bring everything you might need to be 100% safe, which is why it is important to be well versed on the 10 Essentials.
Tried-and-true, the 10 Essentials for Outdoor Adventure Safety are practiced and preached by organizations world-wide, including backpacking skills resource, CleverHiker.com. I was first introduced to the 10 Essentials during my short volunteer stint with Deschutes County Search and Rescue, Oregon's most active search and rescue team.
We've also included an Extras List, a few items that are not on the list of 10 but that will keep you comfortable and help you either find your way or help others find you should things not go exactly the way you planned. Depending on your adventure type, and your own personal preferences, your Extras List may vary from ours, and is certainly something that should be customized.
The 10 Essentials are:
Have all the right devices you need to find your way, particularly when weather is inclement and visibility is limited. GPS devices can be user friendly, and extra batteries should always be packed. A topo map, compass, and pencil for triangulation are key; while they don't need batteries, they only work if you know how to use them. Be sure to take an orienteering course before heading out with a map and compass.
Sunburn on skin or eyes can be completely immobilizing, particularly when traveling on snow. Protective hats, sunglasses, sunscreen, and lip balm are all critical items.
Bring extra clothing, and the right type of clothing for the conditions you might face. The type of clothing you pack will change based on season and location, but it should always be lightweight and wicking by design. Never pack cotton, as it gets heavy when it gets wet, dries slowly, and will extract warmth from your body. Under layers should be of wool, specialized synthetics (such as polypropylene), or materials that are hybrids of the two. Insulation layers may be made of down or fleece, and outer layers should be made of water-resistant materials such as Gore-Tex.
Being able to see and find your route and surroundings is critical.
First-aid supplies can be purchased as pre-packaged kits or self assembled. Self assembling will certainly save money, though pre-packaged kits can save time and provide convenience.
First-aid kit should include:
First-aid kit might include:
If you get stranded, a good fire can keep you calm and warm for an extended period of time. Fire starters should include:
Utility knife and tape. Duct or Gorilla-style tape may be used, but sports tape from first-aid kit may suffice. Sowing needle and extra thread may also be included.
Pack food for nourishment and energy to compliment your dietary preferences and the duration of the trip, and always bring a little extra just in case your trip gets prolonged.
Drink at least 2 liters of water per day, and based on the availability of water supply from creeks or lakes, carry at least 1 liter of water at any given time. Carry more in arid regions where water is likely scarce. A water filtration or UV device may be used to obtain more potable water. Iodine tablets are lightweight, but they also alter taste.
If you are traveling in the winter, hydration containers such as hydration bladders won't work when temperatures fall below zero. Insulated containers are the best for keeping water liquid in cold winter conditions.
Pack and use a space blanket or bivy sack to stay dry and warm if you need to stay in one location.
Additional safety and comfort items might include: