The Ten Essentials: and a few extra to add to the list.

What to pack for every outdoor adventure

The standard wisdom for any outdoor adventure is to bring Ten Essential pieces of equipment in order to be prepared for whatever you may find in the outdoors. The lists includes:

1: Navigation. This includes a compass, a map, and the know-how to use them. It’s a great idea to take a course with your local outdoor nonprofit to get up to speed on map and compass usage. The courses are usually one full day. GPS is also useful, but make sure to have reserve battery sources.

2: Nutrition. Pack the right kind of food for your activity. A short day-hike is vastly different from climbing a mountain, and the nutrients your body requires for each activity. Improper food can lead to hazards that can prove deadly. Bonking is a dangerous reality in the backcountry.

3: Hydration. Make sure to pack enough water, and a filtration or purification device to make more drinkable water when you run out. One of my favorite pieces is the Be Free filter, which is lightweight and easily packable. Also, know if there are water sources where you are going.

4: Sun protection. Polarized sunglass can keep you from going snow-blind on glaciers. Sunscreen, lip balm, and headgear can help detour heatstroke. A buff can protect your neck and face and is one of my favorite pieces because of their lightweight and flexible usage. Alpinists know that traversing a snowfield can give you a sunburn around your nostrils and below your chin. Protect yourself.

Wearing a Buff on Inspiration Glacier, North Cascades

5: Insulation. As you ascend a mountain, the weather can change drastically. Be prepared to throw on extra layers as the sun falls behind that ridge, or the alpine wind picks up.

6: Illumination. Even though we all have a flashlight on our phones, most likely that won’t be good enough. Do yourself a favor and add a good headlamp to your gear, it’ll keep your hands free and light up your campsite.

7: First-aid kit. You’ll need more than bandaids. Antibiotics, sterilization wipes, trauma dressings and wrap bandages, pain relievers, antihistamines, and personalized prescriptions are all part of a good kit.

8: Fire starter. Lighters, flint, or matches, preferably a few different options, all packed in waterproof containers.

9: Repair kit and tools. A multi-tool or pocketknife, along with specific repairs for gear like patch kits for an inflatable mattress. There’s nothing worse than sleeping on the cold ground.

10: Emergency Shelter. This is separate from your tent if you are going camping. An emergency blanket or bivy sack can weight almost nothing and be smaller than your fist, but can save you or a member of your group if things get tough out there. Always carry this with you, even if you’ve already set up your tent at basecamp and are hiking further for big views or summits.

Recent outdoors advocates recommend an eleventh number to this list.

11: Communication device. Devices like the Garmin In Reach can prove lifesaving in the backcountry. Not only is it a GPS device, but it also allows you to make phone-calls to authorities that can send a helicopter or search team to rescue you. Bringing your cellphone, fully charge is a smart idea as well.

All of these items are essential equipment for successful outdoors adventures, but after years of explorations I’ve come up with a few of my own.

12: Creature Comforts. I like to bring something personal on all my trips. For me, that’s a book that I can read during downtimes like altitude acclimatization on Mount Rainier, where I read Dusk by James Salter. I also like to bring a small book for note taking. Find something that brings you joy and pack it along with you.

Basecamp at Camp Shurman, Mount Rainier

13: Summit Snacks. Climbers like to reward themselves for a successful summit bid by packing a sweet treat to eat on the mountaintop. I’ve started bringing a snack that’s big enough to share with the whole team. On a recent ascent—The Tower in North Cascade National Park—I packed a spare bag of gummy worms. It definitely makes a moment that much the sweeter when shared by everyone, together.

Well, that’s my list to fully prepare for epic adventures into the backcountry. What’s yours? Do you have anything to add to this list?

Leave a Reply

%d bloggers like this: