As you pack for your next outdoor adventure, ask yourself: if I get hurt or lost, do I have what I need to survive a night in the backcountry? If you have packed the Ten Essentials, then your answer should be “yes”!

What are the Ten Essentials?

The Ten Essentials are items that can help you either survive an emergency situation in the backcountry or avoid one altogether. Developed in 1973 by The Mountaineers, a Seattle-based alpine club, the Ten Essentials are widely regarded as being vital for safe recreation in the backcountry. They are:

  1. Navigation – at least a paper map and compass. GPS devices, personal locator beacons, and altimeters are optional, unless traveling to extremely remote areas.
  2. Light Source – a headlamp or hand-held flashlight with extra batteries.
  3. Sun Protection – sunglasses, sunscreen, and/or sun protective clothing.
  4. First Aid Kit
  5. Repair Kit – knife or multi-tool with tape and rope.
  6. Fire – Lighter or matches and emergency fire starter.
  7. Shelter – Emergency blanket and/or tent.
  8. Extra food
  9. Extra water – includes water filtration (iodine tablets, pump filter, etc.).
  10. Extra clothing– warm, non-cotton layers needed to survive the night in an emergency shelter.

Note that, depending on where you are hiking and in what season, this list may need to be altered to handle the conditions that you may experience. Researching your trip ahead of time is key to knowing what you will need before heading out into the backcountry.

This seems like a big investment. What if I’m on a budget?

You do not need to spend hundreds of dollars on the Ten Essentials. Most of these items can be purchased for less than $15 each. For example, a basic hand-held flashlight will work fine in the backcountry. For a shelter, you can opt to carry a space blanket, which is an affordable item, instead of a bivy or a tent. Just be aware of any limitations that your gear might have—you don’t want to have solely a space blanket in winter, for example—and research your trip in advance to ensure that you are well-equipped for the conditions.

Why do I need a map and flashlight if my cell phone can do the same thing?

Cell phones are useful tools, but they are not always reliable in backcountry situations. If you are relying on a cell phone as your sole source of light and navigation, then you could find yourself in a difficult situation if your cell phone dies or gets damaged. Even if you prefer to use a cell phone while hiking, it is important to have backup options, such as a paper map and a headlamp, at the ready.

Is there anything else that I should pack?

In addition to the Ten Essentials, we recommend packing a few extra items:

  1. Face mask and hand sanitizer
  2. Poop kit – toilet paper, a trowel, and hand sanitizer. Biffy bags are also useful.
  3. Tick key or tweezers

For more information on preparing for your adventure, contact our staff at the High Peaks Information Center at 518-523-3441 ext. 121.