The 10 Essentials is a list of essential items hiking authorities promote as recommended for safe travel in the back country. Here they are:
2. Compass (optionally supplemented with a GPS receiver)
3. Sunglasses and sunscreen (a sunhat also helps in this department)
4. Extra food and water
5. Extra clothes
6. Headlamp (outdoor)/flashlight
7. First aid kit
8. Fire starter
Not every expedition will require the use of an essential item. Carrying these basic items improves the chances that one is prepared for an unexpected emergency in the outdoors. For instance, if a hiker experiences a sudden snow storm, fresh clothes and fire starter may be used to keep warm, or the map and compass and headlamp will allow them to exit the wilderness quickly; otherwise hypothermia becomes a prominent possibility, perhaps even death
Now lets break them down……
A map and compass assists one in not getting lost in the field. Losing one’s bearing in unfamiliar terrain raises the risk of anxiety and panic, and hence, physical injury. Maps that cover the relevant area in sufficient detail and dimension (topography, trails, roads, campsites, towns, etc.) and the skill and knowledge to use them are indispensable when traveling through the outdoors, especially when the place of travel lacks signage, markings or guides. Even a basic compass can help an individual find his way to safety.
Sunglasses help prevent snow blindness. Sunlight, especially when reflected in snow, can seriously limit visibility, and jeopardize one’s ability to travel safely. Sunglasses also help prevent any possible eye injury inflicted by tree branches, flying debris, and other possible hazards while traveling on foot. And of course they also just keep all that sun out of your eyes!
Sunscreen is a lotion, spray, gel or other topical product that absorbs or reflects some of the sun’s ultraviolet (UV) radiation on the skin exposed to sunlight and thus helps protect against sunburn. Sunburn is a very uncomfortable thing, and while it may not ruin a whole trip, it very well can ruin some of it.
A Sun hat is a hat which shades the face and shoulders from the sun. The sun can burn your head and shoulders so you can use the sun hat to protect your head and shoulders from harmful ultraviolet rays. Sun hats can range from small to large brims. Sun hats can be also certified to a seal that is physician endorsed and the brim is usually 4 to 7 inches and shades the face and shoulders and neck.
Extra food and water can prevent or cure hypothermia and dehydration, common illness that can be serious risks in the back country where immediate medical response is not possible. These items also minimize the likelihood of panic. It is not recommended that one eat food when there is no water, as the body requires water to metabolize food. It is recommended that you carry at least one extra meal, and up to an extra full days worth of food. This all depends on the trip underway.
Extra clothes protect against hypothermia. Multiple layers of clothes are generally warmer than a single thick garment. By having the ability to simply take off a layer of clothes, one can avoid overheating, which can cause sweat and dampen clothing. Moreover, a change into dry clothes is the fastest way to become warm. Extra clothing is also useful for protection from the elements, including thorns, insects, sun, wind, and often cold. If necessary, they can be cut into bandages, used as a tree climbing aid, made into hot pads, pillows, towels, or makeshift ropes. For overnight trekking, one should keep one set of clothes dry for wear in the evening. One can wear the “day” clothes during the next day’s hike when they are drier.
Flashlights and headlamps protect against physical injury when traveling in the dark. A flashlight is also useful for finding things in the pack, observing wildlife in dark crevices and folds, and for distant signaling. Extra batteries and bulbs are highly recommended. Lamps using LEDs have become very popular, due to their robustness and low power consumption.
A first aid kit usually contains items to treat cuts, abrasions (blisters), punctures and burns. Additional items might address broken fingers, limbs, cardiac conditions, hypothermia, frostbite, hyperthermia, hypoxia, insect and snake bites, allergic reactions, burns and other wounds. If applicable, include any personal medications. Many first-aid its are sold pre-made, however many people decide to make their own.
Matches (or a lighter) and a fire starter (typically chemical heat tabs, canned heat, or magnesium stick) to light a campfire is useful for preventing hypothermia and to signal for aid. In an emergency, a fire increases one’s psychological will to survive.
A knife is useful for opening packages, building shelter, shaving wood for tinder, eating, field surgery (after sterilization), cutting rope and clothing, etc. A multi-tool such as a Leatherman is also a versatile choice. A larger knife (machete) might be essential when one needs or desires to go off trail into thicker growth. A heavier axe or knife is more effective when one has larger needs for construction or for collecting firewood.