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Backpacking Gear for Beginners: The 10 Essentials

This post is part of the Backpacking Gear for Beginners course.

Pack the 10 Essentials

The 10 Essentials is a short list of essentials for outdoor safety first put together in the 1930s by The Mountaineers, an organization based in Seattle for climbers and outdoor adventurers. The goal was to improve chances of survival by always having a few extra things in your pack. Even though the first version of the list came out over 90 years ago, the principles are still the same. 

These extra things help you survive in case of an emergency. For backpacking we already have some of these in our pack but it’s always a good idea to make sure we have them all. In the case of day hiking, making sure we have these could save a life. 

10 Essentials

  1. Navigation: map, compass, altimeter, GPS device, personal locator beacon (PLB) or satellite messenger
  2. Headlamp: plus extra batteries
  3. Sun protection: sunglasses, sun-protective clothes and sunscreen
  4. First aid: including foot care and insect repellent (if needed)
  5. Knife/Multi-tool: plus a gear repair kit
  6. Fire: matches, lighter, tinder and/or stove
  7. Shelter: carried at all times (can be a light emergency bivy)
  8. Extra food: Beyond the bare minimum
  9. Extra water: Beyond the bare minimum
  10. Extra clothes: Beyond the bare minimum

When packing the 10 Essentials assume something will happen and you’ll be out longer than you expect. If you can survive multiple days out longer than you expected, then you’ll be in much better shape than if you just took the bare minimum. 

Just having these things in your pack doesn’t help much. Knowing how to use them does. Take navigation and wilderness first aid courses so you know how to use everything in the list.

Now, time for the gear.

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