I had a client message me the other day and ask if I though they should take an emergency beacon on what was supposed to be a short day hike.
After all, it's one of the 10 Essentials!
The 10 Essentials
The term '10 Essentials' was coined in 1974 in a publication called Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills. Then and now, it refers to the items every hiker, backpacker, and mountaineer should have with them at all times. At first glance, the items may seem anything but essential. In fact, many of them won't be used enough to justify their weight. However, these items are the insurance policy that ensure you can respond to an emergency adequately and spend one or more nights outside safely. While lists of the 10 Essentials vary slightly depending on the source, most fall under the following categories:
Navigation tools - At the most basic, this means a printed paper map and a compass. It's also handy to have a digital map. Many apps allow you to download a map to your smartphone and track your position even without cellular service. However, it's important to have the paper resources in case your digital ones malfunction. Satellite beacons and GPS locators fall under this category. So do any supplies you need to keep them functioning like extra battery packs or solar chargers. While it may seem like overkill, you can lose your way even on familiar trails. Blazes fade, leaves and snow cover trails, and the natural landmarks change with the seasons.
Plenty of water - The amount of water you drink on the trail varies according to the season and hiking conditions. However, the amount of water you carry shouldn't. A rough estimate on how much to bring is a half-liter of water per expected hour of hiking. However, should an emergency arise or you decide to explore an off-shoot trail and go further than intended, you'll need more water than that. Therefore, always pack extra. If there are water sources available near the trail, be sure to have the means to filter water if the need arises. If you are day hiking, leave extra water in your vehicle at the trailhead. Backpack bladders can leak or malfunction and having extra water in your vehicle is an added insurance policy.
Extra food - Hiking burns more calories than most people realize. Keeping your blood sugar stable can make the difference between a difficult and miserable hike and an enjoyable one. Therefore, bring more snacks than you think you'll need. Then, bring a little extra in case you get stranded and have to spend a night before being rescued. Calorie dense and high sodium snacks are best to keep you energized, replace salt lost through sweating and stimulate thirst.
Light source - Put a headlamp or flashlight in your pack and it's a good idea to pack extra batteries as well!
Sun protection - Sun burn is no joke. Like any other burn, it interferes with your body's ability to regulate your temperature. Plus, there is the added skin cancer risk. Therefore, keep safe from sunburn as much as possible. Always protect your face and neck with a hat. Wear sunscreen and bring it along to reapply as recommended. Have a good pair or sunglasses to ward off the glare.
First aid kit - You don't have to bring a mobile E.R., but you should carry a basic first aid kit with you at all times. Bandaids, antiseptic ointment, gauze pads, roller gauze, tape, and insect repellant, along with some basic medications like ibuprofen, Benadryl, and Tylenol are good to have on hand. Be sure to bring any personal medications you might need throughout the day and an extra supply in case you are out overnight.
Extra clothes - Despite the best forecasting, mother nature is unpredictable. Therefore always bring rain gear and an extra layer for warmth. My personal motto is always pack a puffy!
Knife / Tool - Depending on your terrain and how long you'll be out, a knife or muti-tool knife can come in handy on the trail for repairs or first aid.
Fire source - Water proof matches or a lighter along with a fire starter like cotton balls covered in Vaseline allow you start an emergency fire to stay warm if stranded.
Emergency shelter - While you might not plan to spend the night out in the woods, if you do, you'll want to have something to keep you warm and covered. A small tarp or emergency bivy would keep you safe and takes up little room in your pack. In a pinch, pack a jumbo garbage sack.
Appropriate hiking footwear - I'm adding one additional essential that you must absolutely add to the list! While this one may seem obvious, you would be surprised how many people put more thought into their Instagram shot than their footwear. The reason I add this to the list is that people get stranded when they are hurt. The most common injuries people suffer are musculoskeletal or blisters. Inappropriate shoes interfere with balance, musculoskeletal alignment, and cause blisters more easily. While blisters seem small and innocuous, they can inhibit your ability to walk the trail in as little as a of a couple of hours.
You should always have the 10 essentials with you on every hike. If that seems like a lot, well, it is. But so does my insurance premium! Hopefully, you won't need to use half the stuff you carry, but in the right instance, having it along could save your life.
Now that you've got your supplies, is your body prepared for the hike?
Contact me to learn how The Healthy Hiker 8-Week Virtual Training Program can help you hike more safely and smartly!