The 10 Essentials
The Gear That You Must Have in the Outback……probably
Pretty much everybody in the Hiking, Camping and Shooting community knows about the main tenants of: “The Rule of 3”, “Leave No Trace” and the “4 Rules for Handling Firearms” (and we’ve written blog posts on all of them), but there’s one other tenant that we haven’t talked about - because it’s a little less agreed on; “The 10 Essentials” from The Mountaineers.
Since they say it best – here’s a passage directly from the Mountaineers website about this topic; “What Are the Ten Essentials?”
“The Mountaineers Ten Essentials™ dates back to our climbing courses of the 1930s. This widely respected safety and packing system was formalized in the third edition of Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills, released in 1974. Each of the nine editions of Freedom, as it is affectionately known, was written entirely by volunteers and reflects the collective wisdom of hundreds of outdoor skills instructors. The list has always sought to answer two basic questions:
Can you prevent emergencies and respond positively should one occur?
Can you safely spend a night (or more) outside?
The Mountaineers Ten Essentials was formalized in 1974 when the iconic list debuted in the third edition of “Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills.” The ninth edition of “Freedom” presented a thorough modernization to prepare today's mountaineers for adventures. Learn more about what to bring on your next trip and a limerick to help you remember all ten.
Certain equipment deserves space in every pack. Mountaineers will not need every item on every trip, but essential equipment can be a lifesaver in an emergency. Exactly how much equipment “insurance” should be carried is a matter of healthy debate.
Most members of The Mountaineers take along carefully selected items to survive the unexpected. Whatever your approach to equipment, a checklist will help you remember what to bring in the rush to get ready for a trip. But remember that The Ten Essentials is a guide that should be tailored to the nature of the outing. Weather, remoteness from help, and complexity should be factored into the selected essentials. The first seven essentials tend to be compact and vary little from trip to trip, and can be grouped together to facilitate packing. Add the needed digital and physical maps, the proper extra food, water, and clothes, and you’re ready to go. This brief list is intended to be easy to remember and serve as a mental pre-trip checklist.”
The most recent “10 Essentials” list espoused by the Mountaineers includes the following gear:
The Mountaineers even have a limerick to help remind you what the 10 Essentials are:
The Mountaineers Ten Essentials Limerick
By Steve McClure
To navigate, head for the sun
With first aid and knife on the run
Bring fire and shelter
Extra food is a helper
But water and clothes weigh a ton
The Mountaineer’s website has a 10-page article that discusses each of the 10 Essentials in detail – so we won’t go into them in this blog. If you want to read the Mountaineers’ article you can find it here:
What Are the Ten Essentials?
If you want to watch a short video covering the 10 Essentials you can find that here:
Ask a Ranger: 10 Essentials
Personally we always wear hiking boots and carry a day pack with some type of headgear, navigation aids, hydration, food, raingear, a First Aid kit and emergency supplies. You can see all the details on our Hiking page and its subpages.
So what’s the controversy?
Well, as with most things in the Outdoor community lots of people have different opinions as to what is essential – and as technology improves other items grow in prominence. For example, there’s a good article from Backpacker that discusses this topic in detail. In the article Dr. Nicholas Daniel, the associate director of the Dartmouth-Hitchcock Wilderness and Austere Medicine Fellowship (located in Lebanon, New Hampshire) wondered whether there was any data to back up the Mountaineers gear list:
“You hear it over and over again: ‘Were you prepared? Did you carry the Ten Essentials?’” Daniel says. “I thought that was a very interesting concept. As someone who practices wilderness medicine, has a scientific background, and spends a lot of time outdoors, the intersection between the recommendations and facts seemed important to me.
Even though the 10 Essentials list has been around for over 90 years, no study had ever been done to analyze this gear’s impact on a hikers’ adventures. So Dr. Daniel and his colleagues set out to determine if the 10 Essentials items improved hiking outcomes and which items were most critical to a hiker’s safety.
To collect the relevant data the team interviewed 961 day hikers at Mount Monadnock in New Hampshire (a rocky hike that we have done several times) asking them what gear they carried on their hike, what adverse events they experienced (1,686 were reported) and how satisfied they were with their hikes.
The study’s main conclusion was that “Carrying more items did not translate into improved satisfaction for day hikers, but was associated with fewer events for which the hiker was unprepared.” Based on their observations, Dr. Daniel’s team suggested that it may be possible to cover the majority of adverse events with for day hikes with 4 of the 10 Essentials: water, food, extra clothing, and a medical kit. However, since day hikes - similar to climbing the reasonably well marked shady trails of Mount Monadnock - may be less dangerous than multi-day trips, the researchers also recognized that the other 6 Essentials (navigation, headlamp, sun protection, knife, fire, and shelter) may be needed more often on longer hikes when more adverse events may occur.
Dr. Daniel also opined that there’s one more essential item he recommends hikers always carry, something that the original 1930’s Mountaineers list, and even the 1974 list could not have included – a cell phone.
You can read the entire Backpacker article here:
How “Essential” Are the Ten Essentials? A New Study Finds Some Help More Often Than Others
Dr. Daniel’s research team published a detailed paper detailing their efforts in the American Journal of Emergency Medicine. You can read it here:
Rethinking hiker preparedness: Association of carrying “10 essentials” with adverse events and satisfaction among day-hikers
In addition, if you search the web you’ll find that almost every organization has their take on the 10 Essentials – with many of them adding their thoughts, additional information, essential item #11’s (such as insect repellent, a trash bag, etc.,) and alternative lists (to include lists of the 10 Essentials for hiking with dogs). We think that most of the discussion is valuable since being prepared with the right gear is always a good thing. Here are a few links to some other credible sources:
National Park Service: Ten Essentials
American hiking Society: The Ten Essentials of Hiking - Ten Things You Should Bring on Every Hike
The Sierra Club: Ten Essentials
The Boy Scouts of America: The Scout 10 essentials: Items every Scout needs in the outdoors
The Boy Scouts of America: The Ten Essentials for Outdoor Activities
The Boy Scouts of America: Scout 10 Essentials:
REI: The Ten Essentials
The 10 Hiking Essentials You Need to Safely Hit the Trail
The Ten Essentials for Hiking
10 Essentials for Hiking with Dogs
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