The 10 Essentials

As a Search & Rescue member I can say that most people who get into trouble in the back country do so as a result of a few bad decisions. These actions often appear small or even inconsequential at the time but when put one after another there is a sort of compounding effect that can result in a really bad situation.

Common actions are:

  1. Hiking an unfamiliar trail. Before you go on a hike do some research on the area. Can you complete the hike before nightfall? Is the trail adequately marked?
  2. Not telling anyone when and where you are going. Becoming lost can be depressing but being lost and then realizing no one will miss you for days can really be nerve wracking.
  3. Not taking the right gear. Stuff happens. Take boy scouts advice and “hope for the best but prepare for the worst.”

This final point is important as it can make a huge difference when lost in the woods. When you set off on your hike, ask yourself “If I get lost and have to spend 48 hours in the woods, am I prepared?” No one thinks this will happen to them but trust me, it happens all the time.

In order to help hikers to know what is essential to put in their packs there is the 10 Essentials.

The list varies depending on what authority is publishing it but there are a lot of common threads:

  1. Emergency shelter – A large plastic bag can be used as an emergency shelter or even a rain poncho.
  2. Sun protection – A hat, sunglasses and suntan lotion will keep you from getting burnt and exhausted by the sun. Check the weather and environment before heading out. Wind and rain is also an important consideration.
  3. First Aid Kit – Pack it for you. This means ensure you have your inhaler if needed. Allergy pills is also another common addition.
  4. Extra clothing – Instead of cotton and denim use wool and Gortex.
  5. Extra water/food – At least 1 litre per person per day. I recommend 2 or 3 litres.
  6. Fire making materials (fire starter, matches, ligher) – Keeps you warm and can be a signal for help.
  7. Navigational aids – A compass and/or GPS is good to have but ensure you know how to use it. Following a preloaded route on a GPS is very helpful. Just remember to take extra batteries.
  8. Flashlight – Helps you to avoid treacherous terrain when the light begins to dim and also works as a signal for help.
  9. Signalling devices – A whistle is good for sound signalling and a glow stick works well for sight signalling. Flares, fire, mirrors and horns also work.
  10. Knife – A knife is helpful for making a fire or shelter.

AdventureSmart is an excellent resource for finding more information on the 10 Essentials and outdoor safety in British Columbia.

Jon Jon and Joshie are avid hikers and have made the following video to show you what essential items they pack in their backpack before going on a hike:

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