Ten Essentials

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A simple dry magnetic pocket compass
A trowel that can be used to dig a cathole

The Ten Essentials are survival items that hiking and scouting organizations recommend for safe travel in the backcountry.

The Ten Essentials were first described in the 1930s by The Mountaineers, a hiking and mountain climbing club. Many regional organizations and authors recommend that hikers, backpackers, and climbers rigorously ensure they have the ten essentials with them.[1] However, some lightweight hikers do not always carry all of the items, but this is not recommended.[2]

Ten essentials list[edit]

According to the 6th edition of Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills book there are ten essentials, which are now referred to as the "classic" essentials. While still valid and widely used they do not reflect modern outdoor sports and all of the new gadgets that now are common.[3]

In 2003, the essential list was revised as part of the 7th edition of "Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills"[5] to keep up with modern equipment. The current edition, 8th edition[6] continues with the new essentials list with no major revisions. The new list takes a "systems" or functional approach.

  1. Navigation. Topographic map and assorted maps in waterproof container plus a magnetic compass, optional altimeter or GPS receiver.
  2. Sun Protection. Sunglasses, sunscreen for lips and skin, hat, clothing for sun protection.
  3. Insulation. Hat, gloves, jacket, extra clothing for coldest possible weather during current season.
  4. Illumination. Headlamp, flashlight, batteries. LED bulb is preferred to extend battery life.
  5. First-Aid Supplies, plus insect repellent.
  6. Fire. Butane lighter, matches in waterproof container.
  7. Repair Kit and Tools. Knives, multi-tool, scissors, pliers, screwdriver, trowel/shovel, duct tape, cable ties.
  8. Nutrition. Add extra food for one additional day (for emergency). Dry food is preferred to save weight and usually needs water.
  9. Hydration. Add extra 2 liters of water for one additional day (for emergency).
  10. Emergency Shelter. Tarp, bivy bag, space blanket, plastic tube tent, jumbo trash bags, insulated sleeping pad.

The textbook recommends supplementing the ten essentials with:

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 they might succumb to hypothermia and perhaps even death. In addition, what you carry on a short summer trip on a popular trail is much less than a snowshoe trip in winter where you do not expect to see other people because the chances of being benighted are higher and because the risk of suffering hypothermia are greater.

The most useful items are those that are with you. Having some duplicates of the Essentials in different sized kits is considered a good idea: in pockets, on key rings, in pocket kits, belt pouches, belt packs, day packs, and backpacks.[7]

Ideally, the more you know how to do these "functions" in or get them from nature without any equipment the better are your chances of survival in case you lose equipment or run out of supplies. For example, learn to navigate by using the sun, stars, and geographical-terrain references as well as with the map and compass. Learn some of the many primitive ways to start a fire, such as the hand or bow drill. Learn how locate and retrieve water even in a desert, how to make vegetation and solar stills, and how to naturally filter water, then to boil it to purify it and even distill it to remove some chemicals. Learn how to improve your insulation naturally, either stuffing existing clothes with natural or man-made insulators, or even making clothes using plants or hides, and building debris huts. Etc.[8]

The fundamentals to survival are shelter (including clothes), drinking water, fire, and food. You can die from hypothermia in a few minutes, hyperthermia in a few hours, dehydration in a few days, and starvation in a few weeks.[9]

Other lists[edit]

Other outdoor organizations have variations of the Ten Essentials pertinent to local conditions. For example, Utah's Wasatch Mountain Club lists extra water in place of food, as Utah is mostly desert terrain, and water is more difficult to find.[10]

The Spokane Mountaineers list "thirteen essentials", which supplement the list with emergency shelter such as a space blanket, signaling device, and toilet paper and trowel (for sanitary disposal of human waste; the toilet paper also doubles as tinder for starting a fire).[11]

The "Ten Essential Groups" is an alternative approach to essential gear selection. Items from each group should be chosen depending on the season, geographic location, and trip duration.[12] In 2011, Columbia Sportswear adopted the "Ten Essential Groups" concept for their iOS app "Take Ten to the Greater Outdoors."[13]

The Essentials are those items that we can fairly easily take with us from civilization to help us survive in nature. They help form a survival kit, and then we need the skills to go with them.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Ten Essentials". Great Outdoor Recreation Pages. 
  2. ^ Jardine, Ray (2001). Beyond Backpacking. Arizona City, Arizona, USA: AdventureLore press. p. 124. ISBN 0-9632359-3-1. 
  3. ^ Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills, 6th edition, Mountaineers, pages 35-40, (1997), ISBN 0-89886-427-5
  4. ^ Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills, p. 38
  5. ^ Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills, 7th edition, Mountaineers,(2003), ISBN 0-89886-827-0
  6. ^ Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills, 8th edition, Mountaineers,(2010), ISBN 978-1-59485-137-7
  7. ^ "Six Ways In And Twelve Ways Out, Basic Skills Manual, Equipment Chapter". USRSOG.org. Retrieved 2014-07-20. 
  8. ^ Brown, Tom (April 15, 1987). Tom Brown's Field Guide to Wilderness Survival. Berkley Trade. ISBN 978-0425105726. 
  9. ^ Lundin, Cody (June 23, 2003). 98.6 Degrees: The Art of Keeping Your Ass Alive. Gibbs Smith. ISBN 978-1586852344. 
  10. ^ "Precipitation in Utah". Retrieved 2009-06-06. 
  11. ^ "The 13 Essentials of the Spokane Mountaineers". Spokane Mountaineers. Archived from the original on 2007-09-28. Retrieved 2007-08-26. 
  12. ^ "Ten Essential Groups Article". Texas Sierra Club. 
  13. ^ "Take Ten to the Greater Outdoors". Columbia Sportswear. 

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