Page 1 Page 2

For dayhikes on an urban path or on a heavily traveled and nicely groomed trail, your only concern may be having a bottle of water with you. But when you head out into the backcountry for an extended dayhike, you’ll want to be prepared with a few extra items. What has become known within the hiking community as the “Ten Essentials” was first popularized in the 1930s by a climbing and adventuring group called The Mountaineers. Recently The Mountaineers have updated the classic list from one based on individual items to one based on “systems.” For instance, instead of listing map and compass separately, those items are now included in the “navigation” system. You may think you don’t need to carry anything special if you’re only going to be out hiking for a day, but the fact is anything can happen out there. Simply tripping over a rock could turn your happy-go-lucky dayhike into an overnight emergency. The point behind the ten essentials is to make sure you have the ability to deal with unexpected situations. Sure, you may not need some of the items, but in the case where you do, you’ll be glad you were prepared. Navigation. Tops on the list are a map and compass so you can find your way back if you lose the trail. Simple line-drawn maps showing only the trail won’t help you if you somehow stray off the path. Carry a topographic map, waterproof or protected from dampness, that shows route-finding details. It will show elevations, maybe roads, and other topographic features, and in conjunction with a compass will help you locate yourself. An altimeter uses barometric pressure to give an estimate of your elevation. Used with the elevation markings on the topographic map, it can help you determine where you are. You can also carry a GPS if you want, but don’t forget that batteries can and do go dead. Sun Protection. This is something you should be using anyway. Wear sunglasses to protect your eyes. If you’re going to be hiking on snow or ice, use glacier glasses with wraparound lenses to prevent prolonged glare from causing snow blindness. Carry and use sunscreen and lip balm with at least SPF 15. And don’t be sparing. A thick covering provides the most protection, and it should be reapplied every two hours. The best sun protection is clothing. There are lightweight synthetics that provide ultraviolet protection. Insulation. Weather can change rapidly, and if an accident keeps you out unexpectedly overnight, a whole new weather system could move in. Don’t be caught unprepared. If you get wet, hypothermia can set in at much warmer temperatures than you might think, especially if you’re tired, hungry, and stressed. Carry an extra layer of clothing in a synthetic fabric. Do not wear cotton, as it does not have any insulation value when wet. It’s important to have a hat, too, because so much body heat is lost through the head. Illumination. If you get stuck in the backcountry overnight, or misjudge your return time, you’ll be glad to have a flashlight. LEDs are rugged and long-lasting, so they are good for outdoor activities. Headlamps are excellent because they are light and compact, have a long battery life, and free your hands for other things. Always carry spare batteries for your light. First-aid. You can obtain a ready-made first-aid kit or assemble your own. At the least, it should contain a variety of adhesive bandages, gauze pads, adhesive tape, disinfecting ointment, blister treatment, and pain medication. Fire. In a cold, wet emergency situation, it’s good to be able to build a fire for warmth. Carry waterproof matches and some firestarter. Firestarter will light easily and stay lit long enough for your other fire materials to ignite. Some options are chunks of candles, dryer lint soaked in petroleum jelly, or just some dry tinder kept dry in a plastic bag. If all the wood you can find is too wet to light, look under logs for dry duff or use tiny twigs from resinous pine or fir trees to get things going. Repair Kit and Tools. If whatever gear you’re carrying has a field repair kit, bring it along. And certainly carry a multi-function knife. A multi-tool is a versatile piece of equipment that you can use in a variety of ways in a pinch. A common repair item is duct tape; wrap some around your water bottle or hiking poles to keep it handy. A whistle is a handy tool if you become lost or injured. The sound will travel much farther than your voice will. Three blasts on the whistle is a universal signal for help. Nutrition. Carry extra food that doesn’t need cooking. Jerky, nuts, energy bars, or trail mix travel well. In addition to providing calories, digestion itself helps keep you warm, so nibble a little every now and then, with an extra snack before bed. Hydration. Hopefully you started out with at least two liters of water per person. In case of an emergency situation when you don’t get out of the woods as soon as you expected, you should carry a method for treating water. If you don’t want the bulk of a filter, there are chemical treatments that take up very little space. Use your topographic map to scout out possible water sources, and remember that chemical treatments require some time to work. Shelter. If you’re out for a dayhike, you won’t be carrying a tent. But you should carry some kind of emergency shelter in case something causes you to spend the night in the wilderness. This could be a lightweight tarp or a space blanket. These provide protection from the elements and can keep you much more comfortable while you wait for daylight. Having these ten essentials in your daypack can make the difference between an inconvenience and a real emergency. The most important ingredient, though, is something you can’t put in the pack. You must have the knowledge to use your survival essentials. Just having the map and compass won’t get you unlost. Take the time to learn how to interpret the readings on the compass and the markings on the map. Knowledge is the ultimate lightweight hiking gear. Nancy Shepherd is the author of “My Own Hike: A Woman’s Journey on the Appalachian Trail.” As an accomplished thru-hiker she also maintains her own site right here. If that weren’t enough she’s also recently published “Where The Mountains Meet The Sea: Backpacking The International Appalachian Trail.” Check it our right here!

Page 1 Page 2