Peak & Prairie

Rocky Mountain Chapter's
Online Newsletter
April / May 1998


The Ten Essentials (and Then Some)
by Roger Wendell, Chapter Outings Chair

As the Chapter's new Outings Chair, I encourage, almost insist, that we spend more time with nature. I hope to devote future articles to destinations, low impact techniques, and the interesting experiences to be found outdoors. First, we need to look at some basic safety items that should be included in every daypack. Each member of any outing should always carry at least these basic items in case of an emergency. (Remember, reading a short essay like this is not sufficient preparation for an outdoor experience.)

1. Map - Topographic "Quad" (US Geological Survey, 7.5 minute Quadrangles are inexpensive and available everywhere).

2. Compass with straight edge - GPS units can be useful but are not reliable.

3. Matches and Fire Starter - A good supply of matches (protected against moisture) and at least two butane lighters. "Fire Starter" is any type of material that can be used to ensure that the fire stays lit and grows, even during wet conditions (i.e. candles or chemical and wax preparations available at outdoor and surplus stores).

4. Headlamp or Flashlight with extra bulb and batteries. Headlamps are preferred because they free your hands for other tasks.

5. Extra water and food - Always carry plenty of water, along with water purification device and/or chemicals.

6. Extra Clothing, however, no cotton! Cotton retains moisture and loses its ability to insulate - a very dangerous combination in the high country. Wool, polyester, and synthetics are vastly superior. An extra pair of heavy weight socks are also a "must."

7. First Aid Supplies - First Aid training is strongly recommended.

8. Pocket Knife - I like the ones full of gadgets that have at least one solid, traditional blade.

9. Bivy Gear - "Space" blanket, large lawn bags, 50 feet of cord, and a thermal pad. The space blanket can be used as a temporary shelter or signalling device. Large garbage bags can be used to reinforce your shelter, as additional raingear, makeshift sleeping bags, etc.

10. Sun Protection - Sunglasses and sunscreen.


Optional items I like to carry include:


Each individual, regardless of the group's size, must carry at least the Ten Essentials. This rule applies even to "inseparable" couples who share tents and sleeping bags - there's a chance you could get separated and will have to spend some time alone. The Ten Essentials won't guarantee your survival, but they will put you way ahead of those lost day hikers we read about in the papers each year.