Survival Directory

The Ten Essentials

The Ten Essentials
By Scott Stoddard
"DON'T leave home without it."  But what good will a green  plas­
tic credit card do you 20 miles from the nearest paved road? What
do you really need when out away from civilization?
Experienced outdoor enthusiasts know what items are most impor­
tant  to bring - even for short walks or hikes out of base  camp.
The  "10  Essentials" are items that cannot  be  improvised  from
materials  lying on the forest floor. To be found  without  these
few  items, even only a few miles from camp or cabin,  can  spell
The  standard list of 10 essentials varies slightly  depending
on  which source you go to. The Boy Scouts have their  list,  the
Sierra  Club has another, and the Mountaineers in  their  outdoor
bible,  Mountaineering:  The Freedom of the Hills, have  come  up
with  another  variation.  They all incorporate  the  same  basic
The following list is not to be considered cast in concrete  -
each  survivalist  should customize his or her own  kit  for  the
barest  minimum of supplies. Note that the first three items  are
for  finding your way, the second three are for your  protection,
and the last four are for emergencies.
1. A MAP of the area you will be hiking, canoeing, or  camping
should  be  detailed enough so that you can find  man-made  items
like  trails,  unimproved roads, power lines, etc.,  and  natural
features  such as rivers, streams, hills and other terrain  land­
marks that will guide you. A U.S Geological Survey  Topographical
map has all of these features and more. For an index to topo maps
in your home state contact: U.S. Geological Survey, Map Distribu­
tion Section, Federal Center, Box 25286, Denver, CO 80225;  (303)
236-7477. A 365 page book titled, The Map Catalog, (Every kind of
map  and  chart on Earth and even some above  it),  is  available
from: High Country Enterprise, P.O. Box 746, Saguache, CO  81149;
(719) 655-2432.
2.  A map without a COMPASS is almost useless unless you  pos­
sess  a  sixth sense in direction finding. I  prefer  the  liquid
filled  "Silva" or "Suunto" compasses. These have straight  edges
that are useful in plotting bearings.  Military lensatic compass­
es are more bulky and don't have a clear base making map  reading
through  the  compass impossible. With both map and  compass  you
should be able to "orient" the map by lining up magnetic north on
the  compass  with the magnetic north arrow printed on  the  map.
Once you do this, you'll be able to identify terrain features and
plot your course.
3. Be sure that the FLASHLIGHT you bring doesn't have a  switch
that  is easily turned on and off. You may find that it has  been
accidentally on all day, and when you need it the batteries  will
be already worn out. In that case don't put the batteries  inside
the  unit until you are required to use it. Even if you have  the
most advanced, water proof machined aluminum light source,  bring
a  spare bulb and spare alkaline batteries just in case. A  Mini-
Mag  Lite will fit in the smallest of 10 essential kits  but  may
not  be adequate for all-night travel. Headlamps are  useful  for
cave exploring and when the hands are otherwise occupied.
4.  On one trip to the top of an 11,000 foot peak I  forgot  my
SUNGLASSES  and I nearly went snowblind. After tiring of  looking
through  my  balled-up fists I finally had to cut slits  in  some
cardboard  and  jury-rig some Eskimo sunglasses.  Sunglasses  are
available today that stop 99 percent of ultraviolet light.  Poly­
carbonate  lenses with "wraparound" designs provide more  protec­
tion against wind and side glare. Glacier glasses are recommended
for  snowy  conditions. They usually have  polarized  lenses  and
leather  side shields to block out the side glare. Buy  some  re­
taining  straps  when you purchase your sunglasses.  Croakies  or
Chums  cost less than $5 and will prevent damage or loss of  your
expensive  eye  wear. Add some sunscreen to your  kit  for  total
solar protection.
5. EXTRA FOOD and WATER. This category puzzles me a bit. Does it
mean  that I should have two water bottles filled with water  and
two  bags of trail mix? The amount of water you bring  should  be
determined  by  the length of the trip and  the  temperature  and
physical demand put on your body. Water should be used as  needed
and  not  rationed  out,(i.e.,a few ounces now and  no  more  for
another  hour).  If your body needs water, it needs  it  now  not
three  hours from now! Water purification tablets might help  you
use  other water sources. As far as food, some hikers throw  cans
of  sardines  or  tuna fish into their packs  knowing  that  they
wouldn't eat it unless there was an emergency. Normal trail foods
(dried  fruits,  nuts, and granola) should be  eaten  at  regular
intervals  to resupply the body with energy. Pemmican is  one  of
the  most concentrated high energy foods you can carry.  See  the
Oct. 1991 ASG issue on page 57 for directions on its preparation.
6.  Once again, the EXTRA CLOTHING you bring is  determined  by
the  time of the year and the weather. A breezy summer  hike  may
require only a poncho for rain protection and a light nylon  wind
jammer for possible cold. A day snow hike gets more  complicated.
An extra jacket or sweater may do, but if you will be in  extreme
mountain conditions, a bivouac sack, insulation pad, and a winter
sleeping bag may be the only thing that will save you should  the
weather go bad. In normal conditions you should at least throw  a
metalized space blanket into your kit. This with a poncho can  be
used  to  rig up an improvised lean-to shelter.  Tape  the  space
blanket  to  the poncho for support, tie the poncho to  trees  to
form a lean-to and then build a fire in front. The space  blanket
will reflect the heat of the fire back on to you.
7.  Expensive WATERPROOFED MATCHES have always seemed  a  little
too gimmicky for my taste. Strike anywhere wood matches are a lot
cheaper  and can be stored in a waterproof container such  as  an
empty  plastic 35mm film can. If they're too long, just clip  off
the ends to the right length. A more convenient item for starting
fires  can  be found at your local liquor or  convenience  store.
Throw-away  plastic  cigarette lighters work well and  some  have
adjustable  flames  in case you need "blow torch"  action.  Other
fire sparkers such as the flint/magnesium bars on key chains  are
good back-ups should you lose your matches or lighter.
8.  FIRESTARTERS.  In this category you can  include  a  regular
paraffin candle (store inside a plastic bag so it doesn't melt in
your pack), commercial firestarter tablets, Sterno, or my  favor­
ite  -  Hexamine  tablets that are available  at  most  Army/Navy
surplus  stores. Hexamine tablets won't evaporate  like  Trioxane
Fuel Bars do when the wrapper is ripped, and come six tablets  to
a small cardboard tube.
A firestarter is used only when conditions make it difficult to
start  a fire. Preparation is the key to fire building. You  need
plenty of kindling sticks or pieces of wood split thin with  your
knife  to  make the larger diameter branches catch.  Most  people
begin their fires with inadequate supplies of tinder and kindling
and are frustrated when they can't get a three inch thick log  to
catch fire.
9.  A  POCKET KNIFE is your most important 10  essentials  item.
Among  other  things  it helps in first  aid,  food  preparation,
and fire building. As long as you have a knife you can make fire.
Striking  steel on any flint-like rock will produce  sparks  that
can catch fire in carefully prepared tinder and kindling -  mate­
rials you have gathered and prepared using the knife. More elabo­
rate versions of pocket knives contain a treasure chest of useful
tools: saws, tweezers, scissors, screwdrivers, awls,  toothpicks,
can  openers,  etc  A good Swiss Army knife will  bring  out  the
MacGyver in all of us. Don't forget this item!
10.  A FIRST AID KIT really isn't one item but a collection  of
items that can contain the bare minimum of bandaids, aspirin, and
iodine  or on the other extreme contain suture  kits,  chemically
activated  cold packs and prescription drugs. This is  where  you
will  have  to really do some customizing  and  personalizing.  I
store  my first aid items in a plastic Zip Loc bag so that I  can
see  everything inside and protect them from the  weather.  Along
with an assortment of bandaids, gauze pads, and Steri-Strips, are
the following: insect repellent, sunscreen, lip balm with SPF 21,
triple  antibiotic ointment, small bottle of  Hibiclens  Surgical
Scrub, Aspirin, Diasorb tablets for diarrhea, Actifed (decongest­
ant),  Bonine  (motion sickness), and  Benadryl  (antihistamine).
Other  items that are helpful are: a needle for splinter  extrac­
tion,  moleskin or Spenco Second Skin for blisters, Ace  bandage,
small needle-nose pliers, single-edge razor blades, and  Calamine
cream for insect bites.
The  "11th"  item  of the 10 essentials most  people  carry  is
toilet  paper. Other "essentials" I bring include: an  Air  Force
type  signal mirror, 50 feet of parachute  cord,  mini-Leatherman
tool, and plastic fluorescent marking tape for trail marking. You
might want to add a pocket signal flare and other items such as a
smoke generator for signaling.
Your 10 essentials kit can be packaged in a number of ways. The
most  convenient  is a small day pack. Day packs will  hold  your
water bottle, extra clothing and food for most daytime trips. Get
one made out of Cordura nylon with padded straps.
For  extensive  mountain bike rides many cyclists like  to  use
waist  packs or fanny packs to store their emergency gear  and  a
banana  or  two.  A waist pack is generally cooler  to  wear  and
provides for a lower center of gravity. Water is normally carried
on  the  frame of the bicycle, so the packs can  be  smaller  and
The last essential that needs to be taken on all your trips into
the  wilderness won't fit in a survival kit. It's  called  common
sense  and is a prime commodity in both the city and in the  out­
doors.  If it looks like rain - don't go. If it looks too high  -
stay  back.  If  it's getting dark - get back to  your  base.  By
avoiding  unnecessary problems and dangers you will save on  your
own  personal  wear and tear, and probably get back home  in  one
piece.  However,  if something does come up, at  least  you  know
you've got those 10 important items stowed away in your rucksack.


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