It's important to be prepared when you head out into the wilderness. It doesn't matter if you're heading out for a short day hike, or an epic thru-hike, having the ten essentials may help save your life. Always carry these ten items, and know how to use them!
In addition to carrying the ten essentials, be sure to let someone know where you are going, and be aware of the risks involved.
Always carry a detailed topo map of the area that you are hiking in and a compass (even if you use a GPS or smartphone). Learn how to read a topo map and how to use a compass before you leave on your hike.
2. HYDRATION (Aka "Water")
Carry enough water for your trip, but also bring means to acquire more. That could be a filter/purifier, chemical treatment, or a stove for boiling/melting snow. Even the most pristine-looking water source can harbor nasty little organisms that will make your life miserable later (trust us on this), so purify all water with a water filter or purifier, chemical tablets or boiling before drinking.
Don't get hangry, bring extra food. Bring food that keeps well, doesn't require fancy prep work, and is high in energy. Some people pack food they don't particularly care for so they won't be tempted to snack on it unless it's an emergency.
4. RAIN GEAR AND INSULATION
Always bring rain protection. Weather can be unpredictable. Pack lightweight rain gear, and make sure it's still waterproof before you leave! If it's not, re-waterproof it with Nikwax TX.Direct before you go. Bring an extra set of layers as well, but leave the cotton at home! Synthetic or merino wool are your best best. Merino wool is even warm when wet, so err on the side of the sheep for best results.
You don't need to carry a lit torch with you, but having the means to start an emergency fire is an essential. Waterproof matches, lighters, or fire strikers (practice beforehand) are all great solutions. Pack it with a small amount of dry tinder to help get your fire going. Remember this is for emergency use only! Be a good steward and check burn bans before you start a fire.
6. FIRST AID KIT
Pack a first aid kit, but also know how to use it. Make sure that all your items are up-to-date and not expired. If possible, take a wilderness first aid course in your area. When an emergency happens, you'll be glad you learned how to splint a leg with a stick, an ace bandage, and a Therm-a-Rest pad.
No need to bring a machete. Really, any knife will do. Knives are useful tools for all sorts of things (including chopping veggies). Also, bring duct tape. Wrap some around your lighter, hiking poles, or flashlight for emergency purposes.
An emergency tarp or space blanket takes up little space and will make a nice emergency shelter.
9. LIGHT SOURCE
Headlamps are helpful over flashlights as they keep your hands free. Carry spare batteries and make sure you test your light before each trip.
10. SUN PROTECTION
The sun can become a bigger problem than you might think. If you are on snow or above treeline, sunglasses are a must. Make sure to bring sunscreen and re-apply frequently. Pack clothing that can do double-duty as sun protection as well.
Do you have any any add-ons to the traditional ten essentials? Everyone has their own personal preferences, so create your own bag of wilderness necessities!