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. 

(This article was optically scanned from :American Survival Guide 
/ January 1992