The NEW Ten Essentials

1:09 p.m. on March 21, 2008 (EDT)
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REI has put an article updating the classic 10 essentials to a more up to date version, along with discussion of the rationale for the choices. http://www.rei.com/gearmail/gm0321_3/cm?cm_ven=email&cm_cat=gm&cm_pla=na&cm_ite=03_21_gm

As you can see from the two lists below, there isn't really much difference between the 1930s version compiled by the Seattle Mountaineers and reproduced in every edition of the "bible" of the outdoors, MFOTH (Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills, for those who do not yet have one in a prominent place on their bookshelves) and the 2007-8 version. The person who wrote the article for REI, T. D. Wood, relied heavily on the current editors of MFOTH.

As I have posted here before, and explicitly stated by Wood, the 10 should form the foundation of your pack, and you should tailor what you carry to where you are going and the most likely worst conditions to be encountered (an accident involving your party or another you encounter, or for some reason becoming benighted). It should be clear that what you carry for #3 Insulation, for example, will be different in the summer in Death Valley, in the winter in Baxter State Park, or in the summer in Rocky Mountain National Park, or in the places of my most recent extended trips, Antarctica's Vinson Massif or the Serengeti Plains in Africa. On Vinson, you don't need to prepare for malarial mosquitos or 90F/90%RH, but you do need insulated clothing good to -40 or lower and 70 knot winds, where on the Serengeti, you don't need the -40 clothing, but you should include clothing that repels the mosquitos (there are permethrin soaks for the clothes you have) and you need clothing that will keep you cool during the sunlit hours.

I did get a chuckle out of the terminology, though. In keeping with our High Tech era, it is now the huge leap forward to a Systems Approach (I spent most of the industry part of my working life as a Systems Analyst and Systems Designer).

Updated Ten Essential "Systems"

1. Navigation
2. Sun protection
3. Insulation (extra clothing)
4. Illumination
5. First-aid supplies
6. Fire
7. Repair kit and tools
8. Nutrition (extra food)
9. Hydration (extra water)
10. Emergency shelter

Classic Ten Essentials

1. Map
2. Compass
3. Sunglasses and sunscreen
4. Extra clothing
5. Headlamp/flashlight
6. First-aid supplies
7. Firestarter
8. Matches
9. Knife
10. Extra food

8:06 a.m. on March 22, 2008 (EDT)
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Bill,

Thanks, great stuff.
The old list, IMO, should have had Map and Compass together, as the new list does. Then put sunglasses as optional and sunscreen under "First Aid" (how the systems build!) - that leaves room for Emergency Shelter. For months here in the Northeast, insect repellent - for black-flies, mosquitoes, deer flies, and no-see-ums - is a necessity; but that could go under First Aid.

How remarkable, despite technological advances, that seventy+ years yields the same essentials. (Now we just need to add the espresso machine, bottled water, and the barista to make the morning latte...)

10:08 a.m. on March 22, 2008 (EDT)
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Nice list. Here in Norway they launced the "Mountain Rules" some 40 years ago after an easter with many casualties in the mountains. The list is such:
1 Be trained if you go for a long trip.
2 Tell someone were you go.
3 Pay attention to the weather forecast.
4 Be equipped for bad weather, even on short trips.
5 Listen to advice from local people.
6 Alvays bring map and compass with you, learn to use it.
7 Never go alone. Let the weakest person decide the speed.
8 It is never embarrasing to turn in time.
9 Save your strength. Dig into the snow for shelter.

This is the short version. The longer wersion takes notice to mention emergency food, sunglasses and warm clothes. This list is for conditions in the mountains here at easter, therefore insect repellent is not an issue. Othervice the list is quite good. dont you think? Especially the emhasis of training before long trips to prevent unwanted incidents is good I think.

12:39 p.m. on March 22, 2008 (EDT)
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Let the weakest person decide the speed.

Never leave anyone behind. That is what I learned as a beginner. Leaders have to set a higher standard-leadership. If there is no leader, then lead as a team. Otherwise, go alone.

2:19 a.m. on March 23, 2008 (EDT)
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The list of "ten essentials" just seems like common sense to me. I don't think I've ever hiked overnight without at least one item from each category. The trick is to figure out the most necessary or desirable items within each category. Thus, while everyone agrees that some type of navigation "system" is necessary, we see frequent debates between compass and GPS, tarp and tent, etc.

3:47 a.m. on March 23, 2008 (EDT)
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They didn't add libations?

9:47 a.m. on March 23, 2008 (EDT)
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Quote:

They didn't add libations?

I KNOW you were joking, but there's no place in the backcountry for alcohol. Alcohol increases the amount water needed, as it speeds the dehydration process. It blurrs judgement, slows reaction time, and causes foolish mistakes.

1:52 a.m. on March 24, 2008 (EDT)
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Yes I was joking. I now regret saying it because I do not want to stray off topic. But responsibly sipping something at camp is perfectly fine to me.

To add to the discussion, I am a contact/glasses wearer, consequently I always carry at least two backups in case I lose or break a contact and/or glasses. Not being able to see could get you in a lot of trouble regardless of how close you are to a trailhead.

9:22 a.m. on April 10, 2008 (EDT)
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I just checked my 7th edition (2003) of MFOTH and found the same 10 essentials systems approach.

I agree that it's not very different from the classic list, but I prefer the systems approach because (to me at least) it implies that you need the appropriate gear for the outing/conditions AND the know-how to use it correctly, rather than simply carrying an item that you may or may not be familiar with.

9:44 p.m. on April 11, 2008 (EDT)
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I believe that the essentials are pretty well covered here as well -- http://www.gutenberg.org/files/18525/18525-h/18525-h.htm#Page_84

6:29 a.m. on April 12, 2008 (EDT)
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Neat link. Thanks for sharing it.

I haven't read the entire article yet, but I did notice that the birch bark dish (under Outdoor Handicraft) looked just like an Orikaso or Fozzils dish.

I find it interesting to read historical outdoor gear and preparation lists like this. While it's easy to spot differences between then and now, many of the basic points usually stay the same, like "Be kind to your feet."

Just don't forget, "Leave corsets at home."

8:11 p.m. on April 16, 2008 (EDT)
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I have seven survival essentials.

I backpack mostly in the winter to avoid the crowds. But even in fair weather day hiking I always ask myself before I take that first step down the trail "am I prepared to spend several nights in the woods if for some reason I cannot return to this spot?"

Here is my list of survival needs. There are 7 of them. But only 6 go with me into the woods. The most important survival item is one you don't bring with you, which I reveal at the end of this post. (I put it at the end because people tend to remember the last thing they read in a list rather than the first.)

1. I need to stay warm and dry. So I either have to have shelter or the ability to make a shelter, along with the ability to start a fire.

2. I need to stay hydrated. Although I can live without water for 2 or 3 days, dehydration can bring on both physical and mental problems that inhibit survival.

3. I need to stay energized. Again, I can live without food for 2 or 3 weeks, but lack of energy, like dehydration, lessens the chances of survival.

4. I need some first aide supplies to keep minor injuries from turning to major problems.

5. I need a positive attitude about survival to keep from panicking and causing myself greater problems.

6. I may need navigation tools if I have to extract myself from the situation but if I have left my most important survival item at home then a map and compass should not be necessary.

What should you leave at home that is so important to survival? Simply this:

7. Information about your planned route and return time.

Ask any experienced search and rescue person the most important factor in successful searches and they'll say "we knew where to look and we were able to begin looking as soon as reasonably possible after the subject did not return as expected." Most SAR's that have a known expected location of the subject end within 36 hours by either finding the subject alive or finding his or her body.

But telling friends at work you are going "backpacking" for the weekend and then not returning to work on Monday, probably won't get you a SAR until Tuesday or Wednesday. And then the SAR will be inhibited by lack of knowledge as to your expected location.

Leave detailed information with someone who is responsible enough to call the authorities if you don't return as expected. And always communicated any last minute changes in your plans. That is your number one survival item - and you don't take it with you, you leave it at home.

6:23 p.m. on April 22, 2008 (EDT)
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So what about the emergency shelter? The first thought that comes to mind is a hammock and a tarp, but actually that's usually my primary shelter. So should I bring another? Or would just a "space blanket" be what they are looking for?

11:01 p.m. on April 22, 2008 (EDT)
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I think they are referring to any type of shelter that could be used in worst case scenario. I would count the hammock as a primary shelter and a survival shelter only in some situations. If you are hiking an area without trees it will be alot harder to use the hammock. However since you mention tarp, i would count that as a survival shelter because it is light enough to pack it without weighing it down much and you can use a tarp almost anywhere.

3:11 p.m. on April 23, 2008 (EDT)
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I also carry a hammock and tarp. But not in the winter. Then I have a bivy and avalanche shovel for making a snow cave if needed.

That is why I think the so-called "ten essentials" need to be revised to focus on essential needs rather than specific equipment. You need the ability to stay warm and dry. That could mean a tent, a hammock, tarp, a bivey, a space blanket, a shovel for making a snow cave, or just the ability to construct an evergreen bough lean-to, depending on where you are going and the conditions. It may may also mean dry clothing and the ability to start a fire.

Listing equipment instead of needs as an essential can only be done if you are listing the essentials for a particular circumstance. For a general guide, it is better to list the essnetial needs that have to be coverd first, then the possible equipment alternatives for fullfilling those needs.

5:00 p.m. on April 23, 2008 (EDT)
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It looks to me that the revised list of ten essentials does, ihdeed, focus on needs rather than specific equipment.

5:13 p.m. on April 23, 2008 (EDT)
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Best survival shelter you can carry is a 55 or 60 gallon drum liner (trash bag). The weigh about 2 ounces, are waterproof, and will hold 80 percent of your body heat if fashioned properly. A person dressed in jeans and a long sleaved shirt could easily live through the night, in 20 degree temps, inside one of these emergency bivys.

http://www.equipped.com/kidprimr.htm

6:03 p.m. on April 23, 2008 (EDT)
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At the risk of beating a dead horse here, I'd argue that the 10 Essential Systems List does address needs versus specific equipment: http://www.trailspace.com/gear/guide/ten-essentials.html

For example, #10 is Emergency Shelter, not "Tent" or "Bivy" or "Tarp" or any specific type of shelter, though these are possibilities for meeting that need. What you choose to bring depends on a ton of variables and preferences. It may not even mean bringing a piece of gear, but simply knowing how to meet that need, like building a snow cave.

6:37 p.m. on April 23, 2008 (EDT)
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Well, ok, I capitulate. My profound apologies for posting the article reference in the first place, particularly since at least one person continues to misunderstand the basic idea.

"Navigation" is a function that is needed. Map, compass, GPSR are specific "gear" to be used as tools.

Sun Protection is a specific need. Sun block, sun glasses, broad-brimmed hat are specific tools to function in covering that need.

Insulation is a specific need to preserve body heat (aka "stay dry and warm"). Clothing, including rain gear, is a specific tool to help with that need. Note that desert climates have a different requirement for this need than winter or arctic climates.

Illumination is a specific need at certain times of day and in certain situations. Flashlights, headlamps, candles, are among the many possible tool to satisfy that need.

....

Nutrition is a specific need (to paraphrase someone, you can live for 3 weeks without food - maybe you can, but not me). Food, whether "extra" or not, is a tool to satisfy that need, along with the items needed to prepare the food.

Hydration is a specific need (again, to paraphrase someone, you can live for 3 days without water - hmmm, ever spent time in Death Valley in the summer without a water supply?). Water, whether "extra" or not, along with various means of purification (filters, chemical purifiers) is the tool for satisfying that need.

... etc etc

Yes, Alicia, the Ten Essential Systems is a list of needs, while the original list was gear items that served as a set of mnemonics to prompt planning thought on what the needs are and how to satisfy them. One would hope that certain people would realize that. But obviously, I don't know how to open their eyes. Well, an Old GreyBeard doesn't know anything about the outdoors anyway.

Hey, isn't beating on and kicking a Dead Horse fun? Well, I guess I would rather just get out there (only hiked 4.6 miles today, just missing today's rain).

8:39 p.m. on April 23, 2008 (EDT)
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Just went 28 hours without food for a medical procedure. Although I felt OK, I was quite hungry and can't imagine going twenty more days. Let's keep food on the list.

10:17 p.m. on April 23, 2008 (EDT)
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I think the problem is one of perspective. If you imagine yourself hiking down a trail like something pictured on a backpacking magazine cover then you might define "nutrition" as "extra food", "Hydration" as "extra water" and "insulation" as "extra clothing", and you might list "navigation" first and "emergency shelter" last.

But now picture yourself lost in the wilderness or if not lost, unable to extract yourself from the wilderness because of injury or sickness or other reason. Now you are not thinking in terms eating or drinking or putting on extra clothing. You should be thinking in terms of survival. Survival essentials are the same whether you are lost in the woods naked or carrying a 60lb pack. The difference is how you meet those survival essentials.

The big three survival essentials taught by the armed forces survival experts (after, of course, a "positive mental attitude" which is the most important survival essential) are:

First, you need to protect yourself from the elements. That may include shelter, shade, and warmth. But more importantly it includes knowledge about avoiding, recognizing, and treating conditions like hypothermia, heat exhaustion, and water intoxication. You need to know how to avoid or treat those conditions with shelter shade and warmth with whatever is available to you. At this point, nothing is “extra.” Whatever you have is essential and can be used in some way to meet this need.

Second, you need to stay hydrated. That is not the same as having extra water. Staying hydrated means not becoming dehydrated and that can be accomplished in more ways than simply drinking water. It can also mean finding, collecting, and extracting water or other substitute liquids. It also means avoiding hazardous water or making it safe.

Third, you need to stay energized. Again, that is different from merely eating food. People eat mostly to quell hunger. Staying energized involves both conserving and replenishing energy as needed, but not unnecessarily.

A common survival lesson asks the student if they were lost for 12 hours and had no food, would they attempt to stalk and kill a squirrel. Their answer should be "no" because the energy that would have to be expended to attempt to kill the squirrel would be better conserved or expended on another more pressing essential. Quelling hunger is not a survival essential. Staying energized is. Not knowing the differnce can cost you your life.

Lots of people have died in the wilderness despite having all the “essential” backpacking equipment simply because they did not have the survial essentials. Before you go into the wilderness you should decide whether you will follow the advice based on decades of collective knowledge of survial experts or whether you will merely buy stuff based on the advise of a self-annoited expert.

10:38 p.m. on April 23, 2008 (EDT)
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The perspective of the "ten essentials" list was stated in the article: "The purpose of this list has always been to answer two basic questions: First, can you respond positively to an accident or emergency? Second, can you safely spend a night—or more—out?" Although "lots of people" may have died in the wilderness despite having the ten essentials, they probably died from a severe injury, a heart attack, or some other occurrence outside the purview of the ten essentials. It's not likely that someone with adequate shelter or clothing died from exposure or hypothermia; it's not likely that someone with adequate food and water died from thirst or starvation.

Who is the "self-annointed expert" to which you refer?

1:28 p.m. on April 24, 2008 (EDT)
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"The perspective of the "ten essentials" list was stated in the article: "The purpose of this list has always been to answer two basic questions: First, can you respond positively to an accident or emergency? Second, can you safely spend a night—or more—out?" Although "lots of people" may have died in the wilderness despite having the ten essentials, they probably died from a severe injury, a heart attack, or some other occurrence outside the purview of the ten essentials. It's not likely that someone with adequate shelter or clothing died from exposure or hypothermia; it's not likely that someone with adequate food and water died from thirst or starvation."

In the book Deep Survival there are examples of people dying surrounded by everything they need to survive. Sometimes it's one's brain that malfunctions and all the gear in the world doesn't help.

8:38 a.m. on April 25, 2008 (EDT)
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Quote:

In the book Deep Survival there are examples of people dying surrounded by everything they need to survive. Sometimes it's one's brain that malfunctions and all the gear in the world doesn't help.

Yeah, we got that. It's "The Ten Essentials"- meaning the ten minimum things you need to take with you... NOT the "Ten Things That Will Get You Out Of Any Jam No Matter What."

11:00 p.m. on April 25, 2008 (EDT)
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Quote:

In the book Deep Survival there are examples of people dying surrounded by everything they need to survive.

Like the guy who died of hypothermia after the (push button start) canister stove he was using for heat ran out of fuel. How many fires do you figure he could have started with that stove?

S.T.O.P.! Sit, Think, Observe, Plan. Common sense is free - you just have to have a container to put it in.

6:23 p.m. on May 18, 2008 (EDT)
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Carrying equipment, no matter how good it is, what it weighs or costs is no replacement for having the wisdom to use it well. Perhpas the most important message of this thread is this "You do not need specific equipment, You Need specific function." Having gear and not using it or using it wrong does not provide function. However you CAN provide function without specific equipment. This is how native americans survived without tarp tents, bic lighters or compasses. Modern people depend WAY too much on the illusion of safety, and WAY too little on reading and experience, and OMG - skill.

Was camping recently with a friend and his 16 year old who wore shorts and a tee shirt all weekend in upper 40s weather to show how tough he was, and then complained about waking up cold, while standing there in his shorts and tee shirt. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make him drink. Bill S you're way too old and wise to let yourself be upset trying to beat wisdom into someone. When they are your age, assuming that they make it that long, they still won't be as wise, but they will have learned enough to look back and wonder how they managed to make it that long. Everyone knows more than you, especially the ones who know nothing at all...
Jim S

7:15 p.m. on May 18, 2008 (EDT)
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Jim S, who has wandered the woods and hills with OGBO, and now lives in the woods, said

Quote:

Everyone knows more than you, especially the ones who know nothing at all...

You are absolutely correct on that one, Jim.

October 2, 2014
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