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Essential Gear for our 2017 Reviewers of the Month

by Alicia MacLeay
March 10, 2017

Our members are essential to the Trailspace community. Each time they share firsthand experiences and opinions of outdoor gear they help other outdoor enthusiasts find gear for their own backcountry hikes, climbs, paddles, and other adventures.

To thank them for their essential contributions we're once again giving every Reviewer of the Month a prize pack filled with examples of the 10 Essentials, that classic list of what to carry into the backcountry.

Here are the 10 Essentials we're giving to each of our 12 winners in 2017, thanks to the generous brands below ($350+ total prize value). Plus, we'll throw in some timeless 10 Essentials advice from Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills (FOTH).


#1 Navigation: Brunton TruArc 7 Compass

"Always carry a detailed topographic map...Always carry a compass."—FOTH

Map and compass top the list. Additional navigation tools can include a GPS receiver, altimeter, and route markers and descriptions.

The Brunton TruArc 7 mirrored compass features an inclinometer for measuring apparent tree heights and gauging avalanche danger, and it can be used as a sighting tool for even more accurate headings. The TruArc Global Needle system and tool-less declination compensation ensure worldwide compatibility ($34.99).

#2 Sun Protection: Sawyer Stay-Put Sunscreen

"Carry and use sunglasses, sunscreen for the lips and skin, and clothing for sun protection."

Our sun protection prize, Sawyer Stay-Put Sunscreen 30 SPF (2 fl oz), will help protect skin from rays year-round ($7).

On top of that, shade your face with a breathable, wicking Trailspace Trail Runner Cap when things heat up.

#3 Insulation: Arc'teryx Rho LTW Neck Gaiter

Carry "additional layers that would be needed to survive the long, inactive hours of an unplanned bivouac."

Additional layers are ones you aren't already wearing while active and might include hats, balaclavas, socks, and puffy jackets.

The lightweight, packable Arc'teryx Rho LTW Neck Gaiter is 95-percent Merino wool and keeps out snow and cold while trapping in your body heat ($39). We'll also top things off with a Trailspace wool Ibex beanie.

#4  Illumination: UCO X-120R Headlamp

"Carry a headlamp or flashlight, just in case."

That means even if you're planning to return to the car before dark. FOTH recommends spare batteries and bulbs too.

UCO's X-120R is a powerful 120-lumen headlamp with an X-ACT Fit system. This version is powered by a Li-ion battery pack with integrated micro USB input (or it can use three AAA batteries). Settings include flood, spot, and red night vision modes. A dial adjusts brightness continuously from 0 to 120 lumens ($79.99).

#5 First-Aid: Adventure Medical Kits Hiker

"Avoid injury or sickness in the first place."

Beyond that, carry a first-aid kit and know how to use it. Supplies can include gauze pads, roller gauze, bandages, adhesive tape, scissors, cleansers, latex gloves, and paper and pencil.

Adventure Medical Kits updated its Mountain Series of first aid kits for 2017. The Hiker, built for weekend warriors, is equipped with carefully-selected supplies to meet basic first aid needs you and a friend might experience during a day or two on the trail ($25).

#6 Fire: UCO Matches & Sweetfire Fire Starter

"Carry the means to start and sustain an emergency fire."

Common fire starters include butane lighters and matches in a waterproof container. If there's no firewood where you'll travel, carry a stove.

Be sure your fire-starting method is reliable—even in wet, cold, and windy conditions—and consider doubling up.

The UCO Titan Stormproof Match Kit contains 12 matches and three replaceable strikers in a floating, waterproof case. Each four-inch, windproof/waterproof match burns for up to 25 seconds ($10).

UCO's Sweetfire Strikable Fire Starter is made from bagasse, a sugarcane byproduct used as a renewable biofuel. Each match point (20 per box) is infused with vegetable wax for up to 7 minutes of burn time per point. Each match point has a strikable tip that can be used with the striker on the box ($5.99)

#7 Tools: Victorinox Huntsman & TheTentLab Deuce of Spades

"Knives are so useful in first aid, food preparation, repairs, and climbing that every party member needs to carry one."

In addition to knives and multi-tools, consider carrying duct tape, cable ties, needle and thread, safety pins, and other repair tools.

The Hardwood Huntsman Swiss Army Knife from Victorinox features large and small blades, a wood saw, reamer, can opener, screwdrivers, and more tools for the active outdoors person, all set in a hardwood handle. Not only are the color and grain patterns in the Huntsman Hardwood handles unique to each piece, our 12 prize versions are engraved with "" ($45). 

The Deuce of Spades minimalist backpacking trowel from TheTentLab is a tool of another sort. It's made from aerospace grade aluminum, can be used right-side up or upside down, and weighs 17 grams ($20).

#8 Nutrition: Good To-Go Meals

"A one-day supply of extra food is a reasonable emergency stockpile" for shorter trips.

How much extra depends on your planned trip length, but bring items that store well even on a day hike. If you won't have a stove be sure your emergency food doesn't require one.

Good To-Go's professional chef and co-founder makes gourmet, dehydrated  meals, like the new Granola ($6.50) and Bibimbap ($6.50). Good To-Go's Granola is full of heart-healthy raw nuts and seeds, and flax for added protein and fiber. Blueberries, maple syrup, and honey add antioxidants, vitamin B6, and sweetness to the gluten-free offering. Bibimbap is a spicy Korean mixed rice dish with sesame, carrots, and spinach. It's gluten-free and vegan.

#9 Hydration: Potable Aqua Tablets

"Carry extra water and have the skills and tools required for obtaining and purifying additional water."

Water consumption varies depending on temperature, altitude, and exertion. Always bring at least one bottle or collapsible container.

Potable Aqua Chlorine Dioxide Water Purification Tablets are proven effective against bacteria, Giardia, Lamblia, Cryptosporidium, and viruses ($11.99). Potable Aqua Water Purification Tablets with P.A. Plus provide purified drinking water from any fresh water source, and PA Plus tablets remove iodine's taste and color ($12.99).

#10 Emergency Shelter: SOL Emergency Shelter Kit

If not packing a tent, "carry some sort of extra shelter from rain and wind, such as a plastic tube tent or a jumbo plastic trash bag."

Your potential shelter depends on the season and conditions, but even on a day hike or climb bring something, like an emergency blanket or bivy sack.

The SOL Emergency Shelter Kit can help you survive an unexpected night out, whether in drenching rain or a snowstorm. The heavy-duty heat reflective blanket measures 96 x 60 inches and reflects 90 percent of your body heat back to you, to keep you warm. The kit also includes four Ultra C stakes, glow-in-the-dark cord tensioners, and reflective guy lines ($25).

#11 Know-How: Mountaineers Freedom of the Hills

Of course, any equipment only helps if you have the appropriate know-how to use it. Consider signing up for courses on navigation, wilderness first aid, and other outdoor skills.

And turn to trustworthy sources, like the most recent edition of the Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills (Mountaineers Books). Since its first edition in 1960, Freedom of the Hills has endured as a classic outdoors text. From choosing equipment to tying a knot, from basic rappelling to planning an expedition—you'll find it in this 8th edition of the essential reference ($39.95).


The specific equipment you choose depends on personal preferences, the season, weather conditions, terrain, activities, and other factors. How do your 10 Essentials differ from what's above?

For more on the 10 Essentials visit How To: Packing the Ten Essentials by The Mountaineers. Stay tuned for a new revised edition of Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills expected in late 2017.

Write a review of your essential gear; you could be one of our Reviewers of the Month.