The 10 Essentials

Published in the October 2011 Issue October 2011 Feature Viewed 761 time(s)

The 10 Essentials are items that the Mountaineers of Seattle first proposed in the 1930s and since reinforced through experience of the intervening years as the basic personal items to enhance survival when lost or stranded in the backcountry.

The information was provided by the Cascade Drift Skippers Snowmobile Club (, Issaquah, WA.

Extra Food - Not the food we plan to eat. It is an emergency ration that can sustain us through a cold night. Oh and by the way, leave the low carb food at home.

Map - Many people who have been rescued could have easily gotten themselves out of trouble by simply having a good map. With the best of intentions and a superficial knowledge of the area, almost anyone can become disoriented and lost under some circumstances. Just a wrong turn or a sudden snow squall can put you into a completely unfamiliar world.

Compass - Carry a compass at all times. Use the compass and a topographic map and you are on your way to finding that never-done route to that never-visited part of the mountain. You can do all this in zero visibility of course, since the compass doesn't lie when the visibility goes to zilch. For all of you GPS carriers, don't even think a GPS is a replacement. Don't trust anything with a battery in the backcountry.

Knife - A simple knife is the most useful tool you can carry-or better yet, small multi-tools.

Extra Clothing
- However, no cotton. Cotton retains moisture and loses its ability to insulate; a very dangerous combination. Layer for insulation and carry raingear. Think "from my head to my feet" and have something dry and extra for each area of the body. A lightweight emergency shelter such as a tarp or space blanket is also advisable.

Matches - Waterproof matches kept in a watertight case and something on which to strike them.

Fire Starter - Always include a fire starter with the matches. Always. There are times you will not be able to start a fire without it. And it is far simpler and safer than trying to siphon gasoline.

First Aid Kit - A first aid kit sized to the trip is a must. OK, OK, so it's a small trip. However, something is definitely better than nothing.

Sun Protection - Sunglasses and sunscreen are a must. Zinc oxide is the ultimate sun block.

Flashlight - Headlamps are preferred because they free your hands for other tasks. And do not forget extra batteries.

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