posted by Scouter Ken
According to the eighth edition of Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills (2010) book there are ten essentials.
Lets take a look at what each of these items means for us, and then talk about what is appropriate based on season, or level of activity.
For our group, navigation devices means that you need a magnetic compass. One that is not part of your mobile phone. While smart phones have very good compasses and GPS in them, the problem is that batter life can be short when we are in the outdoors, or if cellular service is poor, or none, now what? The compass should be if possible liquid filled. This helps the needle to move even in cold weather. Some examples of appropriate compasses can be found on the Recommended Gear post of this blog.
Sun Protection is a big one, even in winter! It has been shown that the long term exposure to sun on the skin can cause long term serious health issues. Minimum for any hike, youth should be wearing a hat, preferably wide brimmed to protect the ears, and carrying sun screen of SPF 30 or more. This needs to be applied before the hike (generally 1 hour before) and then reapplied every 4 hours of exposure. That means that for a day hike put it on before you go, and then again at lunch time. Even when the day looks cloudy and overcast, you can still get sunburned.
Sun glasses are also recommended so that youth do not end up with sun glare sickness. Sun Glare can cause eye damage that ranges from mild irritation, to severe burning and pain from eye movement or even blinking.
This is a big one. Insulation is the warm air gap that exists between you and your clothing. If that warm air gap becomes damp from sweat, you can get chilled. If there isn't enough warm air gap you will be chilled.
Dress in layers. Start with a base layer, this can be a quick dry t-shirt or long sleeve. Remember that cotton while a great way to absorb sweat and moisture, will leave that moisture next to your body. Cotton is rotten. Over the base layer, add a long sleeve shirt, generally this is a light material, or may be flannel. A light sweater over this (or carried in the pack) in case it is more chilly, and then a weather proof shell over that. For colder weather hikes, replace the shell with a lined or winter jacket.
A headlamp is your best friend in the dark. Light is important when it gets dark on a hike. Typically we don't plan for a hike to go late into the evening, but when things go wrong, you need to be ready. A headlamp rather than a flashlight will allow you to use both hands to navigate and move through terrain. A minimum of 60 lumens is best. Some headlamps are much more powerful, but while it is great to see great distances ahead, you can blind your friends. Please no headlamps greater than 80 lumens.
First Aid Supplies
When going into the woods we are not expecting to need massive amounts of First Aid. Typical issues on a hike can include small cuts or scrapes, but more likely it is a blister from hiking boots. Blisters are the number one reason of hiking emergencies. Blisters make walking uncomfortable to the point where you don't want to walk anymore. Carry band aids in two sizes. A roll of gauze and a couple of Popsicle sticks, and plastic bags. These are all items all the youth have in their survival kit.
Dryer lint is great to carry and is compact. Keep in a small zip-loc bag. A small box of wooden matches, an emergency candle, and for Explorers a flint and steel are also great items to include. We make fire starters with the youth each year, and teach them how to use them responsibly.
Repair Kit and Tools
Spare laces, 6-inch zip ties, 6 feet of rope, Duct Tape. These simple items can save you in the field. Add to this a single blade pocket knife or a multi-tool and you can manage most situations.
Planning with just your lunch, and then getting stuck and nothing to eat for dinner, that sucks. A single 100 calorie granola bar can get you through the night. Dry foods that can be re-hydrated with water are easy (can always boil water) like pasta and dry soups. Also snack packages of protein like tuna or flake chicken, or even a can of spam while not maybe a favorite food, can make the difference when stuck.
Water is important. You can't tell when you may need extra water for cooking an emergency meal, or for cleaning out a cut on the trail. A full day on a hike, you should plan for 3L of water per person. You may not need it all, but at the end of the day, you should have consumed 1L just from hiking. and be well into the second. Purification Tablets can be added to a survival kit for extra protection. If you have a Life-Straw that is a great light weight emergency add-on.
When up against making it though the night, or shivering in the cold, there is nothing that helps more than a $3 silver survival blanket from the dollar store. There are of course more expensive survival tents and shelters, and as you grow in your experience, you may move toward these items. For most, the silver sheet of reflective material is more than enough to keep you dry and reflect important body heat back to you. A fleece blanket or even a ultra light sleeping bag are compact and can be carried in most day packs.
The Day Pack
Now that you have collected this list of the 10 essentals, you need to carry it all and that means having an appropriate size daypack. Some things to look for when selecting a daypack:
Be Prepared, and Good Hiking.
These articles are written by the leaders of 1st Clarington BPSA. They are based on more than 40 combined years of outdoor leadership, and more than 60 years of Scouting/Guiding experience.