Backpacker Magazine's Ten Outdoor Adventure Essentials
In this guide, Backpacker Magazine Gear Editor Kristin Hostetter dissects all the gear you need to create your very own 10 Essentials Kit.
|Backpacker brings the outdoors straight to the reader's doorstep, inspiring and enabling them to go more places and enjoy nature more often. The authority on active adventure, Backpacker is the world's first GPS-enabled magazine and website, and the only outdoor media whose editors personally test the hiking trails, camping gear, and survival tips they publish. Backpacker's Editors' Choice Awards, an industry honor recognizing design, feature, and product innovation, has become the gold standard against which all other outdoor-industry awards are measured. And the magazine recently launched mobile media applications that allow users to text-message hiking maps and directions to their phones. In 2008, Backpacker won the magazine industry's highest honor, the National Magazine Award for General Excellence and in 2009, followed the win with three more National Magazine Awards: General Excellence Online, Personal Service Online, and best Essay.|
Ten Outdoor Adventure Essentials
|The Ten Outdoor Adventure Essentials list was created in 1930 by The Mountaineers, a Washington-based climbing club. In order to safely lead trips in the Cascades, the group created a very specific ten-piece packing list designed to ensure that hikers could respond positively to an accident or emergency and remain safe if forced to spend one or more nights in the backcountry. |
Times have changed since 1930 and technology has advanced, but here's the original list, followed by a breakdown of the Ten Outdoor Adventure Essentials you need to safely enjoy your next expedition. Using this list, you can create your own Outdoor Adventure Essentials kit to take with you whenever you head out, whether on a dayhike or a week-long trek into the wilderness.
THE TEN OUTDOOR ADVENTURE ESSENTIALS
- Sun protection
- First aid
Outdoor Adventure Essentials Breakdown
|Outdoor Adventure Essentials: What You Need|
Once you've assembled the items below, pack your Outdoor Adventure Essentials kit in a
waterproof stuff sack or a freezer-weight zip-top bag. The
freezer-weight variety is much stronger and will last for at least
several trips. If you keep it replenished after each trip, it will be
ready to grab-and-go for your next adventure. Whether it's a quick
dayhike or a big multiday adventure, just drop your Outdoor
Adventure Essentials Kit into your pack and you're good to go at a
For the navigation category, you can choose your poison, based on your budget and proclivity for technology. Of course, you'll always need a good topographical map, but from there, you have some choices to make.
Compass or GPS?
- Compass: Old-schoolers can go with a good, floating needle compass. A floating needle compass, as opposed to a digital one, has a magnetized needle swimming in liquid that always points to true north. Basic compasses are inexpensive and have all the features that the typical dayhiker and backpacker need. More advanced compasses have declination adjustments, sighting mirrors, and other features, which are handy for hard core off-trail navigators.
Backpacker Magazine Tip: Using Your Navigation Tools
- GPS: The tech-savvy may prefer a GPS, many of which include a digital
compass feature. There are a wide array of GPS units available, from
the basic and affordable to the fully decked out. If you opt for a GPS,
be sure you know how to use it, and that you pack spare batteries.
most basic tools require some skill. Be sure to bone up on your map, compass, and GPS skills before you hit the woods, so you know how to use your tools. Navigating with a compass or GPS can be fun and precise, but you should know the basics and log some practice time before venturing out.
2. Sun Protection
Even on overcast days in the mountains, you can get a fierce sunburn and harm your skin and eyes if you don't pack protection.
- Sunglasses: An absolute essential to protect your eyes at altitude, most sunglasses on the market today block 100 percent of UV light. Beyond that you can choose from different lens materials, coatings, construction, and colors to suit your needs. Polarized lenses are great if you can afford them--the lenses filter out horizontal light waves that cause glare and lead to eyestrain.
- Sunscreen: Another absolute essential, look for a sunscreen that's 30 SPF or higher and blocks both UVA and UVB rays. Apply it liberally and regularly, paying particular attention to often-forgotten spots like the tops of your ears and back of your neck.
- Sun-Protective Clothing: Also consider investing in sun-protective clothing--hats, long sleeve shirts, and bandanas--that are rated to SPF 30 or higher. These garments have a tighter weave and special fibers that effectively block the sun.
Whether you're taking a short dayhike or a 5-day backpacking trip, you should learn to layer and always have some extra clothing on board.
- Layers: Because hiking inherently involves changing altitudes and weather, layering is the key to success. Be prepared to shed and add layers according to changing temperatures. A base layer, mid-layer, insulation layer, and a waterproof outer layer are essential on expeditions.
- Wind Protection: For short, easy, mild-weather hikes, you may only need a light windshell to throw on as you gain a summit or stop for a snack break. If you'll be hiking at altitude, winds can come out of nowhere and be quite strong. Wind-resistant and windproof gear is a must.
- Waterproof Protection: As the weather, altitude, and length of your trip increases, so should the elements of your layering system. On any multiday trip you should carry rain gear consisting of a waterproof outerlayer. If a surprise storm douses you and you end up wet and cold, hypothermia won't be far behind.
Because a light is impossible to improvise, it's essential to always have one stashed in your kit just in case you get stuck out in the wild overnight unexpectedly. Go for bright and lightweight.
- Pinch Lights: You can find tiny little pinch lights--they run on coin-like batteries and turn on when you pinch them--that don't even register on a scale.
- Flashlight: A smarter choice, however, is a finger-size flashlight that runs on a single AAA battery.
5. First Aid
- LED Headlamp: Even better yet, a tiny LED headlamp for hands-free operation. No matter what type you choose, be sure to check the battery before every trip.
This component of your Ten Outdoor Adventure Essentials kit will change depending on the trip. Clearly, for day hikes you need only the basic wound care, blister care, and maybe a few doses of painkilling or anti-inflammatory medication. A basic first-aid kit should suffice. But longer backcountry trips demand more insurance. Just remember not to get weighed down by things you'll never use. If you don't know how to suture a wound, for instance, you can ditch the suture kit.
The rule of thumb is this: always carry two sources of fire in case one flickers out. A disposable lighter is a no-brainer.
- Disposable lighters: Traditional disposable lighters work great 99% of the time, though they can malfunction if they get wet and can be hard on cold fingers.
- Waterproof Matches: Your second source should be either waterproof matches, stored in a waterproof container.
Backpacker Magazine Tip: Pack Tinder.
- Flint Striker: A flint striker is a fool-proof bet because it works even when wet, but
you have to know how to use it. Practice makes perfect. Look for a
striker that's easy to hold and comfortable in the hand (the tiniest
ones can be a pain), and that generates a copious spray of sparks when
Always pack a small bit of dry natural tinder--it can be tough to find when you need it most.
Pack the food that you'll want on your trip, of course, but smart hikers always have a stash of extra calories in case they get stuck in the wild for longer than expected. Stores are lined with a huge array of contenders, but check the labels to find whole grain energy bars that offer a good mix of carbohydrates, proteins, and fat. Most commercially available bars have a long shelf life, so you can stick a few in your pack and they'll always be ready when you need them.
Hikers need at least 3 to 4 liters of water per day--more if you're working hard or if the weather is hot.
- Hydration Packs: A great option for dayhikes is to carry a hydration pack or a backpack with a hydration bladder. But if you need more water than you can carry, you'll need to purify it along the way.
- Water Purification: On longer trips, you'll need to carry a water treatment device of some sort--a filter, purifier, or UV pen--but keep some extra chemical chlorine dioxide or iodine tablets in your backpack to use as backup just in case. They weigh next to nothing, take up virtually no space, and can render even the nastiest backcountry watering hole safe to drink.
On planned overnight trips where you already have a tent, you can skip this item in your Outdoor Adventure Essentials kit, but today's emergency shelters are so small and light, you might not mind carrying them. You just need something that you can hunker under or into if you get stuck out for a night in the rain or snow. A super-light sheet of plastic tarp, a silvery space blanket or a bivy sack all work well--any waterproof fabric that can cut the wind and is big enough to protect your whole body.
Choices abound in this category.
- Hunting Knives: Daniel Boone types like to have big, fierce, serrated blades that can scale a fish or gut a deer.
Backpacker Magazine Tip: Keep it Sharp!
- Multitools: Backpackers like multitools that include things like pliers for making repairs, tweezers for removing ticks, and more. And since knives/tools are one of the most commonly lost items in a hiker's pack, it pays to have a tiny little backup blade in your Outdoor Adventure Essentials kit. Look for a folding 2 to 3 inch blade with a plastic handle, which is functional enough to shred fire twigs, slice rope, and cut sausage.
A dull blade is more dangerous than no blade at all, so check yours periodically to make sure it's still sharp. If it doesn't slice easily through a sheet of paper, use a whetstone to get it back into shape. Or, take it to your hardware store for a professional sharpening that will only cost a few bucks.
About Gear Editor Kristin Hostetter
|Kristin has been Backpacker magazine's gear editor for 15 years putting thousands of camping and hiking products through the magazine's rigorous gear testing program. Her travels have taken her all over the world--from Alaska to Iceland, from Wales to Wyoming--in search of the best testing conditions. She has appeared as a gear expert on NBC's Today and CBS's The Early Show, among others. Kristin is the author of three books: Don't Forget the Duct Tape, Adventure Journal, and Tent and Car Camper's Handbook. She is also known as the "Gear Pro" on Backpacker.com, where she answers questions from readers about all sorts of outdoor skills and gear. She lives in Massachusetts with her husband and two sons, all of whom love to join Kristin on her adventures whenever possible.|