Odds are pretty good that you've already heard of the "ten essentials" -- the best-known (and pretty much best) list of must-have backcountry gear. If you have the ten essentials in your pack and know how to use them you can handle inclement weather, getting lost, first aid, broken gear, and hiking in the dark. You'll even have the basics for surviving an unintended night out.
(On the flip side: If you don't know how to use the ten essentials you're carrying, they won't do you any good. Reading a book or taking a wilderness survival class are good ways to learn survival skills -- but practice, practice, practice is the #1 best way to learn what actually works or doesn't. So don't just carry a map and compass or fire-making materials -- practice with them until you're confident you'll know how to use them in a pinch!)
(This list is adapted from Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills, published by Mountaineers Books.)
Ten Essential Systems
- Navigation (map & compass)
- Sun protection (sunglasses & sunscreen)
- Insulation (extra clothing)
- Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
- First-aid supplies
- Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candle)
- Repair kit and tools
- Nutrition (extra food)
- Hydration (extra water)
- Emergency shelter (tent/plastic tube tent/garbage bag)
Click through for a look at what hikers can carry to satisfy each item on the list.