Outdoor gurus tell us that there are approximately ten things (or types of things) that you ought to take with you whenever you go on an outdoor adventure that is any more remote than your own yard. Some of these are for comfort and some for actual safety, so you should probably be familiar with a 10 essentials checklist before going on any adventures.
A good quality knife, kept sharp is probably the most useful multi-purpose tool there is. You should make this a part of your everyday carry along with your keys and your wallet for nearly everywhere you go.
First aid kit
A first aid kit doesn’t have to be some huge backpack-sized thing with all sorts of medical equipment for every conceivable medical emergency. What you really need for most outdoor adventures are a few band-aids, a couple of 3x3s, some tape, some hand sanitizer, some antibiotic ointment, and maybe a few ibuprofen. This stuff can fit into a Ziploc snack bag or an Altoids tin with a rubber band around it to keep it closed.
Of course, if you have any special medical conditions, like a known allergy to bee stings, you’ll need to add stuff to handle that condition – like an Epipen.
The type of adventure you’re planning will determine how much of what sort of food you’ll want to bring. For most day trips, you won’t need much more than a couple of granola bars or a couple of packs of peanuts – but as you get into multi-day adventures you’ll need to take into account the food you’ll need, how to carry it, and what you’ll need to prepare and eat it.
Water is far more important than food. Most people can survive for weeks (miserably) without food but only days (and not many) without water. If you’re exerting and/or in extreme temperature conditions, you may require as much as a gallon (4 liters) or more of water per day.
The problem is, water is very heavy, at almost 10lb per gallon (once you factor in the weight of the container). You’ll probably want to carry 2 quarts/liters with you and plan for resupply and maybe take a Lifestraw or some Chlorine tablets with you to make sure you have a supply of drinkable water. You might also want a couple of flavor packets with you to make the water more palatable – especially if you are purifying your own.
This could be map & compass, a GPS receiver, or a smartphone, but you want to take into account where you will be and how reliable your technology is where you will be. In any case, you’ll also want to make sure that you have sufficient land navigation skills and knowledge because your technology won’t save you if you don’t.
Is there the potential for a sudden chill in the weather? Might you be out in the sun longer than you expect? What if you get your socks wet or split your pants falling off a log (voice of experience!)? You’ll want to carry at least a little bit of extra clothing for whatever contingencies you can reasonably expect.
A wise adventurer always checks the weather forecast before setting out on the trail, but an experienced adventurer almost never bases the go-no-go decision on a weather forecast – because they are rarely better than a rough guideline. A better way is to plan to go no matter what (within reason) and take some rain gear with you just in case.
This is obvious if you are going to be camping, but what if the sun goes down on you while you’re hiking or what if you have to work on the deep, dark guts of your vehicle? A flashlight or headlamp is another piece of everyday carry for the wise.
This is another obvious one if you are camping, but what if your car breaks down in a remote place in the winter (a lit candle in a car can provide enough heat to keep you alive) or you need to burn the end of a rope to keep it from fraying? What if you have to boil some lake water to drink, or cook something that you caught to eat? What if you have to burn some documents to keep the enemy from getting them or make a signal fire to draw the rescue helicopter’s attention?
Seriously – next to a pocketknife, the ability to make fire is one of our most important survival abilities!
Sun protection and skin protection
This category includes insect repellent, skin protectants like Carmex or Blistex, sunscreen and perhaps aftersun lotion. Ignore these and you might be in for a miserable misadventure!