The 10 Essentials

The 10 essentials
Socks, cushion, sole, O.D. green.
Try and keep your feet dry when we’re
out humpin’. I want you boys to
remember to change your socks wherever
we stop. The Mekong will eat a grunt’s
feet right off his legs.

Forrest Gump

These are pretty much the essentials that you need when traveling the backcountry. You wouldn’t necessarily need these if you’re doing a front range San Gabriel hike or parts of the Santa Monica mountains. When I go backcountry though, I make sure that I carry these 10. Except for the compass. That’s been on my desk for the past 2 months :/

But if you’re somewhat experienced hiking the backcountry, you probably already know what to expect in terms of weather, water requirements, terrain, etc. However, if you’re new to hiking, then this post is for you.

First of all, if you’ve been hiking the Santa Monica’s, the front range San Gabriels (Mt. Wilson, Echo Mtn, Jones Peak), or places in LA (Griffith Park), and are feeling like a challenge and have decided to check out what’s in the backcountry, then Congratulations! Not only have you stuck with getting outdoors and back to nature, but you’ve also decided to kick your adventures up a notch. Welcome to the club. When you bag your first backcountry peak, I’m sure you’ll get addicted.

Ok, back to the essentials. On a “normal” hike pre-backcountry, you would probably pack something like:

1. Water – Hopefully enough. If you’ve run out on these hikes, then reexamine how much you’ll need. Look for my upcoming post regarding water requirements.

2. Sunscreen – After your first hike, you’ll have realized the red painful skin tone isn’t natural.

3. Food – If your hikes have gone from 2 hours to 6, then you’ll probably have started to carry a lunch around.

Those are all I could remember from my short day hikes. Now onto the big dogs…

1. Map - With the absence of any towns, or a large metropolitan area such as LA to guide you back to civilization, a map would be necessary should you get turned around somewhere on the trail.

2. Compass (optionally supplemented with a GPS receiver) – Unless you’re familiar with the area, your map would be pretty useless without a compass. What you could do though is wait about 20 minutes and try to get a direction using the sun.

Sunglasses comics3. Sunglasses and sunscreen – I didn’t use sunglasses for a good year and a half. But since I’ve started, my eyes have never felt better. Sunscreen for the obvious reason.

4. Extra food and water – This is crucial. Carry a Clif Bar in your pack as a last resort, and pack half a liter of extra water as a reserve. You could either (a) pack enough water, or (b) learn to pack enough water the hard way by running out and becoming severely dehydrated.

5. Extra clothes – This is good for winter. Especially if it looks like it’s going to rain. But summer it could be helpful if you need to change a shirt or your hike runs into the evening.

6. Headlamp/flashlight – You never know what might happen. The night is a scary scary place in the woods.

7. First aid kit (use in case of emergency) – Just need a simple one. Band aids, Tylenol, sterilization wipes, etc. Good for simple cuts scrapes. Also, include a set of tweezers and mole skin for blisters.

8. Fire starter (use in case of emergency) – It’s always a bad idea to start a fire anywhere in a southern California forest if it’s not Winter and possibly raining. Fire danger is always pretty high. But if you’re able to and know how to build and control one, then do it to stay warm.

9. Matches (use in case of emergency) – Matches are better than a fire starter. A bit more efficient I would say. But the same as number

10. Knife - It’s good to have a sharp edged tool for cutting things. Also, if you’re hiking alone, it’s a good psychological booster. But I haven’t had to use the knife for anything other than to cut apart a watermelon.

Here are some other “essentials” that I carry regardless of weather, season, or distance:

1. Chapstick
2. Extra Clif Bar
3. Socks
4. Hat
5. Toilet paper

That’s about it. Hopefully you won’t have to use these essentials, but they are essential for a reason.

Related posts:

Accuracy In Estimating Elevation Gain
Clif Bar Recall
Mountaineering Checklist

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This entry was posted on Tuesday, June 16th, 2009 at 8:45 pm and is filed under Gear Review, John's Guide to Hiking. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. You can leave a response, or trackback from your own site.

One Response to “The 10 Essentials”


Kolby June 19th, 2009 at 7:35 pm

Great list. I need to remember to pack all of those. It seems I always walk away from my car forgetting one of em. haha

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