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Trail Tip 21: The 10 Essentials


Aaron

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There have always been a set of items that are glorified as necessities for any and all trips outside. However, as you become more experienced, sometimes you have to ask yourself why your kit is set up the way it is. The “10 Essentials” is what every traveler needs, but are there a better set of essentials? The classic kit is a map, compass, sun protection, extra clothing, flashlight, first-aid kit, firestarter, matches, knife, and extra food. These cover the basics, but to help remove some of the weight off your back, let’s look at what really is needed..

Ted Ehrlich talks on the 10 essentials for hiking and backpacking, take a look at the full tip below in Issue 21:

The 10 Essentials – Ultralight Edition

Backpacking and Hiking 10 Essentials - Ultralight Edition

Issue 21 Page 1

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lonerock

I agreed with most of the essential items listed by Ted Ehrlich but not including a compass doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Watches and cell phones with compasses are nice but can't replace a standard compass when trying to plot a course on a paper map. It may not always be necessary when you stay on a well established trail but might become essential if you get lost or decide to do some cross country travel. Plus for me, I wouldn't want to stake my life on an electronic navigational tool and nothing else. It's like leaving the paper map at home and relying on your smart phone gps.Electronic devices can fail for a number of reasons but a standard compass rarely does.

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tmountainnut

I agreed with most of the essential items listed by Ted Ehrlich but not including a compass doesn't make a lot of sense to me. Watches and cell phones with compasses are nice but can't replace a standard compass when trying to plot a course on a paper map. It may not always be necessary when you stay on a well established trail but might become essential if you get lost or decide to do some cross country travel. Plus for me, I wouldn't want to stake my life on an electronic navigational tool and nothing else. It's like leaving the paper map at home and relying on your smart phone gps. Electronic devices can fail for a number of reasons but a standard compass rarely does.

In the last 5 years, I've needed my compass exactly twice, both times when visibility was near zero. I don't actually lay out a map though when i'm going cross country, instead i orient my body with one of the cardinal directions, and then orient the map to myself. The rest of the time I orient myself to landmarks, the topography, the sun/moon, or my own "internal" compass.

The compass on my watch is very accurate and can set the declination very easily, and since i always carry my watch, I am happy to leave the compass behind. Although if I didn't have my watch, I would bring a good compass with me on the off chance the other methods i use aren't at my disposal. I can imagine if I hiked in flatter areas that it would come in handy much more often.

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lonerock

I've rarely used my first aid kit over the last 5 years but I'm not about to leave it at home. I spent 8 years working as a wildlife biologist under contract with the BLM and forest service. I worked in very remote areas by myself with no trails, just all cross country in all types of terrain.. Would I have gone out without a compass. NEVER ! A map and standard compass are the most reliable and accurate means of finding your way in remote areas. My Brunton compass weighs about 2.8 oz so to me the weight factor is pretty insignifcant. If accuracy is unimportant then anything should be okay.

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As far as compasses are concerned I like to always take 2 of at least some sort. My go-to is the compass on my Casio PAW1300:

post-3-143508724902_thumb.jpg

I do like that the watch is solar powered, so it never runs out of juice and I try to set the declination before each trip. Combined with a paper map and terrain association it works pretty well. As far as the backup is concerned, I usually take my phone for other reasons, but that has a compass and a gps, although battery life is of course limited. If I'm not taking my phone I'll throw my old Boy Scout compass in a hipbelt pocket, and as a last resort depending on how good my map is I can grab the cords off my Delorme inReach (The 11th essential) and compare that to a map to at least determine the general area I'm in.

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  • 1 month later...
Jimmyblack

Do you have any flashlight to recommend? SureFire, Finex or Tank007 flashlight? I am looking for a flashlight to carry with me when backpacking, but do not know what flashlight is the best.

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Shaun Squid

Do you have any flashlight to recommend? SureFire, Finex or Tank007 flashlight? I am looking for a flashlight to carry with me when backpacking, but do not know what flashlight is the best.

Don't worry about it, Jimmy. While a good flashlight is essential (a headlamp in particular, in my opinion) you can't really go wrong with most options. Taking a quick peak at SureFires website it looks pretty expensive and not necessary. Personally anything that has white LEDs, Red LEDs, and a locking mechanism so you don't accidentally drain your batteries will get the job done. I also carry a tiny single LED handheld as backup just in case. My headlamp is 160 lumins which many would find excessive, but I love it. On sale for about $40 right now:

http://www.rei.com/product/866384/black-diamond-storm-headlamp

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...a locking mechanism so you don't accidentally drain your batteries...

A thousand times this. You can always do the old "reverse one battery" trick, or store the batteries separate from the lamp, but I've been screwed more than once by a non-locking headlamp accidentally turning on in my pack. Another nice feature is some sort of battery-life indicator, since it's not always obvious when your headlamp is slowly getting dimmer and dimmer.

(FWIW, I have "three essentials": headlamp, tape, garbage bag.)

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Do you have any flashlight to recommend? SureFire, Finex or Tank007 flashlight? I am looking for a flashlight to carry with me when backpacking, but do not know what flashlight is the best.

I've used a Peztl eLite for 3-seasons trips for a couple of years now.

Really tiny and light, but quite up to the job. Quite brilliant.

Edited by rig
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have to chime in on the compass issue, I have to agree with lonerock. I ALWAYS take my compass with me, even though I have my gps, and my solar powered watch/altimeter/compass has yet to fail. I don't believe in relying solely on electronic devices. This even though, I have not had to use my compass even once in the last five years.

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