The Eleven Essentials

The Ten Essentials list was created in the 1930s by The Mountaineers, a Seattle-based organization for climbers and outdoor adventurers, to help people respond positively to an accident or emergency and safely spend a night (or more) outside. While we know taking a daypack on a 1.5 mile hike sounds absurd, we believe it’s better to have it and not need it, than to need it and not have it.

PPE: mask, hand sanitizer, trash bag for used PPE

Most of the trails in Sierra Madre are narrow and do not allow hikers to pass with a 6′ gap between. To safely pass other hikes and reduce the spread of COVID-19, we ask everyone to carry masks at the very least.

Navigation: map, compass, GPS, altimeter, personal locator beacon (PLB), satellite messenger

A GPS, personal locator beacon, and satellite messenger are all useful to have, but having a paper map can go a long way when electronics have low battery. A map of the area you’re travelling in and a compass are recommended. At minimum, you should be able to point out the trail you’re on, along with landmarks (trail junctions, water crossings, etc.) you’re passing.
A compass with map-reading knowledge is a vital tool if you’re disoriented in the backcountry. Navigating by map and compass takes practice, but it’s a great skill to have. They do not rely on batteries and newer compass models have sighting mirrors, which can be used to reflect light at a helicopter during an emergency.

Sun Protection: sunglasses, sun-protective clothing, sunscreen, chapstick

Sunglasses, sun-protective clothing, and sunscreen can prevent short term sunburn and snow blindness, as well as long term premature skin aging, skin cancer, and cataracts. Sun-protective clothing is an effective way of blocking UV rays without slathering sunscreen on.

Light: headlamp, extra batteries, spare headlamp

Headlamps are the preferred source of light, compared to flashlights, as they allow you to be hands free and won’t drain the battery on your phone. Extra batteries in your spare headlamp are always useful to have on you – this is especially useful when your initial headlamp doesn’t work.

First Aid Supplies: treatment for blisters, adhesive bandages, gauze pads, adhesive tape, disinfecting ointment, pain medication, pen, paper, and gloves.

Medical kits are going to be determined by the duration of the trip, along with the number of people that are involved. They include treatments for blisters, adhesive bandages, gauze pads, adhesive tape, disinfecting ointment, pain medication, pen, paper, and gloves.

Fire: waterproof matches, lighter, tinder, dry lint

Storm/wind proof matches and a lighter are useful to have. A wad of dryer lint makes a great fire starter and won’t cost you anything! For outings where firewood isn’t available or fire danger is high, a stove is recommended as an emergency heat source.

Repair Kit & Tools: knife, duct tape, cord, safety pins, fabric repair kit, zip-ties

Knives are useful for repairs, food preparation, first aid, and other emergency needs. A small gear repair kit can get you out of a bind in the backcountry.

Clothing: layer of underwear (top and bottoms), beanie/balaclava, extra pair of socks, gloves, and jacket.

Conditions can turn cold and wet unexpectedly, so consider taking an additional layer or two for an unplanned night out.

Food: granola, jerky, nuts, candy, dried fruit, energy blocks

Pack enough food for an extra day and night in the mountains. Granola, jerky nuts, candy, dried fruit, and energy blocks are all great options. They’re lightweight an don’t require a stove and fuel.

Water: 32oz bottle, water filter, iodine tablets

Each person needs to carry a bottle of water; 16oz of water is NOT enough! Most people need about 16oz of water per hour during moderate activity in moderate temperatures. 32oz of water is the bare minimum that should be carried along with a water filter or iodine tablets to treat water.

Emergency shelter: light emergency bivy, emergency shelter, tarp, extra-large trash bag

Emergency shelters will protect you from wind and rain. A light emergency bivy, space blanket, or even an extra-large trash bag will help retain some heat overnight.

To help ensure all Essentials are packed, you can download a printable checklist here.

Missing Hiker Found Alive and Well After 7 Days

On Saturday June 22nd, 73 year old Eugene Jo went hiking out of the Three Points trailhead in the San Gabriel Mountains with 6 other hikers. Around 3:00 pm Jo became separated from the group. He was found 1 week later on Saturday June 29th after a massive search effort by search and rescue teams from across California. 

The Montrose Search and Rescue Team received a report of a missing hiker around 7:00 pm on Saturday June 22nd. As they began their search, the Sierra Madre Search and Rescue Team and the Altadena Mountain Rescue Team were called to assist. Field teams searched the area through the night, watching the sunrise on their assignments.

On Sunday, fresh searchers from 7 of Los Angeles County’s search and rescue teams deployed, and search assignments expanded. In the daylight they searched the trails in the Mt Waterman area, as well as off trail areas near where Jo’s hiking group had lunch. On Monday June 24th teams throughout California were called to join the search.

In the end, 25 teams responded from 10 counties including teams as far away as Marin and San Diego counties. Approximately 3,200 acres were searched by 327 searchers alongside LA Search Dogs, Special Enforcement Bureau’s Unmanned Aircraft System, LA Sheriff’s Department and LA County Fire Department helicopters.

On Saturday June 29th over 75 searchers deployed into the field. That morning Jo was located deep in Devil’s Canyon by a field team from the Altadena Mountain Rescue Team. Jo was extracted by Air Rescue 5 and taken to Huntington Memorial Hospital where he was released later the same day.  

Jo’s family said that he would not give up. They were correct. Jo drank stream water, ate plants and tried to signal helicopters with his red vest. He was deep in thick brush in a huge search area though so he wasn’t located until a ground team got close to him and heard his response to their voices. 

The Sierra Madre Search and Rescue Team (SMSR) fielded 23 team members who logged over 650 hours between time spent in the field and assisting the Montrose Search and Rescue Team with overhead management of the operation. In large scale searches Incident Management Teams play a critical role. Throughout the day, personnel in the command post manage radio communication with field teams, interview the friends and family, interact with the media, debrief search teams, and processes GPS track logs. Based on information from each days’ search assignments and new information, the Planning Section works through the night to determine where teams will search the next day. 

As for the reactions when Jo was located, one SMSR team member reported, “I was elated when the radio call came in,” and another member shared that, “there were smiles, hugs, and tears of joy.” For now team members have returned home to wash off the dirt, tend to their bruises, and catch up on some much needed sleep. For SMSR it was a week spent in the service of their motto, “Anywhere in the wilderness someone needs help. . .”