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.