Look over the free pamphlets in an outdoor store, take an outdoor class or earn your first Scouting merit badge, and you’ll hear about “The Ten Essentials.”
“The Ten Essentials” is a classic list put together in the 1930s that has had many variations over the years but continues to be the standard for any backcountry excursion: a map, a compass, sun protection, extra clothing, rain gear, headlamp, a first aid kit, a lighter and a fire starter, a knife and extra food.
It’s a list that lets an outdoor person head into the backcountry with a bit more confidence and prepared for what the mountains may have in store.
But, like any classic, there are some variations that can be had that will add more utility, versatility and functionality. Call them the “Five More Essentials.”
Duct tape — One wag described duct tape as being like The Force: It has a light side. It has a dark side. And it holds the universe together. While it may not quite hold the universe together, it does hold together punctured tents, protects hot spots from forming blisters, plugs a leak in a water bladder, seals up ripped down jackets and holds shoes together until the trailhead can be reached. Wrap some duct tape around your water bottle, a lighter or your ski/ trekking poles. It still comes in classic gray along with elegant black, forest green, sky blue and flamingo pink among other colors for the fashion conscious.
Bandanna — One of the few cotton items usually carried into the backcountry. Use it as a sweatband, a wash cloth, or extra sun protection when worn Foreign Legion style. Or use it to wipe moisture off your ski skins, as a pot grip or a small bit of modesty on National Nude Hiking Day (be sure to use the sun protection mentioned in the classic 10 essentials). These are among the many uses of this versatile item.
Resealable plastic bags — Can you imagine bagging your gorp, making a first aid kit, sorting out your various knick-knacks and packing your Sugary Powdery Drink Mix of choice without
these modern wonders? Me neither. Wash them out and reuse them to get both dirt-bagger and green-friendly cred.
Dental floss and a needle — Besides making sure that no gorp is stuck in your teeth, dental floss makes extremely strong thread. Sew up a pack strap, fix a tear in your jacket, and sew up a hole in your glove. Home Ec class taught you to sew. Your dentist wants you to floss daily. Combine the two for an emergency repair kit that does not make the prettiest repairs but is better than schlepping a pack with one strap over a high mountain pass.
Cable ties, aka zip ties — Carry a few in your pack for quick repairs. Snowshoe decking, lashing items in a pinch and a temporary repair of a ski binding are just a few of the uses that this inexpensive and light item has been known to fix in the best MacGyver style.
Finally, there is one essential item for after the trip: a bottle opener. Because a cooler full of your favorite beer stashed in your car for the end of the trip is awesome. Forgetting the bottle opener? Not so much. (And while canned beer can be good, life is too short for limiting available options).