In which I think about the Ten Essentials and wonder about stuff

I grew up surrounded by Boy Scouts. My brother was a Scout (eventually an Eagle Scout), my dad was a Scouter (scout troop leader), I dated Scouts, I hung out with Scouts, I even spent some time hiking with Scouts.

With a background like this, I suppose it's only natural that I didn't really realize that "regular" people don't always know about the Mountaineers, and thus might not know about the Ten Essentials.
So, for all the "regular people" who are reading this, here's the information:

The Mountaineers are a group of Seattle-based outdoor recreation enthusiasts, who first banded together as an organization in 1906. The main purpose of the organization is to to explore and study the mountains, forests and water courses of the Northwest and to gather into permanent form the history and traditions of these regions and explorations.

They've also, collectively, written a ton of books about hiking and climbing and how to do those things safely. Their most well-known and universally-used bit of advice is to always carry the Ten Essentials.

And what are these Ten Essentials? I knew you would ask!

Ten Essentials: The Classic List

Sunglasses and sunscreen
Extra clothing
First-aid supplies
Extra food

Pretty common-sense stuff, right? Um. How many of these "essentials" do you always carry on a long ride?


Well, because the Mountaineers are based in the Extreme Geek-Heavy Pacific Northwest, the list has been updated to the Ten Essential Systems:

Ten Essential Systems

Navigation (map and compass) 
Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
Insulation (extra clothing)
Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
First aid supplies
Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candle)
Repair kit and tools
Nutrition (extra food)
Hydration (extra water)
Emergency shelter (tarp/plastic tube tent/garbage bag)

With the recent extreme conditions endured by the 100-mile competitors at the Big Horn Endurance Ride (to read the details, go to and search the discussion list for the past few days for stories about the ride in Wyoming), it occurs to me that it might be a good idea to think about the good ol' ten essentials.

What do I have with me? What am I forgetting?

Lemmee see:

navigation - During a competition, I take whatever navigation aids are available, including ride maps and trail descriptions, a local map if I can find one, and my GPS. I also have a compass, because the GPS is notoriously unreliable in some of our more frequent Swamplander weather systems. When I'm riding but not competing, I generally take the GPS (unless it's very cloudy) and a roll of surveyer's tape to mark trail as I go if in unfamiliar territory. Check!

sun protection - I sunburn easily, and I not only wear sunscreen, I take extra with me. Check!

insulation - I also get cold easily, and I normally carry an extra jacket unless I'm on trails very familiar and close to home. Check!

illumination - there's a little maglight in my fanny-pack. Check!

first aid supplies - bandaids, vet wrap, duct tape, ibuprofen, benedryl, desitin. Is that enough? Hmmmm.

fire - I have a little purple lighter, wrapped in a little piece of paper--the beginnings of a bonfire, if one is needed. Check!

repair kit and tools - duct tape, vet wrap, (hmmmm, hopefully I won't need first aid and equipment repair on the same day?) cable "zip" ties, a hoofpick, and a multi-tool gadget. Check!

nutrition - I usually carry at least a granola bar or string cheese except for very short local rides. For a longer ride, a sandwich, a little can of V-8, and some almonds get tossed into my bag. And some horse cookies, too! Check!

hydration - as mentioned in a recent post, I generally carry a couple of water bottles for myself and a couple of bottles to squirt on my horse, especially during competitions, but also for any trail ride longer than an hour. Check!

emergency shelter - an emergency-prep guy once recommended garbage bags over space blankets to me, with the explanation that space blankets tear very easily, they make a lot of noise (which isn't necessarily welcomed by spooky horses!), and they aren't a good shape to drape over a person. A garbage bag is sturdy, can be made "blanket shaped", "poncho shaped", or even "garbage bag shaped", depending on the need, is quiet, and can be squashed permanently at the bottom of a pack until it's needed some day. Which is what I did. It's still there, just in case I need it some day. Check.

Whew! I thought I was going to feel bad for going without my Ten Essentials, and apparently I don't leave home without them.

How about you, Gentle Readers? What do you take with you? What do you leave behind?

Also: what do you have in your horse packs, and what do you have on your body?

(Because sometimes those two things don't stay together.)

I want to hear your thoughts and opinions!


  1. omgosh that's so weird, i'd forgotten about the mountaineers.

    i used to go eat lunch at their headquarters cuz they are (were?) located directly behind my office building on queen anne.

    i don't know how i discovered that outsiders can go enjoy their warm buffet lunches, but i loved sitting on their huge balcony. it was kind of my secret, cuz no one else at my company ( knew.

    they have all this antique outdoor gear on the walls too, and pictures just like the one you posted. (the same one?)

    what a trip!


  2. Two things - a knife and a cell phone (both on me). I'm thinking of adding an emergency contact card (on me) and some ID tags for bridle and saddle (in case horse and I become separated). I don't do long-distance riding so don't need all the other things on your list, and we've got cell phone reception everywhere I go.

  3. Man, Big Horn sounds like a Jon Krakauer book just waiting to be written. (I still want to ride it!)

    When we first moved out here, I spent about 4 hours hiking a trail that I thought would take 2. I ran out of water, too. I realized that this area is nothing like home and started doing a lot of reading about hiking, figuring I could modify it for riding too. I read the 10 Essentials stuff and I halfway follow it.

    I always have sunglasses, a cell phone/gps/compass, a knife, and a firestarter on me. Sometimes there's food in my fanny pack, but not always. My pommel bag has an emergency blanket, and sometimes I tie a jacket behind the saddle. There's a hoofpick and a multitool in the bag, too. And of course I usually have 2L of water in a bag. Repair kit: I have extra string and carabiners all over my saddle, but I should add duct tape too.

    For all that it's a desert, this area is actually easier

  4. Crap.

    "...easier to ride in than the PNW. No rain, so no hypothermia. No clouds, so excellent GPS signal. No trees, so I can always see a mountain I recognize and head toward it.

    As much as I -want- to go ride in Other Beautiful Places, I'm kinda scared to!

  5. Fabulous post. Thoughtful and helpful!
    I rarely get out on the trails, so I'll give a list of emergency arena riding essentials (somewhat tongue in cheek)
    1. Navigation equipment (I can't memorize the stupid letters on the arena. But I have Google maps in case I get lost between C and R!)
    2. Food. Don't ask.
    3. Cell phone clipped to boot (easier to reach than waist, and less likely to be broken if I get tossed - plus what if the President calls, right?)
    4. Layers of clothing.
    5. Clip on ropers knife. (this recently came in handy when a cast horse had to be cut out of a twisted turn out sheet. Technically not in arena, but easy to leap off, not rummage, and help out)
    6. Watch
    7. Gloves
    8. Horse cookies (helps tame loose horses when someone else gets tossed, or can be used as training tool for the exceptionally oral horse.)
    9. Helmet. Pun intended: No brainer.
    10. Hoof pick. I'm too lazy to go alllll the way back to the tack room.
    I hope this saves some arena riders lives, should they be currently unprepared. :)

  6. JANE: Hahahahahahaha!
    Thanks, I needed that.

  7. I've always found it odd that the original 10 essentials didn't include water, and had food instead. A person can survive a week without any food, but only a couple days without any water.
    Here in the desert southwest, water is a must because it's rare to find any creeks, lakes or rivers on any of our trails.

    I like to bring gatorade on my trail rides because I find that I'll drink more and it adds essential electrolytes, salts and sugars while out in the blazing hot sun for hours.
    I also bring snack size bags of trail mix for me and an apple and horse cookies for my horse.

    I keep my cell phone on my leg ad my multi-tool clipped to my belt loop or in a fanny pack.

    I've not had any need yet for GPS or a compass, though I do have compass and know how to use it.
    We rarely ever get rain here, but I do have a slicker that I can pack on my saddle pags if storm clouds ever do form enough to dump a few rain drops.

    No need for extra layers here, unless I intend to ride in January, which I might, so I'll remember the layers then.

    Most important essential for me out on a trail ride is my helmet.



Post a Comment

To err is human. To be anonymous is not.

Popular Posts