The first category for these essentials is going to be navigation. You may not think you will need this if you are going some place that you think you know. This thinking could be very dangerous should you get disoriented or lost. With modern technology many people use handheld GPS to navigate. These are excellent tools to use for general navigation and being able to backtrack or get back to a specific location. I generally use a basic GPS when I am out or even use the app Trimble Outdoors Navigator for short local trips. I really like GPS but if you are going to use it I strongly recommend carrying extra batteries. Even if you are using electronic navigation you should always carry a map and compass as a backup. This is important because batteries can die and electronics can fail. When you do carry a map and compass you will want to keep it in a waterproof container or bag to keep it dry.
The next item you will want to carry on you is first aid supplies. In this kit you will want to keep all the basics for minor injuries and for more serious injuries or activity specific items. In this kit you will also want to keep extra medication if you are on any life sustaining medications. If you would get lost you do not want to be without things such as insulin for a diabetic or an inhaler if you have asthma. You will want to keep these items in their original containers. If you have to use anything in this kit you will want to replace it before your next trip.
The next thing you need is protection from the elements. Typically you want to be prepared for the extremes for the season you are going out in. Dressing in layers will help you to be prepared for highs and lows in temperatures. You will also want to be prepared for things such as rain, snow, or keeping the sun off of you. Sunscreen is very important in the summer to keep yourself from getting too much sun light and possibly getting sun poisoning.
Having some kind of light for illumination will be another major concern. I always carry at least a flash light and extra batteries on me when I go out. Even if you plan on being home before dark the situation could be out of your control and change that. Being left in the dark is a major problem for trying to remain safe. A flashlight can also give you a little bit of piece of mind if you were to get stuck out in the dark. This can be used to watch where you are walking, checking out a small cave to use for shelter, or even just for being able to read your map.
Keeping several items on you that you can use to start a fire is also very important. I normally like to keep 2-3 options with me for starting a fire. This can be as simple as keeping a lighter, some waterproof matches, and a flint and steel with you. If you were to get lost or stuck in the woods fire is very important for several reasons. It can keep you warm, help you to purify water, and also to keep animals away. Fire is very important and is one thing you definitely don’t want to be without. You will also want to practice starting a fire with these items every once in a while. A flint and steel is worthless if you don’t know how to use it efficiently.
The main tool you should carry at a bare minimum is a sharp and reliable knife. There are ways to make tools even a knife in the outdoors but you would be amazed at the importance of having a knife. Other tools such as a multi-tool, duct tape, and activity specific tools are always good to have on you. For example if you are out on a mountain bike having the tools to do minor repairs can save you if you get a flat tire or broken part on the trail. These tools can change based on what you are doing but at a minimum I would keep a knife on me at all times.
WATER AND FOOD
Having some water and some extra food is also very important. Water is something you can only live for about two days without. Having water with you and also a way to procure more if needed is very important. It is normally recommended that you have two liters of water per person per day. Food is slightly less important since you can live longer without it, but you do need calories to fuel your body when you are active. I usually keep at least a small snack with me even on short trips.
Shelter is another very important item to have on you or being able to make. The shelter you take with you will depend on the activity you are doing. If you are planning on staying overnight you will probably already have some kind of shelter. In all other situations carrying a small emergency sleeping sac or emergency blanket would be a good idea. In an emergency a space blanket will give you something to try to keep body heat in or to stay dry.
Some sort of signaling device is important since it can help you be rescued sooner. This could simply consist of a signalling mirror or emergency whistle. The mirrors will allow you to signal to someone at a distance but could be less effective if there is a lack of sun or light sources. An emergency whistle is going to allow you to make noise and the sound will typically carry a distance to allow rescuers to know where you are at. SPOT Personal Trackers can also lead rescuers to your location if something were to happen and it works like a GPS.
The last thing I would add to this list is a plan. Letting someone know where you are going, what area you will be in, and what your plans are is always a great idea. If someone knows when to expect you and you don’t return they will know something is wrong. This will allow people to start looking for you sooner in an emergency, and let them know where to start looking for you.
This list is not set in stone and will need to be tweaked for the specific situation and activity you are going to partake in. I also have not listed these items in the order of importance, but this is because I want you to remember that all of these items are very important when venturing into the outdoors. Later we will go into each category in more detail. I hope you enjoyed the post and will remember these essentials on your next adventure.