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    Default Pack List Basics Part 1: The 10 Essentials (Packing List)

    PACKING LIST BASICS
    By Taz1
    Last Edited 23 Nov 2005

    What to bring? What not to bring? Some things are essential. Some things are not. Some packs are light. Some are heavy. Sometimes you bring something you wish you didnít, sometimes you donít bring something you wish did. What you do eventually bring is a personal choice but there is nothing like good planning and good choices to make sure your hike is enjoyable. Remember this: A failure to plan is a plan to fail.

    Generally, there are 10 things you never leave home without. Most hikers have their own opinion on what is essential or not. Lightweight hiker afficiondos might cut the essentials list in half, or less! What you leave out (or add) depends on your passion for lightweight hiking or your ability to carry heavier loads. The 10 essentials are:

    1. map
    2. compass
    3. extra clothing
    4. fire starter
    5. matches
    6. sunglasses and sunscreen
    7. extra food, including water and a way to purify it
    8. pocket knife
    9. first aid kit
    10. flashlight

    A LOOK AT THE TOP 10 ESSENTIALS

    What you pack depends on your planning, your experience and simply how much you can or are willing to carry. For example, I rarely bushwhack so I almost never carry a compass. If needed, I can usually get my bearings by the sun or using a map and terrain associating. Therefore I almost always have a map and/or photocopies of a trail guide. (I used to carry a GPS, but it seems that more often than not I have had trouble getting a signal, so now it stays at home. But I love my therm-a-rest chair!)

    Extra clothing will be dependant on the weather and your environment. Since much of the AT traverses through mountains and mountain weather can change suddenly, an extra set of dry clothes or wet weather gear goes with me. I will take up to 3 pairs of sox (and liners) depending on how many days I am out. Happy feet means happy trails; you have to take care of your feet. Remember that planning, experience and knowledge are your friends. Know your environment and if possible, expected weather forecasts.

    A small Bic lighter may be better to ignite your fire starter than damp matches. Iíve used windproof matches that burn like a 4th of July sparkler! Fire starter is easily obtained commercially and naturally. If gathering fire starter from the woods, remember Leave No Trace (LNT) ethics.

    Even Bic lighters are susceptible to dampness and will not light. One hiker reports that he carries a little bottle of alcohol, an altoids tin candle, and 1/3rd of a magnesium fire starter. The alcohol is used to start the candle from a spark, and then the candle is used to start a stove or a twig fire. The candle can be used as a light, eliminating the need for a flashlight.

    I have never used sunglasses and sunscreen in the woods. I get all the shade I need from trees. Again, if you are planning above tree line hiking, these might be good to bring along. I leave these at home.

    I generally donít bring ďextraĒ food but always seem to have some in my pack when I get off the trail anyway. If I were thru hiking or doing 15 to 20 miles a day I would probably gobble up what I have. Water is another matter. I tend to be paranoid about running out of water. For extended trips I usually start with a 5-liter dromedary that is full. Thatís about 10 pounds of weight but I constantly sip the drinking tube while moving. Also, your body canít last as long without water as it can without food. The dromedary is also useful in camp. I usually fill it up when I get to a shelter or campsite and there is plenty to drink and cook with until morning.

    The lightest way to purify water is to not purify it at all, but that isnít recommended, especially when water sources are of a poor quality. Whoís to say the quality is good or not? Another option is using chemicals, like iodine tablets. Fortunately for me, the iodine taste does not make me gag. For extra weight and a lot more cost, there are a variety of water pump/purifiers. The safest way to purify, but also burn fuel, is to boil the water. Different sources claim different lengths of time to ďboilĒ the water. According to The Complete Walker IV by Colin Fletcher and Chip Rawlins, a 2-minute boil should kill anything. (This 800 plus page book contains so much information it hurts to read! Be warned that it is not the best source of information for lightweight hiking. Equipment technology progresses so rapidly that more up to date info can be found searching the internet).

    My pocketknife of choice is a swiss army knife (the fieldmaster model, I think). It has all the gadgets I need. Iíve even used the saw to cut firewood! Next to water, I value my pocket knife the most.

    It is hard to say which of the essential items is the most essential, but the top of the list includes a first aid kit. It should contain gauze pads and a gauze roll, band aids, alcohol swabs, butterfly closures, a triangular bandage, pain killers (ibuprofen works great for me!), adhesive tape, ace bandage, moleskin, tweezers, small scissors, safety pins and personal medications if needed. (My swiss army knife has scissors and tweezers on it). A small first aid manual wouldnít hurt either if you donít actually have the knowledge to use the kit. Wilderness and Travel Medicine by Eric Weiss is pocket sized and cost about $7. It can be found at www.campmor.com

    The last essential is a flashlight. I normally use a mini-mag lite for reading after dark, but this is a heavy choice. Iíve only stealth hiked one time and the mini-mag was enough to light the trail and see blazes. I got to a shelter just as it started to rain. I also have a tiny Black Diamond headlamp, which weighs much less. Small LED lights work too. On shorter trips, I may pack along a Coleman Excursion lantern.

    There are a number of different pieces of equipment that are available for the 10 essentials. What you get, that is how much you want to carry, is up to you. A good choice for a piece of equipment is one that has multiple uses, such as the trusty swiss army knife. It cuts moleskin, removes ticks, produces fire starter, slices pepperoni, cuts tie down and many other things. I am not a lightweight fanatic so I could probably trim a few pounds here and there. Iím usually at about 35 pounds before food and water is added.
    Last edited by SGT Rock; 11-23-2005 at 12:21.

  2. #2
    Because no one ever died wishing he had spent more time in the office kroe's Avatar
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    I find it amusing that half of the stuff considered "essential" on this list is also on the "Things to Leave Behind" list

  3. #3

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    Yeah, i wouldn't take half that stuff. sunglasses on the AT? for what?

    THat must be an old list from the 1960's boy scout handbook or something.

    I do see it's an old thread. Lots of that going around these days. Must be cabin fever.

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    I am looking for the simplist and lightest weight gear lists from successful thru hikers. thanks - submariner

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    Registered User oops56's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by submariner View Post
    I am looking for the simplist and lightest weight gear lists from successful thru hikers. thanks - submariner
    Just put it all in your pack weigh it if to much fix it

  6. #6
    Spanky MEPA '02, MEGA '08 spanky's Avatar
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    Default One thing missing on your "10 essentials" list...

    toilet paper

  7. #7

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    My thinking on the 10 Essentials is that they are the items most needed to stay warm, and found (either not lost, or easy to find) in the back country under normal circumstances.

    It's arguable what the "back country" is and how much you can drop from the list when you're closer to civilization like much of the AT is. However, as I understand it, the idea of the list came from thwarting the most common causes of unnecessary Search and Rescue like Hypothermia, being lost with no sense of how to get out, etc. With that in mind things like sunglasses (except maybe in the desert or in snow covered terrain) and toilet paper probably don't fit the list.

    I've seen at least a dozen or more variations on the list. But the most common ones seem to come close to what www.hikesafe.com publishes. And, of course, the list would need to be adjusted based on typical climate, etc.

    Map
    Compass
    Warm Clothing
    - Sweater or Pile Jacket
    - Long Pants (wool or synthetic)
    - Hat (wool)
    Extra Food and Water
    Flashlight or Headlamp
    Matches/Fire starters
    First Aid Kit/Repair Kit
    Whistle
    Rain/Wind Jacket & Pants
    Pocket Knife

    In the end though I think the list is a personal decision to be weighed against conditions, location, hiker experience and skill, etc. I have seen UL'ers put many of these items together in only a few ounces with a little creativity so there's likely little reason to leave too many of them behind.

    Just my humble opinion...
    Tom G.
    A pack on my back and boots on my feet... Life is good!

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    What do you all think the most effiecient fire starter is?

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    Registered User oops56's Avatar
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    My wife she can get the wood stove fired up when cold better then me.

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    Registered User fahmah's Avatar
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    Best firestarter to carry for emergencies- white birch bark or a handful of yellow birch bark...

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    Provided you have a lighter or matches, cotton balls in vaseline work well, as does vegetable oil, as does hand sanitizer, etc. Lots of normally carried stuff will burn, getting it ignited is usually the hardest part. I always have a backup to the bic.

  12. #12

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    Quote Originally Posted by 4eyedbuzzard View Post
    Provided you have a lighter or matches, cotton balls in vaseline work well, as does vegetable oil, as does hand sanitizer, etc. Lots of normally carried stuff will burn, getting it ignited is usually the hardest part. I always have a backup to the bic.
    .....and candle stubs and fine steel wool (burns like a mini bonfire), dryer lint soaked with vaseline or wax. A no-cost option is waxed paper milk cartons cut into small squares at home.
    Potato chips work, too.
    As mentioned above, if you carry vegetable oil for cooking, you have a great firestarter. Pour some on a piece of cloth as a wick, light, and away you go.
    Esbit tabs work very well, too, especially if you already carry them to boil water with.
    As I live, declares the Lord God, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn back from his way and live. Ezekiel 33:11

  13. #13

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    "Best firestarter"? Hand sanitizer. Leave the alcohol swabs from the first aid kit at home. Hand sanitizer is a multipurpose item - great firestarter, disinfects cuts/abrasions,cleans hands. Of course, the alohol swabs can also serve as firestarter.

  14. #14

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    Quote Originally Posted by Mike Tulane View Post
    "Best firestarter"? Hand sanitizer. Leave the alcohol swabs from the first aid kit at home. Hand sanitizer is a multipurpose item - great firestarter, disinfects cuts/abrasions,cleans hands. Of course, the alohol swabs can also serve as firestarter.
    Shop around for hand sanitizer with the highest alcohol content. They aren't all created equal as far as fire starting is concerned.

    Sanitizer soaked twisted toilet paper burns a good long while.
    As I live, declares the Lord God, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that the wicked turn back from his way and live. Ezekiel 33:11

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    Registered User Gnome7's Avatar
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    Large Stick matches soaked in Paraffin oil and carried in a small waterproof match stick case with strike bar. I found the case at surplus store. I carry cotton balls soaked with Vaseline in a 35mm film case, fire starter.

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    Actually, I think the original list is pretty good.

    I'd add extra batteries for your headlamp; duct tape; and I also carry a two inch metal sleeve from the Hardware Store. That and the duct tape will absolutely save your bacon if you break a tent pole and have to splint it, and this happens to people more often than you might think.

  17. #17

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    Quote Originally Posted by Marcello View Post
    What do you all think the most effiecient fire starter is?

    Dryer Lint

  18. #18

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    I always get a kick out of how people say they would carry sunglasses and sunscreen, a knife and flashlight before they would carry a sleeping bag and shelter.
    To each his own i guess.
    Don't let your fears stand in the way of your dreams

  19. #19

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    "The 10 Essentials" at my website may vary from "classic list" published by The Mountaineers

    http://www.ultralightbackpackingonline.info/facts1.html and http://www.mountaineersbooks.org/client/client_pages/Media%20Archives/mtn_media_TenEssentials.cfm

    but notice their "Ten Essential Systems" includes emergency shelter.

    I don't know, if Freedom of the Hills published the other list first, or REI.

    I remember having "The 10 Essentials" printed sheet put in my hand at the upstairs Pike Street REI store.

    I don't have my original Freedom of the Hills anymore. It was our "bible".

    That said, I was with the people who developed "The 10 Essentials".

    There was a lot of discussion and I participated in it. George Martin, at the Olympic College Mountaineering program, put the first "The 10 Essentials" list I saw in my hand.

    It was not, "Buy a list of stuff and you will be okay".

    It came about the time that a MD was sued for helping an accident victim on the highway.

    "The Good Samaritan Law" existed.

    We decided we in Mountain Rescue would "push the limits". In fact, we were allowed to do more than a "field medic" if we were 50 miles from a MD. We did, and with success.

    Next, fire departments were allowed to have a "rescue car".

    Next, EMT's.

    The 10 Essentials were only one effort.

    We just wanted people to have safe and enjoyable outdoor experiences.

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    Quote Originally Posted by fiddlehead View Post
    I always get a kick out of how people say they would carry sunglasses and sunscreen, a knife and flashlight before they would carry a sleeping bag and shelter.
    To each his own i guess.
    I asked a local eye doc for one of those plastic throwaway post-cataract sunglasses and he gave me several. I just pop those somewhere in my backpack, lumbar pack, and glove box.
    "Keep moving: death is very, very still."
    ---Lily Wagner (nee Hennessy)

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