The Ten Essentials: Equipment for Every Outdoor Enthusiast

The Ten Essentials: Equipment for Every Outdoor Enthusiast
Authored By Oliver Sehulster

By Lance Garland

The standard wisdom for any outdoor adventure is to bring Ten Essential pieces of equipment in order to be prepared for whatever you may encounter in the outdoors. The list includes:

1: Navigation. This includes a compass, a map, and the know-how to use them. GPS is also useful but make sure to have reserve battery sources.

2: Nutrition. Make sure to pack the right kind of food for your activity. Packing for a short day-hike is vastly different from climbing a mountain, and the nutrients your body requires for each activity. Improper food can lead to hazards that can prove deadly.

3: Hydration. Pack enough water and a filtration or purification device to make more drinkable water when you run out. Also, know if there are water sources where you are going.

4: Sun protection. Polarized sunglass can keep you from going snow-blind on glaciers. Sunscreen, lip balm, and headgear can help detour heatstroke. A good buff or bandana will protect your neck and face. Alpinists know, traversing a snowfield can give you a sunburn around your nostrils and below your chin. Protect yourself.

5: Insulation. As you ascend a mountain, the weather can change drastically. Be prepared to throw on extra layers as the sun falls behind that ridge or the alpine wind picks up.

6: Illumination. Even though we all have a flashlight on our phones, most likely that won’t be good enough. Do yourself a favor and add a good headlamp to your gear. It’ll keep your hands free and light up your campsite.

7: First-aid kit. You’ll need more than band aids. Antibiotics, sterilization wipes, trauma dressings and wrap bandages, pain relievers, antihistamines, and personalized prescriptions are all part of a good kit.

8: Fire starter. Lighters, flint, or matches, preferably a few different options, all packed in waterproof containers.

9: Repair kit and tools. A multi-tool or pocketknife, along with specific repairs for gear like patch kits for an inflatable mattress. There’s nothing worse than sleeping on the cold ground.

10: Emergency shelter. An emergency blanket or bivy sack can weigh almost nothing and be smaller than your fist but can save you or a member of your group if things get tough out there.


Recent outdoors advocates recommend an eleventh number to this list.

11: Communication device. Devices like the Garmin In Reach can prove lifesaving in the backcountry. Not only is it a GPS device, but it also allows you to make phone-calls to authorities that can send a helicopter or search team to rescue you. Bringing your cellphone, fully charged is a smart idea as well.


All of these items are essential equipment for successful outdoors adventures, but after years of explorations, I’ve come up with a few of my own.

12: Creature comforts. I like to bring something personal on all my trips. For me, that’s a book I can read during downtimes, like acclimatization on Mount Rainier, where I read Dusk by James Salter. I also like to bring a small book for note-taking. Find something that brings you joy and pack it along with you.

13: Summit snacks. Climbers like to reward themselves for a successful summit bid by packing a sweet treat to eat on the mountaintop. I’ve started bringing a snack that’s big enough to share with the whole team. On my last ascent—The Tower in North Cascade National Park—I packed a spare bag of gummy worms. It definitely makes a moment that much the sweeter when shared by everyone, together.

Well, that’s my list to fully prepare for epic adventures into the backcountry. What’s yours? Do you have anything to add to this list?


While Lance fights fire in Seattle, climbs the mountains of the Pacific Northwest, and sails the Salish Sea, he writes. Recent work has appeared in Outside Online, Cutbank, and The Stranger, which listed his writing on The Best American Journalism of 2018. Upcoming work will appear in Orion Magazine, along with their 2020 anthology, The Nature of

Scroll To Top