Posted by Nate on

In the 1930’s, a Seattle-based group of climbing and backpacking enthusiasts came together and created a list of items that they considered essential for responding positively to an emergency situation and that would enable a person to spend a night or more outdoors.  Originally comprised of ten individual items, the list was updated in 2003 to take a more holistic approach to preparedness by replacing specific items with systems that when taken together provide increased options and capabilities.  The list is as follows:

1) Navigation

A detailed map of the area you’ll be visiting and a compass are two must-have items in this system.  Just make sure to dust off your old orienteering merit badge handbook if necessary to avoid a false sense of security.  GPS makes a great addition for tech-savvy adventurers, but just keep in mind the limitations of battery-powered electronics. Shop for maps at The Ready Project.

2) Sun Protection

Think about including sunglasses, sunblock and appropriate clothing (including a hat) in this system.  Sunglasses should block 100% of ultraviolet light (UVA and UVB rays), fit comfortably and not give reason for someone to confuse you with Steve Erkel.  Compared to avaiator style glasses, wraparounds provide greater coverage and help keep your eyes protected from the wind and loose debris.  Sunscreen should also offer UVA and UVB protection.  SPF 30+ is recommended for extended outdoor activities and don’t be afraid to lather it on.  Also, a number of manufacturers offer lightweight synthetic clothing that offer a built in SPF factor.

3) Insulation

An extra layer of clothing can be a lifesaver when the weather takes a turn for the worse.  When trying to decide what to bring, consider what the worst possible weather conditions that could be reasonably encountered and plan accordingly. When it comes to clothing materials for outdoor activities, remember the adage, ‘cotton is rotten, plastic’s fantastic.’  In this case, plastic refers to nylon and other polymer-based synthetic fibers and fabrics.

4) Illumination

Headlamps are widely considered the best option for providing lighting in the backcountry.  They are lightweight, compact and provide hands free operation.  Recent improvements in LED technology now mean your headlamp can provide performance once limited to large and heavy handheld flashlights.  If space and weight permits, be sure to build redundancy into your system by adding a backup light source and at a minimum, backup batteries.  While more expensive than traditional alkaline options, lithium batteries last considerably longer and weigh less.  Shop The Ready Project’s selection of headlamps.

5) First-Aid Supplies

A growing number of pre-assembled first-aid kits are available in the market, although there is wide variation in quality and medical capabilities.  Always think through your kit to determine if any additional items such as personal medications are required to meet your needs.  The length of your trip and number of people in your party will help determine how comprehensive your kit should be.  For most fast and light trips, the Adventure Medical Sportsman Firstaid Kit is a great place to start.

6) Fire

Fire making capability is another area where it makes sense to build redundancy into your system.  The importance of having the ability to make fire in a wilderness survival scenario can’t be overstated.  Waterproof matches, lighters, and firesteel are all lightweight, compact options for getting a flame or spark.  Depending on conditions and surrounding topography, a firestarter may also be handy to build and sustain a fire.  Military-grade Ready Fuel, offered exclusively by The Ready Project, makes a great lightweight addition to this system.

7) Repair Kit and Tools

A repair kit can come in handy for fixing puncures to your tent or air matress on a backpacking trip, but the truth is they often get forgotten and left at home. Make McGyver proud and pack a little duct tape.  Instead of carrying a big, bulky roll, wrap a 10-20 foot length around an old credit card for a lightweight and compact solution.  Also consider adding a knife and/or multi-tool to this system.  A good knife will sharpen easily, hold an edge and be comfortable to work with.  A 4 ½ - 6” blade should be able to handle general-purpose tasks.  Typically fixed blades are stronger and more durable than folding options.  A multi-tool can provide a back-up blade and may inlude other tools such as scissors, pliers, wire cutters, screwdrivers, can openers, etc.  Shop multi-tool options available at The Ready Project.

8 ) Nutrition (extra food)

Being able to sustain yourself for an extended period of time means that you include additional food above and beyond your calculated requirements.  Plan on an extra day’s worth as a minimum.  Freeze dried meals, energy bars, trail mix, etc. are a good place to start.  Food choices that require little or no preparation are preferable to time intensive options, in case you are injured or have a failure in another system (fire, water, etc).  Be sure that your additions provide a mix of carbs, proteins and fats to keep your body and mind functioning at an optimal level.

9) Hydration (extra water)

Plan on carrying at least 1 water reservoir - canteen, bottle water bladder or similar.  Be sure to research ahead of time the availability of water in the area you’ll be visiting and depending on weather, season and climate, you may want to add additional water storage capabilities.  Be sure to include a method or two (notice a theme developing?) to treat drinking water, whether it’s boiling, a handheld filter or chemical treatment.  Shop The Ready Project’s selection of filters and purifiers.

10) Emergency Shelter

The ability to get out of the elements (wind, rain, etc.) may be key to preserving core temperatures and maintaining bodily function in an emergency scenario.  Lightweight and compact emergency shelter choices include packing a tarp, a bivy sack, an emergency space blanket or even an oversized trash bag.  The Adventure Medical Heatsheets Emergency Bivy offers considerable protection, reflecting 90% of body heat in a small and light (3.5 oz) form factor.

Hopefully as you’ve been reading through this list you’ve been able to see that multiple items working in tandem create systems that could help sustain life in an emergency scenario.  Chances are you’ve thought of other items or systems you would incorporate into your loadout.  Start working through your personalized list and put your systems to use.  By getting out and testing your equipment you’ll become better acquainted with their strengths and shortcomings.  Over time you’ll be able to develop systems that will build your confidence, increase your ability to handle a crisis situation and help you Live Life Ready™.


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