The Ten Essentials Needed for Survival

essential skills survival Nov 10, 2020
Survival, off grid living
There is a lot of talk in mountaineering circles about the “Ten Essentials”. This was a list that first appeared in the 3rd edition of Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills, released in 1974. The 9th edition was released in November 2017. The purpose of the Ten Essentials is to answer two basic questions:
  1. Can you respond positively to an accident or emergency?
  2. Can you safely spend a night (or more) outside? 

First and foremost, this blog is not about outdoor survival, camping, hiking, and mountaineering.  It is about living a simple life off the grid. But many of us who live off the grid, myself included, do so in an isolated area with few if any neighbors.  Consequently, you have to know how to deal with the unexpected and make certain you always have the basics that are necessary for survival.  For this reason, I just want to do a quick post on the Ten Essentials.  

If you have read my post on the 100 Best Homestead Tools, then you know that you are not going to use all of those tools everyday.  It is the same with the Ten Essentials.  You may not always need every one of these things.  However, these tools and equipment will undoubtedly keep you safe.  Certain equipment deserves space on every homestead and in every backpack. This equipment is the Ten Essentials.  So, let’s dive in.  

Here is the classic Ten Essentials List: 

  1. Map
  2. Compass
  3. Sunglasses and sunscreen
  4. Extra clothing
  5. Headlamp or flashlight
  6. First Aid Supplies
  7. Firestarter
  8. Matches
  9. Knife
  10. Extra food

But, the initial list has now evolved into something a bit more extensive.  

The Ten Essential Systems: 

  1. Navigation: Compass, GPS Device, Map, altimeter, extra batteries
  2. Headlamp: extra batteries
  3. Sun protection: Sunscreen, sunglasses, protective clothing
  4. First aid kit
  5. Knife: and repair kit for equipment
  6. Fire: Matches, fire starters, tinder, lighter, stove
  7. Shelter: This can be a tent or a light weight bivy. Some sort of shelter should be carried at all time.  
  8. Extra food: one day extra at least
  9. Extra water: or the means to purify water in the field
  10. Extra clothes: as needed for your local environment

1) Navigation

Five things are essential for navigation in the backcountry: map, compass, GPS device, altimeter, and a personal locator beacon (PLB). 

2) Headlamp

Headlamps have replaced flashlights altogether.  Using a headlamp will free up your hands for doing many other things. Modern headlamps have highly efficient LED bulbs and use smaller batteries. Always carry extra batteries and consider carrying a back up headlamp. 

3) Sun Protection

Sun protection is critical is you spend a lot of time outdoors and especially in the high country.  Wear high quality sunglasses and sunscreen with a rating of at least SPF 30. Light weight sun protective clothing is even more effective than sunscreen.  Proper sun protection will prevent sun burn, snow blindness, and other things such as skin cancer.  Also, whenever possible, wear a hat.  

4) First Aid Kit

Always carry a personal kit and know how to use it.  I strongly recommend getting certified in first aid and getting certified as a first responder. 

5) Knife and repair kit

Knifes are a universal backcountry tool and every person should have one.  A multitool is also another indispensable addition. Other useful items are strong tape, wire, cable ties, webbing, and replacement parts for water filters, stove, crampons, etc.  

6) Fire

Carry several means of starting a fire such as matches, lighters, calcium carbide and a sparking device.  Also, carrying fire starters such as cotton balls soaked with petroleum jelly or commercially prepared products. If you are in high altitude areas where wood is not available, carry a backpacking stove as a source of heat.  

7) Shelter

Some sort of emergency shelter is essential.  It can save your life.  This can be a small tent or a bivy sack. A person bivy sack weighs about one pound and can protect you from wind, rain, and snow. 

8) Extra food

Unexpected things such as weather, injury, or faulty navigation can delay your return. Be prepared by carrying extra food. It should be things that store well and require no cooking such as dried fruit, nuts, jerky, and granola.  

9) Extra water

Water is absolutely essential for survival. Carry at least one water bottle and the means of purifying more water as needed.  While hydration bladders are popular because they easily store in your pack and have a convenient hose to drink out of, they are prone to leaking, freezing, and are difficult to keep clean.  Stick with water bottles.  I’ve had the same ones for many years. 

10) Extra clothes

Extra clothes serve as a means to keep warm in the event you have to spend the night in your emergency shelter.  Plan for the worse possible weather considering your geographical location. 

This is only a guide

Remember, this list is only a guide to essential gear.  Geographical location, potential weather, the length of the trip, and remoteness from potential help all needs to be factored into your plans.  No guide can replace sound forethought and planning based on your experience.  Each of the items on this list are discussed in more detail in the original publication. 

Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills

For further reading on related topics, check out the following posts: 

The Importance of Learning Basic First Aid
How to Build a First Aid Kit


Go off grid and live well, 


Reader Interactions

Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet, consectetur adipiscing elit. Cras sed sapien quam. Sed dapibus est id enim facilisis, at posuere turpis adipiscing. Quisque sit amet dui dui.
Call To Action

Stay connected with news and updates!

Join our mailing list to receive the latest news and updates from our team.
Don't worry, your information will not be shared.

We hate SPAM. We will never sell your information, for any reason.