My own “23 Essentials” for comfort and survival

Ever since I was a wee Boy Scout I’ve heard of the “10 essentials”. This list comprises items that would be helpful, (or “essential”) in case an outing doesn’t go as planned. They would help make an unplanned overnight or incident more comfortable, help enable a self-rescue, or signal to potential rescuers. Here’s a recent summary from Lynne Petre (@lgsmash, posted at Sierra Trading Post (@SierraTP It also includes some history of the “10 essentials”, which are categories to customize to your own needs.

10 Essentials from Lynne Petre / Sierra Trading Post

Additionally, I recently saw a Tweet from @PaleSpruce (, (via @WalkSimply, and it made me think again about my personal kit and sharing the contents with a broader audience.

Rewind back about 5 years ago: I started reconnecting with nature, with my career on a good path and our “labor intensive” toddler growing-up. I bought new hiking shoes, a day pack, dusted-off my road bike, bought a mountain bike, and reconnected with the great outdoors.

During my frequent (and increasingly longer and more remote) adventures, I continually refined my “survival kit”. What I have now today has helped me be more comfortable and confident in my outings, as well as being better prepared in case something really goes wrong. This is my “customization” of the “10 essentials” pictured above.

The evolution of my gear list was heavily influenced by a few “oh sh*t moments” where I scared myself a bit. I then reviewed what the worst case scenario would have been and made appropriate adjustments to my future plans. A particularly memorable event, which caused me to buy a SPOT locator (and maybe a change of underwear šŸ˜‰ ) was when I almost stepped on a rattlesnake. I was alone, off-trail, and several miles from a cell phone signal. Not good!

I recall about a year ago, hiking with a friend here in Silicon Valley, and comparing our “kits”. It turns-out his was more First Aid focused, and mine was a bit more aligned with fixing broken gear and making an unplanned overnight more comfortable. We learned a bit from each other and we each added a few items to our kits.


From the top-right:

– Tissues (“comfort” item)
– A pen (to leave notes)
– Tweezers (first aid)
– Parachute cord and thin copper wire (gear repair, splints, etc)
– Wide rubber band (first aid, gear repair)
– “Zip strips” (gear repair)
– iPhone sync cord (I did have one fail on me once…and my “electronic map” could not be recharged!)
– Ibuprofen and plain aspirin (for pain and cardiovascular emergencies)
– A signal mirrror
– About a meter of duct tape (to cover blisters, to make splints)
– Velcro for my gaiters (…or maybe other uses(?))
– Lightweight rain poncho (shelter, signalling)
– Small Mag Light
– A few bandages
– Some cash (food or repair part purchases, beer, taxis, bribing local thugs)
– Orange Post-its (to leave notes)
– Small whistle / compass combination (The compass is a bit lame! You know how to use one, right?)
– Extra AA batteries
– 4 Sudafed tablets
– More duct tape
– Iodine water purification tablets
– A pink sunscreen stick
– Waterproof matches (hidden under the poncho)
– Swiss Army “Classic” pocket knife (hidden under something!)

If you compare this to Lynne Petre’s photographic list, it includes all of the items, with my personal variations, except for nutrition. Is it complete and thorough? Could I add more items and weight? You might say I could be more thorough with the First Aid items, for example, but with all of the scenarios I have been in, or imagined, I think for myself this is a good balance of weight versus “comfort” and “essential items” for the outings I do. Keep in mind also, that creativity and improvising can go a long way. For example, a piece of clothing and duct tape can make a great (non-sterile) bandage

It fits very snugly into a quart-sized Ziploc and weighs just over a pound (~500 grams). In addition to these items, I pick-and-choose a few other items for each particular trip:

– My iPhone with two supplemental “New Trent” brand USB battery packs, with pre-loaded maps (Gaia GPS and or Open Cycle Maps; sometimes screen shots of park brochures or trail maps)
– A Katadyn Hiker water filter
– a SPOT locator, with 2 extra sets of batteries
– Nuun electrolyte tablets
– For cycling trips: a tool kit, spare tube, patch kit and spare parts (see 4th paragraph for a parts list )
– food, water, proper clothing, sun hat, sunscreen.
– For longer trips I would review my trip plans and add a few items, like larger sterile bandages
– …and of course always a paper map (back-up for the iPhone map…I always have a “Plan B”!)

On any given trip, be it cycling or hiking, I usually don’t open the kit. Occasionally I’ll duct-tape a blister, or grab some tissues for a runny nose. Be sure to replace what you use!

Also, please be sure you know how to use this stuff! (Learn some basic First Aid; learn map & compass skills; know how to build a smoky signalling fire from foraged tinder; test your SPOT locator every time you’re away!)

In the spirit of sharing and enjoying the outdoors, what items do you take that I don’t? (…and did you learn anything from my list?)

About AlphaRoaming

Random outdoor roaming: hiking, cycling, camping, backpacking & plotting more of the above Grew up on the edges of the Adirondack mountains of New York, just a bit west of Vermont. Now living in Silicon Valley and venturing out when and where I can!
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5 Responses to My own “23 Essentials” for comfort and survival

  1. Cass says:

    This pretty closely mirrors my kit for hikes and backpacking. I need to add the zip ties to my kit though. Great idea for quick fixes of broken gear. I would add a Leatherman Squirt or some other such small multi tool to your list. The knife and pliers on that come in real handy as well as the screwdrivers.

  2. dcroyle says:

    This is similar to what I carry for backpacking. I tend to carry less on shorter hikes and less remote locations. I do omit items to save weight too. Instead of Post-It notes, I’ll rely on a business card or dollar bill from my wallet in an emergency, or a waterproof geocache logsheet if there may be rain. I don’t carry repair gear for the most part on day hikes, just a little duct tape and a zip tie. I bring a tiny tube of sunblock. I don’t need sunglasses, but now I wear prescription glasses everywhere. I have a tiny first aid kit and always bring a proper (Silva Ranger) compass.

    I tend to use my vehicle as a secondary supply pile, since I don’t have to physically carry all that stuff: a cheap old goretex jacket, gloves and beanies, small water bottles, a bigger first aid kit, a large tube of sunblock, Purel, Tecnu, hand wipes, etc. And a pair of iPhone/iPad charging cables, which can be used with the 4 USB power ports I added.

  3. Pingback: Orestimba Wilderness, Rooster Comb, Robison Creek @ Henry Coe State Park | AlphaRoaming

  4. AXP says:

    Cool kit. I always do 2 fire starters + tinder to make sure I can get something started. Trying to light nature’s tinder with a match can be next to impossible depending on the conditions.

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