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The 10 Essentials for Outdoor Adventures

I wouldn’t be able to tell you the story below if the individual had been carrying the 10 essentials.

Let me tell you a true story that never made the headlines.

This happened 30+ years ago near La Ronge in northern Saskatchewan at a bush camp close to where my husband worked. There was a young woman who was the cook in camp. She sometimes had time on her hands and wanted to be doing more than just the cooking. One beautiful, unseasonably warm, sunny day in January she was finally given her chance and was told to do a traverse and hook up to a known point. Unfortunately miles into the traverse a blizzard literally blew up out of nowhere; she was poorly dressed and woefully unprepared. Nevertheless she continued walking for close to 20 miles looking for a known road (while actually paralleling the nearby road) until she succumbed to the cold. They found her frozen in a sitting position with a compass in her hand. Had she carried the 10 essentials, chances are she would be about 55 years old today.

Emergencies can occur in any weather to anybody anywhere in the world. So, if you’re heading outdoors into any sort of wilderness situation then packing the following 10 essentials could save your life or at the very least make an emergency situation more comfortable.

Include in your backpack these 10 essentials for outdoor adventures:

  • Map – A GPS does not replace a map. Not only should you have a map but you should know how to read it. The batteries in your GPS can die; I was also once in a situation of extreme cold where the GPS didn’t work.
  • Compass – know how to use it; this may sound like an antiquated piece of equipment in the digital age but it always works (OK – not always – it doesn’t work if you are around strongly magnetic rocks or in the vicinity of the magnetic north or south pole)
  • Flashlight and headlamp with spare bulbs and batteries
  • Extra food – an extra day’s worth of food is ideal for warmth and strength
"Extra food in easy to eat bar form"

Extra food in easy to eat bar form

  • Extra clothing – this can keep you or an injured partner warm and help prevent shock
  • Sunglasses and sunscreen
  • First aid kit – everyone in your party should have a kit; buy a readymade one or construct your own
  • Swiss army style or similar pocket knife
  • Matches in a waterproof container (I always take a few lighters as a backup)
  • Fire starter such as a candle or paste you can buy in a camping store
  • Extra water plus a filter or drops for purifying

Although those are the 10 essentials there are a few light weight additions that I believe are worthwhile.

  • duct tape – it can repair a lot of gear
  • cell phone though DO NOT RELY on it
  • bivy sack or at the very least a green garbage bag and a small piece of foam – to help preserve warmth if you’re sitting

Go prepared and you’ll be ready for any outdoor adventure.

Leigh McAdam

Author of Discover Canada: 100 Inspiring Outdoor Adventures
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Author Leigh

Avid world traveler. Craves adventure - & the odd wildly epic day. Gardener. Reader. Wine lover. Next big project - a book on 100 Canadian outdoor adventures.

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Join the discussion 2 Comments

  • Kris Gaudet says:

    Love your blog, very helpful! I’m a beginner in the hiking/camping world, and I’m trying to find as much info as possible. I was in Army Cadets from the age of 12 to 19, (I’m 29 now and may have forgotten to use a map and compass lol) I do know a few things but there’s always so much to learn! Thanks a lot, great reads!


    Kris G

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