Backpack season is over…now what? Back to basics.

So here in the Pacific Northwest, backpacking, at least amongst reasonable folks is over. The rains have begun and the trails are turning to mud. So our troop has shut down our trail related activities in favor of merit badge and rank advancements.  Planning has also begun for the 2016 hiking and backpacking season and thus our post for today about the Ten Essentials.

My son recently completed his Emergency Preparedness merit badge to complete his requirements for the Star rank and it reminded me that preparedness exists at many levels: the individual, the family, neighborhood, town, county, state and nation.  As he advanced through each of the ranks from Tenderfoot through Star he had to live up to the Boy Scout Motto of: Be Prepared. Part of that preparedness when going on troop activities involved assembling and carrying on a regular basis his “Ten Essentials.”

There are many different variations of the “Ten Essentials” including those found on REI’s website as well as Eureka but the focus of today is on the Boy Scout variation which consists of:

  1.  Pocketknife (Scouts are not allowed to carry fixed blade knives). Any sort of folding knife will do I suppose but Wenger and Victorinox have some nice Swiss Army styles and I just gave my son a nice BSA branded one from Victorinox that is reminiscent of the the Tinker model with a small saw, can opener and some other useful camp gadgets.
  2. First Aid Kit – Not just any sort of Rite-Aid 10 piece job with a few bandages. A more complete version with mole skin and long wrap style bandages to make splints with.
  3. Extra Clothing – Its the Northwest. You get wet.  No one likes to sleep in wet clothes.
  4. Rain Gear – Will hopefully minimize the whole getting wet part.  A garbage bag will do but good rain gear will make for a comfortable hike.
  5. Water Bottle – It goes without saying that you want to carry a supply of water even in Washington but I would probably add some ability to filter more water if possible.
  6. Flashlight – Dusk or dawn is a fantastic way to trip and sprain an ankle. A good LED flashlight or head lamp is a necessity.
  7. Trail Food – We are not Daniel Boone or Davy Crockett. Your run of the mill Scout is not going to be snaring a rabbit on a day hike. Bring some lunch and some good energy bars in case you get lost and find yourself hungry.
  8. Matches and Fire Starters – nothing improves morale more than a good campfire.  Plus it can help you get found.  Rescuers love smoke signals. Of course, be mindful of where you are and the conditions around you.  Many a lost camper started a major forest or brush fire trying to signal for help.
  9. Sun Protection – A hat and sunscreen.  Sunburns suck…
  10. Map and Compass – You really are never truly lost with a compass and a good map of the area and the ability to use it.

So there you go.  The BSA 10 essentials. Now the next problem for many scouts and their dads is how to carry this stuff.  On a day hike, a small satchel or day pack is usually pretty good.  Some of the more advanced dads in our troop had some cool chest harnesses instead. But what do you do on longer backpacking trips. After establishing a base camp the scouts like to go exploring or take side hikes.  My son and I struggled with that the past two seasons. We actually found ourselves strapping a day pack to our backpacks. Well if you read my recent posts about ounces and pounds we were adding a good couple pounds of extra weight with the day packs.

So as we prepare for the next season I am going to be exploring our options for carrying our essentials along with our backpacks with a minimal amount of added weight. The aforementioned chest rig is one option. A vest that can be easily stuffed into the backpack is another.  Over the next few months we will see what works best. Of course if you have any suggestions feel free to chime in here…

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