Column: Essentials can help in emergency situations

The safe approach

“Ten Essentials” are a vital concept, first conceived in the 1930s. In an emergency any of the “Essential” items can be a lifesaver. Whether a day hike, a backpack trip, a solo or a group trek, they should always be along. A“10-E” kit should be a compact, stand-alone system:

1) Emergency Shelter – A reflective emergency blanket from an outdoor shop, a small painter’s clear plastic drop cloth or a “6 mil” black plastic sheet, large enough to cover you or create a small lean-to shelter. Caution: metal in the reflective blanket could attract lightning!

2) Extra clothing – An extra layer for head, chest, hands, legs and feet; to replace sweat-saturated clothing and assist in surviving long, inactive hours of an unplanned night in the field. Consider the worst conditions, the season and region to be encountered.

3) First Aid Kit – A small kit, containing the personal prescription drugs one might be on. Those on birth control pills and all diabetics should take note here. Addressing blisters should be considered. Wilderness First Aid Response training is a worthwhile investment.

4) Fire – Have the knowledge to safely make a small fire. Carry matches and fire starter in a waterproof container. As butane will not enter into a gaseous state in sub-freezing temperatures, most lighters will fail. Body heat may warm the lighter sufficiently for it to function. T.S.A. regulations forbid “strike anywhere” matches on airplanes. A great fire starter is dryer lint soaked with lighter fluid. Kept in a small, airtight screw-cap container, it will last for years! A small wad of soaked lint under pine needles and sticks is a certain fire!

5) Illumination – A small headlamp or a small flashlight. LED hand-held and head-lamps are light weight, provide long burn times, and are nearly indestructible.

6) Knife – Select with two conflicting concepts in mind: weight and multi-task ability. The more options and the stronger built, the more it weighs. The lightest, a single blade pocket knife, is very limited in its potential. The saw blade option is paramount!

7) Navigation – Here most backcountry adventures really begin! Map and compass; know where you are and know how to get to where you want to go, and the time required to do it!

8) Nutrition – “10-E-food” is to get one person through one night or, if rationed, through slightly more. Select items by taste, weight, ability to store well for months, and those appropriate for the climate you are in. Consider mice when selecting containers.

9) Repair kit – Relating to items brought along and the length of the trip. Do not forget: Duct Tape, its possibilities are endless! Wrap a bunch of it around your hiking staff or water bottles!

10) Sun protection – This may be already possessed, as with one’s prescription sun-glasses. A sunscreen sample tube is easily carried in a “10-E” sack.

Two other items to consider are:

11) Water treatment – In the backcountry, always carry two quarts of water, minimum. In the “10-E” concept, water treatment should be for emergencies only. “Aqua Mira” is ideal for this.

12) Whistle – An ideal locating device, it is sustainable and louder than yelling, especially in the wind! With companions, use a series of agreed upon blasts for communication. Carry a plastic model, in low temperatures it will not freeze your lips.

Rick Hartman, a resident of Prescott, is providing occasional articles on preparedness and survival.