by Glenn Nelson
Everybody, including us, offers a list of the 10 Essentials. No one calls them the Only-10 Essentials. That’s because there are additional, Glad-I-Brought (or Wish-I-Had) Essentials.
Bandana (or Wipe Cloth): Because we sweat. We spill. It rains on our glasses. And we’re not going to pack in a roll of paper towels – too big, too wasteful. I carry both a bandana and a pack towel. Both are made of microfiber that has some kind of anti-stink properties. Because you want them to be absorbent, and you’re going to forget to wash them. Believe me. You will. Forget, that is.
Insect Protection: Seriously, what idiot mandated this be left off the essentials list? Let’s haul and stake him/her by the nearest tarn in the spring. Everyone knows about mosquitoes, and maybe ticks. The dirty little secret of the outdoors is black flies. Not houseflies, but the nasty, blood-sucking variety. And their bites hurt – not mosquito pinch-and-itch. Your first line of defense is DEET-based repellent. This is no commercial, but the one I use and see everywhere on the trails is Natrapel. It comes in wipes and small plastic bottles, as well as a large metal spray can, which you’re going to appreciate when you’ve got an SUV-load of fellow hikers who need to repellent up. Notice this essential is called “protection” and repellent is called “first line of defense.” That’s because many insects – black flies, for example – can be highly motivated and persistent. Even in the dead of summer, if you are heading into Insect Country, consider wearing sleeved shirts and long pants. Just make sure they’re breathable, or you’re going to need a lot of item No. 1.
Poop Kit: Everyone knows that a bear you-know-whats in the woods, so you’ve got to know that humans do, too. Eventually. In the woods, on the beaches, atop the mountains. And even if you are lucky enough to be near a privy that’s not totally gross, chances are, you are going to at least need toilet paper. You also are not going to like hauling it out after a hard rain and find it a messy pulp. So store it in a zip-lock bag. Carry another zip-lock bag to haul it out.
Trash Bag: This isn’t just a Leave No Trace or Pack It Out thing. This is an emergency rain jacket thing. Or a picnic-in-the-snow thing. Or kneeling-in-mud-to-photograph-a-flower thing. But it’s also a Leave No Trace and Pack It Out thing as well. So make it a large trash bag, which isn’t going to take up large space in your pack.
Whistle: You never expect to be laying in a ditch with a broken leg and a voice hoarse from screaming when the search-and-rescue patrol is poking around 25 yards away because your GPS or satellite unit is just that much off. No one does. But the ones who live to tell the story are the ones who carry a whistle. Just inhale and blow. Also convenient for shooing away bears and mountain lions, and signaling your partner that you’re ready to be served coffee in the tent.