Don’t Max the Minimum

To often we do things just to do things, what I mean by that is that we go through the motions to punch a ticket, fulfil the minimum requirements or just get by on a task.
I see this all the time on camp outs, especially camp outs like Camporee. The Scouts are “Required” to have their 10 Essentials on them throughout the course of the day. The 10 essentials are supposed to be inspected or at least an inspectable item as they go from event to event and in some cases they may have to use one.
But have you seen some of these “10 essential” kits. The boys have learned to “MAX the MINIMUM”. One of the 10 essentials is extra clothes. In most cases that is a pair of socks or a t- shirt. Hardly what is meant by extra clothes. Or take a look at their Extra food. A candy bar?
You see the 10 Essentials is an insurance policy in your backpack.
The 10 essentials system is designed to ensure that no matter what you are prepared. A quick look at the 10 items and why they are essentials needs to be taught to the Scouts. It is not a matter of maxing the minimum, it could be a matter of survival in the case of an emergency.

First. A Map.
No matter where you go, there is a map for the location. Always have a map of the area that you are going to be. This is more important than you realise, especially when you get disoriented…A glance at the map can get you back on track, find your trail, and get you out of the mess you find yourself. Even without a compass, a map can be the difference between being lost and stay lost.

Second. A Compass.
A compass is a life saver. Carry a compass, at all times, in the back country–and know how to use it ! Some features to look for:
a. 0 to 360 degrees, preferably, in 2 degree increments;
liquid filled, which protects the magnetic needle and its jeweled bearing and minimizes fluctuation;
b. a base plate–3″ to 4″, in length– which can be used as a straight-edge for taking map bearings and determining distances on maps;
c. an adjustable declination to account for the difference between Magnetic North and True North. The compass responds to Magnetic North, whereas, maps are based upon True North. Therefore, the compass needs to be adjusted to compensate. An adjustable declination feature lets you turn a small screw to “permanently” adjust declination to match the geographic area you will be in, so that you don’t need to calculate your bearing each time.

Third. A Flashlight or preferably a Headlamp.
It is important to carry a headlamp, even for a day trip. You never know when you may get stuck and end up remaining over night. Or hiking out in hours of darkness. Headlamps allow you hands free light, which is best when hiking, tying knots, and cooking.

Fourth. Extra Food.
Whenever you go out, even for a day trip, bring extra food in case you are delayed by emergencies, foul weather, or just get lost. It is suggested by most experts to carry a one-day supply. At the very least, bring one good meal more than what you need. The food should require little or no cooking. If your extra food will require cooking, make sure you also carry extra fuel for your stove.

Fifth. Extra Clothing
Aside from the basic layers that you will normally wear, take along something extra. Something that may add a layer, keep you dry, or warm. Clothing that will get you through a night in wilderness. A jacket that is water proof as well as wind proof, a sweater, or fleece long johns. A t-shirt or extra socks, while they are needed would not be considered “Extra clothes”.

Sixth. Sunglasses.
While Sunglasses do not seem so essential, it is amazing how snow, sun, wind, and UV rays damage your eyes. Sunglasses become critical when in the back country as the last thing you want is to get out there and not enjoy the beauty that you came out there to see.
Eye damage can be lasting. Eye protection is a must.

Seventh. First Aid kit.
The item that you never want to use. Make sure to carry plenty of bandages in various sizes. Tweezers and a needle should be in your kit. Mole skin and neosporin should also be in your first aid kit. Build your own or buy one, but have a first aid kit.
Also a small book on wilderness first aid is a good idea to have in your kit. It will help in a pinch, and it is also good reading while you wait for help.

Eighth. Pocket Knife or Multi tool.
You can use your pocket knife for lots of things. Cutting food, cutting kindling and tinder for a fire, cutting rope, or getting out of a tight spot. Essential to you in more ways than you think, your pocket knife is essential for fire, shelter, food, and first aid.

Ninth. Waterproof Matches.
Carry matches which have been waterproofed or wind and waterproofed, or else carry extra strike-anywhere matches–along with something to strike them on– in a waterproof container. Keep these matches separate from your regular matches that way you only use them in case of emergency.

Tenth. Water/Water Bottle.
You must have water to live. So caring extra water is a good idea. Water bottles full or a bladder like a Camel Back or Platypus store in the pack and carry fair amounts.
The ability to purify water is a must. A good pump or tablets are easy to carry and use.

Now that we have looked at the 10 Essentials lets take a quick look at a few additional items that are a must. They are the plus 5.

Fire Starter. Store bought or homemade. Cotton balls soaked in wax or lint from the dryer. Having something that will get your fire started faster will be a nice help in the wilderness.
A Whistle. Weather making noise in bear country, or blowing it to get found. A whistle is a light weight tool that has multiple uses.
Insect repellent. Good to have to keep the bugs off. Keeps you from swatting and scratching, and prevents you from perhaps getting sick.
Sun Block. Just like sunglasses, you do not want to get a sun burn. Sun burns can ruin a good trip, and the longer you are exposed the deeper the burn can get. Get at least SPF 15.
And finally the most important essential of them all.

Having the right gear is good. Knowing how to use that gear is better. More often than not it is not the persons gear that saves them in a pinch. It is the knowledge of how to use the gear. It is their experience, good judgement, and know how that ultimately saves them.
Inexperience and lack of knowledge in the wilderness is a recipe for disaster.

And that is why we focus so much attention on skills. Many nights of camping should develop confidence and skills. If you take the time and energy to camp well and practice good skills, ensure you have the right gear and take care of it, and learn the basics of Map and Compass, fire building, first aid, you will be able to make sound choices and get yourself out of trouble in the wilderness.

Read more about the Scouting’s 10 essentials here.

Have a Great Scouting Day.

One comment

  1. A few extra things I would take with me when I’m hiking would be a silver reflective survival blanket for keeping someone warm in case of an emergency, a warm drink in a stainless steel flask (soup is good) when walking in the winter, a waterproof map or a good map case and a mobile phone. BUT, although a mobile is useful in an emergency, you cannot guarantee the signal so it is no substitute for a person ‘at home’ who knows what route you are taking and at what time you are supposed to return. This is the person who can raise the alarm in case you don’t return on time etc.Of course the thing that ties in with common sense is planning. Plan your hike properly and it will go fine. There is an old saying in the Army – Prior Proper Planning Prevents Pitifully Poor Performance (I’ve changed the Army language slightly!).


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