The purpose of the Ten Essentials is to improve your chances of survival in an emergency situation. The Mountaineers’ “essential systems” list, the new incarnation of their original ten essentials, has gotten away from true survival essentials. Sun protection? Repair kits? Illumination? Nice, but not essential to my survival on a dayhike in the Pacific Northwest. As my partner, who used to be in the army, pointed out, the more gear you require people to have, the more shortcuts they’re going to take, and they might not choose the true essentials. Nobody wants to carry emergency gear that isn’t needed. I will choose my own items for comfort.
I don’t carry the Ten Essentials with me on day hikes. I worry that having the right gear is over-emphasized, when your brain is the most important tool to bring with you on the trail. People want the comfort blanket of a list of gear – “if I carry these ten things, I’ll survive.” Yes, being prepared is important. I always carry a pack with survival gear…but my list is different than the Mountaineers’ systems. There is essential gear, but the requirements vary depending on the location, the weather (and forecast), and time of year. And two other resources – knowledge and other people – are probably even more important than gear.