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The Ten Essentials

One of the things that I always cover with new hikers and backpackers are the ten essentials.  Now these can vary depending on your situation, location, and personal opinion, but they're pretty useful regardless.  

I got to thinking about how most of the ten essentials are items that I also like to keep in my car, and often carry with me in my work as an entertainment technician, or as some folks call us, stagehands.  There's a lot of crossover, and I often find myself raiding my work gear for stuff to take hiking, or digging through my hiking gear for stuff to take to work.  

Here is a list of those ten essentials, and how they'll help you on your next hike, or working at the next music festival!

1.  Water

A nice big 32 oz or a couple of 1L water bottles will keep you from getting dehydrated.  Make sure you drink often.  If you wait until you're thirsty, it's already too late.  On hot days, or if you're doing a lot of uphill climbing or working hard, make sure that you eat a sweet/salty snack to give your body some electrolytes.  Otherwise, your body can't use the water, and you'll end up with heat exhaustion no matter how much you drink. Remember, a lot of what our bodies interpret as hunger is actually thirst.

2.  Snacks

You may be only doing a short hike, or maybe you have a catered lunch waiting for you, but if your body needs energy now, there's no better way to avoid be hangrey than to have a little snack.  High carb snacks will give you quick energy, while protein snacks will keep you full longer. High fat snacks can help raise your body temperature at night if eaten before bed.  Make sure to have a few tucked in your bag, just in case.

3.  Sun Protection

Just because it isn't hot and sunny in the morning doesn't mean it won't be by the afternoon!  Don't risk ending your day as a bright red blistered mess.  It'll ruin the rest of your week, not to mention that it's horrible for your skin and raises your chances of developing cancer significantly. Throw a hat, some sunscreen, and maybe a lightweight long-sleeved shirt in your bag and don't forget to reapply the sunscreen every few hours.  You'll be glad you did.  

4.  A Knife or a Multi-Tool

Whether you're cutting beef jerky or gaff tape, a good knife or multi-tool is invaluable in the wilderness or on a gig.  Pliers can be used for tightening hardware, pulling out a cactus needle, or even fixing a broken piece of gear.  Hopfully you won't have to use this tool, but if the need arises, you'll be glad you have it.

5.  A Flashlight or Headlamp

You may plan on ending your hike well before dark, or maybe you are supposed to be done striking by 5pm, but what if you end up in the dark?  Carry a dependable light source with you and you'll keep an inconvenient situation from becoming a dangerous one.  Don't forget fresh batteries!

6.  Warm Clothing

Again, maybe you didn't plan to stay out late, but it just worked out that way.  There are plenty of lightweight options for warmth, both with newer technology fabrics, and older ways that are still just as effective.  Think fleece, down, down-alternative, and merino wool (also great in wet conditions).  Don't forget to keep your head warm too.  An emergency bivy or space blanket aren't bad things to have in your bag as well.  A space blanket and a handful of paracord = instant shelter and shade! Remember, start cold. You’ll warm up as you get moving.

7.  Rain Gear

It's really hard to stay warm when you're wet, so don't forget to pack a rain jacket or poncho (you can get one at the 99 cent store), and rain pants or a rain skirt.  Just be aware that some rain gear doesn't breathe very well, and you could end up a cold damp mess under your rain gear if you are sweating a lot.  Layer accordingly.

7. A Map and Compass

Always know where you're going.  This is true if you're trying out a new trail or heading to a new venue.  You can't always count on having great cell phone signal, ESPECIALLY if you're out in the wilderness.  Having a good topo map and a compass are crucial.  Learn how to use them ahead of time, before you're lost (or late for your gig).

8.  A First Aid Kit

This one seems so obvious, but when was the last time you were on a worksite or taking a hike and you needed a bandaid or some moleskin for that pesky blister?  Bet you wish you had that first aid kit now, right?  Yes, your venue probably has a first aid kit, but maybe it hasn't been restocked since 1998.  There are a range of great lightweight options, from kits for a single dayhiker with just the basics, to full backcountry group medical kits.  Pick the one that works for you and carry it!  Don't be afraid to supplement with items that you think you might need.  Extra bandaids and Advil are useful, as is Immodium for when the lunch truck hits you or your water purification system fails.  

9.  Waterproof Matches

Ok, so you might not need these at a concert, but they could save your life in the right situation.  An old film cannister or a prescription bottle work great.  Tuck a couple of cotton balls soaked in vaseline in there as a fire starter.  And hey, maybe you'll make someone's day by being able to light their bong at the Phish Concert!

10.  Whistle

You might not need this one on the job either, but it could mean that you get found by a rescuer more quickly if you are lost.  Plus, you can use it to get the crew's attention really quickly (or find out how deaf your audio guy is).  Bonus:  if you're walking to your car alone in a less-than-ideal situation, it can deter an attacker.  Keep it in your hand as you are walking, just in case you need it.



Whether you're putting in miles on the trail or miles backstage, you need to be wearing good quality, appropriate footwear.  Your feet are your #1 tool, so treat them with care and respect.  Look for footbeds that support your arches, tread that is meant fot the surface upon which you are walking, and uppers that breath well and/or are waterproof, depending on what kind of situation that you are in.

I hope this list helps you prepare for your next endeavor, whether it involves pine trees or truss.  Happy trails, and have a great show!





1 comment

  • Earthmonk

    Great list.
    I always take one metal water bottle. Like a Kleen Kanteen. If things go south I can boil water in it. My second bottle is a plastic smart water 1L or a grayl water filter. Dehydration is a stern school master and I learned my lesson the hard way.

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