Ten Essential Things every Kid should have in their Backpack

27 March 2015 | Episode |

Hey kids,
A couple of weeks ago I wrote an article titled: “18 Tips for an Amazing Family Trip into America’s Wilderness“. In it, I shared some really smart ideas and tips on how you parents can get your family ready for a cool trip into the outdoors.

In the earlier article, I also talked about eating a good breakfast, something you need to always do!  I mentioned that you kids should carry you own backpack. I didn’t say this because I want you to be pack mules, but because I found that my own kids love carrying their own backpack and carry some things with them that are theirs., such as A LEGO minifig for that cool photo by that waterfall. Of course, you do have to carry some practical things, like your own water bottle, an extra sweater or rain coat and of course, some candy. Gotta take candy.

Many years ago, in 1974, which is probably before your parents were even born, a magazine called ‘Mountaineering Freedom’ published a list of important things one should always carry with them when they are out in the outdoors. They called it the Ten Essentials.

Now, while it’s fun to carry with you stuffed animals and candy, the Ten Essentials I want to talk about today are items which are meant to keep you safe in the outdoors.
They are survival gear. That sounds cool right?

You most likely won’t need every single one of those items, and not everything on that list might fit into your backpack, but it’s good to have looked it over by you and your parents. Next time you get your backpack ready you can check with your parents if there is anything you should carry with you.

compass1. Navigation

Topographic map and assorted maps in waterproof container plus a magnetic compass, optional altimeter or GPS receiver.

If you’re hiking in the National Parks, stop by the ranger station and pickup a map which has all the trails on it.
Going hiking somewhere else? Make sure you bring a map, even if it’s one downloaded on the iPhone and you and your parents always know where you’re going. You can also get your parents to print a map at Caltopo.com, a site where you can look at and print free maps of any location in America!


sunglasses12. Sun protection

sunglasses2Sunglasses, sunscreen for lips and skin, hat, clothing for sun protection.

Do you have a cool baseball cap or a new pair of cute sunglasses? Bring them. You might not need them when you leave the house early in the mornings, but being on the trail, in the Summer sun, above the tree line you want a hat to keep you help keep you cool and to keep the hair out of your sweaty face.


3. Insulation

Hat, gloves, jacket, extra clothing for coldest possible weather during current season.

clothesIn the mountains weather can change very quickly. I once wore shorts flip flops on the beach, got in the my car and drove couple of hours up to Mount St. Helens and ended up in snow. You have got be prepared, and I was not.
Remember your warm sweater and never leave without your rain coat. Are you hiking in early Spring or in the Fall? Think of gloves and a warm hat. I also always bring an extra pair of socks, a clean/dry shirt to change into when I get back to the car.


4. Illumination

Headlamp, flashlight, batteries. LED bulb is preferred to extend battery life.

headlampMan my son loves his headlamp. He got the Darth Vader LEGO headlamp last Xmas in his stocking and he desperately tries to find a reason to use it. If you have one, bring it, it’s always good to have an extra flashlight in the car.
Even if you won’t need it on the trail, because most likely your parents won’t pick a trail that’ll take hours to complete.


bandaid25. First-aid supplies

Plus insect repellent.

Bugs. They are the worst right? And bug bites are even worse than the worst. Yuck.bandaid
Make sure you have a couple of bandages with you in your backpack. If you’re hiking in the Summer time and especially if you’re going to a lake, be sure to tell your mom or dad to remember to pack that bug repellent. Thank me later!


matches26. Fire

Butane lighter, matches in waterproof container.

Dude, fire! Well, I suppose I need to tell you to be safe with fire. And man you should, really – burns suck.matches1
And wild fires suck even more. So, don’t bring fire, or matches, or lighters. Really. Leave those things to the grown-ups.
DO not bring anything for fires unless you know you’re going overnight camping and you’ll be making a fire to cook your dinner. Then you should be all over that bonfire. Help you parents get it started, learn how to make a good fire and keep it in check. Hmmmm…. s’mores….


7. Repair kit and tools

Knives, multi-tool, scissors, pliers, screwdriver, trowel/shovel, duct tape, cable ties.

knifeDid you just read that suggestion? When I was a kid, I had a cool Swiss Army knife. Those have a whole bunch of really awesome features, like a saw and couple different knife blades and the pocket knife is light. Ask your parent to get you one of those.
Some of the crazy crazy multi-tools are too heavy to take hiking with you, so keep those in the garage.


8. Nutrition

Add extra food for one additional day (for emergency). Dry food is preferred to save weight and usually needs water.

foodYum! Candy. Food is food that’s good for you. But perhaps not broccoli, broccoli doesn’t travel well. The awesome thing about hiking is that when you’re out there on the trail and you get hungry you are craving special nutrition that your body needs when you’re working out.
Here are some ideas you might like:
Trail mix: You can custom mix them at some grocery stores. Energy bars: Those are kind-of healthy candy bars – delicious!
Fruit: Can be refreshing, but make sure that it doesn’t get banged up in your backpack. No one likes a bruised and brown banana.
Clubbers: My son’s latest favorite sandwich. But don’t bring his favorite sandwich, take yours instead.


bottles9. Hydration

Add extra 2 liters of water for one additional day (for emergency).

Water, water, water. Especially in the Summer time, but really anytime you’re out there. You’re active, you run around, you explore and you’re far away from any water fountain, refrigerator or Starbucks. You need to bring a water bottle with plenty of water. It’s important to have one you can easily open and close. Don’t bring a can of pop, you’ll hate it, and probably can’t finish it all in one go. Plus, flies will get into the opening, which you can’t close up again.


tent10. Emergency shelter

Well, let’s hope that your parents don’t get you lost. This is probably something you won’t need to worry about.




So, there you have it folks. Ten Essentials for the outdoors. Now you know a bit more about what you need to be safe in the wilderness. Let’s get your gear together, pack your back and head for the next adventure. I’ll see you on the trails.

Thank you Trixy Eichler of Trixwithay for the awesome illustrations for this article.