Kristen Lodge: Ten Essentials for Backcountry Travel |

Kristen Lodge: Ten Essentials for Backcountry Travel

Kristen Lodge / Outdoor Adventures
Grand County, CO Colorado

“The best rescue is a self-rescue, when you and your group have the items to keep an organized rescue from becoming necessary.”

After the recent snowfall on unstable layers is not a good thing, according to Jamie Carpenter, a member of Grand County Search and Rescue. As a Rescue Representative and board members representing the senior rank, Jamie is an advocate for safety in the backcountry, whether adventurers are climbing, snowmobiling, or a day snowshoe. One of the best ways to stay safe, he says, is to always carry the Ten Essentials, know how to use them, and travel with a partner.

“It is easy and inexpensive to make pack the Ten Essentials and to keep them in a stuff sack. Then, when you head out on the trail, regardless of time of year, you have what you need, and know that you are going to have some margin of survival whenever you are if you have to stay out overnight.”

The Ten Essentials, adapted from the book, Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills are:

1. Map

2. Compass

3. Sunglasses and sunscreen

4. Extra clothing

5. Headlamp/flashlight

6. First-aid supplies

7. Firestarter

8. Matches

9. Knife

10. Extra food

There is also the systems that correlate to the Ten Essentials: Navigation (maps, altimeter, GPS), Sun protection (sunglasses, sunscreen, clothing for sun protection), Insulation (Extra Clothing), Illumination (headlamp, flashlight, batteries), First-Aid Supplies, Fire (butane lighter, matches in a waterproof container, fire starters, stove), Repair Kit and Tools (knives, pliers, screwdriver, awl, scissors, duct tape), Nutrition (jerky, nuts, candy, granola, and dried fruit) Hydration (water, plan for enough water to accommodate additional requirements due to heat, cold, altitude, exertion, or emergency) Emergency Shelter (plastic tube tent or a trash bag, reflective emergency blanket).

There are two questions that should be asked before heading out on the trail: 1) Can you respond positively to an accident or emergency and 2) can you safely spend a night, or more, out with the gear you have. Since weather conditions can change quickly at 9,000 feet and above, winter adventurers need to carry the Ten Essentials.

Jamie points out that not only do you just throw the 10 essentials in a pack, “You need to practice using them. Starting a fire and using a compass are skills that go away if you don’t practice them. A GPS is a huge advantage to have because search and rescue can go right to your location if you need a rescue but it takes practice to use technology correctly.” Another important point he recommends is adapting the Ten Essentials to the activity and time of year. “If you are in avalanche country add a beacon, shovel, and avalanche probe.”

Following these simple rules before heading into the backcountry, or even just a short hike or ski, can get you out of a potentially dangerous situation.

But just in case, if you find yourself lost and injured, Grand County Search and Rescue will come find you. Jamie has been part of the GCSAR since October 2003.

“I like to play in the backcountry and I like knowing that people will come get me. GCSAR is a great group of individuals and they keep me motivated to stay involved and keep increasing my skill.”

GCSAR is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days.

Ask yourself, ask your group: Do you have what it takes to stay alive in the mountainous terrain of Grand County if you have to stay overnight? Remember the Ten Essentials and learn how to use them. Have a safe and happy holiday in Grand County.

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