The 10 Essentials for Exploring the Backcountry

The 10 Essentials should be carried on every trip, no matter how short or how familiar. Packing these items will help to ensure your survival if you should become lost or injured. Please remember that you must know how to use these items before you find yourself in an emergency situation.


Extra water and food

Bring more food and water than you need for your trip. This will ensure you have reserves should something unforeseen happen.


Additional Clothing

The BC outdoors are unpredictable. It is not uncommon to find snow at higher elevations in late summer and freak snowstorms in August are not unheard of.


Thermal blanket and plastic bag

A thermal blanket and plastic bag can provide shelter from the elements or can be used to keep an injured person warm.


First-aid Kit

A first-aid kit, combined with training is invaluable. Nobody heads out expecting to get injured but it does happen and you may need to treat yourself or someone else.


Headlamp with spare batteries

Carry a good quality LED headlamp. Headlamps allow you to hike handsfree and the LED versions weigh very little and run for a very long time on one set of batteries.



Your voice won’t last long if you plan to yell for help. Whistles are much easier to use for sustained periods and have far better reach than your best yell.


Waterproof matches or suitable fire starter

Being able to start a fire is very important in a survival situation. Fire serves to boost morale and provides the obvious benefit of heat and light. Ensure you have a reliable means of starting a fire in all weather conditions.



Carry a charged cell phone, satellite phone or Spot/InReach. As technology advances, all backcountry travellers are well advised to leverage tools that can increase their safety. While good to have, it is important to note that none of these technological tools are guaranteed to work.


Map and Compass

Learn to use a map and a compass and carry them with you. A GPS is an excellent tool but should always be accompanied by a map and compass.


Knife or Multi-tool

Cut rope, saw branches to make tinder for your fire – the list goes on. Carry a good knife or multi-tool as an indispensable item should you ever find yourself lost.


Winter extras

If you are travelling in avalanche terrain it’s 13 essentials – you will need a transceiver, shovel and probe and the training to use them.