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Gear Grist for The Mountaineer, a monthly newsletter

This GEAR GRIST article was published in the March 2009 Magazine of The Mountaineers, a 10,500 member Club formed in 1906 to enrich the community of the Pacific North West:

Each Month as I read The Mountaineer, I learn something I did not know that I did not know about backcountry travel and the exciting sport of mountaineering.

Self styled Ultra-Light Hiker Steve Green offered in February 2009, ways to “lighten up the Ten Essentials”.

Personally, I find that utility trumps light weight. The lightest declination adjustable base plate compass recommended by The Mountaineers, weighs 4 ounces, not one ounce.

Actually, the 1930s “Ten Essentials” list of ten individual items (matches, flashlight, etc.) was replaced by the “Ten Essential Systems” about six years ago in an important  revised Chapter of the essential reference book “Mountaineering – The Freedom of the Hills” now in it's 8th Edition from The Mountaineers Press, Seattle.

What it all comes down to is that all members of an outing’s group must be individually prepared for the inevitable unexpected situations. The pooling of individual equipment such as a foot square insulating "shorty pad" or extra clothing insulation may help save the life of an injured member of the group.

The Ten Essential Systems are meant to be sized to the individual and the inherent Risks of the season, the forecast weather, the weather at the trail head, the location and ease or difficulty of a particular trip, and the goals of the leaders and group.

This gear, often mandatory on Club trips, must be carried by each individual. It is not a Survival Kit that can be purchased at an outdoor store. For a planned one day adventure, the right gear in the right day pack or summit pack might weigh just 5 pounds in summer or 20 pounds in winter.

1. Navigation
Added to the obligatory $7.00 Quad topo map of the area and the $25.00 Suunto M3 base plate compass must be the ability to use them. This requires training, study, and practice. Navigating with a map alone is also a necessary skill. Attach a whistle to your compass lanyard. Almost everyone can add an accurate $100.00 Garmin eTrex H GPS receiver. Learn to use map, compass and GPS together.
2. Sun Protection
Sun glasses and a sunscreen are an obvious addition to a pack. Sun protection should come from SPF 35 sun screen lotion, dark glasses suitable for altitude and reflective snow fields, and long sleeves, gloves and hat rated for strong sun. Have a sun skirt on the hat or wear a bandana under the hat and over your neck and ears.
3. Insulation (extra clothing)
This brings us to extra clothing - the most essential of the list. In the Cascades, the weather can change in a very short time, leaving people shivering in shorts and vulnerable to rain, sweat and wind induced hypothermia. Hiking fast may keep your body heat up, until you "bonk" or "run out of gas" (glycogen), or have to hike slow with others, go slow to find your way or have to stop and tend an injured companion or stranger. The extra clothing must be carried in your light pack, ready to be put on when you stop for a few minutes or several hours.

Cotton clothing, soaked in sweat, rain or melted snow, holds water and may loose up to 70% of its insulating value. Wet cotton clothing has caused the grievous injury or death of many people. Today’s layers of polypropylene, pile and Gortex are equivalent to the wool underwear, pants, shirts, sweaters and coated nylon jackets of the 1970s and before. Polypro, pile, thick synthetic insulation and Gortex had not been invented when Everest was first summited. However, the earliest climbers used layers 1. to wick body moisture, 2. to adjust insulation and 3. to cut off wind and rain. Remember, layers must be “pealed” to avoid sweat soaked clothes! All of this essential seasonal personal clothing and equipment must be accommodated in a light day/summit pack just large enough to hold it. Garments tied to the outside are likely to catch on something or get wet or lost. A larger day/summit/back pack is needed for the light but more bulky wool, pile, or down insulation layers needed in the winter.
4. Illumination
A small flashlight can assist in finding a lost or injured person. Many hiking groups have returned to the trailhead after dark. Some LED headlamps now weigh in at two ounces!
5. First-Aid Supplies
An individual first aid kit sized to the trip is a must. First aid supplies can fit in a Ziploc bag and should deal with cuts and scrapes with small and large Band-Aids, Neosporin and mole skin. In June and July, add mosquito repellent for the woods. Have OTC drugs and a personal prescription pain medication for that broken ankle. Shoot for about 4 ounces of supplies. And don't forget the toilet paper!
6. Fire
Waterproof matches and a fire starter can be combined in a couple of adjustable propane pocket lighters. Remember, when you most need a fire, it will be windy, wet and cold. Do not depend on being able to start a fire. Learn how to stay warm without a fire. Don't try to be a "survivalist".
7. Repair Kit and Tools
A small knife should be light and sharp - a tool kit knife is heavy and of little use. Carry light special tools for your skis, snowshoes or snowmobile. I carry the smallest Swiss Army knife and six feet of duct tape.
8. Nutrition (extra food)
Extra food should be carbohydrates in the form of easily digested quick acting fat-free fig newtons, jelly filled breakfast bars or ClifBars, that offer a bit of protein added to aid utilization. Glycogen (sugar or starch) is the one essential fuel that must be replaced during a hard hike or climb or an unexpected cold wet night under a tree - most people have ample stores of the other essential muscle fuel: fat.
9. Hydration (extra water)
Add extra water or the equipment to obtain it (stove for snow or a filter for summer), to your list. Iodine tabs can take more than one hour to be effective in ice cold water. In the summer you may need to drink a gallon or more per day. In the winter you may be able to get by with three quarts if you are careful not to sweat. Use electrolyte replacement powder such as Gookinaid or Gatorade. Remember that only two quarts of water weigh almost four pounds. Use Nalgene or Platypus plastic bags that weigh one ounce per quart, not heavy (Nalgene) bottles weighing 6 ounces each! I am not a fan of musty bladders, but they are popular at this time.
10. Emergency Shelter
Emergency shelter can range from a 10oz. plastic Emergency Bivy Sack sold by Adventure Medical Kits for about $30. up to a $200. four season Gore-Tex bivy bag and 20 degree sleeping bag. Note that you can not shelter in snow without an insulating pad such as the Cascade Designs RidgeRest three-quarter length, 9 ounce ensolite foam pad, carried strapped to the side of your day or summit pack. Carry a light plastic snow shovel and know how to construct a correct snow cave which is designed to trap warm air with thick insulating snow with the entrance below the pad covered living area.
(11). Communication
Rescue is not initiated until requested by a phone call to 911. Oregon SAR Statutes require you carry a means of communication such as a cell phone or you may be liable for the costs of your Search and Rescue.

Just carry your common digital cell phone. If needed, call rescuers on your cell phone with your exact UTM (NAD 27) coordinates provided by reading your topo map or by numbers on your GPS receiver from satellites maintained by the US DOD and let them know as well, your current physical condition and your proposed plans. Note that your call takes the "Search" out of Search and Rescue!

If you do not have a $100.00 GPS and $7.00 topo map, or know how to use them, mobile phone providers can find your general location, triangulating from cell phone ping records as required by (Bush era) FCC Regulation E911. (GPS chips available in some more costly phones are not used to find the cell phone's location in UTM or Latitude/Longitude coordinates, misrepresented as "GPS coordinates" by many cell phone service providers).  Check your cell phone contact from time to time or leave one cell phone turned "on" if in a group, in contact with the cell towers. Several cell phones in a group are far better than one.

Another option for many now, is to carry a $149.00 SPOT-2 Satellite Messenger which can give your friends or 911 your exact GPS location from the DOD satellites without cell phone towers.

Adapted from The Ten Essential Systems posted on The items in each system are suggested by Robert Speik.
Robert Speik is a former Chair of the Mountaineering Training Committee of the Sierra Club’s Angeles Chapter, managing the Basic and Advanced Mountaineering Training Courses, graduating up to 1,000 new people each year.

He writes the "web blog"

Copyright© 2009-2011 by Robert Speik. All rights Reserved




Mountain climbing has inherent dangers that can, only in part, be mitigated

Read more . . .
How do you use your map, compass and gps together to find you way at dusk in blowing snow?
"There is no denying the sense of cell"  Written for The Mountaineers Magazine
Lessons learned from the latest lost Mt. Hood climbers
SPOT Satellite Messenger v.2.0 reviewed and recommended
How do mobile phones assist mountaineering and backcountry rescues?
Clinic on Real Survival Strategies and Staying Found with Map, Compass and GPS together
What do you carry in your winter day and summit pack?
Why is the digital cell phone best for backcountry and mountaineering?
What is a PLB or Personal Locator Beacon?
Why are "Snow Caves" dangerous?
Why are "Space Blankets" dangerous?
Why are "Emergency Kits" dangerous?
How can you avoid Hypothermia?
Missing climbers on Mount Hood, one dies of exposure, two believed killed in fall
Missing California family found, father dies from exposure and hypothermia
Missing man survives two weeks trapped in snow-covered car
Missing snowmobile riders found near Bend, OR, Roger Rouse dies from hypothermia
Olympic Champion Rulon Gardner lost from companions on snowmobile!
Lost Olympic hockey player looses feet to cold injury

Expert skier lost five days near resort in North Cascades without map, compass, gps or cell phone
Mount Hood - The Episcopal School Tragedy
Mount Hood - experienced climbers rescued from snow cave
How can you learn the skills of snow camping?   Prospectus

Lost and Found
Three climbers missing on Mt. Hood, all perish
Missing California family found, dad dies from exposure and hypothermia
Missing man survives two weeks trapped in snow-covered car
Missing snowmobile riders found, Roger Rouse dies from hypothermia
Lost climber walks 6.5 miles from South Sister Trail to Elk Lake
Hiking couple lost three nights in San Jacinto Wilderness find abandoned gear
Expert skier lost without Essentials, map and compass, terribly injured in North Cascades 
Climber disappears on the steep snow slopes of Mount McLaughlin
Hiker lost five days in freezing weather on Mount Hood
Lost Professor and son elude search and rescue volunteers by moving about
Found person becomes lost and eludes rescuers for five days
Teens, lost on South Sister, use cell phone with Search and Rescue
Lost man walks 27 miles to the nearby highway from Elk Lake Oregon
Snowboarder found with frozen feet after week in Wilderness
Searchers rescue hiker at Smith Rock, find lost climbers on North Sister
Girl found in Lane County after missed on hiking trip
Search and rescue finds young girls lost from family group
Portland athlete lost and presumed dead on Mt. Hood
Rescues after the recent snows
Novice couple lost in the woods
Broken Top remains confirmed as missing climber
Ollalie Trail: OSU Trip, group lost, no map or compass, inadequate clothing

 Your Essential Light Day Pack
What are the new Ten Essential Systems?
What does experience tell us about Light and Fast climbing?
What is the best traditional alpine mountaineering summit pack?
What is Light and Fast alpine climbing?
What do you carry in your day pack?      Photos?    
What do you carry in your winter day pack?       Photos?    
What should I know about "space blankets"?
Where can I get a personal and a group first aid kit?      Photos?

 Carboration and Hydration
Is running the Western States 100 part of "traditional mountaineering"?
What's wrong with GORP?    Answers to the quiz!
Why do I need to count carbohydrate calories?
What should I know about having a big freeze-dried dinner?
What about "carboration" and fluid replacement during traditional alpine climbing?   4 pages in pdf  
What should I eat before a day of alpine climbing?

  About Alpine Mountaineering:
  The Sport of Alpine Mountaineering
  Climbing Together
  Following the Leader
  The Mountaineers' Rope
  Basic Responsibilities       Cuatro Responsabiliades Basicas de Quienes Salen al Campo
  The Ten Essentials         Los Diez Sistemas Esenciales

  Our Leader's Guidelines:
  Our Volunteer Leader Guidelines
  Sign-in Agreements, Waivers and Prospectus     This pdf form will need to be signed by you at the trail head
  Sample Prospectus    Make sure every leader tells you what the group is going to do; print a copy for your "responsible person"
  Participant Information Form    This pdf form can be printed and mailed or handed to the Leader if requested or required
  Emergency and Incident Report Form    Copy and print this form. Carry two copies with your Essentials 
  Participant and Group First Aid Kit   
Print this form. Make up your own first aid essentials (kits) 

  About our World Wide Website:

  Map, Compass and GPS
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BLM guidelines for Geocaching on public lands
Geocaching on Federal Forest Lands
OpEd - Geocaching should not be banned in the Badlands
Winter hiking in The Badlands WSA just east of Bend
Searching for the perfect gift
Geocaching: What's the cache?
Geocaching into the Canyon of the Deschutes
Can you catch the geocache?
Z21 covers Geocaching
Tour The Badlands with ONDA 
The art of not getting lost
Geocaching: the thrill of the hunt!
GPS in the news
A GPS and other outdoor gadgets make prized gifts
Wanna play?  Maps show you the way
Cooking the "navigation noodle"