Boy Scout 10 essentials: Items every Scout needs in the outdoors

Prepared. For Life. It’s more than a motto for Scouting; it’s a way to plan and execute each outing, even if it’s just a Saturday morning hike. In the woods, the items here (stowed in a daypack) can keep you comfortable, warm, hydrated, safe and, most of all, prepared to face what nature puts in your path — whether you asked for it or not.

This list is based upon the Scout Basic Essentials included in the Boy Scout Handbook and Fieldbook with a few twists.

SwissArmyKnife

A POCKET KNIFE

A pocket knife is the all-purpose tool of the outdoors. Use it to cut cord, trim a bandage, slice cheese, whittle a tent stake, open a can, tighten a camp stove screw, and take care of hundreds of other tasks. Choose a quality knife that includes one or two sharp blades, a can opener, and a screwdriver. Invest in a good knife now, and it will serve you well through years of adventures. (Shown: Swiss Army Serrated Spartan$31.)

 

FIRST AID KIT

Having basic first-aid items on hand will allow you to treat minor injuries and to provide initial care if more serious emergencies arise. Zippered into a self-sealing plastic bag, a personal first-aid kit has what you need to treat a blister, clean a wound and bandage a cut. (Shown: Adventure Medical Kit’s Ultralight & Watertight .9, $36.)

EXTRA CLOTHING

Weather in some backcountry can change — sometimes with startling swiftness. Have the clothing you need to deal with the extremes of heat, cold and storms. For summer campouts close to home, you can probably find most of the clothing you need in your closet. Using a layering system allows you to stay comfortable by adding or removing clothes as the weather changes. Falling temperatures and the possibilities of rain or snow require more attention to what you wear and the additional clothing you carry.

MarmotPrecip

RAIN GEAR

Be prepared to face the elements with rain protection in the form of a shell jacket, pants and more. (Shown: Marmot PreCip, $90.)

WATER STORAGE

How much water you’ll need depends upon what you will be doing and whether you can replenish your supply along the way. Hot and humid conditions increase your thirst, but you need to drink plenty of fluids in cold, dry weather, too. An inexpensive option is to simply rinse plastic water or soda bottles and fill them with drinking water. Or, you can choose a wide-mouthed plastic bottle that’s easy to fill and clean. Other options include a hydration pack or collapsible water jug. (Shown: Platypus Platy Bottle$12.95.)

PrincetonTecHeadlamp

FLASHLIGHT OR HEADLAMP

You might intend to be home before nightfall, but things don’t always go as planned. A flashlight will illuminate a site as you set up camp in the dark or light up a trail as you find your way after the sun has gone down. Carry spare batteries, as well. A handheld flashlight can be heavy and sometimes awkward to use, but they are fine for trips not limited by the amount of weight you can carry. A compact headlamp powered by AA or AAA batteries, with an elastic band that fits around your head, will free your hands for hiking when visibility is limited, for dealing with emergencies after dark and for reading in a tent. (Shown: Princeton Tec Fuel$30.)

TRAIL FOOD

You will be very happy to have an emergency supply of trail food if a trip in the field lasts longer than planned or if your provisions run out sooner than you expected. Rely on foods that are compact, high in energy and unlikely to spoil — a small bag of granola, for example, and perhaps an energy bar or two.
REIMatches

MATCHES AND FIRE STARTERS

Plan your clothing, shelter and meals well enough that you won’t need a campfire. But be prepared to build one in the event of an emergency. Carry several different kinds of fire sources so if one fails, you’ll have a backup. Matches, butane lighters, tinder aids, traditional fire starters are all good examples. (Shown: REI Co-op Stormproof Matches$6.50.)

ORHat

SUN PROTECTION

Sunburn is among the most common injuries suffered by people who enjoy being outdoors. Repeated sunburns can cause long-term skin damage and the potential for skin cancer. While people with fair skin are the most at risk, everyone should be aware of the dangers of too much sun and should take steps to protect against it. Use sunscreen with at least an SPF of 15. Wear a broad-brimmed hat, long-sleeved shirt and long pants to provide more complete protection. Sunglasses are also a good choice. (Shown: OR Drifter Cap offers Gore-Tex and a draw-cord cinch$34.)

PolarisCompass

MAP AND COMPASS

Staying found is an important responsibility for anyone traveling outdoors. Learning to navigate on trails, over water and across open country can bring a great sense of enjoyment and confidence. Carry a map of the area you are exploring, along with a simple compass to help make your way through unfamiliar terrain. Even when they aren’t essential for route-finding, practicing with navigational tools can be fun. Practicing will help prepare you for times when you might need to rely on these tools. (Shown: Silva Polaris 177$18.)

 

82 Comments

    • I do not want to rely upon a 30 minute wait to kill the pathogens. I like the Sawyer’s filtration systems, even the Lifestraw for dipping a cupful of water from a stream and drawing it out, straw-like, through the system. The mini-filter by Sawyer’s is more versatile for filtering water for large numbers of thirsty Scouts. Hydrate frequently; take breaks often to rest the hikers.

      • But those filters do not kill micro organisms that cause Giardia; you still want to use tablets or a UV light system.

    • would containing water not mean it would be clean water? You wouldnt carry around a bottle of river water because that would be dumb. Thing about it for a sec before posting a comment like this.

  1. How about a trash bag and a whistle? We teach Hug-a-Tree to our scouts, and those are the two essentials of Hug-a-Tree.

    • I give the bright orange whistles to the kids in the Troop to attach to the sternum straps of day packs or backpacks, if they prefer. Kids who actually go on the hikes should be rewarded, hopefully to encourage other kids to join buddies on these adventures.

    • Hug-a-Tree is a great program. So is Lost in the Woods, that’s taught in the Northwest US and in Cananda. We use the Rule of 3s system, too. First learned that system in the Natl. Assoc. of SAR. Its now in the Wilderness Survival MB pamphlet. We teach our Scouts to always have multiple bandanas that can be used for many, many things including capturing dew and rainwater. Multi-purpose items are so much more useful in the back country or in an emergency.

  2. The pictured SOL Scout is a neat little kit – I carry one, but there is not much in it that is First-Aid in nature. That said, AMK does does offer some hybrid survival/first-aid kits under their SOL brand – these might be worth a look if they fill gaps in your kit(s).

  3. 1. Cutting Tool. Good fixed blade knife. quality 4 to 5″ blade full tang.
    2. Cover. Proper clothing, 55 gal. Drum Liner. 5′ X 7′ reflective tarp.
    3. Cordage. 100′ of paracord, 500′ of bankline. Gorilla Tape
    4. Combustion Device. Lighter, waterproof matches, best is a magnesium block with ferro rod.
    5.Container. Stainless steel water bottle. 5 Liter sealine bag.
    6. Sail Needle.
    7. Compass.
    8. Candle or light
    9. Multi-tool
    10. 100% cotton bandanna

    • What was wrong with the 10 essentials as outlined in the Scout Handbook. It has worked for a hundred years without a dry bag and with food and extra clothing

      • What is in the handbook works. The only addition is a multitool. the scout version that sells through Scoutstuff works great and even has a LED flashlight.

    • not to big of a knife its easier for and injury and considered a weapon over 3 inches
      some states require a consealed carry for bigger knives

      • In some states, knife length is a legal issue. Other donlt care. Boy’s Life in 2008 said a short sheath knife is the best knife for outdoor program and G2SS says we have a duty to teach proper use of ALL legally owned knives.

      • i dont believe there is any ban on fixed blade knives at the national level although individual councils and units can create extra rules that they deem required for saftey.

      • Some camps and districts prohibit diced blade knives, but the guide to safe scouting reads:
        “The BSA neither encourages nor bans fixed-blade knives nor do we set a limit on blade length. Since its inception, Boy Scouting has relied heavily on an outdoor program to achieve its objectives. This program meets more of the purposes of Scouting than any other single feature. We believe we have a duty to instill in our members, youth and adult, the knowledge of how to use, handle, and store legally owned knives with the highest concern for safety and responsibility.”

  4. Get a more reliable fire starting system than matches. Carry a butane lighter and ferrocerium rod (possibly with magnesium) and carry your own tinder/fire starter. Practice using them first.

    I agree that a stainless steel water bottle without plastic is best, in case boiling water becomes necessary.

  5. Better to put new batteries in flashlights, lanterns, and radios before the trip begins, so you don’t need to carry extra batteries. Only applies for a short trip, though.

  6. There is a much more useful Swiss Army knife for the same money, the Tinker model, it has a Phillips screwdriver instead of the corkscrew. Don’t see much need for a corkscrew on a Scouting outing……

      • I have a leatherman for work, I also have one in my scout pack for hikes and camps wouldn’t go anywhere without my leatherman, also carry a Ka-bar as well for when the leatherman isn’t satisfactory

      • I use a corkscrew to loosen tight knots, in shoelaces, tent lines, sailing applications. The corkscrew has lots of uses. The problem with this knife is that it does not lock, which can create other dangerous situations.

    • As an ultralight backpacker I found I never needed all that extra stuff and now just go with a single partial serrated blade knife, and the blades are usually better at cutting paracord and small branches for hot dog (marshmallow) sticks

    • Agreed. While I have used the cork screw twice for non-scouting events (over 30 years), I have used the mini screwdriver that fits inside very often. I recommend this version for scouts wearing specs. The add-on screwdriver also makes a nice mini awl.

    • As a Scoutmaster and an avid backpacker, we need to teach our scouts to be resourceful rather than reliant on excess equipment. A single blade knife will suffice in 99% of the situations a scout will encounter. I see too many boys packing extra pounds that just aren’t needed. +1 for the large trash bag. Recycle aquafina water bottles rather than heavy Nalgenes/metal…

      • I do agree that part of being in the scouts teaches one to be more resourceful, But on some equipment, I do believe that a certain amount of redundancy should be practiced. I carry two knives. One is a basic pocket knife the other is a Ka-bar.

      • I agree with both the resourceful and redundant ideas. I always take 2 lights but our council has a no sheath knife policy so only 1 knife and I figure if I need another I’ll sharpen a can lid or something.

      • We cover both car camping 10 essentials and pocket items for survival. The Scouts use the traditional BSA 10 essentials for car camping or backpacking campouts, but occasionaly, we have a survival campout where they can only bring our list of pocket items we gleaned from SAR training programs, including:
        multitool
        3 bandanas (red, white, blue for specific uses)
        sierra cup
        orange drum liner
        ferrocerium stick with zip bag of dry tinder
        head lamp
        zip sandwich bag of hard candy, gum, jerkey
        whistle
        signal mirror
        anti-bacterial lip balm
        The Scouts always have to have season appropriate clothing and head gear as their line of first defense against the elements.

  7. Just wondering who told you Scouts aren’t allowed to use lighters. Maybe it’s a council thing?

    • Well what if a Scout or Webelo gets lost and has a lighter and does not know how to do that glass sun ray type of thing. What else does the child have to do freeze to death, or just use the lighter Scouter Kevin

      • Lighters are simply not reliable in wet conditions. Ever try to spark a bic when a big rain drop hits the flint? The lighter will not light when wet, even a zippo.

    • Allowed but you must follow the chemical and liquid fuel rules which is a bit of a hassle for just a lighter such as “Using liquid fuels for starting any type of fire—including lighting damp wood, charcoal, and ceremonial campfires or displays—is prohibited” so you can cook with it but you would burn your fingers

    • Should be 14 essentials: Mom of Eagle Scout here : Always carry a whistle… comes in handy for alerting others of one’s position in case you are separated from the group. Came in handy to alert others on trailhead that they were going in wrong direction. They were to far away to hear our yells, or our whistling: but they heard the “coach’s whistle”.

  8. All you have to do to waterproof matches is dip them in candle wax. It’s best to use the strike anywhere matches if you can get them but if not, use an old pill bottle with the easy-open top for people with arthritis. They usually have a hole that you can tie to paracord or something & attatch it to your pack or clothes. Cut out the stiker off the box & stick it in the bottle. It keeps them dry, on your person & ready to use. Learned that in Girl Scouts.

    • WRONG!!!

      Put the matches in the pill bottle, glue the striker to the outside, then put both in a zip-lock bag to keep them dry, but never, ever, EVER put the striker AND the matches (especially not “strike anywhere” matches) inside the same container. That’s just asking for trouble.

      Ever seen a Scout’s backpack go up in flames because his Mom put the striker paper AND “strike anywhere” matches inside an old film container? It doesn’t take much jostling to ignite a match packed that way, especially not “strike anywhere” matches.

      And if you’re thinking “Tiny container, very little oxygen, the fire will just burn out.” Wrong again.

      The first match flares up, ignites the closest matches, they flare up and set off the rest, and in that first second or so you’ve got a flame hot enough to melt a hole in the plastic bottle and set it on fire. Or the expanding gases just pop the lid right off. In either case there’s plenty of oxygen and plenty of fuel (wood and plastic) to keep everything burning for at least 10-15 seconds, which is more than enough time to set fire to the contents of the Scout’s backpack.

      If he’s lucky the Scout behind him will see the smoke, realize what’s happening, and they’ll get his backpack off before he’s hurt.

      If he’s not lucky, maybe it’s late in the hike, everyone is tired and they’re all plodding along with their heads down. And he’s wondering why he’s sweating so much. And why his back is so hot? And it’s not until his backpack actually goes up in flames that anyone notices anything wrong.

      If he’s lucky, he can still get his pack off in time and avoid serious injury.

      If he’s not lucky he panics, and he can’t undo the straps & clips, and nobody is fast enough or has a knife sharp enough to cut the straps off.

      And Stop, Drop & Roll don’t work too well when a 13-year old boy has a flaming backpack strapped to his body.

      If he’s lucky, they still get the pack off and he has nothing more severe than 3rd degree burns over his back.

      And if he’s not lucky? Draw your own conclusions.

      TLDR: Never EVER put a striker and matches in the same container.

      • that is a lot of words just to say Isolate the striker, I wrap mine in enough foil to be useful for other tasks.

  9. I’m haveing to deal with this very bad list of so called essential’s right now with the scouts. I’m makeing sure my grandson understands that this list could get him killed in the woods. He already knows what the “real essential’s” are. But he likes hanging out with the other kids so we put up with this dangerous nonsense advise.

    • I have pointed out: pull up Everett or Seattle Mountaineers for their official Ten Essentials list. They live here in the soggy, foggy, damp, dripping Northwest so they know from experience. It is interesting to see the variety of opinions here. I am pleased that no one is citing that wondrous TV Discovery Channel program: ‘Naked and Afraid…and dehydrated, hypothermic, malnourished, bug-bitten and stupid? For survivalists and instructors some of the stuff shown is so terribly fakey and one can point out dozens of errors/horrors.

      • If you want a true world travelled expert on teaching “bushcraft”, check out Ray Mears from the BBC. I’m a retired USAF spec ops instructor and have seen the full spectrum of yesterdays and todays survival treaching programs. Ray is definitely the best, for all age groups. Our Scouts like to have a Friday overnight where we stay up and watch some of his 30 years of teaching videos late into the night, then get up and practice what we watched all day Saturday. That’s our favorite combination campout.

  10. It is pretty clear that this list was put together to sell product. I like REI’s 10 essential video: http://bit.ly/REI10essentials Looks like there isn’t agreement on a lighter. I’ve used them without issue up to 11,100 on Mount Rainier to light stoves; and have been completely soggy in the Pacific Northwest and they’ve worked fine. I have the same lighters I bought when I was climbing back in 1982, they’ve only just recently been running low on fuel, after 10 years of scouting. . .

  11. I have to agree with Tony’s March 3 comment; this is such a commercialized list, it’s appalling. What’s worse is that it’s titled “Boy Scout 10 essentials”. Guess what — the BSA 10 Essentials are in the handbook (page 264 of the 12th edition), and this list does not match it!
    Items in this list but not in the BSA list: Dry sack and water purification. In the BSA list but not in this list: Extra clothing, map, and trail food. Also, the BSA lists “Sun protection”, which includes sunscreen, lip balm, sunglasses, and a hat. This list only calls for a hat. Also, this list only calls for matches, but it should also mention firestarting fuel (e.g., vaseline-soaked cloth, or something like Coughlin’s Tinder).
    Pretty disappointing list, for Scouting Magazine.

  12. This list is terrible. I’m in Girl Scouts. And even we have a better ten essentials list than this. Come on boys, keep up.

  13. This list is just a start. hopefully scoutmasters are teaching boys how each of these items are good but that there are alternatives that are better.

    Please also remember that a usable variation of every item can purchased at Walmart and it will function just fine. nay sayers should create a youtube of their ten items and put the link here. Maybe show the usefullness.

  14. Oh, no, they need those 10 items so national can overcharge them by 4000%. Ziploc bags have worked for everyone else, at about 9 cents each. A 1.29 bic lighter works better than the 8.99 bsa survival matches. They are waterproof, and float. As for the rest, well, here’s some good advice, READ your Boy Scout Handbook. It tells you what you NEED.

  15. Keep in mind water purification tabs and matches eventually run out.
    Be prepared by having more than 1 way to make water potable and to make fire.
    I recommend stainless steel bottle and ferro rod w/tinder.

    REMEMBER 1 IS NONE AND 2 IS ONE !

  16. Hydration packs or water bottles?? Hydration packs are a waste of money!! Hard to keep clean, frozen lines in the winter. This is a salesman talking to us, not a Scouter!! There are much better things to recommend that a Scout spend his money on.

  17. Many good thoughts here but the 10 have been polluted.
    Know your scouting, outdoors/ woodsman skills well enough and practice them so you dont need the easily lost book.
    1-Knife[ with or with out a multi tool]
    2- Fire starter [3 types cuss its important]
    3-Extra food beyond the planed trip
    4- Extra Water beyond the planed trip AND way to make more if there is standing water no not the hollow fiber “filters ” on the market as they are easily cross contaminated and on back flushing weaken so they will internally break and you wont know they are broken as there is no way to all mentioned here
    5- light LED head lamp with squeeze no switch back up[ switches can be left on to kill battery]
    6-a comprehensive Med kit and knowledge to use it
    7- Extra clothing [type dictated by your trip]
    8- Shelter from cheapest of garbage bag to fine 2 man bivey
    9-signal device [with non electronic backup whistle mirror
    10-Navagation possibly cell phone or GPS with non battery back up such as current location map and compass

    from a lone scout who soloed a horseback with 45colt at age of 12

  18. Over $300 for 10 items?
    I thought a Scout was thrifty.
    Why all name products?
    Many items you can buy for less
    money and buy the gear that is
    missing from this list

  19. What? A waterproof bag is not part of the 10 Essentials. A ball cap does not protect the ears, so fails at sun protection. A compass without declination adjustment is a poor investment. And iodine has not been recommended as water purification for a couple of decades. Big fat fail.

  20. For survival – map where you will be; whistle; rain pants also; cotton balls soaked in Vaseline; high energy bar; make sure you buy the rain jacket with a very bright color for rescue spotting; duck tape around a pencil; and small amount of 5:50 cord always come in handy. Trash bag is a great sleeping bag when it is stuffed with leaves – warm.

  21. This list is honestly outdated and inaccurate. The 10 Essentials, as developed and published in the 70’s (Mountaineering: Freedom of The Hills, 3rd edition, 1974, revised to the 10 Essentials Systems in the 8th edition) by The Mountaineers is the ACTUAL 10 Essentials. It’s an established thing with meaning and purpose; not just a personal preference list. The 10 essentials were developed as a minimum list of gear that should be carried on any outdoor excursion to ensure two goals can always be met: 1.) addressing emergencies that arise in the field, and 2.) safely surviving one or more unexpected nights out. REI does a good job of outlining the modern list on their website, for reference. The proper list is: Navigation, Hydration, Insulation, Illumination, Fist Aid, Fire, Shelter, Protection, Nutrition, and Tools. The reason for the modernization to categories rather than the original list of specific items is due to the wide variety of technologies and products now available, suitable for different purposes. Specific items for a day-hike will differ than those for a week-long excursion for example, but the emphasis on appropriately covering each of the 10 categories applies regardless.

    • Well put Chris. Folks have been leaving similar comments for a long time, but in not correcting this article, Scouting Magazine has demonstrated they are about marketing trinkets, not educating with integrity.

      • A quality sheath knife, as now sold by B.S.A. once more, is the all-purpose tool of the outdoors. Use it to cut cord, trim a bandage, slice cheese, whittle a tent stake, open a can, and take care of hundreds of other tasks. Choose a quality knife that includes a 3-6″ blade. Invest in a good knife now, and it will serve you well through years of adventures.

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