BSA 10 Essentials



What are the 10 essentials?  They’re the 10 most commonly used items that you should have on every outing.  The list was first published in 1930 by a mountaineering club, then later adopted by the Boy Scouts of America.  The bottom line is that if you really want to be prepared, you need to consider these items on EVERY outing.

If you check your Boy Scout Handbook (p207), you’ll find them there. Here is the quick rundown:

Pocket Knife

BSA is actually pretty liberal with their knife rules.  The exception is that you must have your Totin’ Chit.

Bear in mind, however, that there are a lot of local rules that you have to remember.  Generally I recommend a folding pocketknife that locks.  It should fit in your hand with a blade that’s about 3″ long.  Fixed blade knifes and double edged knifes are highly discouraged because they can cause legal issues.  NEVER take your knife to school.

Personal First Aid Kit

Check out page 127 of the Boy Scout Handbook for great information on what to put in your first aid kit.  Extra band-aids never hurt.  But remember, everyone should have one and it’s intended for your own personal use.

I like to make sure I have both moleskin and duct tape in mine.  Put those in yours, too.  You’ll thank me, later.

Extra Clothing

Include sunglasses and a cap in this list.  An extra pair of clean/dry socks is a good idea, too.

This extra clothing can be handy if you get yours wet, or if things cool down and you need an extra layer to warm up.

Rain Gear

This can be a poncho or a rain suit.  At a minimum, I like to carry the cheap disposable rain suits to help keep me dry.  A better rain poncho could even double as an emergency shelter.

Water Bottle (1L)

Bring a 1L water bottle and ONLY use it for water.  That way you don’t have to put it in a bear bag at night.  Even better, bring 2 1L bottles.  But even if you use a hydration pack, one bottle is a must-have.  It’s durable and is a lot easier to use to sterilize water when needed.

Flashlight or Headlamp

It gets dark at night.  Really.  Well, in most places it does.

Even on a day trip, be prepared with a small source of light, just in case things don’t go as planned.  I like to have two sources of light.  A great setup is both an LED headlamp and flashlight, both of which use the same standard batteries (along with one extra set of batteries.)  But at a minimum, have one light source that you know will work.

NOTE: It’s really nice if your flashlights have a red light for use at night.

Trail Food

Even on small trips, bring a power bar or something to snack on.  You’ll need the extra calories because you’re working harder.  Plus, this is a great way to be prepared in case you run into unexpected problems or get delayed for some reason.

Even a baggie full of dry cereal is good (and inexpensive).


You need to have your Fireman Chit for this.  Bring matches in a waterproof container.  They’ll work no matter how cold it is.  It’s also helpful to have some firestarters, just in case (can you say duct tape?).  You can make these at home.

Map and Compass

Know where you’re going, when you plan to be there, and have a copy of the plan.  That plan should include a map.  (AND GIVE A COPY OF ALL THAT TO SOMEONE WHO ISN”T ON THE TRIP).

Once you have those things, hold on to them.  You shouldn’t get separated, but if you do, you have a resource that will allow you to rejoin the rest of the group.

Also, make sure to have paper copies.  Electronic devices are great, but they’re useless once they get wet and their batteries don’t last forever (especially when it’s cold).


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