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Eager to hit the trail? Not so fast.
Before your next adventure (a foray into the Indian Peaks, perhaps? Or maybe a section of the Colorado Trail?), make sure you’re prepared. You should always carry the 10 Essentials—or the 10 pieces of emergency gear and equipment that can best assist you if things go awry—on your person, in your pack, even if you expect to only be out for a short while.
That's only $1 per issue!
- First Aid
- Sun protection
- Extra water
- Extra food
- Extra layers
Read on for short descriptions of each item, plus tips and local gear and equipment picks to level up your kit or replenish used or old items.
Your phone can die or break—an up-to-date topographical map of the area and a compass (plus the knowledge of how to use them) is the only surefire recipe to find your way in the backcountry where there is no signal. Also good practice: reading up on your route and studying a map before you head out. Consider a GPS device, personal locator beacon, or satellite messenger for spicier trips.
2. First Aid
A basic first-aid kit with bandages, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, and foot care items will help you treat the widest array of mountain maladies. Whether you buy a pre-packaged kit or assemble your own, be sure to store it in a watertight container, Ziploc, or dry bag.
3. Sun Protection
Extended time in the sun will not only burn your skin but sap your energy. In Colorado, where you’re closer to the rays and there are more of them, consider doubling up with both sunscreen and a wide-brimmed hat or even tripling up with specific UPF, or ultraviolet protector factor, sun protection clothing.
It’s teeny and weighs next to nothing—please keep it in your daypack in case of emergencies. Extra batteries, too.
Whether you need to slice a piece of rope, fix a broken zipper, or just sharpen the end of a s’mores stick, carrying a multi-tool or knife is a wise move. Pack one that can handle basic gear repairs (e.g., snapped tent pole, impossible knot) and some more creative MacGyvering (hanging a bear bag, resoling a boot).
In a dry state like Colorado, always consider an emergency fire a last resort. Still, you don’t want to be caught without an easy way to ignite one. Keep a lighter or matches, plus some kind of flammable tinder, in your emergency kit. A small stove isn’t a bad idea, either.
Hauling a tent is obviously unreasonable on quick jaunts, but if you’re heading somewhere remote, it’s worth preparing for a sour night out. Keep an emergency blanket in your daypack and consider something heftier like a tarp or even a bivy sack for protection on more rugged trips.
8. Extra Water
9. Extra Food
On top of your typical food prep, pack extra snacks heavy on carbs and electrolytes for energy and endurance. Tip: If it isn’t appetizing at home, it certainly won’t be when you’re dehydrated and hangry—bring yummy food only.
10. Extra Layers
The weather can change in an instant—especially in the mountains and especially in Colorado. Always prepare to encounter the nighttime low, even if you intend to be back at the trailhead by dusk, and always pack for rain. At minimum, keep a lightweight puffy jacket and rain gear at the bottom of your daypack. Extra socks and gloves are a good idea, too.