Preparing for the Outdoors: The Ten Essentials

If you are planning to spend any amount of time outdoors, it is critical that you make sure you are prepared for anything. Recreational activities like camping, hiking, and backpacking are great in order to get out and enjoy nature, and they can be fun for the whole family! However, emergency situations can and do happen in the wilderness, and if you are miles from civilization, the chances of survival largely depend on you and your gear. In order to be prepared for a trip out into the woods, make sure that you are familiar with the Ten Outdoor Essentials.

ten outdoor essentials when preparing for the outdoors

The Ten Outdoor Essentials is a list of items you need in order to enhance your chances of survival if an emergency situation occurs. Ideally, these items need to be brought on every outdoors excursion. After all, being prepared is better than being sorry. However, as you grow more familiar with the list, you can modify it to fit your needs. The Ten Essentials is helpful to approach as a number of different systems. When preparing for the outdoors the Ten Outdoor Essentials are:

  • Navigation – A map is a must have on any hiking or camping adventure. You need to know where you are going and how to find your way back. It is also helpful to take a compass and know how to use it to orient yourself. Topographic maps are extremely useful for backpacking and going off-trail. A GPS can be a helpful tool, although it should not be relied on only. *We have a great post on how to prep a map for your family for you to follow up with.

  • Sun Protection – Sunscreen and sunglasses will protect your skin and eyes from the harmful effects of spending time outdoors. Be sure to reapply sunscreen often and pick one that has a SPF of at least 30.

  • Insulation – Even if you don’t plan to be outside for a long period of time, it is always helpful to bring an extra layer of clothes like an insulating jacket and hat. The weather can change rapidly in the wilderness, and hypothermia is a real threat, even in the summer.

  • Illumination – A headlamp or flashlight can come in handy in just about every situation. Headlamps are preferred because they are lighter, use LEDs, and free up your hands. Just be sure to pack extra batteries. *We love this little tactical flashlight.

  • First Aid Supplies – A good first aid kit should include supplies to treat everything from blisters, scrapes, upset stomachs, bug bites, and aches and pains. You might even want to include a splint and latex gloves for broken bones or other serious injuries. First aid kits come preassembled or you can build your own emergency kit.

  • Fire – If you find yourself stranded in the woods, building a fire could save your life. Invest in some waterproof matches and be sure to include some sort of tinder or firestarter like dryer lint. *Make sure you teach your kids how to start a fire as well.

  • Repair Kit and Tools – Handy if your gear is in need of repair, a knife or multi-tool is a must. They can also be good for food preparation and a variety of other things. A good repair kit also includes sewing needles and thread, patches, adhesive, and safety pins.

  • Nutrition – Be sure to bring extra food so you can give your body the energy it needs. Jerky, energy bars, and dried fruit are all easy-to-carry items. *Dehydrated apples are a tasty choice that you can make inexpensively at home.

  • Hydration – Keep your body hydrated by making sure you have extra water. Bring a water bottle or hydration reservoir in order to have plenty. If you are going to be in the wilderness for an extended period of time, you will also need to find water sources and a way to treat water.

  • Emergency Shelter – Recommended even for day trips, an emergency shelter can keep you warm if you find yourself having to spend the night in the woods. Emergency shelters include space blankets or a bivy sack (Amazon affiliate link).

What are your essential items when preparing for the outdoors? What items did we miss? 

*Notes with additional resources added by Barb.

Creating A Support System for Personal Emergencies and Disasters

Sadly, many of my friends are going through their own personal emergencies and disasters: loss of a job, death in the family and even a good friend starting breast cancer treatments as a single mom. Thankfully, I feel blessed to be a part of each of their support system as I know they would do the same for me if the situations were reversed. Each personal disaster that I see my friends go through brings me back to the heart of what this site is about: preparing for the unexpected. Too often “preppers” are painted with a Doomsday brush. But really, the majority of us that prep are more trying to be ready for those unexpected bumps in the road that involve your own family.

How to create support system for personal emergencies

This post is about creating  and sustaining your own personal support system. I am blessed to have a group of friends who would be at my door in seconds with meals for my family, rides for my kids, or a mop to help me clean. I know. I have seen them do all of that for members of our group. Many churches organize groups like this as “relief societies”, mine is an informal network of friends. It doesn’t matter how you find your group. The point is you need to either make one or get involved in one.

Sit down today and walk through your average day in your head. Now, imagine, you had to have an emergency surgery and couldn’t be there. Make a list of all the possible things you could need help with and who could be there to fill in for you. If you are relying on a spouse, remember, they are going to need help helping you!

  • Who is going to get the kids up, dressed and feed them breakfast in the morning? Can your spouse take a few days off? Do you have vacation time or sick time set aside for that? Or extra money put away to cover the time off? Could one of your parents help? Are the kids old enough to do it themselves if that just meant pouring cereal (have some extra on hand?). Have you taught your kids how to make themselves very simple meals like scrambled eggs?
  • How will they get to school? Do you have a back up like a carpool group? Or a neighbor? If they ride a bus do you know your neighbors well enough to look after your kids at the stop? If you homeschool do you have independent lessons they can be working on? Or learning activities like puzzles or a fun computer game that they can do until you are better?
  • Who will cook dinner? Do you have a nice stack of take out menus around? Do you have freezer dinners (hint: I am posting some great recipes for this weeks Sunday Skills)? What about your support group?
  • What about your pets? Do you have enough extra food around for them? A neighborhood kid who could walk them and clean up after the dog in the yard?
  • Do you have someone who could take over your role at work? PTA? Church? Really wherever people count on you…do you have a backup?

The above questions are meant to get you started thinking about who you could count on for back up for a short time. But what happens if your emergency is a bit longer? I have a friend with 5 kids who broke her leg in multiple places this year. Her recovery process is likely to be 6 months. What if you needed help for that long?

How to Create or Find a Support System

The old saying “To Have a Friend Means You Must First Be A Friend” comes to mind. Have you volunteered to bring dinners, give rides, or otherwise help a friend in need? Do you check on your elderly neighbors regularly? Offer to take them to the store or pick up things for them? Same thing for the mom with a new baby! Creating an attitude of community caring in your life will go a long way when its your turn to need help. If you belong to a church, talk to them about spearheading a committee for this. How about just talking to your friends and creating a circle of people that want to give and get this type of support? For the friend with a broken leg, we used the service Take Them A Meal to plan out who could help with dinner. My friends used a simple spreadsheet in google docs when I needed help this summer. It’s not hard. It’s about being there. And about understanding that no matter how prepared we are, everyone needs help now and then. Make a support network part of your prepping plans!

Family Emergency Plan #2: Make a Family Information Form

This is part two of a Family Emergency Plan series written by our contributing writer, Prepper Lush. Make sure to read Family Emergency Plan #1: Talking to Your Family.
Family Information Form as a part of your Family Emergency Plan

Most women I know are list makers. Maybe not actual lists in your purse or laying around the house, but lists in our head, so, I think our head needs more room.

Make a family information form (list of your family).

  • It should include the name of all the family members whom live in the house, phone numbers for each, email address, what school they attend, where they work, A phone number for an out of state contact, where they should meet if they can’t get home.
  • Important information. Bank numbers and codes, life insurance, copies of insurance cards/credit cards, social security numbers, birth certificates and other things your family may need to know if it’s necessary.
  • Up to date photos of each person in the family, defining markings and their locations (this is for those people whom don’t live at home as well, college aged kids, etc)
  • Copies of keys for rooms in the house you may have locked (gun closet, safe combination, etc)
  • Family plan: Ex: If an emergency comes up and I can’t drive home, I’ll be walking; it’ll take me about 2 hours to get home. So the teens know to go and get their siblings from school and go home. Get things to supply the house with light and don’t open the fridge/freezer so it can stay cool if the electricity is out.(Come up with a plan that’ll work for your family)
  • Enough money to get you and your family out of town if you had to.

This whole thing should take about 3 hours to compile, depending on what you have. It might take a few days, just have a goal in mind on when you want it done. Then do it.

After you are done, put it in a plastic bag and in the freezer.


Yes… it’s the most fireproof spot in your house. I thought my husband was silly when he told me that the first time. It’s true, keep your stuff safe, put it in the freezer and check it out again every time you turn your clocks back. Make changes… update.

  • Now… put a mini one in all of your vehicles (sans the SS#, bank account, etc). Just things you might need like, bug out plan, family information, cash, etc.)
  • Take one to work.
  • Give one to a family member/child that’s moved away, etc.
  • Give an instruction book to the child care provider/in kids backpack.

Links to online Family Emergency Plans:


What would you add to your FEP? I’d love to gain more ideas, I hadn’t even thought about cash until a friend of mine brought it up after Sandy hit New York this Oct.