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The backcountry essential you’re forgetting

This essential won't fit into your pack, but it's something you need to consider before heading out into the backcountry

If you’ve ever ventured into the trails or backcountry, then you ought to be familiar with the 10 essentials–the items that help keep us safe in the outdoors. They include a navigation system, headlamp, sun protection, first aid, knife, fire-starting tools, shelter, extra calories (also known as snacks), extra water, and extra clothes. But there’s actually one more, and this missing essential won’t fit into a 20L pack.

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Photo: Tara Holland

So what are we forgetting? What else do we need to survive and thrive in the outdoors? Although there is debate about whether to include feminine products or even poles, the general list of essentials is thorough and complete. The list includes what to take into the backcountry, but neglects who take with you.

For solo adventurers, this may not apply. But, understanding your own values and those you adventure with can make or break your experience. You need to know how you operate in risky situations, and how those around you do as well. Having these conversations before you head out into the mountains can be just as important as having potable water.

Photo: Brian Erickson

It’s all fun and scree until your adventure buddies are having a domestic dispute up ahead while you simultaneously fear a near-death experience. As much as you know what is in your pack, you need to know who you are adventuring with. Just because you get along with people in everyday society does not mean they will be an adequate partner for you in the outdoors.

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It isn’t always obvious whether someone will be a valuable match for you in the backcountry. Next time, before you pack up your 10 essentials to go exploring with a friend, consider the following to ensure they will be a good adventure ‘sole’ mate:

Carol Green with her daughter Solana overlooking Garibaldi Lake, BC. Photo: Solana Green

1. Expectations

Ensure you and your adventure buddies know the route, expected time, what you are bringing, and what to expect if things do not go as planned. Be open with each other about your expectations before you leave.

2. Goals

Is this a fun day of exploration? Or does someone in the party want to get the next FKT on route? Are we training hard, or are we being inclusive and waiting for one another along the trail? Talk about your goals and aim to align them.

3. Prior experience and knowledge

Ask about their previous experience on the trails and in the mountains. If they have every been in a risky situation, encourage them to share what happened and how they handled it. Having these conversations before the adventure begins can help set everyone up for success and fun.

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