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SAR Essentials Store:
The Ten Essentials Plus

The ten essentials is a term first made popular by The Mountaineers. They promoted ten critical items that you should carry with you anytime you venture into the woods.  Over time several different lists have been developed and additional items have been added.  In the field of SAR, you not only are worried about yourself, but also your teammates and the subject.  It is possible to spend a lot of money or very little in assembling these items.  To that end we have complied two different lists.  One is the poor man's version.  This list is for people brand new to SAR and still not sure it is their thing or simply someone with little cash reserves.  The second list is for those serious about SAR, hiking or camping, survival, or just like buying neat stuff.  Just click on the link to find out more information.*
| Map & Compass | Light Source | Sunglasses | Food/water | Clothing | Shelter |Matches | Fire starter | Knife | First-Aid | Flagging tape | Whistle | Water filter | GPS | Insect repellent | Sunscreen | SAR Pack | 2- Way Radio |
Item Pointers Poor Man's SAR Standard

Maptech topographic electronic maps can be used with Global Positioning System


You always need a detailed map.  For SAR work, a 7.5 minute USGS map is the most common. Next, make sure you know how to read the map.  Finally, if you get lost, lose the map, and staying put doesn't make sense, then pick a bail-out direction

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On most searches maps are issued to the SAR teams. Spend 10 to make a copy of a map.  

Suunto MCA-D Challenger Mirror Sighting Compass MC-AD M-CAD MCAD

Compass should have 2 degree increments, be liquid filled, and a clear base.  A mirror allows more accurate sightings plus can be used to signal and shave.  Make sure you know how to use it.

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You finally have to spend some money.  Suunto a good bare bones compass.
Flashlight Headlight

Petzel duo headlamp - perfect for night searching

Let me tell you about the hike that was intended to last only a few hours in the daylight but then.... (Reading trail signs from the light of a pager is a real bummer) You should also add extra bulbs and extra batteries. New LED technology means you don't have to carry extra bulbs.  Even nearly dead batteries will still produce useful light.

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Mini-Mag Not bright enough to search with, but it will get you out of the woods.

Mini-Mag Light

Sun glasses

Oakley frogskin sunglasses - fives, frogs, twenty


Included on the Mountaineers list because at high altitudes you go snow-blind.  A bad place to be blind.  Make sure glasses stop 99 percent of the UV light, if they don't they may do more harm than good.  

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Cut out some cardboard in the shape of the silly 3-D glasses and then make two slits to see through.  You will look like a dork. DO NOT use for driving!

For SAR teams in the East, consider Safety glasses when busting through brush in the middle of the night

Food/water/ Canteen

Camelbak water system

Extra water is critical.  Even when it is cold out.  Carry high energy food such as GORP, energy bars, or Pemmican. Tend to snack on your emergency food? Consider a can of sardines or tuna.

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A one liter plastic bottle of water or soda will also serve as a canteen. (99 cents)
Extra Clothing The idea is to bring enough clothes to get through an unplanned bivouac in worst case weather for the outing.  Avoid cotton. 

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Shelterland/shark survival bag - survival blanket - emergency bag - emergency blanket - emergency bivy sac bivy sack Extra clothes alone will not get you through that unexpected bivouac.

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Five large plastic leaf bags. Once again you will look like a dork if this is also your rain gear.

Brunton Helios Stormproof Lighter

Make sure to either carry waterproof matches or a container to keep them waterproof. 35mm film can works great.

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The local bar.  Dip the heads in candle wax to waterproof. Strike anywhere and 35mm film canister.
Fire starter

Fire sticks, Fire starter

Great in wet emergency conditions

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Lint from the dryer after a load of cotton.  small candle, strips of waxed cardboard
Pocket KnifeLeatherman tool picture  A basic tool.  Do you need a corkscrew?  All depends. No a butter knife from the kitchen is not good enough.  A small Swiss Army Pocket Knife however does the trick.
First-Aid Kit The goal is to carry items for minor injuries and those items that cannot be improvised. Be sure to carry any required prescription medications.  i.e. inhalers, epi-pen. Borrow, beg bandages, medical tape, etc.Simple kit
Toilet Paper

How to Sh*t in the Woods: A book

Think about it. May double up as firestarter.  A lot better than using your map. Take from home, put in a plastic bag.  If forced to improvise in the woods, make sure you know about "leaflet three let it be!"  
Whistle Avoid metal whistles unless you like to freeze your lips during cold weather. The loudest whistle You will want it if you are the one lost!
Fluorescent Flagging tape Required for Search and Rescue work.  Used for marking clues, evac routes, boundaries, etc. Typically issued by SAR team.
Water filter

First Need Delux  Water Purifier

All water in the backcountry is suspect.

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Carry lots of water and really hope you don't run out.
Insect Repellent

insect repellent.gif (22145 bytes)

Things that bite make searching difficult and the wilderness no fun.

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 Wear long sleeved and long pants.  The poor man scratches a lot.
Sunscreen More of a high altitude issue but sunburn is never good.  Use at least SPF 15

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 Consider using small travel bottles.
  • Sun Screen - SPF in foil packets.  No need to worry about a mess in your pack

Picture of a Garmin 12 GPS

Not really required, but sure is a useful adjunct for land navigation.  With selective availability turned off, I routinely see accuracy down to 11 feet.

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Not a poor man's tool.
  • Garmin GPS 12 - Fast, accurate, powerful.  A standard for several federal agencies.
  • Garmin eTrex Summit -Also able to tell barometric altitude.
Paper & Pen Important to take notes out in the field Regular paper in a plastic bag.  A pencil always works when wet. Rite-in-the-Rain waterproof paper and pen
Day Pack   It is possible to carry all of your items in your pockets.  BDU pants make this even easier.  A small fanny pack or day pack gives more space.  
Talk about Radios

Picture of a Motorola TalkAbout two way radio

1-2 mile range.  No FCC license required. A longer range VHF radio will be issued on most searches
  • Motorola TalkAbout -Ideal for either a command net to be operated among base, or for intra-team communications off the main tactical net.  Also good for convoys to the search.
Finally the most important item to always bring along: Common Sense.  It is common sense that teaches limits and the value of training.  All the gear is worthless without common sense.  Which is priceless.

* Full disclosure statement.  dbS Productions will make a small commission (5-10%) on many of the items recommended through an affiliation with SAR Camp, Amazon.com, Backcountry Store , US Cavalry, and This small commission helps maintains the website and supports SAR research.


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