Hiking 10 Essentials You Need

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There are so many ways to pack a hiking pack. Most people bring their favorite 6 pack,  tons of snacks, and selfie sticks. However, they sometimes forget to bring hiking 10 essentials. There is no doubt that hiking is a great way to be active and enjoy the great outdoors. But, just like most activities there is always the slight chance an accident can happen and it is always a good idea to be prepared.

The original hiking 10 essentials list was assembled in the 1930s by The Mountaineers, a Seattle-based organization for outdoor adventurers, to help people be prepared for emergency situations in the outdoors. The original list was a list of items to carry. To this date more modern lists are based on a 10 systematic approach. In this article, I’m going to share what hiking 10 essentials I put in my pack. So here we go!

Hiking 10 Essentials List

Garmin Instinct and a reliable map

1. Navigation 

This one is by far one of the most important. Always be prepared for navigation, even if you have hiked the area before because trails are always changing and a shift in weather can change the way the trails look and feel.

In general, I like to use my phone for navigation. There are so many useful navigation apps out there, however, my favorite is All Trails we did a article about our favorite hiking trail apps. When using your phone though make sure you have a hard map and compass, and I would carry a power pack. The worst feeling is having your phone die without a way to navigate the rest of the trail.  

If you are going to be backpacking a lot it isn’t a bad idea to have a personal locating beacon (PLB) just in case you need to send out an SOS in an emergency situation. For GPS and PLB systems I have always preferred Garmin products, due to quality and efficiency and if you look at reviews I am definitely not alone. 

I opt for the Garmin Instinct watch, it’s durable, has extended battery life and works as a 3 in 1, featuring GPS, altimeter, and compass. For PLBs, the Garmin inReach Mini 2 is a great product for emergencies. There are also many other brands you can try that will work

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2. Head Lamp

Definitely a staple for longer hikes, if there is even a risk of being caught in the dark I would bring a head lamp. Hiking back down a mountain in the dark without a source of light is not fun and a stumble could be painful.

Also, always carry a spare bulb and batteries! These head lamps also make for a great resource for early morning hikes. I have even used mine for setting up camp at night and it makes setup so easy being able to use both hands. Some of my favorite brands for headlamps are Black Diamond, PETZL, and Lumore.

3. Sun Protection 

This system is obviously about protecting yourself from the sun especially during those summer hikes. Without it you risk being roasted and coming back looking like a lobster, we’ve all been there and that’s no fun! My favorite sunblock is really anything natural. But, lately I have been using Alba botanica sun spray. It works well and it is gentle on the skin without all the synthetic stuff. 

Other things that I usually carry are SPF lip balm like Jack Black. In addition, to a Buff, sunglasses, and a hat. Buffs work super well and are versatile for covering your face for extra protection. Sunglasses are great for both high heat and snowy conditions when the sun reflects light from the snow. I like to wear a bucket hat during really hot days my favorite is one I have from Columbia it works for covering your neck and face.

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4. First-Aid 

First Aid kits really depend on the hike. At a minimum you should include gauze pads in various sizes, bandages, dressing, adhesive tape, scissors, cleansers or soap, latex gloves, over the counter pain medications, and blister care.

Most places sell a pre-built first aid kit, which can definitely help take out some of the work in making your own. If going with the pre-built, always look at what it includes and add any items that fit your personal situation.

I hate bugs and blisters so I always like to have some Moleskin and spenco 2nd skin or a set of waterproof hydrocolloid bandages. For bugs I like to use a natural based bug spray or sometimes a picaridin based bug spray due to its effectiveness against ticks. I don’t really use anything with DEET unless in an area where there is a ton of mosquitos.

First aid kit and repair kit

5. Repair Kit & Tools

Repair kits have come in handy more times than not. I usually carry a multi tool or knife. In addition, to a patch kit or duct tape. A patch kit or duct tape works well for repairing tears or holes in clothing, sleeping bags, and tents. Also, paracord is fairly useful as well. It is helpful in tethering things together, using to replace a shoelace on a hike, or torn guy line.   

For knives and multi tools, there are a lot of options. A simple knife will work and is highly versatile on its own. Multi tools are pretty neat as they come with other tools such as screwdrivers, bottle openers, scissors. If getting a Multi Tool make sure it has a knife option surprisingly some of them don’t

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6. Fire 

Being able to start and maintain a fire is important in an emergency. For me personally I just bring a disposable butane lighter or matches. If you go with matches make sure they are waterproof like this stormproof match kit

As for a firestarter, this is basically used to help start a fire and is helpful in wet conditions. There are a lot of types of firestarters on the market. I recommend testing them out though to make sure they work that way you aren’t in a sticky situation later. 

There are many options for a firestarter, you can also make some with household products. Some homemade fire starters I have seen are cotton balls and vaseline, dryer lint stuffed into some toilet paper cardboard. 

7. Shelter 

If you end up stuck in an overnight situation an emergency shelter is a must. These are all light weight options for in an emergency or even just for times when you need protection from the weather. There are many options out there, tents, tarps, bivvy sacks, blankets.

A lightweight tarp works well for wrapping yourself up to stay warm or even finding some sticks or using trekking poles to make a tent shelter. Another type of shelter is a waterproof bivvy sack, this is basically a mummy sleeping bag that works to hold in heat while also protecting you from the elements. 

Among these types of shelters blankets and tarps are alright, usually the most lightweight and minimalist option. Emergency tents and bivvy sacks provide a bit more protection and warmth however weigh a little more. . 

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8. Extra Food

This is one thing I pretty much never forget. But, just in case you need a reminder make sure to always bring extra food on the trails. It is always better to have more food than not enough. It’s usually a good idea to focus on food with a good amount of protein to keep you more full during the hike. 

It’s usually great to plan at least a day’s worth of food that doesn’t require any cooking and will last long. What I like to bring are things like trail mix, protein and nut bars (or any other bars), jerky, and dried fruits. For quick fuel I really like honey stingers, cliff blocks, and GU shots. 

As always, eat what works for you and if you have a food allergy follow your food guidelines. These snacks are what work for me and what I like. They aren’t the only foods out there that will work for hiking. There is so much out there just experiment through trial and error to see what you like.

drying out my 2L water bladder

9. Extra Water

Water is crucial for survival. Your body needs water to continue to function and thrive. Plan to carry extra water and have a way to treat water while you’re out on a hike. One thing to take in consideration when deciding on water amount is that on average most people need to consume about half a liter (16 oz) of water per hour during moderate activity in moderate temperature. 

Now the exact amount of water varies a little per person. From my experience for most day hikes I have done, I usually carry 2 liters of water and 1x 16oz of water with electrolytes that I sip every between sips of water.

For a back up, just in case you do run out of water you would want a way to purify and filter water. This can be done with chemical treatment and filtration systems. A popular way people purify water is using potable water tabs which works well. I’m a big fan of filtration bottles and systems, especially ones that work with regular 16 oz bottles.

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10. Extra Clothes 

Always bring extra clothes, and know how to wear layers when you are out on the trail. This is important for being comfortable and keeping you safe while out on the trail.

Base Layers

When addressing base layers start off with a good sweat wicking and dry material. Follow the “cotton kills” rule and avoid wearing cotton because when wet it is a horrible insulator and it stays wet taking forever to dry. When cotton is wet it can make you even colder and in the heat it can trap warmth making you feel even hotter. So when given the choice opt for dry, lightweight, and sweat wicking material such as this merino wool shirt.

Mid Layers

If it is going to be chilly out it is a great idea to pack a mid layer. When I head to the mountains I always pack a mid layer because it is usually about 15 or 20 degrees colder when you get above tree line. Some great options for mid layers include a down jacket or fleece which both work well.

Outer Layers

A outer layer is always a great idea to have. I cannot count how many times having a light rain jacket has come in handy. Other outer layers that are nice to have in colder weather is a buff, hat, and gloves. Having a buff is especially nice for keeping the neck warm, protection from wind, and I have even used it for facial covering when driving on dirt roads.


Treat your feet with love and pick a quality pair of hiking boots or shoes and socks. I usually opt for a merino wool based socks with medium cushion. Go with a lighter low cut type boot or shoe for easier terrain and if you are wanting more support go for a ankle rise boot. To check out my favorite trail runners read this article.

Frequently Asked Questions 

Do I always have to bring the 10 essentials?

This is the most common question asked in regards to the hiking 10 essentials. And, really this systematic list does have some variability to it. On shorter hikes there may not be the need to have all of these items. Compared to day hikes or longer hikes where you most likely will want to have all of these items. When I pack I always have all of these items in mind but, if I am going on a hike that is about an hour and I am very familiar with the area I may not bring all of these items. 


Leave a comment below if you found this hiking 10 essentials list helpful. Also, let me know what hiking 10 essentials you like to bring on your backcountry outings. As always, get out there and stay safe my friends!

Editor note: This post was originally published August 08, 2021 and has been updated for more accuracy and comprehensiveness

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