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The Ten Essentials for Hiking

The Ten Essentials are a collection of items (gear) that will be helpful in case of an emergency, change in weather, or injury.

Think of these things as staples in your day pack & tailored to your specific adventure!

👉 Will you use all of them? Probably not/hopefully not!

🤝 But it’s good practice to carry most of these with you in SOME capacity.

The length, location, difficulty, and climate of your hike will determine what you pack in general and the specifics of the 10 Essentials. 🙂

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1 – Navigation & Communication:

🧭 This can look like a hard copy map, downloaded map on your phone, compass, or GPS device. The length and location of your hike will determine which navigation device will serve you best, but regardless, always have some form of navigation with you.

Favorite Map Apps: AllTrails, Gaia GPS, onX Backcountry

PLEASE ALSO ALWAYS LET SOMEONE KNOW WHERE YOU ARE GOING. PLEASE. 

📱A fully-charged cell phone is always a good option, but if you will be out of service for an extended period, something like a Garmin inReach Mini or SPOT (satellite messengers) is vital + HIGHLY recommended.

2 – Light Source

Even if you plan to hike during the day, carrying a light source with you is beneficial in case you get stuck out there after the sun goes down. Just throw it in the bottom of your pack!

Headlamps (with extra battery) are preferable because they are hands-free.

Other options are lanterns and flashlights. REI, Walmart, and Amazon have headlamps for under $30!

🔦 My Headlamp: Petzl IKO Core Headlamp

🔦 Headlamp Under $30: Black Diamond Cosmo 350

3 – Sun Protection

This lineup showcases sunglasses, sun-protection UV clothing, hats, Buff, and sunscreen.

All of this is important, even when it’s snowing! It’s recommended to use SPF 30 at a minimum.

☀️ I am a freakin’ HUGE fan of the REI Co-Op Sahara Shade Hoodie when hiking in exposed areas and honestly, it’s a fantastic all around moisture wicking base layer. I have every single color…

☀️ I also really dig Kinfield sunscreen because it’s texture, SMELL, effectiveness, and Kindfield cares ALOT about the ingredients used and about Mother Earth. (Code: TRAILBLAZER15)

4 – First Aid

Carry and be somewhat familiar with how to use a first-aid kit.

There are pre-packaged and assembled first-aid kits you can purchase!

You will want them to include a minimum of things to treat blisters, disinfecting ointment, various bandages, over-the-counter pain medication, tweezers, tape, and gauze. You can totally build your own from items you already have at home!**

Be sure to check the expiration dates of the content. 🙂

💊 You may also want to consider carrying our own personal medication in case you are stuck out on trail for longer than anticipated + an EpiPen if you’re allergic to bees/hornets/etc.

The length of your trip and how many people you’re with will determine what’s inside your first-aid kit.

⛑️ One Person/Single Use: Adventure Medical .3 Kit

⛑️ Group/1-2 Day Use: Adventure Medical .5 Kit

5 – Knife/Multi-Tool & Repair Kit

A pocket knife or multi-tool can be handy for food prep, gear repair, first-aid, potentially self-defense, and making kindling for a fire.

For gear repairs (if you’re going to be out for a longer hike or backpacking trip), a multi-tool can be super helpful, along with a handful of gear repair tools like duct tape or adhesive patches, zip ties, and cordage. 

⛏️ Pocket Knife: Gerber Swagger Drop Point

⛏️ Multi-Tool: Gerber Dime Keychain

Always ensure you are familiar with how to use these tools!

You can practice using them at your house or in your backyard.

6 – Fire

If you are headed out for a smaller/shorter day + local hike, this may not be something you ever ever use and doesn’t necessarily need to be high on your purchase list. This would better serve longer hiking or backpacking pursuits.

Bringing the below items would help you to build and maintain an emergency fire.

‼️ This emergency fire can be a signal for help or as a source of warmth in unforeseen circumstances.

Waterproof matches or disposable lighters work just fine. For fire starters, this can look like cotton balls smothered in petroleum jelly, dry tinder, or wax/chemically safe tabs. 

🔥 UCO: Stormproof Fire Starters

🔥 UCO: Titan Stormproof Match Kit

**If you ever had to start an emergency fire, be extremely careful if you an area that is high-risk for wildfires.**

7 – Shelter

Emergency shelter options can look like an emergency blanket, a bivy sack, an ultralight tarp, and even a large plastic trash bag. This can even look like a rain jacket!

❄️ The duration, climate, and location of your hike will determine the level of emergency shelter you may need to carry in case of unexpected inclement weather, you need to stay out overnight on trail, or an injury occurs + and you need to keep your core temp warm.

You aren’t going to bring a whole tent on a day hike to cover the “shelter” category, so my go-to is the emergency blanket! It’s lightweight, cheap, small, and actually has a bunch of different usages.

⛈️ SOL: Emergency Blanket

⛈️ SOL: Thermal Bivy

8 – Nutrition & Extra Food

🥯 YOU NEED FUEL & CARBS.

🥯 YOU NEED FUEL & CARBS.

🥯 YOU NEED FUEL & CARBS.

Bringing adequate food/calories is a massive priority when hiking, trail running, or backpacking.

Please do not skimp on nourishment, even if you’re not hungry.

Your body still needs calories every hour on the hour. 

ALWAYS BRING MORE FOOD/SNACKS THAN YOU THINK!

🍪 It’s recommended to carry an extra day’s worth of food/calories on day hiking and backpacking adventures.

If your adventure is longer, consider having more than a one-day supply packed. This is in case you encounter bad weather or an injury that forces you to be on trail for longer than initially planned. 

Food is essential to fuel your adventure, which is why it's one of the ten essentials. This image shows some tasty Nature's Bakery fig bars. A great adventure snack!

9 – Water & Filtration/Purification

You will need to be sure to carry enough water (in a bladder or Nalgene bottles) for your adventure and potentially some form of water filtration system if you know you will need to consume more than you can carry on a longer adventure.

💧 General Rule of Thumb: 1/2 liter per hour on trail in moderate temperatures and during moderate intensity. If you in higher temps, at altitude, or hiking hard – that amount may rise to 1 liter per hour.

💧 Be sure to drink before you’re thirsty! I know that’s not always easy, but chugging water doesn’t do your body any good because we can only absorb so much water at a time! Sipping through your hike is best practice.

👩🏻‍💻 You will always also want to do your research to know what water sources are available (if any); creeks, ponds, streams, or rivers. This is knowledge that can help you plan water refill stops along your route or be there in an emergency if you run our or have to stay out longer than accounted for.

Some treatment and filtration methods include water filter/purifier (Katadyn, Sawyer, Life Straw, etc.), iodine tablets (super small + practical), or UV SteriPen. 

Be sure to practice using your filter or tablets at home!

💜 Katadyn BeFree 1L (my fave)

💜 Potable Aqua Iodine Tablets

💜 Sawyer Squeeze System

💜 Katadyn SteriPen

A very important one on the list of the ten essentials - WATER. This image shows a Katadyn 1.0L water filter bottle.

10 – Extra Clothes/Layers

This refers to the clothes that would be necessary for an emergency, survival, or in a period of inactivity that go beyond what you’re already wearing and need for your adventure!

This can look like an extra pair of long underwear (top + bottom), warm socks, gloves, neck gaiter, wind breaker, rain jacket, vest, puffy jacket, etc.

You want to be prepared for sudden weather changes (cold, snow, wind, etc.)!

Here is a quick link to all of my favorite hiking/trail clothing! 🤘


Also, ONE more thing. I would love for you to join Trailblazers: Stoke Central.

This special online community is for women (cis + non-cis) and non-binary individuals who want to get outdoors, grow, connect, get stoked, and be part of a rad group of humans who also want to take up space outdoors.

ALL experience levels (very beginner to high-level outdoor-goers). Come as you are.

JOIN THE COMMUNITY

Meet the author

Bethany Taylor

I’m a PNW-based outdoor educator, adventure athlete, highly-caffeinated creative, all-women adventure trip host, safety advocate, and obsessed dog mom. I am here to help you chase more stoke-filled days outdoors with confidence through education and empowerment.

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