The 10 Essentials: What You Need To Know

November 10, 2022


The 10 essentials are ten items that you should bring with you on every adventure, no matter how long or short, solo or with friends. These items should be tailored to your specific hike or trip, for example, the first aid kit you’ll need for a 2 mile hike would be different than what you would bring on a 4-day backpacking trip. Or, the amount of extra food, water, and clothing you bring may vary depending on the length and environment of your trip (eg. desert vs. mountains).

The ten essentials probably won’t be the only items in your backpack, but it’s a great place to start. No one anticipates the moment they may be in need of any of these items, however the ten essentials could save your life in case of an emergency, and it never hurts to be prepared! Keep reading for a list of the ten essentials, some including specific item recommendations. 

The 10 Essentials: 


This would be items such as a map and compass, as well as a GPS. I recommend all three, specifically a satellite GPS that doubles as a communication device so you can call for help in the case of an emergency. Keep in mind that gear is useless if you don’t know how to properly use it to keep you safe, so I highly recommend taking a navigation class if necessary. There is nothing wrong with taking a refresher course either if it’s been a while since you’ve used those skills!  


This one should be aligned with your adventure. Adjust your first aid kit for the number of people, the number of days, and how far from the nearest hospital you are. You will also want to consider the environment you are in (aka for a desert trip, you may want to bring extra electrolytes, etc).



For illumination, think headlamp, flashlight, and extra batteries or a portable charger in case your headlamp or flashlight dies. This is especially important for backpacking trips, hikes in cold weather, or a sunset or sunset hike. 



For most hikers, including someone going out for a day hike, an emergency bivvy will be ideal as an emergency shelter. However, if you are backpacking, you are likely already bringing a shelter with you! If you are a hammock camper, I recommend making sure you have an insulated quilt or tarp to keep you warm if conditions shift. 


If for whatever reason you had to stay overnight unplanned or signal for help, you will want to have the ability to start a small fire. Make sure you have fire starter, weatherproof matches, and/or a lighter. Windproof lighters are ideal if that’s what you plan on using.


Having a repair kit, or at least a couple items to make impromptu repairs can be crucial on certain adventures. I always bring a multitool with me that has a knife on it, as well as paracord and tenacious tape for gear repairs. 


This might look different depending on your preference, but some examples of sun protection are sunglasses, sunscreen, a hat, a buff or sunshirt with UV protection – this is my favorite sunshirt. Properly protecting yourself from the sun is especially important at high altitudes. The worst sunburn I have ever experienced was actually in February at 13,000 feet! 


An extra days worth is the general rule. However, this essential doesn’t have to be anything heavy or over the top, just enough to hold you over. I usually opt for extra trail mix and protein bars, and when I’m backpacking I’ll bring an extra dehydrated meal. 


This one can vary depending on what your access to water will be on your hiking trip. Know how much water you will need and plan accordingly, and be sure to have a water filtration device, such as a Sawyer Squeeze or Lifestraw. I also like to bring extra electrolytes just in case. 


Bringing extra clothing along is an easy one to oversee, but super important, especially in certain terrain such as the mountains. I recommend bringing a jacket such as a puffy, a beanie, gloves, extra pair of socks, and an extra base layer set on winter hikes. I like to keep these in a dry bag so they’re safe just in case my backpack gets wet. 

Bringing the 10 essentials with you on your hikes, camping or backpacking trips, and any other adventures is a great way to plan ahead and keep yourself safe in the case of an emergency. I’ve had some of the ten essenaials come in handy even on short hikes, and the unfortunate reality of getting outside is that Mother Nature will always make the calls, and plans can take a turn quickly. In addition, the more prepared you are, the more confident you will feel to overcome whatever obstacles might take place.


As always let me know if you have any questions! Happy trails 🙂 

*Please note that some links above are affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission on any purchase you make – at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!


Read next: What To Bring on a Winter Hike

Hi there! I’m Shelby, a
Colorado hiking guide!

I’m here to inspire you to climb your mountain from the ground UP.
I’m an avid hiker and backpacker, and also love camping, fishing, and anything else I can do outdoors, even if it means going alone! I believe nature is the best teacher of all, and I find joy sharing this knowledge so you can feel empowered on your own adventures! 

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