The 10 Essentials

Updated: Dec 8, 2020

Packing your bag for a hike can be tough: Do I have enough snacks? Should I pack toilet paper? Is that a personal preference? What do I actually need?



A quick internet search may bury you in many differing opinions, and it can be hard to sort out what's needed, what's useful, and what's not. Thankfully, in the 1930s The Mountaineers, a Seattle based organization for climbers and outdoor adventurers, established a list of the Ten Essentials. While updates are made as technology advances, the core essentials ring true even today.


The 10 Essentials ensure that we're prepared for emergency situations in the outdoors, and while you may not use every item every hike, it's important to always keep them handy. After all, you can’t plan an emergency, right?


The 10 Essentials are listed as "systems." Keep in mind that the specific items in each system are flexible and may be swapped out based on activity and climate.


10 Essential Systems

1. Navigation

2. Headlamp

3. Sun Protection

4. First Aid

5. Knife

6. Fire

7. Shelter

8. Extra Food

9. Extra Water

10. Extra Clothes


Let's break it down...


1. Navigation

Phones can be useful tools, but service in hiking areas is often limited and battery power only goes so far, especially in extreme temperatures.


Whether you're analog or high-tech inclined, here are some tried-and-true alternatives:

- Map: Digital or analog, this is always the first thing you should have handy! Check park headquarters and websites for trail maps, topographic maps, and downloadable maps.


- Compass: Knowing your bearing is one of the best ways to prevent getting lost. Phones have handy compass apps to help you stay on track, but an old-school baseplate compass will work without fail and isn't reliant on dwindling battery power. Baseplate compasses often have a sighting mirror as well that can be used to flash sunlight in emergency rescue situations.


- GPS Device: Again phones are handy, but aren't always reliable or accurate. An independent GPS device allows you to accurately track your location and stay on course. There are many great options for outdoor use that include a tough and sturdy built for even the clumsiest of us on the trail.


2. Headlamp

Why a headlamp instead of a flashlight? Two words…hands free.


Let's pretend we're in one of those dramatic infomercials where the lady opens a cabinet and 300 tupperware dishes fall out: