Pack The Ten Essentials: For A Successful Hike

The “Ten Essentials” are a list of items you should bring on any hike, even if it’s just for the day. You likely won’t need all of them regularly, but if something goes wrong and your survival is at stake, you’ll be grateful to have packed them.

In this post, we will detail ten essential items every hiker needs to bring on a day hike.

The Ten Essentials list was first created in the 1930s for climbers and outdoor explorers. The goal of the list was to help people be prepared for any emergency they may encounter while outdoors.

Some of the items on the original list included: a map and compass, sunscreen and sunglasses, extra clothes, a headlamp/flashlight, a first-aid kit, fire starter matches, a knife and extra food.

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The ten essentials

The 10 essentials hiking list has evolved over the years to now follow a “systems” approach instead of individual items. Today, it looks like this:

1. Basic hiking navigation

Pack The Ten Essentials: For A Successful Hike
My hiking map and compass with mirror

You’ll need to consider the basic navigation tools you’ll have on hand for your hike.

This can include things like a map of the area, a compass to help you stay oriented, or even a GPS device for extra accuracy and peace of mind.

Additionally, make sure that you are familiar with basic hiking safety tips and techniques, such as properly using your navigation tools and knowing when to turn around if you feel unsafe or uncomfortable.

Compass

Don’t just rely on your cell phone. Carry a compass as part of your essential gear. This simple lightweight tool can help you stay on the right path and avoid getting lost in the wilderness.

Whether you’re navigating dense forests or rocky mountain trails, having a compass with you can help ensure that you get back to safety quickly and easily. Just be sure you learn how to use it before you head out.

Hiking map

I like carrying physical maps with me. I’ll print them out online or buy a copy. They’re great for figuring out your general direction and how long it will take you to get to the next point.

Plus, having a map can help ensure that you don’t get lost or disoriented on your hike, which can be especially important if you’re hiking in a remote area or unfamiliar terrain.

Hiking GPS devices

A hiking GPS device is not only essential for helping you stay on the trail, but it can be a lifesaver in an emergency situation.

If you become lost or disoriented, having a GPS device will allow search & rescue to find you quickly and easily.

They can also be used to track your progress along the trail and help you keep track of how long it takes you to complete certain sections.

Plus, many hiking GPS devices are equipped with features like weather alerts, topographic maps, and navigation tools to help you stay safe and prepared on the trail.

Garmin eTrex 30x, Handheld GPS Navigator with 3-axis Compass, Enhanced Memory and Resolution, 2.2-inch Color Display, Water Resistant

With its reliable, rugged design, customized menus and affordability, this GPS offers the ultimate ease of use.

2. Water

Pack The Ten Essentials: For A Successful Hike
Stay hydrated while hiking

Never leave home without enough water and a durable water bottle. You’ll need to stay hydrated throughout your trek, which will help you maintain your energy levels and avoid thirst-related fatigue. When planning your hike, learn if there are any freshwater sources that you could access and treat using water treatment methods.

Additionally, bringing along an extra water bottle and or water purifying supplies will help ensure that you have enough water for emergencies or unforeseen situations that may arise on the trail.

Generally speaking, people need half a liter of water per hour for moderate activity under moderate temperatures. Of course, you may need more than that depending on other conditions such as the weather, altitude, or how strenuous the hike is.

3. Food

almonds, pistachios, pecans and cashew  nuts on a plate

You will also need to pack some food and snacks when going on a day hike.

Whether it’s energy bars, trail mix, or other healthy options, bring enough high-calorie foods to keep your energy levels up throughout the duration of your trek.

This will help ensure that you are able to enjoy your hike without being distracted by hunger or fatigue.

Bring along some extra food, in case you’re trip goes longer than expected.

Items that don’t need to be prepared are best, such as beef jerky, energy bars, or trail mix.

I always leave an extra energy bar in my vehicle, just in case I’m hungry when I get back.

4. Bug spray or wipes

Pack The Ten Essentials: For A Successful Hike
Apply prior to hiking

One crucial item that you cannot afford to overlook is bug spray or wipes. This simple addition can protect you from pesky insects that are so annoying!

Whether it’s wasps, mosquitoes, or other biting bugs, having protection will allow you to focus on enjoying your time outdoors without worrying about bugs.

I like to use the wipes on hikes or backpack trips for their lighter weight and easy carry ability.

Ben's 30 Deet Mosquito Tick Insect & Bug Repellent Field Wipes - 24 Pack

These individually wrapped wipes provide convenience and protection against ticks and insects.

5. Headlamp (+ extra batteries)

Pack The Ten Essentials: For A Successful Hike
My headlamp

Another essential item to bring is a headlamp with extra batteries. Whether you’re hiking in the early morning or at dusk, having a reliable source of light will help ensure that you stay safe and visible.

Plus, having a headlamp can come in handy if you get lost or need to change a flat tire on the side of the road.

So be sure to pack one in your backpack and bring along plenty of backup batteries, just in case!

6. Sun protection

Make sure to pack sunglasses, sun-protective clothes, lip balm, and sunscreen whenever you hike.

Exposure to ultraviolet rays can cause sunburn and snow blindness in the short term. And more serious problems like skin cancer and cataracts in the long run.

Sunscreen

Coppertone SPORT Clear Sunscreen Lotion SPF 50 + Face Sunscreen SPF 50, Water Resistant Sunscreen Pack (5 Oz Spray + 2.5 Fl Oz Bottle)

This Coppertone sunscreen doesn’t run so it won’t end up stinging your eyes, it’s also sweat resistant.

Bringing a broad-spectrum sunscreen with you is key to enjoying your hike safely. Protecting your exposed skin from those harmful UV rays is essential for a safe and enjoyable outdoor experience.

Lip balm (with SPF!)

Coppertone SPORT Sunscreen Lip Balm, SPF 50 Sunscreen for Lips, Water Resistant Lip Sunscreen SPF 50, Skin Protectant, 0.13 Oz Tube

This Coppertone lip balm offers UVA/UVB protection to help keep your lips feeling moisturized on the trail.

Along with sunscreen, it is also important to bring along some sun protection for your lips.

Using lip balm or chapstick will help keep your lips hydrated and protected from the sun, and wind.

So make sure to pack a good quality lip balm in your hiking kit for a worry-free day out on the trails.

Sunglasses

Not only do sunglasses protect your eyes from harmful UV rays, but they also help to shield your vision from dust.

Polarized lenses are designed to reduce glare from reflective surfaces, like snow or water.

Wear sunglasses if you’re hiking through dense woods where your eyes would be more prone to injury.

Additionally, wearing shades can help to prevent headaches caused by squinting in the sun. So don’t forget to pack those essential shades!

Hiking clothes (UPF)

BALEAF Women's Quick Dry Shirts Long Sleeve for Running Hiking Workout UPF50+ SPF Lightweight Pullover Blue Size S

This lightweight quick-dry shirt offers a UPF of 50+ and features a hidden watch hole design as well as a thumb hole.

One key piece of sun protection that is often overlooked is sun protection clothing.

Look for hiking clothes that offer an ultraviolet protection factor (UPF) to help to keep you protected.

Also, a full-brimmed hat can go a long way in protecting you from the sun.

Additionally, packing some rain gear, an insulated jacket and some extra clothing can also be essential for protecting yourself from unpredictable weather.

If you’re stuck in the wilderness for an extended period of time, you’ll need to add some extra layers to stay warm.

By bringing these items along, you can ensure that your gear will always be optimized for wherever your hike leads you.

7. Small utility knife

Gerber Gear 22-01471N Suspension Needle Nose Pliers Multitool Multi-Plier with Nylon Sheath, Gray

Whether you need to cut through some rope, open up a can of food, or make any other quick fix in the backcountry, having a reliable multi tool or utility knife like this one on hand will be sure to come in handy.

So if you want to stay safe and prepared during your hike, be sure to bring along a good utility knife or multi-tool!​ ​​​​

8. Emergency supplies

Pack The Ten Essentials: For A Successful Hike
My small emergency medical kit

A crucial aspect of hiking gear is being prepared for any possible emergencies that may arise.

This means bringing first aid supplies such as Band-Aids and pain relievers, along with a personal locator beacon in case you get lost or separated from the rest of your group.

A small repair kit including some duct tape, safety pins, and scissors would be helpful for any gear repair.

By staying aware of potential dangers and packing the appropriate emergency provisions to address them, you can enjoy safe and successful hikes every time.

9. Firestarters

Melt Candle Company Fire Starter - Fire Starter Pack for Chimney, Grill Pit, Fireplace, Campfire, BBQ & Smoker - Water Resistant and Odourless - Camping Accessories

I like to throw a couple of these into a ziploc bag and keep them in my backpack.

Having a reliable fire starter such as a disposable butane lighter can be helpful if you need to build a fire for emergency heat or signaling purposes.

A firestarter is a tool that helps you start a fire and is extremely useful in wet conditions. The best kind of firestarter ignites quickly and produces enough heat to last for more than a few seconds. Some typical firestarters are dry tinder stored in a plastic bag, firestarter cubes, or lint from a clothes dryer.

10. Shelter

MEKKAPRO SOS Emergency Thermal Bivy Sleeping Bag with Survival Whistle, Survival Bivvy Sack, Mylar Emergency Blanket

Stay warm and dry in a bivy sack like this one. They are lightweight and easy to carry.

You should carry some type of emergency shelter that will protect you from harsh weather conditions if needed. If you ever get stranded or injured on the trail you may need a bivy sack or a lightweight emergency space blanket until help arrives.

Additional nice-to-have hiking items

Pack The Ten Essentials: For A Successful Hike
Some of the extras I like to have with me

Consider the following items on top of the ten essentials for an even more enjoyable hiking experience.

Gaiters

Pike Trail Leg Gaiters - Waterproof and Adjustable Snow Boot Gaiters with Customized Fit Technology for Hiking, Walking, Hunting, Mountain Climbing and Snowshoeing (Neon Green)

These lightweight yet durable gaiters will keep your legs dry and protected.

Having these lightweight accessories can also be helpful for a safe and enjoyable day hike.

Gaiters are great for keeping rocks, dirt, sticks, and other debris out of your shoes or boots as you’re hiking through rough terrain.

They are also useful in protecting your legs from thorns while you walk through dense underbrush. Additionally, they snug up against your shoes or hiking boots keeping your feet dry from snow or rain.

Bear Spray

SABRE Frontiersman 9.2 oz. Bear Spray, Maximum Strength 2.0% Major Capsaicinoids, Powerful 35 ft. Range Bear Deterrent, Outdoor Camping & Hiking Protection, Quick Draw Holster & Multipack Options

Carrying bear spray is always a good idea hiking, you never know when you may need it.

If you’re in bear country, pack some bear spray to keep you safe from any wild animals that may be lurking on your hike. Whether it’s bears, snakes, or wolves and coyotes, having a way to protect yourself can give you peace of mind.

Be sure that you know how to use the bear spray prior to your hike. And it never hurts to take a Bear Aware course to learn more about how to safely spend time in bear country.​

​​​​​Toilet paper

Don’t forget to pack some toilet paper or kleenex in your backpack. Whether you need to clean up after a meal or take care of other personal hygiene needs, having some toilet paper with you is a must.

So be sure to bring some TP with you on your next hike!​ ​​​​ ​​​​.​ ​​​​

Hand sanitizer

And to round out your personal hygiene essentials, don’t forget to pack some hand sanitizer. Whether you’re dealing with dirty river water or you had to answer the call of nature.

Having hand sanitizer on hand can help prevent the spread of germs and keep you feeling clean on the trail.

Trekking poles

LEKI Cross Trail 3 Carbon Trekking Pole Pair - 100-135

These are similar to my Leki Cressida poles, that I love.

Trekking poles are definitely a nice-to-have item. They can help reduce strain on your joints and give you extra stability that you need on uneven terrain.

Binoculars

Bushnell H2O Waterproof/Fogproof Roof Prism Binocular, 8 x 42-mm, Black, Model Number: 158042

These binoculars from Bushnell are fog-free and waterproof and come with a soft case.

Having high-quality lightweight binoculars can help you get the most out of your hiking experience. You’ll be able to spot wildlife and take in all the scenic beauty around you.

Trail etiquette

Pack The Ten Essentials: For A Successful Hike
Hiking in B.C.

As any experienced hiker knows, trail etiquette is an essential part of a successful day out on the trail. It is important to follow certain guidelines in order to leave as little impact on your environment as possible.

Never leave behind trash or leftover food scraps where they could harm local wildlife. I usually carry a plastic bag or ziploc bag to collect any garbage I find along the trails.

By practicing good trail etiquette, we can make sure that hiking has no lasting negative impact on our natural landscapes.

Final thoughts

So remember whether you’re a seasoned hiker or just starting out, there are a few key items that you should always pack for your day hikes. These include things like a basic first aid kit and extra clothes, as well as trail etiquette guidelines to help minimize your impact on the environment. So the next time you head out on the trail, be sure to bring along these ten essentials and enjoy a safe and successful hike!​

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