February 21, 2022

The Ten Essentials…

A tad bit of history: the Ten Essentials were made by the Mountaineers and appeared in the third edition of Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills in 1974.

While the Ten Essentials should be the core of what you carry, people’s Ten Essentials list can be a bit different.

For example, my list is a tad bit longer than 10 items.

Number one rule:

  • leave your plan with someone & tell someone where you’re going

Also give them a time frame of when you should be back and when to call for help/come looking for you.

Okay, so 4 Number one rules.

Which is fine because all of these are so important and can save your life.

The ten items listed below are what is on the official Ten Essential list:


  • topographic map
  • printed map/hiking map
  • screen shot of the map on your phone (although you should have another back up in case your phone dies)
  • compass (always carry)
  • GPSBest GPS For Hiking of 2020
  • phone appGAIA GPS or AllTrails

* Be sure you know how to use a compass and read a map!

I recommend studying the route and reading the trail description multiple times, including the directions to get there. Also, read up on different trail descriptions and directions for the adventure. Sometimes a trail description or directions can be wrong or hard to understand. I can’t tell you how many times this has kept me on the right trail, or how many conflicting trail reports I’ve found.

Map It Out: Plan out your trip! If it’s a multi-day trip, make sure you plan out how many miles you’ll trek each day and where you’ll stop. Research the trail conditions in recent trail reports. There are usually multiple places to check the trail conditions, especially if it’s a popular hike. Look for junctions on the trail, where steep ascends/descends are, water crossings, any water sources (streams, lakes, etc.) and other similar things. Knowing ahead of time what the land should look will help you from taking a wrong turn.

  • For myself, I screenshot a trail description and map, along with using the Garmin and bring a compass. Before the Garmin we used GAIA. Before GAIA, AllTrails was utilized and I screenshot a map of the trail found online.

Sun + Bug Protection

  • sunglasses 
  • sunscreen
  • SPF chapstick
  • hat
  • pants and long sleeve also minimize exposure
  • bug repellant

Picaradin Lotion (bug repellant) works, but it isn’t as effect as insect protective clothing. It is the same story with SPF protection – sun protective is more protective than SPF.

  • For myself, I always bring Chapstick and a hat. If it is a sunny day, I’ll bring sunglasses as well. I bought some polarized glasses from Next Adventure for $12.00, so it’s possible to find good, polarized sunglasses for under $20.00!


  • jackets
  • hats/beanies
  • gloves

… you know, the stuff that keeps you warm!

Mother nature likes to keep us on our toes, so packing layers is a must. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve started out freezing then was overheating an hour later, sometimes less than a mile into the hike depending on the elevation gain.

  • For myself, the puffy jacket is also something that has saved me and almost killed me (exaggeration). I personally overheat, so unless it’s below 15 degrees or we’re going to a summit, a puffy jacket is a no-go. If there is a chance of rain or it’s not going to be super cold, a rain jacket gives enough protection but breathable – I tend to get too hot in fleece.

Light / Illumination

  • flashlight
  • headlamp
  • lanterns

There are factors that can end up slowing your hiking pace, leaving you on the trail in the dark. Invest in a good headlamp. They’re convenient because you don’t have to use your hands. While our cell phones do have flashlights, this light doesn’t provide much in a pitch dark forest or on an open meadow.

I’ve gone through a couple headlamps and I can confidently say to just spend your money on the good one. I’m all about budgeting, but this is one of those items that you will just end up buying multiple of if you don’t get a good one.

My favorite headlamp: I’m obsessed with my Black Diamond ReVolt. It is 300 lumens so I am never scared on the trail in the dark with this little guy. In fact, my other hiking buddies don’t even need a light if I whip this one out! You can move the light up if you want to light up the trail, or point it down when you want to light up what’s right in front of your feet only. There is a strobe setting, dimming setting and red-night vision setting. It can also lock on a certain setting and remembers what setting you were on before you turned it off. Not to mention it is waterproof – perfect for those cold dreary Pacific Northwest nights. The headlamp comes a USB cord to charge it (so you could go without batteries), but also comes with rechargeable AAA batteries! On top of that, there is a three level power meter so you won’t get caught off guard when it’s about to die. You can charge the headlamp and once it runs out of juice it will use the rechargeable AAA batteries that are inside. Then, if that dies you can replace the rechargeable AAA batteries with regular AAA batteries. You’ll never get left in the dark with the Black Diamond ReVolt.

  • For myself, I actually carry another flashlight and my (cheap) Coleman headlamp in my pack – along with my Black Diamond headlamp. I probably don’t need to bring my Coleman headlamp (and won’t bring it if I start after sunrise), but I’m terrified of the dark so it’s a comfort thing. Before the Black Diamond headlamp, I used the $12 Coleman headlamp. It was no good and super dim.

First-Aid Supplies

  • Bandaids
  • Advil/Ibuprofen/Tylenol
  • gauze pads
  • Neosporin
  • hand sanitizer
  • Ace bandage
  • small first-aid pack can end up being a big help
    … and more!

The first-aid kit may change depending on your adventure and season. Be sure to check the expiration date on them, something a lot of people skip over.

Next Adventure carries different options for first-aid kits if you’re located in the Portland-metro area . They have a Medical Kit Mountain Series in different sizes, making them affordable! You can also buy them on their website.


  • matches
  • lighter
  • fire starters

…Knowing how to start a fire will be a helpful skill on the trail.

You also need to check if fires are allowed. The past couple summers we’ve had a fire ban for almost the entire season.

  • For myself, I pack both matches and a lighter and stick them in a small waterproof container.

Repair Kit + Tools

  • multi-tool
  • scissors – in first aid kit
  • duct tape
  • krazy glue and/or Aquaseal
  • knife
  • needle + thread

Always be sure to inspect your gear before you head out. I’ve never had to use my repair kit, but it’s a comfort knowing if something broke, I have a chance of being able to fix it. Plus, all these items are light, so it doesn’t add too much weight.

  • For myself, the Aquaseal, needle and thread go into a small container/bag. The multi-tool and knife are stored in my front backpack pocket. Duct tape is usually thrown to the bottom of pack.

Nutrition / Food

What you take is completely up to you, but I do suggest bringing

  • high calorie-salty foods
  • dried fruit
  • nuts
  • energy bars, granola bars
  • trail mix

… stuff like that!

They say 1 – 1.5 pounds of food should suffice for a longer day hike, and to also add extra food for an additional day.

  • For myself, I always bring a little dark chocolate along for a treat. A wrap or sandwich, fruit snack, cheese, and a granola bar usually make it into my pack. I also leave another meal in my car for after the hike – plus another full water bottle.
  • Sometimes we’ll bring a cooler full of ice and leave it in the car for afterwards. If we do this, “fancy” sandos are created or we make an actual meal over our camp stove at the trailhead. I also pack Premier Protein shakes since they have 30g of protein.


The most important item (along with emergency shelter) in my opinion.

In order to avoid drinking more water than you need, only drink when you’re thirsty. There are many articles online that discuss over hydration vs. dehydration on the trails.

Pack more water in the summer than you would in the winter, but always keep extra water in the car. Water filters are also a good item to carry in your pack.

  • For myself, I use my water bladder and bring my LifeStraw (water filter). I have used the Nuun tablets, but didn’t buy them myself – so I don’t have a big opinion on them.



  • tent, tarp, plastic tube tent
  • bivouac sack
  • blanketsinsulated sleeping bag

Also another very important Ten Essential.

Having shelter can protect you from severe weather conditions if you get stuck out on the trail. Not only is this an important item to carry, but it doesn’t add much weight to your pack.

  • For myself, I have 2 emergency blankets, insulated sleeping bags and 1 tarp. Together they all weigh less than half a pound and are super compact. I bought them at Next Adventure in Portland, Oregon. I personally think they are worth the purchase.

Specific Items

  • If you want to see what I carry on the trail you can find out in my ‘What’s In My Pack?’ entry. I do carry more than the 10 essentials.

It’s always good to compare your packs with other hikers! You may not need what they carry, but sometimes you can get ideas from someone. For example, the idea of carrying a small shovel in my pack came from another woman that I met on the trail! Another time I met a hiker who carried pliers, but I have a multi-tool so I didn’t feel like that was an item that I should add to my bag.

Post by: Lexi Gets Lost


About the Author Koa Hughes

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