Do you know the 10 essentials for hiking? Do you know why they are important? If you have ever found yourself in a situation where you’ve wished for them or had to rely on them, then you know how important carrying them with you at all times is! If you’re reading this and are thinking, “Oh, snap! What is that?!” Then don’t worry, by the end of this blog post, you’ll be an expert on the 10 essentials for hiking!
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10 essentials of hiking
So what exactly are the 10 essentials for hiking? Well, they are 10 items to carry with you in your pack at all times – and I mean all times. Most of them are items you hope you will never need, like an emergency shelter, but in the event you get lost or injured, you will be so glad you have them. You never know what life will throw at you. You might fall and injure your ankle, you might get turned around and lose the trail, or there might be a freak rainstorm that swells the river you crossed. But now can’t cross again to get back to your vehicle.
The last two scenarios happened to real people while hiking in Arkansas just this last summer. In both instances, the hikers had to spend at least one night out on the trail, when they had just planned for a short day hike. So you can see why carrying the 10 essentials for hiking at all times is extremely important.
And don’t worry, carrying the 10 essentials for hiking doesn’t mean you have to pack a full backpack as if you were going to thru-hike the Appalachian Trail. They are mostly small and compact items, that can give you comfort and life-saving measures in the event of an emergency.
1. Extra water
First up is extra water. Water is important and not having enough can be very dangerous. I ran out of the water while backpacking in the desert and, believe me, it is important to have enough water.
If you are hiking in a place where there are streams and springs that you know will be flowing, you can pack water purification tablets or something like a LifeStraw. That way you can filter out all the bad junk that likes to live in streams and lakes.
2. Extra food
Food is fuel and keeps your energy level from dropping. The last you want to do if you are injured or lost, is to be hangry. So carrying extra food can help prevent you from having low blood sugars and keep your mind focused.
Calorie dense snacks with long shelf lives are perfect for this. I generally take a few extra Clif Bars, which are high protein to keep you filled. If I’m backpacking, in addition to the snacks, I take one extra freeze-dried or dehydrated meal.
3. Extra clothes
If you’ve ever camped and wished for more layers, just imagine if you didn’t have what layers you already had on. It gets cold in the wilderness at night. There’s no heater, and if you’re day hiking, you likely don’t have a sleeping bag. If for some reason you find yourself having to spend the night out in the woods unexpectedly, you’ll be glad you have extra clothes to keep you warm.
Extra clothes also come in handy. If for some reason you get wet, say you fall into a stream or have to spend time in the rain, having extra – dry – clothes can be a big comfort and keep you safe.
Navigation is most definitely a part of the 10 essentials for hiking! Having a map and compass can help you know where you are or at least give you a general idea in the event you get lost. But they don’t do you any good, really, if you don’t know how to use them. But fortunately, I have some blog posts that can help you with that: How to Use a Compass and How to Read a Topographical Map.
And don’t try to rely on your phone to tell you where you are. First off, phone batteries die, and second, they sometime are not that reliable. If you do want some tech in the backcountry, the Garmin InReach is quite nice. It’s a GPS device that allows you to text with 911 in the event something bad happens. It works anywhere in the world, except in caves. It needs communication with satellites.
A headlamp or light source is essential. There is nothing like finding yourself out on the trail longer than you anticipated, and it’s getting dark. A headlamp or light source is pretty much a no-brainer for the list of 10 essentials for hiking. You never know when something might happen and you find yourself in the woods in the dark.
6. Fire source
A fire source is also essential. Being able to light a fire helps boost your morale, gives you warmth, and provides a way to cook if you need it. It can also help search and rescue find you by its smoke or its light. So you’re going to want some kind of fire source like a lighter or matches.
7. Knife and repair kit
A knife and repair kit will come in a handy way more than you would think. They are great for when you need to go all McGyver on something. A repair kit can be used to help you way more than it’s intended purpose, and it’s not until your in a bad situation that you realize how helpful a piece of string can be.
8. First aid kit
Another no-brainer for the 10 essentials of hiking is a first aid kit. You never know when something bad will happen. (You notice I keep saying that.) A first aid kit can help you in many types of situations.
You can either buy one already put together or make your own, but either way you do it, be sure to carry it with you all the time.
9. Sun protection
Sun protection is important to keep in your 10 essentials. It can consist of sunscreen, a hat, and sunglasses. Sunburn can give you a fever and make you miserable. I had a fever from a sunburn I got from too much time on the beach in Cancun – it was not fun. Also, if you are adventuring where there is snow, snow blindness is something you want to take seriously.
10. Emergency shelter
I used to see emergency shelter on the list of 10 essentials for hiking and think, “I don’t want to day hike with my tent. That’s a bit much!” But in my research, I found that an emergency shelter doesn’t have to be a tent. In fact, I use a heat-reflective blanket for mine. I can tie it out and make it into a lean-to, or I can wrap up in it and let it warm me. It is bright reflective silver, which I like because it also makes me more visible to search and rescue. And the best part, it folds up and fits into the palm of my hand!
Beyond the 10 essentials for hiking
A few other items to consider taking with you that are not typically listed with the 10 essential for hiking include medication. If you rely on daily medication to keep you feeling well, then I suggest you take a couple of days worth with you, even on a short day hike. That way if you are stuck in the wilderness your lack of medication does not make you sick.
Another one I sometimes include, is a whistle. A whistle carries further than human voices. A hiker was lost last summer and he said he heard search and rescue yell his name, but they never heard him yell back. A whistle would have been very beneficial in that situation.
What items do you carry with you at all times?
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