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Hiking Essentials

The "Ten Essentials" are survival items that hiking organizations recommend for safe travel in the backcountry.

The Ten Essentials were first described in the 1930s by The Mountaineers, a hiking and mountain climbing club. Many regional organizations and authors recommend that hikers, backpackers, and climbers rigorously ensure they have the ten essentials with them. However, some expert lightweight hikers do not always carry all the items.According to the Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills, the ten essentials are:


  1.     Map
  2.     Compass (optionally supplemented with a GPS receiver)
  3.     Sunglasses and sunscreen
  4.     Extra food
  5.     Extra water
  6.     Extra clothes
  7.     Headlamp / flashlight
  8.     First aid kit
  9.     Fire starter (matches, chemical heat tabs, canned heat, or a magnesium stick)
  10.     Knife

The textbook recommends supplementing the ten essentials with:

  1.     Portable water purification and water bottles
  2.     Ice axe for glacier or snowfield travel (if necessary)
  3.     Repair kit, including duct tape and basic sewing materials.
  4.     Insect repellent (or clothing designed for this purpose)
  5.     Signaling devices, such as a whistle, cell phone, two-way radio, satellite phone, unbreakable signal mirror or flare.
  6.     Plastic tarp and rope for expedient field shelter.

Not every expedition will require the use of an essential item. Carrying these basic items improves the chances that one is prepared for an unexpected emergency in the outdoors.

For instance, if a hiker experiences a sudden snow storm, fresh clothes and fire starter may be used to keep warm, or the map and compass and headlamp will allow them to exit the wilderness quickly; otherwise they might succumb to hypothermia and perhaps even death. In addition, what you carry on a short summer trip on a popular trail is much less than a snowshoe trip in winter where you don't expect to see other people because the chances of being benighted are higher and because the risk of suffering hypothermia are greater.
Other "essentials"

Other outdoor organizations have variations of the Ten Essentials pertinent to local conditions. For example, Utah's Wasatch Mountain Club lists extra water in place of food, as Utah is mostly desert terrain, and water is more difficult to find.

The Spokane Mountaineers list "thirteen essentials", which supplement the list with emergency shelter such as a space blanket, signaling device, and toilet paper and trowel (for sanitary disposal of human waste. The toilet paper also doubles as tinder for starting a fire).

The "Ten Essential Groups" is an alternative approach to essential gear selection. Items from each group should be chosen depending on the season, geographic location, and trip duration.


Summer gear