Hiking and other outdoors activities can be super rewarding—that is, if you're prepared with the necessary items! We're here to help with a handy item-by-item guide on what you need to stay safe when you head out for a day hike, backpacking trip, or mountaineering excursion.
Outdoor enthusiasts refer to this list as "The Essential Ten." First developed by The Mountaineers, a Seattle-based hiking and climbing group, it's become a classic primer in what you need to survive emergencies like a sprained ankle, bad weather, or getting lost overnight. Here's what you need to stay safe in the great outdoors:
Even if you're planning to be back to you car or campsite by nightfall, it's always a good idea to carry a headlamp or flashlight and an extra set of batteries. Nobody wants to be stuck on a dark trail at sundown.
We're not all Boy Scout magicians who can rub a couple sticks together to create a fiery blaze. So it's important to carry waterproof matches or a lighter and fire starters, which can come in the form of anything from dry tinder and lint trappings to DIY fire starters!
Don't set out on the trail without a topographic map or a compass! Ensure you know how to read both the map and compass before you set out on the trail, and study the route so you actually know where you're going. Keep your map in a waterproof case (or a simple plastic baggie in a pinch!). A GPS is an added luxury, but remember that batteries can fail and an old-school compass is an important backup to have on hand.
4. Extra Clothing
When packing extra clothes, consider the worst possible conditions you will come across while hiking. Extra undergarments, mittens, socks and a jacket, and a balaclava (or ski mask—yup, the kind bank robbers wear) are common choices.
No matter what, always carry a day's worth of extra food in case inclement weather or emergencies keep you from getting back to your starting point. Granola or nutrition bars, nuts, and jerky work well, but anything easily digestible is fine. Digestion keeps the body warm, so the benefits here are two-fold.
Your body can survive several days without food, but only a few days without water. The amount of water you'll need will depend on many factors: the weather, altitude, terrain, distance, and level of exertion. Familiarize yourself with your own needs and aim for a liter every two hours at a minimum. This means that beyond a water bottle or hydration bladder, you may also need to carry a water purifier or chemical treatment to filter water found in lakes or streams.
7. First Aid Kit
This one is a no-brainer. A pre-assembled kit works just fine, but think about what you might need more or less of and customize it to fit your needs. You'll need different items based on your group size, trip duration, and types of activities.
8. Sun Protection
Keep that skin (and eyes and lips) safe! Sunglasses, a wide-brimmed hat, and a high-SPF sunscreen/lip balm are a great way to prevent sunburns (and premature wrinkles, if we're being vain).
9. Repair Kit/Tools
A pocket knife and duct tape are a good start. Use these to repair gear (like sleeping pads, tent poles, or hiking boots), prep food, and even to prevent blisters in a pinch (but if you're prepared, you should already have a few bandages in your first aid kit!). Nifty hack: wrap a long strip of duct tape around your water bottle or lighter so you don't have to carry the whole roll!
10. Emergency Shelter
You may not think you'll need shelter if you're going on a day hike—but remember, we're preparing for the worst here. If the sun goes down and you find yourself lost or stranded, an emergency blanket, bivy sack, ultralight tarp, or even a large trash bag can keep you warm and sheltered from the elements.