Updated: Jul 8, 2020
The 10 Essentials are—you guessed!— *essential* items to carry in your backpack during an outdoor adventure. These items can help you respond to an accident or unforeseen circumstances in the wilderness.
Created by The Mountaineers in the 1930s, the basic idea is that you should be able to spend a night outside with what is in your pack! The 10 Essentials was created to focus on scenarios on being able to respond to an accident in the wilderness and being able to spend a night outside with what’s in your pack. Below, we’re sharing descriptions of the essentials to consider when packing.
We're here to show you what the 10 Essentials are and how to use them.
During Wild Skills programs, young girls learn how to prepare and use the 10 Essentials for their outdoor adventures and now you can learn at home.
Adventure Ready Brands is committed to foundational outdoor education and empowerment for young girls through donations to the SheJumps Wild Skills programs. We’re excited they are collaborating on our weekly Micro Ventures content.
Micro Ventures is a free digital program to engage all ages in outdoor-related activities. Stay tuned for a different "Micro Venture" each week.
Navigation - map and compass
Sun protection - sunglasses and sunscreen
Insulation - extra clothing
Illumination - headlamp or flashlight
Fire - waterproof matches or lighter
Repair kit and tools
Nutrition - extra food
Hydration - extra water
Emergency shelter - tent, tarp, bivy, or garbage bag
Jeana White, Brand Manager for Adventure Ready Brands, shares the 10 Essentials she packs before a hike.
Now, let’s dive into the 10 Essentials.
Carry a map and compass always and make sure you know how to use them. Most people hike with phones these days (or even GPS watches). Navigation apps, like AllTrails or Gaia GPS, allow you to download your area offline before your trip. If you’re going on a longer trip, consider renting or purchasing a personal locator beacon or satellite messenger to stay in touch with your emergency contacts when you might not have cell service.
Consider taking a picture of the map at the trailhead as well to reference as you hike.
Sunburns are uncomfortable so having sun protection will help you enjoy your day and the days after.
Pack a hat with a brim to help reduce the amount of direct sunlight to your face.
Sunglasses protect your eyes and prevent squinting or straining your eyes. A quality pair of sunglasses with ultraviolet light (UVA) protection will help on the longer days. Sunglasses come in various darkness levels. Consider a darker pair of lenses if you’re traveling on snow for long periods of time.
Sunscreen and lip balm keep sun ultraviolet rays from penetrating or damaging your skin and lips. Sunscreens with a UPF rating of 30 or higher is recommended. If you tend to sweat or take jumps in the lake, reapply sunscreen or get a sport rated one that will work around or in water.
Bonus: Many brands make sun-protection clothing. When you’re updating or replacing your outdoor clothing, consider buying a layer that has sun-protection on the label.
Pack extra clothes. When you’re hiking or adventuring, chances are you’re sweating. Sweat causes your layers to be damp or wet. Without extra clothes, if you get stranded or cold, your body may have trouble warming itself causing hyperthermia. Even on warm days, it is good to bring an insulated jacket or layer with you. Stay dry and pack a raincoat or layer. Extra clothing options include top or bottom base layers, a neck gaiter, a warm hat, gloves, extra socks, or an extra insulated jacket.
Being able to see after the sun is no longer in the sky can help you see features on the trail that could injure you. Headlamps are preferred options as it allows you to have your hands free while moving and the light is a little more controlled than using a flashlight. Don’t forget extra batteries or recharge before you go. Lights can also be used in search and rescue scenarios.
Before you leave, double check to make sure everything in your first aid kit is up to date for your adventure. Pre-assembled first-aid kits are a good starting point. Adventure Medical Kits have many options depending on your normal activities and some even list out what’s in them, so you can easily identify what to replace.
Shop Adventure Medical Kits on Amazon.
In case of an emergency, being able to build a fire in the wilderness is crucial. Waterproof matches, electric lighter, or a mag strike can help start a fire to keep you warm or to cook food.
Shop S.O.L. Survival Outdoors Longer Fire Starters on Amazon.
Repair kit + tools
Duct tape is strong and highly recommended. Whether you pack some in your first-aid kit or wrap around your trekking poles or water bottle, it is nice to have plenty to use in case of gear failure or an emergency.
Knives come in handy when cooking or preparing meals but also for building fires or shelters. A sturdy knife can make all the differences when making camp. Consider a knife and/or a multi-tool. Multi-tools can help tighten loose screws on gear, have fold-out scissors, or a bottle opener.
Bring extra food. Carry some extra snacks or bars than you normally would, especially if they have high calories and ones that don’t need to be cooked. Having extra food, roughly a day’s worth, will come in handy if you’re stuck on the trail longer than expected for an injury or bad weather.
Staying hydrated on the trail is very important, especially the hotter the temperatures are outside. It’s recommended to drink at least 8 ounces of water per hour when you’re hiking, though you might need more depending on your body and the climate you’re exploring. Water can add weight to your pack. Instead of carrying all the water you’ll need, especially for an overnight, bring a water purifier with you to replenish your supply when passing creeks, rivers, or lakes. Here’s where your trip planning comes in as you’ll want to make sure there are water sources near or along the trail. If not, you’ll want to pack all the water you’ll need.
Shop RapidPure products on Amazon.
Shelters protect you from wind and rain and will keep you warm if you have an unplanned overnight. Pack an emergency bivvy, or mylar sleeping bag at the bottom of you pack. A second option is a survival blanket. Learn how to build a shelter.
Shop S.O.L Survive Outdoors Longer products on Amazon.
Stay safe. Always be prepared. Hike more and worry less. And leave no trace.