10 Essentials – For Hiking, Camping, and The Outdoors

by Manidoo | Last Updated: March 16, 2021

The 10 Essentials encompasses all the necessary items you need for backcountry travel. Developed in the 1930s by a Seattle-based climber group, The Mountaineers. The list was created to answer two basic questions:

  1. Can you handle an emergency situation should it arise?
  2. Can you safely spend a night or two in the wild?

This was originally a list of individual items for planning an outdoor trip. But, over time, has evolved into being more about functional systems. Below is the most updated list:

The 10 Essentials Systems List

  1. Navigation – Map, Compass, GPS
  2. Illumination – Headlamp, Flashlight, extra batteries
  3. Sun Protection – Sunglasses, sunscreen, sun-protective clothes
  4. First Aid – Kit, Bug Repellent
  5. Repair Kit – Knife, Multi-tool/Swiss Army knife, duct tape, scissors
  6. Fire Supplies – Matches, lighter, tinder
  7. Shelter – Bivvy, Space blanket, tarp
  8. Food(Extra)- Beyond minimum expectation
  9. Clothes(Extra) – Beyond minimum expectation
  10. Water(Extra)- Beyond minimum expectation

Navigation

Remember, it only takes one wrong turn to get lost, so always have a map handy. Carry a waterproof sealed topographic map when traveling on a non-straight footpath.

Bring navigational tools to be oriented on the map. A compass is a must. Additionally, you can include a GPS device, an Altimeter, and a Personal Locator Beacon(PLB).

Illumination

The outdoors doesn’t have an easily available light source closeby. So it’s important to bring something of your own. Headlamps are the preferred lighting tool to keep your hands free. Flashlights and lanterns are a good secondary option. Regardless of your choice, remember to bring extra batteries.

Sun Protection

For sun protection, always carry sunglasses and sunblock. Exposure to the sun’s strong UV rays can be harmful. In the short term, it can cause sunburn and snow blindness. In the longer term, it can cause rapid skin aging, cataracts, and cancer. Consider sun-protective clothing such as a hat, loose-fitting pants, and breathable sleeves.

Fire Aid

A First Aid Kit is vital to have and know how to use. A solidly built first aid kit will prepare you for any emergency. I would also advise carrying insect repellant with you.

Repair Kit

A good knife can also be your best survival tool. It can aid you in bush-crafting, defense, food preparation, first aid, and more. I recommend having one on you to use for repair, but don’t just stop there. Consider bringing these items in addition: Duct tape, multi-tool/swiss-army knife, and scissors.

Fire Supplies

In the wild, having the means to start and maintain a fire is important. Be sure to have some fire starters and possibly a fire-starting kit available. These items can include tinder, strike-anywhere matches, and a butane lighter.

Shelter

Remember in the Survival Rule of 3s, you can only go 3 hours in extreme exposure. Protect yourself from hazardous conditions by packing an emergency shelter. You can go as light-weight as a bivvy bag or emergency blanket, or even heavier such as a tarp.

Extra Food

Be prepared for changes in your trip’s plan. A nice snack may seem good enough for a short trip. But, there’s no telling if you may get lost, injured, or stuck from bad weather. Bring an extra day’s worth of no-cook, preservable food with you (e.g. Jerky, trail mix, granola bars).

Extra Water

Hydration is of the utmost importance. Experts recommend drinking about half a gallon of water per day. When doing physical activities outdoors, the water you’ll need will be much higher. 

So when you’re outside, be sure to carry more than the minimal supply of water needed. You’ll also want to bring means for getting extra water. Such as chemical treatments and water purifiers.

Extra Clothes

Nature is unpredictable. There’s no telling if a storm’s impending or a drastic temperature drop will occur. Be prepared to have a backup set of clothes. You’ll never know if what you’re wearing will get damaged or wet. 

What Else?

The 10 Essentials does a solid job covering your Survival Needs. It’s important to remember one important rule: Your gear is only as good as your familiarity with it.

Be sure when keeping these systems in mind you pick the gear you trust. This means before bringing an item along, you use it at least once.

While you’re not required to have every single item on this list for all trips, it’s important to be mindful of them. Whether it’s a day hike or making a survival kit, the Ten Essentials should be your ultimate gear guide.