The 10 essentials are key to ensuring you stay safe while out adventuring. While 99% of adventures go smoothly, it’s always good to be prepared for the unexpected.
We’ll admit that years ago we didn’t even know what the 10 essentials were and we were definitely underprepared when exploring. But as we started to explore the outdoors more and go on longer hikes and into the backcountry, we began to really focus on ensuring we are safe and feel much more at ease going into unknown areas with these items.
In this post we’re sharing what the 10 essentials are and why you need each item, as well as sharing the exact items we bring for each essential, that way you can create your own 10 essentials kit and be safe on any adventure!
Looking for more items to take on your adventures? Here are our gear lists!
- Our Must-Have Hiking Gear
- Our Backpacking Gear + Backpacking Packing List
- Our Camera Gear for Photography & Vlogging
- Our Top Travel Gear + Packing List
Note: this guide contains affiliate links, which means that if you use the links provided and make a purchase, we get a small commission at no extra cost to you. We will only ever recommend products we truly love, actually use during our adventures, and think you can benefit from too!
What are the 10 essentials?
The 10 essentials are a list of items that you should always have with you when you head out for a day hike or backpacking trip. These items will help keep you safe in case you get lost, stranded in inclement weather, or have to spend a night out in nature unexpectedly.
The Ten Essentials are:
- Light Source
- Sun Protection
- First Aid
- Extra food
- Extra water
- Extra clothes
Create your own 10 essentials Kit
While some of the 10 essential items are obvious to bring with you, like water and food, a handful of them aren’t things you’d normally think of taking, or may easily forget.
What we have found super helpful is keeping these items in a small bag and keeping that bag in your hiking backpack at all times. That way, instead of scrambling for these items before every adventure, where you may end up leaving something behind (or not bringing anything at all), you’ll have them all ready to go.
Below we are sharing the exact items we use for the 10 essentials so you can create your own 10 essentials kit!
We use AllTrails to help us navigate the trails. Most trails we tend to hike are very well marked and it’s hard to get lost, but there are occasionally some areas where you can get turned around or miss a turn.
And that’s where AllTrails comes in! You can track your hike, even without cell service, which keeps track of your mileage, moving time on trail, and total time on trail. Another important feature is that it gives you warning when you veer off trail and you can even send updates to family through the app.
To use these features, especially offline, you will need an AllTrails Pro membership to download maps, which is $30 a year and so worth it to keep an eye on the trail map and track your progress. Important tip: Make sure to download the map beforehand to use it offline!
If you are going on a hike where the trail isn’t always marked or easy to follow, you will also want to bring a paper topographic map and a compass. However, make sure you know how to read a topographic map and use a compass before heading out.
Honestly, we don’t carry a paper map or a compass (besides the one on our phones) so that is the risk we take, but the AllTrails app has yet to steer us wrong and we always stick to marked trails anyways.
We have a Garmin InReach Mini and it is one of our favorite items we own. The InReach Mini is a satellite communicator that allows you to stay in contact with the world when you’re off the grid.
With this device you can send texts from anywhere, track and share your location with loved ones, and get weather updates. While you can do all of these features through the device itself, it is much easier and user friendly to use the EarthMate app on your phone, which you connect to the InReach device via Bluetooth.
We normally keep this device turned off while we’re hiking to preserve the battery, but to use the most important feature, the SOS button, it will need to be turned on. What we use it for the most is sending a text to our family when we have made it to our destination for the day, which they really appreciate.
It is not a cheap purchase and it does require a monthly subscription fee to use. There are several levels of subscriptions depending on how often you will use it while out in nature, but we have the lowest level which is around $11 a month, which has worked just fine.
A light source can be as simple as the flashlight on your phone, but that will drain your phone battery and it isn’t very bright. We keep a pair of these headlamps in our bag and they come in handy for those sunrise and sunset hikes.
Don’t forget to include a few extra batteries, just in case the current ones die.
Most of the time when we’re hiking we have a hat on, wear sunglasses, or both. Along with those, we use Bare Republic, which is a “better for you” sunscreen, although it may give you a nice white, vampire-esque sheen.
This first aid kit is small and lightweight. You might want to supplement this kit with some extra over the counter medicine, a few extra bandages, and maybe some allergy medicine.
We try to always have Advil and Benadryl on us, in case we get a headache or get allergies.
We carry this multitool, which includes a knife, screwdriver, and pliers. It can be used for food prep, making kindling, repairing things, and a host of other scenarios.
Having a way to start a fire is important in order to keep you warm in case of an emergency, as well as to cook food. We just carry a little lighter you can find at any gas station or store, since it’s light and doesn’t take up much space. Having fire starting gear in case it is wet is another good option too.
An emergency blanket is a must have item in your pack in case you get stuck in a storm or have to stay out overnight unexpectedly. This will help keep you warm! Even if you’re backpacking and have a tent, it’s good to have an emergency blanket as well just in case you leave your tent for a day hike and something happens.
When hiking, you burn a lot of calories, so you’ll need to replenish those calories, plus eat additional to keep your energy up. It’s always a good idea to bring extra food with you, just in case an adventure takes longer than planned.
In this kit above we share what our favorite foods to take on hikes and backpacking trips.
Water is an obvious essential and you want to bring more than enough. Nothing is worse than trying to finish those last few miles on a trail and running out of water or even worse…running out very early in your adventure.
We carry a CamelBak 3 liter bladder which carries 3 liters of water and is easy to drink from while on the go. On our backpacking trips or very long hikes, we also bring a Sawyer water filter so we can refill our water supply. You can also bring water purification tablets in case you don’t have a water filter or it breaks.
Conditions can change at the drop of a hat in the wild so you’ll want to carry some layers. Having some lightweight, but warm gear is a must to stay safe. We have gone on many hikes where it starts out cold, then gets warm, then rains, and then is nice again, so options are key!
In this kit above we share all of the clothing we take with us on our adventures, including light zip ups, rain jackets, and our winter jackets.