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Hiking Ten Essentials:
Why Do They Matter?

By Diane Spicer

All hikers need to take good care of themselves. The Hiking Ten Essentials is how to stay safe and comfortable if you are delayed on the trail. #tenessentials #hikingsafety #hikingforher

The Hiking Ten Essentials List is a hiking cliché.

Everyone talks about it!


Because the items on this list are important for your safety as a day hiker or backpacker.

So do the ten essentials matter to a hiker or backpacker enough to make room in the backpack for them?

Only if you want to be safe!

So don't be caught without these hiking ten essentials in your pack unless you want your Professional Hiker card to be revoked when the rangers finally find you ):

Ten essentials for any hiker

Here's the quick list:

1. Extra clothing

2. Extra food and water

3. Sunglasses

4. Knife

5. Fire starter

6. Matches

7. First aid supplies

8. Flashlight (or headlamp)

9. Map

10. Compass

But don't go just yet.

There is a great deal of nuance to this list, and in this case, the devil really is in the details.

Common sense list, right?

It makes sense that your hiking backpack should provide you with every single thing you need to stay safe, warm and "unlost" under any weather conditions.

Thus the name, the hiking list of ten essentials.

But wait!

There is a huge assumption behind this list.

For starters, the list assumes that you're wearing the right clothing, know how to use a compass and map, and have fuel nearby to start and maintain a fire to warm up your extra food.

Take a peek at the things in my pack which don't weigh much, but which I truly consider essential.

And here's an easy way to remember the essentials to keep yourself safe:

Safe Hiking Checklist
Source: Fix.com Blog

Ten essentials

The hiking ten essentials are important for your comfort and safety on a hiking trail. What are they? Hiking For Her gives you the details. #hiking #backpacking #tenessentials #hikingsafety

Over the decades of trail time I've racked up, I've learned to carry a few other things which I think are every bit as important as these ten essentials.

Let me give you a few examples!

*One thing that rides along on every hike is a head lamp, rather than a flashlight.

  • An LED head lamp leaves my hands free, and can be adjusted in intensity as needed for the task at hand.
  • It's also got a longer life than the old style of lamps, especially if I remember to turn around one of the batteries so the "juice" doesn't get wasted as it languishes inside my backpack.

*I carry half of an old compact disc (CD) with me as a signal mirror. It's lighter than a mirror, and takes up less space. 

vintage Oscar Mayer wiener whistleI also carry a vintage 1970 Oscar Meyer whistle as a signalling device that doesn't need daylight to be effective.

*I carry a small plastic container with wads of dryer lint coated with petroleum jelly, to use as a fire starter. The climate I usually hike in (Pacific Northwest) is notorious for being damp, and I want to maximize my chances of getting a fire started.

*A small, fast drying towel is indispensable for drying off feet after a stream crossing, or for wiping sweat off your neck (or get it wet and drape it on your hot neck).

In fact, I have two: a small one in my daypack, and a larger one for backpacking.

In a survival situation, it could provide an insulating layer between my space blanket and my body, thus conserving more body heat.

*Seat cushion: You know, something soft and cushy to sit on. I love cold wet rocks just as much as the next hiker, but sometimes I love a warm, dry caboose better.

Or warm and comfy when the sun shines.

Female hiker sitting on a rock in a pile of rocky debris on a mountainsideBasking in the knowledge that my hiking ten essentials are close at hand.

*Last but not least, I have a very hole-y bandanna (Holy Bandanna, Batman!) which has been with me for decades.

I mean that literally! The edges are ragged, the color is faded, and there are several holes in it, but it comes along on every trip.

Why do I still drag it along?

Because I've used it:

  • as an emergency eye patch
  • to cool my head and neck off during a heat wave
  • for unexpected feminine hygiene needs (filled with moss and attached with safety pins, you get the idea)
  • as a pot holder on backpacking trips
  • to cushion a delicate ground squirrel skull until I got it home
  • and a bug swatter

To name just a few uses!

Bet you can answer
this important hiking question now!

Why should you carry the hiking ten essentials on your hikes? Find out how to stay safe and comfortable on a hike here! #tenessentials #hiking #backpacking #hikingsafety #outdoorsafetyBecause it just makes good sense!

More resources for
hiking ten essentials

OK, my tips for carrying the hiking ten essentials should get you started.

Feel free to email me for more sources of information, or to add your thoughts to this important topic.

I want you to be as relaxed and confident in your hiking ten essentials as possible when you're out there soaking up the big views or finding some joy in off trail adventuring!

But before you go:
A few other essentials to consider

While we're on the subject of being prepared on a hiking trail, let's mention three other types of lightweight but essential kits you should have in your backpack:

Because a hiker can never be too prepared, right?

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Hiking Ten Essentials