by Diane Spicer
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!
don't be caught without these hiking ten essentials in your pack
(unless you want your Professional Hiker card to be revoked):
Here's the quick list:
5. Fire starter
8. Flashlight (or headlamp)
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.
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.
There is a huge assumption behind this list.
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:
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.
*I carry an old compact disc (CD) with me as a signal mirror. It's lighter than a mirror, and takes up less space.
*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.
*Recently, I started carrying a survival bracelet.
*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.
*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:
To name just a few uses!
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!
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?
Hiking Ten Essentials
About the author
Diane is the founder of Hiking For Her.
She’s been on a hiking trail somewhere in the world for nearly five decades & loves to share her best hiking tips right here.
All rights reserved.
Photo credits: All photos on this website were taken by David Midkiff or Diane Spicer except where noted.
As an Amazon Associate, Hiking For Her earns from qualifying purchases.