The 10 essentials for hiking

Before you hit the trail, make sure you have everything you need to have a safe and enjoyable hike. Read about the 10 essential items for hiking.

The 10 essentials for hiking

Hiking can be a stressful activity if it is not well planned. Whether you are going for a five-mile day hike or overnight camping, knowing the ten hiking essentials will help you overcome any surprises that the outdoors throws your way.

While not all adventures require the same level of preparation and gear, we will share the top 10 hiking essentials you need to hit the trail.

What are the 10 hiking Essentials?

Over the years, different hikers have updated the original Ten Essentials list assembled by The Mountaineers in 1930.

The list below focuses on a systematic approach rather than individual items and is open to modification based on various factors.

The 10 essentials are

  • First aid kit
  • Hydration - extra water
  • Extra Food
  • Navigation and communication
  • Light- Flashlight or headlamp
  • Sun protection
  • Extra clothing
  • Fire- weatherproof fire starter
  • Repair kit and necessary tool
  • Emergency shelter

First- aid and supplies


Knowing the contents and understanding how to use a first-aid kit is vital for every hike. Many first aid kits have pain killers, adhesive bandages, gauze pads, adhesive tape, medical gloves, and disinfectants.

Although many hikers prefer customizing their kits, you can buy a pre-assembled first aid kit at a reputable camping gear store. The number of people on the trip will determine the size and content of your first aid kit. I would also recommend carrying a first-aid guide to dealing with medical emergencies and settling for adventure medical kits.

Tip: Adventure Medical Kits come with a survival kit and medicine suitable for outings and travel.

Hydration- Extra water


Did you know that a hiker drinks an average of ½ a liter of water per hour during moderate activity? On a hot day or a strenuous hike, one may drink more than a liter of water per hour.

Never forget to carry water that will cover you the entire hiking trip. You can store extra water in bottles, hydration bladders, or any other portable storage can that suits you. Carrying water treatment tablets or filters is also a good idea. I personally always carry a life straw and Gregory 3D Hydro 3L Reservoir

Extra Food


It is not fun to be hungry when you are hiking. I recommend packing extra food for a day hike or an overnight camp. Bring dry food and high-energy bars that could last you one more day. It is also wise to choose the food you like on longer hikes and always remember to carry plenty for your friends.


Carrying a topographic map and a compass can help you figure out your exact location. Being able to communicate with a search and rescue team in emergencies is critically crucial when hiking. Always ensure that you know how to navigate by map and compass before planning any outdoor activity.

Note: Enclose your maps in a waterproof case. Bringing an altimeter is optional but handy when approximating your elevation on the maps. Also, try the palm-size Garmin inReach Mini satellite communicator (very effective and provides off-the-grid contact).

Light- Flashlight or headlamp


Having a light source in the wilderness is essential as it will help you navigate the terrains at night. Many hikers prefer carrying a headlamp because it frees your hands from other activities. Always bring extra batteries for the headlamp.

Tip: Avoid using your Smartphone’s flashlight as it will deplete your battery life in an emergency.

Sun Protection

sun protection

Exposure to the sun while on the trail can cause sunburns, snow-blindness, and chapped lips in the short term. The long-term effects include skin cancer, premature aging, and vision damage.

Pack a pair of sunglasses and sunscreen, and wear sun-protective clothing when hiking. Many health experts advise choosing a sunscreen with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 15. Depending on where you go, you may need a much higher SPF rating. In Canada, I typically use SFP 50.

Bonus: Some of the best hiking sunglasses available include Abaco Polarized, Oakley Flak 2.0, and Maui Jim Starfish (Women's).

Extra clothing

extra clothing

The wilderness can be unpredictable. The weather can turn windy, wet, or chilly, and unless it is summer,   it is advisable to pack extra clothing before the trip.

When deciding on what to bring along, think about what you will need to survive in the outdoors. Common insulating clothing includes a synthetic jacket or vest; hat, extra socks, and gloves.

Fire- weatherproof fire starter

fire starter

Just as the name suggests, a fire starter helps you start a fire in any outdoor condition.

Starting and maintaining a fire is critical as it provides warmth and can also be a signal to the search and rescue team. Consider packing dry tinder packed in a zip bag, a lighter, or a reliable commercial camping fire starter. I also recommend a fire starter that can ignite quickly and retain the heat for more than five seconds.

Repair kits and necessary tools


A small repair kit equipped with necessary tools like a knife, duct tape, zip ties, safety pins, and water filter repair parts can be a lifesaver in the wilderness.

Tip: Always carry a knife as they are handy for food preparation and other emergencies.

Emergency shelter

emergency blanket

Many people confuse a shelter and an emergency shelter. A day's hike requires a blanket and a rain jacket to protect you from wind and rain when on the trail. Emergency shelters in camping gear stores are compact, lightweight, and not expensive. Examples include a bevy sack and an emergency space blanket.


There is no right way of doing things or a perfect list of items when hiking.

So, before you embark on any outdoor activity, always have a list of what to carry to the hike, research the weather conditions and choose a challenge that matches your skill level. Also, try to tailor your gear choice to the specific trip and settle for items that meet your hike needs. Eventually, you will have your own 10 hiking essential list.