10 Must-Have Camping And Hiking Essentials

If you’re an avid camper or hiker, you might be familiar with the Ten Essentials. Originally created in the 1930s by The Mountaineers, the purpose of the Ten Essentials is to help people stay safe and be prepared for any situation in the wild.

The Mountaineers have continued to update this list, and today they offer a “systems” approach rather than a long list of items.

The original or “Classic” list included:

  1. Map
  2. Compass
  3. Sunglasses and sunscreen
  4. Extra clothing
  5. Headlamp or flashlight
  6. First-aid supplies
  7. Firestarter
  8. Matches
  9. Knife
  10. Extra food

Today, the Ten Essentials are similar but they feature a more comprehensive list of crucial items. In addition, similar items have been paired together, like map and compass. Here is the new “systems” approach to the Ten Essentials:

  1. Navigation
  2. Illumination
  3. Sun protection
  4. First aid supplies
  5. Repair kit and tools
  6. Fire
  7. Insulation
  8. Nutrition
  9. Hydration
  10. Emergency shelter

Navigation (Map/Compass)

That fancy new GPS can definitely be helpful in certain situations, but technology can’t always be counted on. Always carry a compass and map so you can figure out where you are, where your destination is, and an exit route in case of an emergency.

Illumination (Headlamp/Flashlight)

There’s nothing worse than being lost in the dark or unable to find your way back to the campsite. Whether you wander away from your tent to use the bathroom or you find yourself on a foreign trail after the sun sets, you’re going to want a flashlight or headlamp.These are also handy for reading a map after dark, and always remember to bring extra batteries!

Sun Protection (Sunscreen/Sunglasses)

Regardless of the season, it’s important to protect yourself from the sun. The sun’s rays may not be as strong during the winter, but the glare off the snow can be a killer – always pack those sunglasses. During the summer months, take a few extra minutes to apply sunscreen, nothing ruins a hike like a painful sunburn.

First Aid Supplies

First aid kits can be found at most outdoor retailers, online, or if you’re feeling creative and want to save money, build your own. Any kit you take on your adventures should have treatments for blisters and small cuts, gauze pads, bandages, disinfecting ointments, adhesive tape, and pain medications you can get over the counter. Tailor your first aid kit to fit your needs. If you’re in an area with mosquitos, be sure to bring insect repellent.

Repair Kit and Tools

Always pack a knife or multi-tool (or both). These can be used for first aid, food prep, repairing your gear, fixing your glasses, and a multitude of other situations. And don’t forget the duct tape – it can be used for virtually everything.

Fire (Lighter/Matches/Fire Starter)

Fire is a life saver. If you find yourself stranded in the cold, the heat from the fire and a hot drink can help prevent hypothermia. If you’re lost, a fire is also a great way to signal for help. Waterproof matches and fire starter should be some of the first items you pack before heading into the wild.

Insulation (Extra Clothing)

Always dress in layers so you can easily change to adapt to the weather and your activity level. Avoid cotton if you can. The first layer is ideally moisture-wicking, layer two is for insulation – think shirts, sweaters, and vests – and layer three is your shell, such as a waterproof jacket. It’s never a bad idea to pack a hat and gloves in case the temperature drops, but dress and pack according to season and climate.

Nutrition (Extra Food)

At a minimum, pack an extra days worth of food. No-cook items, like jerky and energy bars, are great because they have a long shelf life and don’t require a fire or equipment for eating.

Hydration (Extra Water)

How much extra water you bring depends on the length of your hiking or backpacking trip. Generally it’s a good idea to bring a water bottle as well as a means of purifying water. During the planning stages of your adventure, locate potential water sources and fill up when you can.

Emergency Shelter

If you’re planning an overnight backpacking or camping trip, you will likely already have your shelter with you. If you’re planning a day hike consider packing a light tarp, a space blanket, a bivy sack, or if you’re looking for ultra light, a large garbage bag.


Ready to discover your next adventure? Check out our blog for ideas, or explore campgrounds near you!

Tony Cain title: Author