Essential Items When You Hike

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Ten Essentials When Day Hiking


All the veteran hikers and backpackers I know have a “ten essentials” pack.  It consists of about ten items that the hiker feels he/she needs to survive in case of a problem.  It’s a bare minimum collection of things that will help turn a potentially serious situation into one that is more manageable.  I personally think it is more important for the day hiker to carry these items than it is for the long distance hiker because the long distance guy is already prepared and has planned for the possibility of something going wrong.


I keep my essentials in one small, fairly light weight, fanny pack.  I can wear it separately or attach it to my backpack on a longer hike.  I have hiked, literally, thousands of miles and, outside of water or a snack, I have never had to go to the emergency pack.  I still carry it every time I go into the wilderness.  My thinking is that the first time I don’t have it is when I’ll need it.


Here’s my list:


  1. Two 1-quart water bottles – filled at home.  I like the large mouth so I can add ice cubes.  I like to stay hydrated.


  1. Extra food – power bars, granola bars, those fruit jells.  I also like to take turkey jerky but it’s not good for my teeth.  I don’t care.


  1. Matches – in a water proof container.  I have a neat little tool that is a small piece of flint that I can strike with my knife to make a spark.


  1. Compass – even in the age of GPS I still have one in the pack.  I also use a GPS often but I don’t count it in my ten essentials.  Along with the compass, it’s never bad to have some type of map of the area you’re traveling.


  1. Knife – your choice.  Folding or fixed.  Folding is easier to pack away and forget.  A lanyard will help prevent loss.


  1. Nylon cord – about 50’ is useful.


  1. Flashlight – I use a Maglight.  Make sure batteries stay fresh.


  1. Whistle – on a cord around your neck.


  1. Sunglasses – and your regular glasses if you wear them.  Sunglasses don’t help much if it gets dark.


  1. Sunscreen – Chapstick, lip salve, Blistex, etc..


  1. Also – I carry a small personal first aid kit with band aids and aspirin and some other stuff.


  1. Cell phone – always nice in an emergency



There are other things you might think of.  This is my basic kit. Hiking, like all sports, is more enjoyable if you have prepared for it.  I may be over cautious.  I’ll tip my hat to those who don’t feel the need for any preparation and just start out on their adventure.  They’re easy to identify . . . often at the hospital or grave yard.