The 10 Essentials are survival items that outdoors organizations recommend for safe travel in the backcountry.  It’s a good habit to carry the 10 Essentials whenever spending time in the backcountry, even on day-hikes.

  1. 10 EssentialsNavigation: don’t get lost. Always bring map & compass when traveling unfamiliar territory. Never assume you will have cell-phone coverage.
  2. Sun protection: prevent sunburn and overheating – sunglasses, sunscreen for lips and skin, hat, clothing for sun protection.
  3. Insulation: stay warm. Bring hat, gloves, insulated/rain jacket – extra clothing for coldest possible weather during current season.
  4. Illumination: sometimes a hike takes longer than expected (especially if hiking with little kids!) – don’t get lost after sunset. Always carry a small flashlight or headlamp (don’t forget extra batteries).
  5. First-aid kit (and insect repellant): you should always keep a basic first aid kit (at least!) in your pack.
  6. Fire: butane lighter and/or matches in waterproof container.
  7. Knife: doesn’t have to be a sword or machete, a quality pocket knife is usually sufficient.
  8. Nutrition: don’t starve. Dry food is preferred to save weight but usually needs water. Energy bars works well too.
  9. Hydration: avoid dehydration by brining extra water. Always carry an extra bottle of water. Amount of water depends on location, but generally a Liter bottle is sufficient. Hot climates may require significantly more – I sometimes carried up to 3 extra Liters while hiking Grand Canyon. Consider bringing a water filter or treatment system on longer hikes.
  10. Emergency shelter: Emergency Thermal Blankets; size of a candy bar, weigh only 1-2 ounces, and cost only $3-$5.

If traveling with baby, several additional items are necessary to avoid disaster.  Never leave home without the 10 Baby Essentials.


In addition to items above, always take following precautions:

  • Plan your route.
  • Check weather forecast.
  • Dress appropriately.
  • Fuel up – food and water; never hike on empty stomach.
  • Know your limitations. Don’t be afraid to push boundaries, but do so safely.
  • Stay dry – stay warm.
  • Share your plans with a friend; where are you going? When are you coming back?
  • If disaster strikes – don’t panic; stay calm, collected, and focused. Assess situation, assess risk, evaluate options, and make a rational plan before acting.