What’s in Your Backpack? The 10 Essentials of Hiking…and a Few More

What should you bring on a hike?

I’ve always heard that there are “ten essentials” of hiking – the items you must bring on a hike to stay safe and warm. That list seems to vary a lot, though, depending on who is doing the listing. So here is what’s usually in my backpack, even on a short day hike :

  1. Water – plenty of it
  2. Food – plenty of it (and I usually manage to eat it all!)
  3. Extra clothing – socks, a fleece jacket and a waterproof shell, a wide-brimmed hat for sun protection and a warm hat. (Yes, I usually bring a winter hat with me, even on summer hikes. Years ago, in the middle of May, I went on a quick overnight camping trip in the Indian Peaks Wilderness Area just outside of Boulder. We got snowed on that night, and spent several hours trying to find our way back to our car with no trail, and the snow still coming down. My friend fell in a creek and got drenched up to his thighs. And I wore on my very cold head not a hat, because I hadn’t brought one, but a pair of shorts. Really.) [Read on...especially to the suggested #19 in the comments!]
  4. Camera (okay, not essential, but always fun)
  5. Sunscreen and sunglasses
  6. First aid kit (including a flat roll of duct tape and a mirror)
  7. Pocketknife
  8. Whistle
  9. Map, compass (GPS unit – I don’t have one, but it would be nice)
  10. Cell phone – don’t rely on it to get you out of trouble though!
  11. Trash bag
  12. Space blanket or extra large trash bag
  13. Pen and paper
  14. Bug spray
  15. Field guide
  16. Flashlight or headlamp
  17. Matches or lighter
  18. Disinfectant gel

Have I missed anything? What’s in your backpack?

Here’s more on the Ten Essentials from REI

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13 Responses to What’s in Your Backpack? The 10 Essentials of Hiking…and a Few More

  1. Cathy says:

    I think I even still have those shorts! They were Patagonias, as I recall. Light blue. Great shorts.

  2. Love the story about wearing your shorts on your head for warmth! Live and learn!

  3. PittCaleb says:

    Mirror for signaling or contact reinsertion, etc.
    Epi pen for bee stings
    Kill the pocket knife and swap in a multi-tool (leatherman) which can be much more useful
    Extra boot laces, which can be used in boots or to tie something to you day pack or assist with many first aid applications
    Caribbeaner to attach whatever to ur pack or belt
    Batteries if u bring gps

  4. What an excellent idea, Cathy!

    I would throw in two things: dental floss, because it’s quite strong and it’s amazing what you can do with it in a pinch. And, since my fear of being totally without reading material trumps my fear of spending an unplanned night outdoors, a very lightweight book!

    • Cathy says:

      Salley, I have to say I NEVER would have thought of dental floss, but that’s a great idea! Tiny, and useful. Thanks for visiting. Cathy

  5. Joan Price says:

    What a wonderful idea to create this “essentials” list! I hope you and your fellow hikers will promote this list — with your name and website, of course. You could save lives!

  6. Cathy says:

    Signaling a plane if you are lost…or fixing your hair. :)

  7. Andrea Meyer says:

    Great list! What’s the mirror in the first-aid kit for?

  8. Maryline says:

    Wow, how did 10 become 18!?
    I would list another essential: a husband or devoted friend to carry it all for you!

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