The 10 Essentials (of backpacking)

The 10 Essentials (of backpacking)

The Ten Essentials have been an essential element of backpacking and hiking culture for as long as I can remember.

Just like the food guide pyramid, they have been slimmed down, expanded, stretched out, consolidated and modified through the course of time because those damn gear heads can't make up their minds and wanted to complicate your life (or because they rationally thought it through and found more logical ways of organizing it, but the first option is more fun) :)  

Royalty-free hiking equipment photos free download | Pxfuel

The O.G 10 essentials went as follows;

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


There's definitely some wiggle room to add and leave out items as you see fit for specific adventures, but most of these are pretty spot on, you may need them and you may not. Most of the time you will not but these are supposed to be those essential items in that case you find yourself in an unexpected pinch.

It's probably good to have some variation of these 10 essentials to put into each of your different kits; hiking, backpacking, water sports, snow sports, car camping, festival, bungee jumping (backup rope) :) etc.

Some of the 'essentials' in the updated list have been modified to incorporate new technologies that didn't exist during the paleolithic era when those original essentials were compiled. With all these newer inputs, the newer list is broken down into themes and concepts. I actually like the first list better for its simplicity.

Mountains Hiking Free Stock Photo - Public Domain Pictures


The latest list reads something like this;


1.) Navigation:

Smartphone and GPS devices can be a high-tech method, but for failure-proof, go with a battery-free backup: a map. At least as a second resort!

Map Topo Topographic - Free photo on Pixabay

2.) Sun protection:

The sun still shines in Winter!!! This is essential year round (especially for yo' bald head!!)

Lianne's Sunburn!! | Ouch, it wasn't even THAT sunny really,… | Flickr

3.) Insulation:

Layers, layers, layers—you can always take clothes off (not too many, be mindful of your hiking partners, they don't want to see that birthday suit!). And no cotton! Cotton is death cloth in the back country. It is heavy, retains moisture and can lead to hypothermia. You've never been miserable 'till you've hiked in wet jeans and woke up shivering in a soaked cotton shirt winter camping. Make sure to carry extra gloves, wool socks and an extra hat in the winter. Your sleeping pad counts as insulation! It insulates you from that cold ass ground that will suck up your body heat! 

File:Mattress.jpg - Wikimedia Commons

4.) Illumination:

Honestly, there are many options in LED, rechargeable headlamps, and lanterns. You go pick out a nice pretty one that’s most versatile for the type of backcountry travel you do most. We may be biased, but solar lights are the best ;)

Turned-on flashlight | Pikrepo

5.) First-aid:

Focus on the most common infirmaries (like blisters that make you want to saw your toes off), and pack solutions for those. Have some multi use, improvisational items like a bandanna and a rigid object for a splint (not your poop shovel!). Consider adding insect repellent depending on your hiking location and the season. You know what, just throw that bad boy in any way. Those 'skeeters will bite you just because you didn't pack that shit!

File:US Helmet with Parachute First Aid Packet.jpg - Wikimedia Commons


A lighter is small and light. It’s good to keep one in your pack just in case. Lighters also break, so why don't you throw some waterproof matches in there as well. Don't wanna be caught with your pants down!

Red Match · Free Stock Photo

Repair kit and tools:

This can and should include a knife or a multi-tool, duct tape, and maybe a trowel for burying poo. If Covid-19 has taught you anything, always have some TP!!! Not a whole roll, that's heavy! I pull what I think I will need for set period of time and fold it over on itself many times and shove it in a zip-lock along with a bottle of hand sanitizer because you are still a gentleman (or a lady) while on the trail and not downright nasty. If your the chef later that night your friends will love you for it too. Hint; if you get to a town, re-supply via the local convenience store or fast food restaurant bathroom!

File:Duct-tape Moving Van.jpg - Wikipedia


Bring enough food and gels to share. Nobody likes a food hog. Your friends don't love you that much. Trust me. The average hiker should consume at least 200 calories per hour. A common rule-of-thumb is 1.5 to 2.5 pounds of food (or 2,500 to 4,500 calories) per person per day depending on your size, weight, and exertion level.

freeze dried ice cream | Iwao | Flickr


Without taking exercise into account, you should consume roughly half your weight in pounds in ounces of water. (So, if you weight 160 pounds, you should aim to drink 80 ounces of water each day.) Then, add more water, depending on your hike. A short, partial day hike requires an additional 20 ounces, according to the Mayo Clinic. The distance you’ll travel, location of the trail (higher altitude means a higher risk of dehydration), whether you’ll have access to a water source, and weather will all play a role in what you pack. Have some options and backups; I carry a filter, bottles of water and back up tables on hikes. There are also cool UV sterilizing pens on the market.

ALS Ice Bucket Challenge | 50 lbs of ice, one John Deere Tra… | Flickr

Emergency shelter:

Seems unnecessary during a short hike, but I would at least have an emergency tarp to string between a tree in case you trip, fall down a hill, bump your head and become completely disoriented leaving you unexpectedly stranded in the wilderness for a night or two. Shrug. Or just in case a rain storm comes up. Anything can happen.

Brown and Beige Wooden Barn Surrounded With Brown Grasses Under ...


More to come on more topics....

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