10 Hiking Essentials to Always Carry

It's important to always be prepared for an emergency when you're outside.

Hiking can be a little daunting with all these gear lists telling you what to carry and how to stay safe. And maybe you’re thinking, do I really need all that stuff?

I totally get it, it gets to be a bit much and it’s easy think you can just ignore it all, right? While I 100% believe hiking doesn’t need to be so overwhelming, it is important to be prepared when you’re outdoors. Honestly, you’ll probably never use half of these ten hiking essentials, but — and I dunno about you — I’d rather be over-prepared than under. The thing is, you just don’t know when something shitty is gonna happen and when you’re in the mountains, shitty can get dangerous real fast.

I know these hiking essentials can feel like a lot, but to be honest, I feel a lot more comfortable when I have them because I know I’m prepped for the worst. I also always double-check my bag before I head out to make sure I have everything — take it from me, it’s a little too easy to forget something at home and with my luck, that’s when I’d actually need it. I’ve included my ten hiking essentials below, along with the gear I use and other awesome options.

What Are the 10 Hiking Essentials?

So, are you wondering what gear you’re gonna be carrying around?

To give you a bit of background, the original ten hiking essentials were created by The Mountaineers in the ’30s. The list originally included individual items, but it’s evolved over the years and today it’s ten categories. Although the categories themselves are fairly easy to understand, figuring out what gear to get is a little harder. The categories are: navigation, sun protection, insulation, illumination, first aid supplies, fire, repair kit and tools, nutrition, hydration, and emergency shelter.

Let’s dive into those categories.

1. Navigation

When you’re new to the outdoors, the thought of navigating in the backcountry can be a bit intimidating. But that’s why it’s all the more important to learn about it and practice your navigational skills. That way, you can be self-sufficient, stay safe on the trails, and not have to rely on others for your own safety.

Here are a few things that’ll help you on your navigational journey:

Trail Map

Compass

GPS

2. Sun Protection

I don’t want to hear about “how good your tan is” or that “you never get sunburnt”. I’m not necessarily into slathering yourself in sunscreen — the sun does have benefits — but when you’re outside for hours, you do need to be sun smart.

Even if you think you don’t need much protection because your hike is only an hour, it could easily end up being longer and the sun has a pesky way of wearing you down.

Sunglasses

Sunscreen

Sun Protection Clothing

3. Insulation

When you’re planning your hiking outfit, it’s important to think about your layers and what clothing you need to stay warm. Weather in the mountains can, and often does, change rapidly and unexpectedly.

When you’re deciding what to bring, think about the worst realistic situation you might find yourself in. What would you need to stay warm if you had to remain in one place for a long time?

Base Layer

Mid Layer

Outer Layer

Rain Layer

Leggings or Lightweight Hiking Pants

Wool Socks

Hat or Toque

Gloves

4. Illumination

Every time I hit the trails, even day hikes, I bring some sort of light. True, it’s usually just one of those things I carry around, but it can be a life saver if something were to happen and I had to hike back in the dark. Remember to always bring an extra set of batteries (most take AAAs)! A flashlight it useless if it’s dead.

PS: Your phone’s flashlight is not a light source. It’s weak and drains your battery quickly.

Headlamp

5. First Aid Supplies

It’s really important to carry a first-aid kit in your pack and know how to use it. The size of your first-aid kit will depend on the number of people in your group, how long you’re hiking for, and the risk involved in your adventure.

First Aid Kit

6. Fire

When you’re putting together your backpack, a waterproof fire starter is easy to overlook. I know it was one of the last things I ever bought on this list. After all, it’s not the most obvious, but it’s so important for emergencies. There are lots of different options for fire starters, which I’ve gone over below:

Waterproof Fire Starter

Waterproof Matches

Arc Plasma Lighter

7. Repair Kit & Tools

Sometimes things break on the trail and you’ll need to Macgyver your gear. Bringing the right tools will save not only your time and energy, but also your sanity.

Knife

Repair Kit

8. Nutrition

It should be obvious to always bring food on your hike. Going hungry isn’t fun. You need to be prepared to deal with a delay or emergency every time you go hiking. Bring enough food for at least one extra day — or more if you’re going on a long trek.

Enough food doesn’t mean you need to pack full meals for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Instead, bring things like high-energy bars and dry food like nuts or jerky. You just need enough to keep yourself going.

Food & Snacks

9. Hydration

looove water. People always look at me weird when I say it’s my favourite drink. Too often I see people hiking without any water and I just want to shake them! Staying properly hydrated on your hikes is sooo important.

Water Reservoir

Water Bottle

Emergency Water Filter

10. Emergency Shelter

Of all the ten hiking essentials on this list, emergency shelter seems the most dooms-day-prepper-ish, right? How likely is it really that you’re gonna be trapped on the mountain? Well, I hate to break it to you, but there’s always a chance when you’re in the outdoors. If you’re going on a short hike you know well, you probably don’t need to bring emergency shelter, but any other time you definitely should.

An ultralight tarpbivy sackemergency blanket, or even a large plastic bag work as emergency shelter. If you can, pick a highly visible colour like orange so people are more likely to spot you.

Ultralight Tarp

Bivy Sack

Emergency Blanket