Read something else

The 10 Hiking Essentials

Certain equipment is so important it deserves to be carried on every hike. This list of essential hiking items can be a lifesaver if you're ever in an emergency. The equipment you carry will depend on your individual needs and experience.

The Ten Hiking Essentials was derived in part from the book Mountaineering The Freedom of the Hills 9th Edition.

Paul Bodnar       Educational       06/29/2021
Paul Bodnar
Educational
6/29/2021
map of john muir trail on paper and in the guthook app with a compass lying next to it

1. Navigation

Backcountry navigation has changed dramatically in the last decade with the adoption of smartphones. Smartphone navigational guides like our app, Guthook Guides, work completely offline and show you exactly where you are along the trail. It points hikers to important resources like water, camping sites, and resupply points.

However technology can fail or break. This is why hikers should always carry a map and compass as a backup.

head lamps laid out on a table

2. Headlamp

A headlamp is a great light source because it frees up your hands. It makes it easy to use trekking poles, cook, or even read a map in the dark. If you plan on hiking at night, you should consider a headlamp that puts out at least 300 lumens. This should provide enough illumination to safely hike on uneven terrain.

small samples of sunscreen laid on a table

3. Sun Protection

It is important to protect yourself from harmful ultraviolet radiation. Hikers should wear hats, sunglasses, sun-protective clothes, and broad-spectrum sunscreen rated at least SPF 30.

first aid kit laid across a table

4. First Aid Kit

A first aid kit should be compact and be carried in a waterproof container like a sealable plastic bag. A basic first aid kit should contain bandages, gauze pad, butterfly bandages, antiseptic, nitrile gloves, tweezers, non prescription painkillers, anti-inflammatory, antidiarrheal, antihistamine tablets, antibiotic cream, and personal medication.

The type and length of your hiking trip will dictate the complexity of your first aid kit.

sewing kit, crazy glue, swiss army knife, rope, and tape laid across a table

5. Knife & Repair Kit

A knife is super important to have in the wilderness. Whether it’s big or small, I think every hiker should carry one. A popular knife for thru-hikers is one that has a blade, scissors, and tweezers.

A repair kit should include duct tape, a needle, thread, and some type of chord.

matches, lighter, and candle laid across a table

6. Fire Starter

It is important that every hiker carry means to start a fire. Most thru-hikers carry a disposable lighter, but you can also carry matches if you keep them in a waterproof bag or container.

plastic rain poncho

7. Shelter

Hikers should always carry something to shelter themselves from rain and wind. If you’re a day hiker it is recommend that you carry a lightweight emergency poncho. If you’re going on a thru-hike, you may want to carry a rain jacket or something that will last for your entire trip. 

protien bars and a fruit strip

8. Extra Food

It’s important to carry extra food that does not require cooking and that will be easy to digest. A combination of granola bars, dried fruit, beef jerky, and nuts are examples of foods that you can bring.

sawyer water filter, water purifying pills, and a plastic platypus

9. Extra Water

Hikers should always carry sufficient water while hiking and have a means to purify additional water if needed. Hikers should always carry purification tablets or a water filter.

emergency thermal blanket

10. Extra Clothes

It is important to carry extra clothes that would keep you warm if you become inactive or if you ever get stuck in freezing weather temperatures. An emergency blanket only weighs a few ounces and can save your life.

Summary

These 10 hiking essential items can be a lifesaver in an emergency. The equipment you take will depend on the trip you are taking. A short day trip in a familiar area will likely require less gear than a longer more complex hike. Exactly what equipment you will need for your particular hike will depend on the type of trip, weather, difficulty, duration, distance, and your experience level. Everyone must determine for themselves what they need to carry to be safe in the wilderness.


Want to keep up with all that’s going on at Atlas Guides? Sign up for our newsletter!

Read more!

Check out some related blog posts!

Download our popular hiking and biking guides!

Trail guides that get you to places you’ve dreamed of.

As the makers of Guthook Guides, Bikepacking Guides, and Cyclewayz, we help you navigate the most popular trails around the world on your smartphone. Our hiking guides and biking guides work completely offline. Let Guthook guide your next adventure!

Showers Lake Vista, Tahoe Rim Trail
Photo courtesy of the Tahoe Rim Trail Association
A lake reflects a nearby wildflower meadow and trees.
Showers Lake Vista, Tahoe Rim Trail
Photo courtesy of the Tahoe Rim Trail Association

Trail guides that get you to places you’ve dreamed of.

As the makers of Guthook Guides, Bikepacking Guides, and Cyclewayz, we help you navigate the most popular trails around the world on your smartphone. Our hiking guides and biking guides work completely offline. Let Guthook guide your next adventure!

Download our popular hiking and biking guides!
About the Author
A man wearing an Arizona Trail baseball cap stands in a field in front of a mountain.

Paul Bodnar

Paul has always liked hiking and thru-hiked the Pacific Crest Trail in 1997 after college. After years of working in chemistry, he wanted to create a career involving the outdoors, so he hiked the Pacific Crest Trail again in 2010 to do research for his guide book Pocket PCT. He realized that creating a smartphone app for navigating the outdoors would make it easier to keep the data current and provide a better way to navigate. While hiking with Ryan (aka Guthook) in 2010, they decided to work together to create the first comprehensive smartphone guide for the Pacific Crest Trail. Now with the help of a team of great people they have created over 50 guides for trails around the world.