The Essential Ten

The Essential Ten:
A Guest Blog post contributed by “ERIC” at, June 2003

Ever wondered what items are the most important to bring on a backpacking / camping trip? Well in the 1930s, The Mountaineers, a Seattle-based hiking, climbing, and conservation organization, came up with a list of 10 essential items that no climber or backpacker should be without. How far have we come in gear “essentials” over the past 70-80 years? Have a look and decide for yourself.

Topp Map

Topographical Map

1 A Map. A map not only tells you where you are and how far you have to go, it can help you find campsites, water, and an emergency exit route in case of an accident.


Compass. A compass can help you find your way through unfamiliar terrain—especially in bad weather where you can’t see the landmarks. (GPS devices are also a good thing to have along)
Water Treatment Tablets

Water Treatment Tablets

Water and a way to purify it. Without enough water, your body’s muscles and organs simply can’t perform as well: You’ll be susceptible to hypothermia and altitude sickness. not to mention the abject misery of raging thirst.
Freeze Dried Food

Extra Food

Extra Food. Any number of things could keep you out longer than expected: a lengthy detour, getting lost, an injury, difficult terrain. A few ounces of extra food will help keep up energy and morale.
Rain Gear

Rain Gear and Extra Clothing

Rain Gear and extra clothing. Because the weatherman is not always right. Especially above treeline, bring along extra layers. Two rules: Avoid cotton (it keeps moisture close to your skin), and always carry a hat.
Fire Starter

Fire Starter

Fire starter and matches. The warmth of a fire and a hot drink can help prevent an encounter with hypothermia. And fires are a great way to signal for help if you get lost.
First Aid Kit

First Aid Kit

7 First aid kit. Prepackaged first aid kits for hikers are available at outfitters. Double your effectiveness with knowledge: Take a basic first aid class with the American Red Cross or a Wilderness First Aid class, offered by many hiking organizations.
Multi-Purpose Tool

Multi-Purpose Tool

Army knife or multi-purpose tool. These enable you to cut strips of cloth into bandages, remove splinters, fix broken eyeglasses, and perform a whole host of repairs on malfunctioning gear—not to mention cut cheese and open cans.
Flashlight / Headlamp

Flashlight / Headlamp

Flashlight and extra bulbs. For finding your way in the dark and signaling for help.
Sun Protection

Sun Protection

10 Sun screen and sun glasses. Especially above treeline when there is a skin-scorching combination of sun and snow, you’ll need sunglasses to prevent snow blindness, and sunscreen to prevent sunburn.

Here’s what other’s have to say about essentials for backpacking, camping and hiking in the Sierra Nevada:

——————————————————————————– Member: “Caddis”
Essential Stuff!

Okay, Maybe not ‘essential’ but things i always take and use and will never leave behind.
1. Space blanket. I have used mine as a tarp sleep on, wind block, rain cover, a quick seat while hiking or just an extra wrap to keep me warm. I rarely use a tent so I have sewed some velcro on mine to slip my bag into it on cold nights
2. Zip stove. besides cooking and NOT hauling around fuel. It has been used as a campfire as much as a stove. Low impact and easy to find wood even in ‘picked clean’ areas
3. LED light. I have the aurora headlamp. But I also keep a tiny one with me at all times. LED’s area dependable and batteries last an entire season!
4. Swiss army pen knife (the smallest one available). Indespensible
5. Water bladder and tube. I stay hydrated with a bladder and tube. But find I drink less when I only use a water bottle because of the hassle of getting it out of pack when fishing.
6. COFFEE. Nothing perks me back better then a cup of coffee around 4 PM. A friend of mine went BP on his honeymoon. Hung his food but left coffee out. Bear took coffee and they hiked out that morning….’nuff said

OK….tell me your ‘essentials’

——————————————————————————– Member: “tarbubble”
Re: Essential Stuff!

my essentials for dayhikes…

around my neck:

1. small folding knife
2. red photon II
3. naval whistle
4. mini compass/thermometer

in my pack:
1. jacket
2. hat & gloves
3. water
4. snacks (jerky, fruit leather, granola bar, powdered drink)
5. 2 oz. sunblock
6. bandanna
7. space blanket
8. lighter or matches
9. 2 Esbit cubes
10. wide-brimmed hat

i’ve probably forgotten something, but that’s why i always keep my essentials in the same little stuff sack. i can tell my husband “it’s in the essentials bag” and he knows exactly which bag i’m talking about.

——————————————————————————– Member: “markskor”
Re: Essential Stuff!

I always eat with a silver fork and soup spoon–I know it weighs a bit more, but the food tastes better, and I feel civilized. Doing this for 30 years–same utensils–can’t stop now. The funny thing is that my knife–the smallest swiss army variety–keeps on getting smaller as the years roll by.– also–Have a very small squeeze flashlite–the kind that fits on keychain–Have to cut the pounds somewhere. lol


What items comprise your essential ten?