The Ten Essentials

The Ten Essentials
Ten Essentials and when to carry them

The Ten Essentials needs to be carried whether you are going for a day hike to your favorite waterfall or a week-long backpacking trip. When you go into the woods you need to be prepared. The point of “The Ten Essentials” is to make sure you are able respond to an accident or an emergency if one occurs. These Ten Essentials also are there if something happens and you have to spend an unscheduled extra night or two overnight.

Over the years the Ten Essentials have evolved and instead of just Ten Essentials items the list has grown and so now it’s The Ten Essential Categories or The Ten Essentials plus. What ever you want to call it the main thing is that you carry the Ten Essentials on every outing.

Below is the Ten Essential list of categories and the items that belong in each.

The Ten Essentials Categories
Essentials Categories
Items Ten
Essentials Categories


Map / Compass

6 Fire Matches
Fire starter


Extra Clothing 7

Knife Kit

Repair Kit


Extra Batteries


Extra Food

Sun protection

Sun Glasses
Bug Protection                  Sun Screen


Water bottle/bladder
5 First Aid

First Aid Kit                  Survival kit

10 Shelter

Emergency Shelter


The Navigation category contains map and compass, even if you carry a GPS it is imperative that these items are in your Ten Essential. It is even more important to be able to use them. An orienteering compass is ideal for navigating with a topographical map. Ledmark’s Trekmate Orienteering Compass is the great choice for the beginner or veteran. Click here to see it in our store.


In the Clothing category items include things like rain gear, and a warm jacket. It is essential to be prepared for any weather. If caught in a rain shower without proper clothing and if the temperature drops there could be a chance of hypothermia. Depending on the time of year gloves and a hat should also be included.


The Light category includes a Flashlight or Headlamp as well as extra batteries. You need to carry a candle too. If an emergency happens and you cannot hike out before dark a headlight would be essential and a welcome tool while navigating a trail in the dark. In case you are stuck out all night unexpectedly a candle can provide light or it even may help start a fire.

Sun Protection

The Sun protection category of the Ten Essentials includes sun glasses, sun screen and of course bug repellent. UV rays in the clear mountain air are more intense than at lower altitude. Sun block with a high UV protection will help against sun burn. Another essential are Sun glasses. Glasses are important to prevent damage to your eyes. Without proper UV protection eyes can be damaged. Glacier goggles or sun glasses are especially important when hiking or climbing in Snow. Even on cloudy days it is essential to use both sun scream and glasses. Clouds do not totally block out UV rays. Bug spray or lotion is also essential and should also be carried. Nothing can ruin a trip faster than relentless biting flies or mosquitoes.

First Aid

It is essential that a First Aid kit be carried by each person in the party. Band-aids, antiseptic, aspirin and whistle for signaling should be included. On longer hikes in addition to individual first aid kits a more complete master first aid kit should be carried. Backpacking first aid kits are available and provide all the essential items for overnight outings. Your Ten Essentials should also include any prescription medication. Along with the First Aid Kit, survival tools should be considered. Emergency whistle can be heard from a greater distance than shouting. An Emergency Shelter such as a Space Blanket could double as a signaling device as well as a shelter from the blazing sun or freezing wind. A light weight wire saw is inexpensive and can cut kindling, firewood or even a pole for your emergency shelter.


Matches and a waterproof fire starter fall under the Fire category of the Ten Essentials. If a fire needs to be started in an emergency matches or a fire starter, like a metal strike plate ,will be more than essential, unless you are skilled at building a fire with a bow drill. An inexpensive lighter is light weight and works well. Matches should be waterproof. Non waterproof stick matches work if kept in a waterproof container like a film canister, empty pill bottle, or plastic bag. Ultimate Flame is a perfect fire starter to carry. It is a petroleum based product that will burn and it’s byproduct is sand. The great thing about Ultimate Flame is that unlike gas, kerosene or even alcohol it is not considered hazardous and can be mailed with out any declaration. Ultimate Flame can even fly. Click here to order yours today. Don’t forget to bring a candle (see lighting) which can provide some light and works well to help start your kindling.


The knife kit includes a knife and a repair kit which should include duct tape, pack repair items and nylon thread with a heavy duty needle. A need for a knife in the Ten Essentials is for a variety of reasons. You can use your knife to cut cheese or died meat brought along for meals and snacks. A knife can also be used to chip wood for kindling. It is essential that your knife is sturdy yet light. A folding type knife that can be opened and closed with one hand are very popular and recommended.


Food is also part of the Ten Essentials and is understandably required for any trip. Extra food needs to be carried for contingencies. The extra food needs to be something that doesn’t require cooking and has a long shelf life. Energy bars are good but may present a temptation to be eaten during the trip. Jerky, nuts and dried fruit work well. For most trips one to two days extra days food should be carried. On trips when a stove is carried, dried soup, oatmeal and hot chocolate can fill this essential need.


Water is another category of The Ten Essentials that needs to be carried. Enough water needs to be carried along with the tools and skill to obtain water for the party. At least one bottle or bladder needs to be carried by everyone. A bottle or bladder with a wide-mouth makes refilling easier. Most water filters will fit snuggly in the mouth of a wide-mouth bottle allowing both hands to be free to work the water filter.

There are many options other than water filters, purification tablets work but may leave a taste in the water. Iodine taste left by purification tablets can be masked by adding a flavor to the water like fruit punch mix. An ultra violet water purification pen is another option. The pen is fast and doesn’t leave an after taste. The reason for the Ten Essentials is to be prepared. No matter which method you plan to use always have a backup plan. Carrie a filter or a Pen and a bottle of purification tablets for a backup. Don’t forget extra batteries if you decide to go with the pen.


The final category of the Ten Essential is the emergency shelter category. If you are on a short hike and not carrying a tent some sort of emergency shelter should be carried. A space blanket or a large trash bag can be carried as an emergency shelter. Either one is light and provides some warmth if an emergency develops and an unexpected night out occurs. A reflective space blanket can also be used in administering first aid. Since both a plastic bag or space blanket are light it is recommended one should be carried even if your party has a tent.

The Starting Point

When it comes to packing for a trip the Ten Essentials is just your starting point. If you are just going on a short day hike in the spring or summer the Ten Essentials may be all you need. During the winter or if you are planning a climb additional equipment will augment your Ten Essentials.

Lastly, although not listed earlier, the most important items that needs to be included in with your Ten Essentials is common sense and judgment. Know your limitations or the limitations of the weakest hiker or climber in your group. A successful trip is not always the trip that follows the planned itinerary, but is one that ends with everyone being able to make it back to the car safely. Remember judgment may have to step in and say “lets turn back” and over rule the desire to make a certain destination.

by John Dragotto