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The 10 hiking essentials are the recommended key survival tools that hikers should bring with them on every hike. The original 10 essentials date back the 1930s. Here’s my take on the modern hiking essentials and how to use them.
Why the Hiking Essentials?
In your mind’s eye, rewind to the 1930s. There’s no internet, no REI, no Walmart. You want to go hiking. You probably know you to bring some food and water. But what if there’s an emergency? What do you need to bring then?
The Mountaineers, a Washington State based outdoors club, came up with the 10 hiking essentials to help educate and enable hikers to be safe in the outdoors. That was in the 1930s, and since then the 10 essentials have evolved and been adapted by other outdoors groups like the Boy Scouts. You can sum up today’s hiking essentials as: navigation tools, protection from the elements, insulation / layers, illunimation, first-aid, fire, repair tools, food, water, and shelter.
My Take on the Hiking Essentials
After hiking for some years, it’s easier for me to break down my hiking essentials into two buckets.
What gear do I need to do the hike in an enjoyable way?
What gear do I need if I get hurt, can’t move, and need to survive?
For the first bucket, I have gear like clothing, food, and water. I’ll change gear up based on the weather and location. For example, if I’m hiking in the winter, I’ll bring warmer clothing.
The second bucket is really just for an emergency. It helps to look at a survival situation like a chess match. What will I need if I’m hurt and can’t move? If I have to wait for a rescue? Thinking ahead and running through the scenarios in your mind will help you prepare before you even step out the door.
The hiking gear that’s in your emergency bucket can change based on your outdoors skills. If you’re an experienced outdoorsman who knows primitive skills, you might be able to survive with nothing. Check out the show Naked and Afraid to see what this looks like in practice.
If you’re not adapt at outdoors skills, it’s easy enough to just pack the hiking gear that will make surviving in the outdoors possible. I know some primitive skills, but I still bring lots of gear. The more survival tools you have, the better your chances of survival.
In general my essential emergency gear falls into these buckets:
Tools to repair gear and bodies
Tools to alert rescuers
Tools to survive in the outdoors
The reality of getting rescued is that you’ll probably have to wait. Even if you have a backcountry satellite distress beacon (PLB), it might take search and rescue up to a week to actually get to you. Things like location and weather can throw a wrench into a speedy rescue.
Here are my hiking essentials.
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