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A Ten Essentials Checklist for Hikers

Check Them Off As You Pack


Getting ready for a hike? Make sure you have the ten essentials! Here's a printable checklist to help you make sure you've got everything you need. (Use the printer icon on this page for the best results.)

The headings for this list were adapted from Mountaineering: Freedom of the Hills, published by Mountaineers Books.


GPS is nice, but a map and compass are better -- their batteries will never die.

Sun Protection

Sunglasses are a must -- get polarized lenses for the best, glare-free view. Don't ditch them on winter days -- you could go snow-blind. For sun protection, either keep your skin covered or coat it with sunscreen.


Dress in layers to match current and predicted conditions, then pack at least one more layer just in case.


Carry a headlamp and extra batteries. (I carry a second ultra-tiny, ultralight headlamp to use while changing my main headlamp's batteries.)

First-Aid Supplies

What you actually carry depends on where you're going and what you're comfortable using. I don't claim to be any sort of medical professional, but here's what my kit starts with:

  • SAM splint and wrap
  • Adhesive bandages (a few small, a few large)
  • Tweezers
  • Antibiotic ointment
  • Antiseptic (usually single-serve alcohol wipes)
  • Trauma/burn dressings

Get an expert opinion on first-aid supplies


Waterproof matches are okay. A waterproof lighter that's clear (for monitoing fuel levels) and refillable is better. Bring firestarters (premade kindling) too.

Repair Kit and Tools

Start with a knife and duct tape. Add appropriate repair materials for anything with moving parts or that needs to be set up/taken down or inflated/deflated.


MREs, trail mix and candy bars are a good start, but you can always make your own emergency munchies if you're feeling ambitious.


If there's a source of water along the trail, carry water purification tablets or a filter. If there's no water source, you'll just have to carry enough water to last you for the hike.

Emergency Shelter

Start with a foil "space blanket" or large garbage bag. (I usually carry both.)

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