2 Free Issues and 3 Free Gifts!
Full Name:
Address 1:
Address 2:
Zip Code:
Email: (required)
If I like it and decide to continue, I'll pay just $12.00, and receive a full one-year subscription (9 issues in all), a 73% savings off the newsstand price! If for any reason I decide not to continue, I'll write "cancel" on the invoice and owe nothing.
Your subscription includes 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Or click here to pay now and get 2 extra issues
Offer valid in US only.


Email this page RSS feed
User rating:

The 10 Essentials

The 10 essentials packing list was designed to ensure that hikers could a) respond positively to an accident or emergency, and b) remain safe if forced to spend one or more nights out. Here they are, along with some specific suggestions.
  • <strong>1. Headlamp:</strong> Get LED bulbs; they last longer. Good bet: Black Diamond Spot ($40, 1.8 oz. with no batteries, <a href="" target="_blank"></a>)
  • <strong>2. First-aid kit:</strong> Learn how to treat wilderness injuries at Good bet: AMK Ultralight/Watertight .9 ($36, 10.4 oz., <a href="" target="_blank"></a>)
  • <strong>3. Sunblock:</strong> Opt for zinc, avobenzone, titanium, or Mexoryl. Good bet: Blue Lizard Australian Sensitive ($12, 3 oz., <a href="" target="_blank"></a>)
  • <strong>4. Trail food:</strong> Carbs and electrolytes are key. Good bet: Clif Mojo Dipped ($1.39, 1.6 oz., <a href="" target="_blank"></a>)
  • <strong>5. Fire:</strong> Bring a lighter and firestarter. Good bets: A Bic plus Vaseline-dipped cotton balls stored in a pill bottle.
  • <strong>6. Knife:</strong> We like a lightweight multitool. Good bet: Victorinox Voyager Lite ($119, 4 oz., <a href="www.>" target="_blank"></a)
  • <strong>7. Water:</strong> Bring a sturdy container and backup purification tablets. Good bets: Nalgene Everyday 32-Ounce ($10, 6.2 oz.,; Aquamira ($17, 2 oz., <a href="" target="_blank"></a>)
  • <strong>8. Insulation:</strong> Think puffy. Good bet: GoLite Demaree Canyon 800-fill jacket ($200, 14 oz., <a href="" target="_blank"></a>)
  • <strong>9. Navigation:</strong> Pack at least a map and compass. Good bet: Silva Ranger 515 Compass ($55, 2.4 oz., <a href="" target="_blank"></a>)
  • <strong>10. Raingear:</strong> Bring a waterproof/breathable shell, plus an emergency garbage bag. Good bet: Millet 350 ($350, 12 oz., <a href="" target="_blank"></a>)
<strong>1. Headlamp:</strong> Get LED bulbs; they last longer. Good bet: Black Diamond Spot ($40, 1.8 oz. with no batteries, <a href="" target="_blank"></a>)
Image 1 of 10

1. Headlamp: Get LED bulbs; they last longer. Good bet: Black Diamond Spot ($40, 1.8 oz. with no batteries,


Page 1 | 2 | 3 | 4 | 5

Two comments:

First, for those going ultralight, the choices you suggest as ten essentials are not necessarily the best ones to take.

Second, not everyone in your party needs to take each of these items. How many knives do you need? How many first aid kits? Groups should consider sharing these essentials.
— Doug Welker

What an appalling piece of salesmanship - with the $600 or so (and five pounds of stuff) that you're spending on this list, you could bring a satellite phone to call for help.

Try for an online "10 essentials" list, using things that you'll probably have around the house (or easily gotten) that will be as good, smaller and certainly cheaper. The 11th essential that nobody mentions is money - what if you wind up starving while staring at a pizza joint sign (or stranded next to a bus station)?
— Scott

Letís make hiking an activity that anyone can do!

I know we can start by showing Ten Essentials that will only set you back a little over $800.00!

This kind of elitist thinking drives people (especially people with children) away from one of the best, low cost activities around. Fortunately most people have the sense to know they don't need a $350 shell under their emergency garbage bag to protect them from the rain or a $119 knife that can double as a pocket watch.

In high school I put together a similar kit that could not have cost more than $20 in 1977 money. The main difference - I added fishing line, hooks and a lure, parachute cord and a survival blanket (the $7.00 Mylar sheet was the most expensive item in my kit), and had to use a flashlight rather than a head lamp.

Backpacker is a first resource for a lot of people who want to learn about hiking. When making specific suggestions for a list of the items needed for the most basic essential gear anyone going out should have with them with, the right thing to do would be to add low cost alternatives. That way you wonít automatically shut someone out who lives on a Wally World budget.

Unless thatís your intent.

— Tom

Having prepared one of the survival manuals for emergency responders for the 1976 Winter Olympics, teaching countless Boy Scouts the basics of wilderness survival and spending years foraging through gear, tips and fads, the most basic essential is "KNOWLEDGE and PRACTICE".
— Outdoor Leader

Tom, you're right on point about the cost. Must please the advertisers, you know. Just like I've renamed Bicycling magazine to "Buycycling," I guess I'll have to rename this magazine "Buy-packer."
— Post Consumer

Backpacker-PLEASE can we have an option to put all of this stuff on one page, instead of having to click through multiple slides? Pretty please?
— Jerry in Portland

I have lived in the desert southwest,most of my life. Used to surf daily as a kid. Canoe, hike, backpack, hunt weekly,cycle thousands of miles a year. More to the point i am 59 years old and up until June 2009 i spent nearly every waking hour in the great outdoors.Two things i had "never"done till then was use a computer,or sunscreen. I have yet not used or found any use for sunscreen. Most gear lists advise packing nothing that does not have more than one use. So please, other than possible lube for a sticky lock back, what is the use for the sunblock that makes it warrant a spot on any essentials list.
— bentwanderer

After reading the numerous comments regarding the high cost of the "essentials list" I posed the challenge to a group of Boy Scouts to find suitable and substantially less costly alternatives. These alternative were then used during a wilderness survival merit badge camping exercise. CAVEAT: Individual preferences, knowledge, experience climate and locations may/will require substitutions.

1. Headlamp - Eveready LED w/extra AAA bateries $14.00
2. First Aid Kit -all necessary items/meds obtained from home) free>$ 5.00
3. Sun block/lip balm - Dermatone/Badger/Burt's Bee's $ 4.00
4. Trail food - Cliff bar/Mojo/Power bar/Lipton instant soup $ 5.00
5. Firestarter - magnesium bar w/flint $ 2.00
steel wool/vaseline soaked cotton $ free
Bic lighter/matches $ 3.00
bailing twine $ free
6. Knife - Boy Scout/military/Swiss army $10.00 to $25.00
7. Water bottle - military plastic canteen with metal cup $12.00
Water purification tablets $ 5.00
8. Compass/Whistle combo $10.00
9. Insulating jacket - (down or polartec) $30.00
10.Rain gear - Military surplus poncho/garbage bag $16.00
Total $125.00

All items were obtained from Big box retailers (Walmart/Home Depot/Lowes) or Army Navy surplus except those items that were located around the home or medicine cabinet.
While this list is not all inclusive nor intended to be suitable for everyone for every circumstance in every survival situation, it is an example of what Boy Scouts and a little imagination can come up with.
— Outdoor Leader

Tom and others - I couldn't agree more. At this point I read the magazine for general hiking and camping advice but avoid gear suggestions. I did a trek to Yellowstone this spring. It was two of the best weeks of my life - but luckily I had experienced friends to help me make sensible, economic gear decisions in regards to the cold weather equipment I didn't have. Had I bought the gear I needed according to Backpacker suggestions I'd still be paying for it. I can't even imagine what our former military servicemen must be thinking when looking at the pricetags on this list.
— Mike in Philly

When you are diagnosed with skin cancer you may understand the purpose of sunscreen a little better.
— AZ Gal


Your Name:
My Profile Join Now

Most recent threads

Trailhead Register
Montana has nasty insects!
Posted On: Aug 30, 2014
Submitted By: Tallgrass
Trailhead Register
High Summer Heat
Posted On: Aug 29, 2014
Submitted By: TIMOTEO

  1. The Narrows, Zion National Park, UT

    Get wet 'n' wild on this life-lister in a Utah slot canyon.
  2. How to Hang a Bear Bag--PCT Style

    This method is popular with ultralight thru-hikers and requires two materials ...
  3. How to Make a Survival Bracelet

    In an emergency, you can use paracord for lashings, tourniquets, shoelaces, ...

TIP 30: Stay on Track

If the trail abruptly becomes narrower, you probably missed a switchback. Backtrack.

Special sections - Expert handbooks for key trails, techniques and gear

Check out Montana in Warren Miller's Ticket to Ride
Warren Miller athletes charge hard and reflect on Big Sky country, their love for this space and the immense energy allotted to the people who reside in Montana.

Boost Your Apps
Add powerful tools and exclusive maps to your BACKPACKER apps through our partnership with Trimble Outdoors.

Carry the Best Maps
With BACKPACKER PRO Maps, get life-list destinations and local trips on adventure-ready waterproof myTopo paper.

FREE Rocky Mountain Trip Planner
Sign up for a free Rocky Mountain National Park trip planning kit from our sister site

Follow BackpackerMag on Twitter Follow Backpacker on Facebook
Get 2 FREE Trial Issues and 3 FREE GIFTS
Survival Skills 101 • Eat Better
The Best Trails in America
YES! Please send me my FREE trial issues of Backpacker
and my 3 FREE downloadable booklets.
Full Name:
Address 1:
Zip Code:
Address 2:
Email (required):
Free trial offer valid for US subscribers only. Canadian subscriptions | International subscriptions