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10 Essentials for Hiking & Backpacking

Below are the items that should be carried on every hiking or backpacking trip. The “10 essentials” are necessary for personal health and safety — the emphasis is on “essentials.”

This list is designed for the mid-Atlantic hiking region. The 10 essentials are a guideline, not an absolute rule. What else you carry should be determined by the conditions where you will be hiking, your personal needs, and the time of year.

The 10 Essentials:

  • Map and compass (and know how to use them)
  • Water (including filter or purification tablets)
  • Emergency food
  • First aid kit (including personal medication)
  • Flashlight and/or headlamp (including spare bulb and batteries)
  • Necessary clothing
    • rain/wind protection
    • extra shoe laces
  • Pocket knife or multi-purpose tool
  • Pencil and paper
  • Large plastic trash bag (33-gallon) or emergency “space” blanket (to serve as emergency rain protection, emergency shelter)
  • Signaling device (whistle)

Also Recommended:

  • Sun glasses/sunscreen
  • Matches/lighter/fire-starter (in plastic bag)
  • Insect repellant
  • Toilet paper

Notes on Use:

  • Each person carries their own 10-essential kit in case they get separated from the group.
  • When backpacking, keep your 10 essentials together in one small bag that can be easily taken along if you leave your pack for any reason. Your 10 essentials can keep you safe only if you have them with you.

© Potomac Appalachian Trail Club, Trail Patrol 2004