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Ten Essentials for Hiking in the Rockies

The Ten Essentials are core safety and preparedness items that one should always carry on outdoor adventures. First published in the classic mountaineering reference manual, Mountaineering: The Freedom of the Hills, the Ten Essentials apply to all types of adventures in the wilderness, not just mountaineering outings. This article details each of the Ten Essentials for hiking and provides a curated list of what we think are some of the best products in each of the categories.  

Of course, the Ten Essentials are just some of the basics you should consider for your outing, as additional items may be warranted depending upon the demands of an adventure. Prior to any outdoor adventure, one should consider nutrition and hydration requirements, navigational needs, weather, potential for injury, and a variety of other safety factors. But the Ten Essentials are great start for your hike’s packing list. So start planning and have fun out there!

The Ten Essentials: Gear Recommendations


All of the Ten Essentials for hiking are important. However, we started this list with perhaps the most important of them all…hydration. Dehydration and heat exhaustion are serious risks during outdoor pursuits, so you should carefully consider hydration needs before embarking on any adventure. Depending on when and where you are venturing into the wilderness, particularly in the Rocky Mountain states, water sources may be widely accessible or incredibly scarce. Plan accordingly by bringing enough water with you to start your adventure and consider bringing equipment to treat water as needed. 


Just like water, nutritional needs are another extremely important component of the Ten Essentials for hiking. Especially for strenuous outings, you need to ensure your calorie intake meets the demands of your energy expenditure. The good news is that there is an abundance of energy efficient food items that pack a healthy punch of nutritional value (e.g., protein, fiber, carbohydrates, whole grains, etc.). For longer outings that require more than snacks, consider carrying no-cook backpacking items, such as dehydrated meals, that only require hot water to prepare.


Navigational tools are critical to the Ten Essentials for hiking because they help ensure you stay on your planned route. Nowadays, many of us rely on electronic navigational tools such as GPS devices or our smartphones. However, electronic equipment can fail or run out of battery life. Learn how to read topographical maps and use a compass so you can always find your way.

Sun Protection

When venturing into the outdoors, you should always protect yourself from the sun’s UV rays. Core elements to your sun protection kit should include proper UPF clothing, a wide brimmed hat or neck covering that protects the back of your neck, polarized sunglasses, and SPF sunscreen.

Insulation and Extra Clothing

Extra clothing is core component to the Ten Essentials for hiking to ensure preparation for a variety of weather situations. Look for high quality, versatile garments that can serve you well in multiple situations. A lightweight, insulating layer is a critical component to your pack to enhance safety, especially in areas prone to temperature fluctuation. Also consider adding in rain gear and gloves.


Carry a light source with you as part of your Ten Essentials for hiking, even if you don’t intend to stay overnight on your outing. A light source is essential for nighttime navigation and is an excellent emergency item if you have to travel during the evening hours. We prefer headlamps over flashlights because of their convenience and hands-free use.


Never leave home for the wilderness without something to start a fire. Items as basic as a lighter or matches are helpful for cooking, but they can also save your life if you get lost and need to stay warm. These are low cost, low weight items you should always have with you in your pack as part of the Ten Essentials for hiking.

First Aid

Any time you head out for a wilderness adventure you should have a first aid kit as part of your Ten Essentials for hiking to help treat small injuries. Scrapes, cuts, insect bites, upset stomach, etc. These are all minor ailments you may eventually encounter yourself or in your group. Choose to build your own kit or purchase a pre-assembled kit that covers your basic first aid needs.

Repair Kit and Tools

Murphy’s Law says that stuff will break when you need it most, but if you packed your Ten Essentials for hiking appropriately, you’ll be covered. You should always have a knife and some basic repair items to fix your gear. We like multitools better than standard pocket knives, because multitools give you a basic knife and more tool options with weight efficiency. Duct tape and a lightweight repair kit will also go a long way to keeping your gear intact.

Emergency Shelter

Weather can rapidly turn for the worse or you could lose your way on the trail and need to spend an unplanned night in the wilderness. If you don’t have a tent with you, an emergency blanket or lightweight bivy can be a life saver (either as a shelter or reflective source of heat). Thus, an emergency source of shelter should be part of your Ten Essentials for hiking.

Disclosure: Please note that this post contains affiliate links. We may receive a small commission if you buy a product or service through an affiliate link. This revenue helps us provide readers with helpful content to plan amazing adventures.

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