Backpacking Gear Must Haves: The Ten Essentials You Need If You Love The Outdoors

52 Hike Challenge community member @nateintheclouds camping in an REI tent at Yosemite National Park

Are you setting out on an outdoor adventure and wondering what you should bring?

Whether you’re camping, hiking, or backpacking, there are certain items you should always have with you while exploring the great outdoors.

In this helpful article, you will learn about the Ten Essentials: recommended items you should carry with you whenever you venture into the outdoors. 

If you love spending time in nature, then you need to know about the Ten Essentials. Whether you’re camping, hiking, or backpacking, get ready to learn the must-haves for you to stay safe while on the trail or at camp. 

#1. Shelter

If you’re planning on spending a night in the woods, it’s pretty crucial that you bring a shelter to protect yourself from the elements, insects, and wild animals. 

Most campers sleep in a tent, but lots of adventurers are taking up hammocking. Nowadays, you can get a backpacking hammock with a mosquito net and sleep elevated off the earth, rocking gently between the trees.

No matter which form of shelter you choose, it’s a good idea to have one.

52 Hike Challenger @ava_sofia's tent home during her solo backpacking trip in North Cascades National Park

#2. Backpack & Extra Clothing

Planning a backpacking trip?

Then you definitely need a backpack. Look for a waterproof pack that has adequate shoulder support. Your ideal pack should carry roughly 50L, but some packs can carry as much as 70L.

And don’t forget extra clothing! Remember to pack layers for cold nights and a raincoat for unexpected downpours.

#3. Sun Protection

If you’re spending time outside, you’re most likely exposing yourself to the sun. In that case, you should always carry sun protection with you. 

Wear a hat or bandana to protect your scalp on days when the UV index is high. Sport sunglasses to protect your eyes. Apply sunscreen regularly, and pack layers of UPF protection clothing. 

52 Hike Challenge Founder @lovekarlaamador is ready for the element while reppin' 52 on a big peak! Get your own 52 Hike Challenge patch here.

#4. Hydration

In order to survive, you need to stay hydrated. Make sure you have multiple sources of hydration when you’re far away from running water.

You can carry up to three liters of water in a hydration bladder. Stowe a full water bottle in a side pocket of your pack. And carry water purification drops along with a water filtration system for all your remote excursions. 

Sunset at camp captured by @juniorrangerravenne

#5. Navigation

Want to avoid getting lost on the trail?

Be sure to pack a map and a compass. You can also invest in a GPS tracker so you can navigate with ease.

When you know how to make your way through the woods, you will reduce your risk of getting lost and running into dangerous situations in the backcountry.

52 Hike Challenge community member @scarsthread camping at Pear Lake in Sequoia National Park

#6. Firestarter

In case of an emergency, fire is your best friend.

Fire can help you stay warm and dry. You can even use a campfire to boil water for drinking. And this camping must-have will help keep animals away. 

You can make a flame with a flint, lighter, sturdy matches, and more. For ultimate preparation and protection, it’s a good idea to carry more than one form of firestarter any time you’re in the wilderness.

52 Hike Challenge team member @freerangemandi cooking chicken skewers over the campfire

#7. First Aid & Emergency Items

As you know, you should always be prepared for the worst. While you’re more likely to have an incredible experience in nature, there are times when emergencies strike without notice. 

From blister relief to life-threatening experiences, always travel prepared for the unknown. Carry a first aid kit, a paracord, and maybe even an emergency phone charger.

@nmund3n76 after trekking to camp in Grand Canyon National Park

#8. Light & Illumination

If you’re camping overnight or hiking in the dark, be sure to bring the appropriate light sources. All you night hikers, always bring a flashlight, headlamp, or both.

If you’re pitching a tent, you can even get a camping bulb that doubles as an SOS signal. Not only will it light up your tent, but it can also assist you in emergencies. Pretty cool, right?

Camp views from @gabriellamingrone

#9. Knife & Gear Repair Supplies

When you spend a lot of time outdoors, your gear is bound to wear. Remember to bring supplies with you to quickly and easily repair tears or holes or in your tent, backpack, and more. 

Be sure to bring some material to patch your gear, and always carry a knife or a trusty pair of portable scissors. 

Survival items captured by 52 Hike Challenge team member @freerangemandi

#10. Food & Cooking Gear

Spending multiple days in the wilderness?

Better make sure you pack enough food — and a way to cook it. If you want to eat warm meals or enjoy hot coffee while backpacking, make sure to bring a mini cooking stove along with you, or a JetBoil serves as a trusty sidekick. 

Remember to be mindful of the foods you pack. Make sure they are doing more than filling your belly. Camping food should nourish and strengthen you for the journey ahead. 

Drinkware -  complete with a 52 Hike Challenge sticker! - and a JetBoil captured by challenger @adventures_with_angela

Congrats! Now It’s Time For You To Explore

Congrats! Now you are fully equipped to safely explore the great outdoors. Make sure to pack your 10 Essentials, take lots of pictures, be safe, and have fun!

Want even more tips for hiking, backpacking, and camping? 

Find gear recommendations, hiking safety tips, the best hiking trails, and much more on the 52 Hike Challenge Blog


Please note: We have affiliate links in this post which help us to keep this awesome and life changing movement going. Please consider using our links if you purchase anything at REI. Thank you for your support!

Leave a comment

Please note, comments must be approved before they are published