Ten Essentials: Top Gear For Hiking, Backpacking, Camping, And More

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.

Getting items, such as sleeping mats, blankets, small pillows, can ensure you are well rested for another day of hiking in the morning. Also look into packing a tarp, bivy or reflective blanket.


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.

Clothing is very important while on the trail! Loose-fitting clothes will often get caught up in branches along the trail, but on the flip side tight-fitting clothes will restrict your range of movement. Make sure to find clothing that is both appropriate for the season and also comfortable to wear. As an added bonus, treat your clothes with insect repellant to prevent pesky insects from attacking you.

#3. Sun Protection

If you’re spending time outside, you’re most likely exposing yourself to the sun, especially if you're hiking in the afternoon. Make sure to protect your skin with the following items, especially on days when the UV index is high:


A good sunscreen for hikers to bring should be above 30 SPF to guarantee protection from the sun's UV rays. Hikers should reapply sunscreen at regular intervals throughout their hike.

Lip balm

It can get extremely dry at higher elevations! Make sure to protect your lips from both the air and the sun's rays by using lip balm that also has a SPF rating of 30 or higher.


Most sunglasses will do the trick but we recommend getting a pair of polarized sunglasses. Polarized sunglasses will shade your eyes from both the sun's rays and also the glare from the sun.


A wide-brimmed hat can provide protection from the sun to your neck and head at the same time. 


Also consider packing layers of UPF protection clothing for sun protection!


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. Hydration can become a big issue quickly especially if you are hiking while the sun is out. Make sure you have multiple sources of hydration to last until you can get to another source of clean 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 or hydration reservoir for all your remote excursions. 


Sunset at camp captured by @juniorrangerravenne

#5. Navigation

Want to avoid getting lost on the trail? Here are the items you should pack to navigate your hike with ease. 

Map (with protective case)

The last thing you would want while on the trail is to suddenly find yourself lost with no directions. We recommend that every hiker also bring a physical map along with them in case something goes wrong on the trail. In addition, make sure the map has the topographical details of the trail so you can decide how far you want to hike. 


Most hikers have a digital compass on their phones however, there is no real harm in bringing a real compass along with you on the trail! Most compasses easily fit in your pocket, are very light to carry, and easy to use in case something goes wrong with your digital compass. 

Some additional navigational equipment that you can bring on the trail just in case:

GPS (optional)

Altimeter (optional)

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, matches and more. Hikers should always carry a lighter on them for an easy, light-weight, and convenient way of starting a fire. If you bring sturdy matches along with you, make sure that the matches don't get exposed to water.

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.

Always keep in mind fire safety when outdoors as well. 


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

#7. First Aid & Emergency Items

Hiking out in the great outdoors can be dangerous in many places and situations. 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.

Some necessary items for a First-Aid Kit include: Bandages, medical tape, antibacterial ointment, rubbing alcohol, cotton swabs, hand sanitizer, and any medications or medicines you might need such as pain relief medicine.

See our First-Aid Checklist for more advice on what you should bring in your First-Aid Kit. And if you're hiking with your dog, don't forget to bring a First-Aid kit for your pets


@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 or headlamp and extra batteries! Make sure that all your equipment has a set of working batteries in them before you head out so that your supply of extra batteries doesn't dwindle fast. 

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. 

Bring some material to patch your gear, and always carry a knife or multi-tool or a trusty pair of portable scissors. Also look into gear repair kits for stove, mattress, duct tape strips

Not having the right survival tools can be devastating to a backpacking trip. These tools can be used for a variety of functions in the outdoors such as protection, prepping meals, starting a fire, cutting wood, etc. Most tools should be lightweight and easily fit into your backpack. If a sharp tool is haphazardly fitted into a backpack, unintentional damage might be caused, so be careful. 


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. If it's useful and can fit, bring a few cooking utensils, plates and storage containers for the food. REI makes it easy with their easy packed food items for camping.

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!

Are you going backpacking soon? Check out our Best Backpacking Gear Checklist for all our recommendations!

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!

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