The Ten Essentials With Kiddos

You’ve probably heard a lot about the need to carry the “ten essentials,” hopefully you are already carrying them with you. They are vital year round and with the arrival of unpredictable weather in the high country, now is a good time to do a supply check. Do you have all ten covered? Anything need replenishing? Having kids in tow means extra needs as well, do you have all your kiddos covered? Could you survive a night or more with your children in the woods and snow?

I’m really not trying to scare you out of hiking, fall and winter hiking are awesome! My mom brain just goes into “what-if” hyper drive sometimes and making sure I am prepared is a good way to tell it to STFU. I’m sure many of you can relate.

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Maybe not the worst place to be stranded, but you’ll still be glad you packed the Ten Essentials in the carrier!


The Ten Essentials:

So what are the “Ten Essentials”? Well, first of all “ten” is a bit of a misnomer. Once you have everything gathered, you will have more than just ten individual items. Washington Trails Association has a fantastic outline that gives 10 categories of essentials. Here is what I carry:

1. Navigation

GPS units and cell phones are great for this… if you have signal… and battery life. I don’t know about you, but I love hiking far from signal and battery life doesn’t seem to last long especially in cold. What if you fall in a river or its pouring rain? Electronics aren’t going to be very helpful then either. Best practice is to have a map, preferably waterproof, that covers the area in which you are hiking. I love the waterproof maps that Green Trails and National Geographic have put out. They are lightweight, and not just waterproof but also toddler proof! I have a whole collection for the local area and have included some of them at the end of this post. (If you’re not in western Washington, search for your area on Amazon or check out your local hiking gear retailer.)

Of course just having a map isn’t really enough. You need to have some basic navigation skills and a compass. I carry this basic one but lots of other choices are out there: UST Deluxe Map Compass

2. Hydration

This is probably what we all think of first: water and/or a way to get it. Are you hiking somewhere with a water source or is it a dry trail? If it is dry, take more water than you think you could possibly need. Water bladders are a great, lightweight, way to pack in all that water.

We have this one in the 70oz size from Camelbak: CamelBak Unisex Crux Hydration Reservoir  I recommend letting a baking soda solution soak in it overnight and then rinse it well before first use to get that new plastic taste out.

Not a fan of plastic? Or maybe the weight of kiddo on your back is more than enough and you prefer to clip bottles to yourself like a pack mule (raises hand…) We LOVE our Hydroflasks and Lifefactory bottles. A great way to attach kiddo’s water bottle or sippy cup: PBnJ Baby SippyPal Sippy Cup Strap

Remember to carry more than enough for the kiddos too. If they are old enough to carry their own pack (yay!), there are some child sized water bladder packs available like this one we are thinking of getting kiddo for Christmas (shhh!): CamelBak Kids Mini M.U.L.E. Hydration Pack w/ Crux Reservoir

Filling up at home is great but I keep a few gallons of water in my car both in case of car emergencies and to fill my bladders/bottles at the trailhead.

If the trail will have water sources, water treatment and filtration are great options to avoid carrying multiple days of water. We have this hand pump water filter: MSR MiniWorks EX Microfilter , an emergency Lifestraw that weighs almost nothing, and emergency water purification tablets Water filters can and do break! (That was not a fun day and was probably the second closest I have come to thinking I might not make it back to the trailhead!)

3. Nutrition

Survival requires food right? If you’re lucky its berry season and you are lost somewhere with lots of berries you can easily identify. Most of the time, this is not the case. My favorite just-in-case extra food is Larabars. Kiddo loves them too so hopefully he will choose them over a threenager hunger strike. Kind Bars, Clif Bars, or jerky make good choices too. Make sure you bring plenty for both snacking during the hike and in case of an emergency and bring enough for all of you. I buy our snacks by the case from Amazon so that we have plenty on hand to throw in the packs.

4. Rain Gear/Insulation

This one is especially important as we enter the wet season. Weather can shift suddenly in the mountains and even if you aren’t stranded overnight, you may find yourself glad you packed the rain gear. For yourself, you will want at least a good waterproof jacket and rain pants aren’t a bad idea. Columbia has some great ones that even come in plus sizes! For your kiddos, check out my other post dedicated to rain gear for little ones: Fall Is Here! Rain Gear For The Kiddos At minimum, we bring along the Tuffo Muddy Buddy for the kiddo.

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Water happens.


5. Firestarter

Good for light, heat, signaling, and drying out wet clothes/gear. I carry waterproof matches and a lighter. Magnesium starters are also great.

6. First Aid

This one is a bit odd for us because I DIY’d a kit and carry it in one of those cosmetic bags you get during free gift time at Clinique. (Once upon a time I worked in a corporate office and *gasp* wore makeup.) If you are not the DIY type, there are some great ready-made kits out there. I really like the Adventure Medical Kits. Always add Benadryl to your kit if it is not included and, if needed, a bee sting kit.

7. Tools

A basic multi tool can come in really handy if you are stranded. A small bit of duct tape is great to include as well.

8. Illumination

It gets mighty dark out in the woods when the sun goes down. If you are lucky you are hiking somewhere without much light pollution, which will not be as welcome if you are lost. Hand crank flashlights are great because the batteries won’t run out or get old and explode in your pack. These are great to include in a child’s pack as well, just in case.

9. Sun Protection

Even if you start hiking in thick clouds, the weather changes fast and can never seem to make up its mind around here. Bring along good old sunglasses and sunblock for emergencies and for comfort on one of those all-four-seasons-at-once kind of days. A hat is a good idea too, I love my light, airy, SPF 30 hat from Outdoor Research.

10. Shelter

Shelter can be really important if you are lost, especially if it is raining and your have little ones with you. Obviously most of us are not going to carry a tent on a day hike but emergency blankets can do in a pinch. They weigh almost nothing and don’t take up much space. They also double as a signaling device since they are reflective. I even throw one of these in my kiddo’s pack on days when he walks with one, and at least one per person in my pack. These come in a ten pack so toss them in everywhere: Kangaroo Emergency Thermal Blankets (Pack of 10)

Beyond the Ten Essentials

Especially with children, other essentials may be necessary. Think about what else you need to survive comfortably. Is your child potty trained or will kiddo need diapers? Wipes? Baby formula? Does a pacifier seem more important than life itself to your kiddo? Is it hunting season? Bug season? Tick country? Do you have prescription medications on which your life (or child’s life) depend? Ask yourself these questions now and save the heartache later.

Some of my favorite extra items:

Bug spray, yes I use Deet: OFF! Deep Woods Insect Repellent

Tick remover: Original Tick Key for Tick Removal 3 Pack

Folding Travel Potty (Certainly not an essential for survival but a nice addition for the potty trainers): OXO Tot 2-in-1 Go Potty for Travel

Scent (and water) proof bags for those snacks in bear country: OPSAK Odor Proof Barrier Bags 9×10″

Bear Spray: 10.2 oz. Counter Assault Bear Deterrent

Hunter orange duct tape (serves dual purposes!): Duck Brand Color Duct Tape, Neon Orange

Reading Further:

Here are some basic survival guides to add to your bookcase full of hiking guides:

SAS Survival Handbook, Third Edition: The Ultimate Guide to Surviving Anywhere

Ultimate Survival Guide for Kids

Ultimate Mapping Guide for Kids

Edible Wild Plants: A North American Field Guide to Over 200 Natural Foods

Some of my waterproof, tear proof maps for western Washington:

Green Trails Maps, Mt Rainier

North Cascades National Park (National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map)

Alpine Lakes Wilderness [Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie and Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests] (National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map)

Mount Baker and Boulder River Wilderness Areas [Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie National Forest] (National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map)

Olympic National Park (National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map)

Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams [Gifford Pinchot National Forest] (National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map)

Goat Rocks, Norse Peak and William O. Douglas Wilderness Areas [Gifford Pinchot, Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie, and Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests] (National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map)

Glacier Peak Wilderness [Mt. Baker-Snoqualmie and Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forests] (National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map)


***I did not receive any compensation, discounts, or product in exchange for these reviews. Honestly. However, if you purchase through one of the links, I may receive a small commission through the Amazon Associates program (I’ve got to support this hiking addiction somehow.)

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