I cringe every time I pass hikers with not a bag on their back, because I’m wondering where the heck their water bottle is… (especially that time I passed the one carrying the can of bear, and that was it…) …people.  The mountains can change at a moments notice and being prepared is what saves your life! Here are my go-to products, some that stay in my pack at all times no matter the hike, others will come and go depending on what I’m hiking (or kayaking) that day.

The Ten Essentials

These 10 things are the most important things.  You should carry them (or a form of them) on every outdoor-excursion that you take.

Navigation: (Map, Compass, GPS, Altimeter, Trail Guides)

I am a HUGE fan of the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Topographic maps.  They’re easy to read, are already waterproof and tear-resistant, and go hand-in-hand with the trail guides put out by the Adirondack Mountain Club.  When I’m preparing my bag for a hike, I’ll refold the map to show where I’ll be hiking and stick it in my map pouch.  Then I’m all set to go!

I also carry a laminated list of basics to bring, a guide for dangerous plants and animals and a basic primitive navigation guide.  These all fit in the map pouch.

My current compass is one of those small button compasses that often come with survival kits.  BAD I know, but soon I’ll be upgrading to something more helpful.  But I really want to do a lot of research before I take the plunge.

I used to use a Garmin eTrex20 GPS on the trail.  I loved it, but then I recently came across the Gaia GPS App for iPhone. Since I already take my phone and generally use that for photos, I started using this app instead of my Garmin.  Its better.  I take photos right within the app and it plots them as way-points on the track.  I’m no longer trying to figure out which photo happened where.  That’s a HUGE plus for me.  The app even works in airplane mode, which is a huge help to saving the battery.  And you can download maps to have access to them when not connected to WiFi or when you don’t have cell service (which is likely in the Adirondacks).

I love trail guides and hiking books, I literally want to own them all.  These ones are my favorites for hiking in the ‘dacks. I generally don’t take these on the hike with me unless I know I’ll want it with me (like it explains what you see from the summit, etc.) Sometimes I’ll photo copy the pages for the specific hike just to take that along instead of the entire book.

  1. Adirondack Mountain Club High Peaks Trails
  2. Adirondack Mountain Club Eastern Trails
  3. Adirondack Mountain Club Central Trails
  4. Exploring the 46 Adirondack High Peaks
  5. Views From On High: Fire Tower Trails in the Adirondacks and Catskills

Sun Protection: (Sunscreen, Lip balm, Sunglasses)

I’m a red-head, and you’d think that this would be number one on my list to make sure I have with me, since I burn so easily.  And it’s always in my bag… but using it is a different story.

I carry a sunscreen stick, and sport grade sunglasses that came with a little pouch.  I’ve also included in this section a small bottle of bug spray. Let’s prevent as many ticks as completely possible!

Layers: (Jacket, Vest, Pants, Gloves, Hat)

I’m a huge fan of convertible hiking pants.  I have two pairs.  A heavy-weight pair that the legs zip off into shorts (which have seen better days since the muddy hike up TableTop), and a lightweight pair that roll up into capris.

I always carry my NorthFace rain jacket, and generally a lightweight sweatshirt or flannel shirt.  Then I add in extras depending on the forecast and the time of year.

Light: (Headlamp, Flashlight, Extra Batteries)

I used to think headlamps were stupid (that was probably the fashion-conscious girl in me), until I realized how nice it is to be able to walk in the dark, and have both your hands free.  I always carry my Petzl head lamp, with extra batteries. And a small LED Maglight.  I store the batteries in a waterproof ziploc bag.


Adventure Medical Kits have put together some really great First-Aid kits for all kinds of things.  I carry with me the Adventure Medical Kit First Aid 1.0 rated for 1-2 people.  Of course, I need to replenish it as I use things, and I’ve added some extras.

Fire & Emergency Shelter: (Matches/Lighter, Waterproof Container, First Starter, Tent, Bivy, Reflective Blanket)

This is two essentials that I rolled into one.  I did this because you’ll likely purchase them together.  I carry a set of UNCO matches in a waterproof container equipped with a surface to scratch and a SOL emergency kit.  This kit includes the emergency blanket along with a whistle, compass, mirror, duct tape, fire starter, fishing kit, and matches.  The reflective blanket has survival tips printed over it.

I also carry a bear bell and whistle on the outside of my pack on the shoulder strap, for easy access.

Repair Kit/Tools: (Knife, Multi-Tool, Repair Kits for Stove/Mattress, Duct Tape)

Yes I carry all three of these with me, a multi-tool, knife and saw.  In addition I bring duct tape, and 50′ of paracord (not counting the 5 paracord zipper pulls I have attached to my bag).

Nutrition: (Extra Day’s Supply of Food)

The snacks and food are essential.  I carry all my food, along with hand wipes and napkins and extra zip-loc bags (for garbage to be in accordance with Leave No Trace) in an odor proof bag.

Hydration: (Water Bottles, Hydration Reservoirs, Water Filter/Treatment System)

I’ve been there, tried the water reservoirs, and I just can’t adapt.  I hate cleaning them, and they always end up covered in mold, especially the straws.  And while I love the convenience of that, I’m just a Nalgene girl I guess.  I take at least two of those.  In addiction to that a water filtration system on all-day hikes & backpacking trips. I also will often make use of these awesome Nuun tabs to flavor my water when I need a little extra boost (also helpful with the plastic-y taste from new hydration bladders).

Packing It All In

Packing your bag can be an art.  Knowing where to place things inside for comfort, and for ease of access.  The art expands and gets harder when you’re planning for legitimate backpacking.  But regardless its important to pack right.

The photo above shows everything that I pack in my bag for a day hike.  Some things I just throw in without packing it in to a smaller bag, but others I’ve organized into “kits” of sorts.

I start with putting the extra layers on the bottom.  Generally I won’t be needing those, especially in the summer time, but its important to have those with you for emergency situations. I’ll also put my rain coat here, if rain isn’t expected in the forecast.  If it is, I will put that more towards the top.

I have a newly acquired hydration bladder, that will fit in a special pocket within my bag.  I is a two liter capacity, so I’ll generally take at least one 32 ounce Nalgene along too.  I’ll add that in towards the bottom as well, since I won’t be needing it until the hydration bladder runs out.

Then I pack in my first aid kit, emergency & repair kit, and the bathroom kit.   I’ll expand on those in a second.  I’ll also add in my food (in a odor-proof bag) along with extra ziplock bags, some napkins and hand sanitizer or hand wipes.

I place my map in a side pocket on my bag, for easy access.  And then my headlamp, bug spray, sunscreen, knife, mace and sunglasses will go in the top pocket.

I wear my hat and hiking pants, and my trekking poles I’ll either use right from the start, or I strap them to the outside of my bag.

Emergency & Repair Kit

Included in my emergency & repair kit are my saw, an SOL emergency kit, 50′ of paranoid, zip ties, extra AA and AAA batteries, my multi-tool and waterproof matches.  These are all rolled up in a small waterproof bag.

Bathroom Kit

The bathroom kit includes a foldable shovel, some TP, wet ones, a small zipper bag with female essentials, plastic bags for trash and aspirin (for smell).  Again, these are all included in a waterproof pouch.

Extra Non-Essentials

There are just a few extra non-essentials that I like to carry with me.  The pink dry bag is for kayaking only.  I’ll put the gear I need in that for the kayak (instead of my pack).

I have 3 different battery packs.  An Anker battery pack that charges my iPhone seven times.  Another similar battery pack (no-name brand) that will do at least six full charges and two small Xtra battery packs that will each charge once.  I’ll take just one (or both) of the Xtra chargers on a shorter hike, and then choose from one of the others on a longer hike.

I also have a selfie stick that is bluetooth enabled.  And a waterproof case with lanyard for my iPhone 7+.

Click HERE for a detailed list on gear specifics.