Ten Essentials

Heading out to a national park? Make sure you pack the 10 Essentials!

The 10 Essentials are a collection of first aid and emergency items that can help you in the event of minor injuries, sudden weather changes, or unexpected delays. The 10 Essentials are only the basic items you should have with you. You may need additional items depending on the activity in which you participate (e.g. life jacket, bug spray, personal locator beacon). Visit the park's website to learn more about the park and your activity before you head out.

IMPORTANT NOTICE

Update your 10 Essentials to include a face covering and hand sanitizer. As national parks begin a phased approach to increase access and services, be prepared to encounter crowds and limited amenities.

Illustration of a person with a face covering

Wear a cloth face covering when social distancing (6 feet) cannot be maintained.

Illustration of hand sanitizer being applied to grey hands

Use a 60% or higher alcohol-based hand sanitizer when water and soap are not available for handwashing.

Thank you for doing your part in keeping yourself and others safe!

THE TEN ESSENTIALS

The 10 Essentials are organized into ten categories, or systems1 :

Photo of a compass and map
NAVIGATION – Map, compass, and GPS system
Navigation systems are used when planning your route before your trip, and when you need help orienting yourself in your surroundings during your activity. Know how to use a topographical or relief map as well as your compass or GPS unit before going out.
Illustration of a hat and sunglasses
SUN PROTECTION – Sunglasses, sunscreen, and hat
Sun protection is necessary to protect your skin and eyes against harsh UV rays that are responsible for sunburns and skin cancer. Consider using sunglasses, sunscreen, and hats. Sun-protection clothing such as pants and long sleeve shirts can also help minimize your exposure to the sun.
Illustration of gloves and a jacket
INSULATION – Jacket, hat, gloves, rain shell, and thermal underwear
Nature is unpredictable. Be prepared for sudden changes in weather conditions. Pack an extra layer of clothing that reflects the most extreme conditions you could encounter.
Illustration of a flashlight and lantern
ILLUMINATION – Flashlight, lanterns, and headlamp
Lighting is indispensable in the outdoors where no conventional light sources can be found. Items include flashlights, lanterns, and headlamps. Headlamps are the preferred light source because they are hands-free. Be sure to pack extra batteries.
Illustration of First-Aid Kit
FIRST-AID SUPPLIES – First Aid Kit
Be prepared for emergencies by packing first-aid supplies with you. Start with a pre-made kit and modify it to fit your trip and your medical needs. Check the expiration date on all items and replace them as needed. Consider including an emergency guide in case you are faced with an unfamiliar medical emergency.
Illustration of a lighter and pair of matches
FIRE – Matches, lighter and fire starters
Fire can be an emergency signal and a heat source for cooking and staying warm. Pack matches (preferably waterproof) and fire starters - items that catch fire quickly and sustain a flame (e.g. lighter). Familiarize yourself with the fire use regulations of your park before heading out. Learn more about campfires.
Illustration of multi-purpose pocketknife and duct tape
REPAIR KIT AND TOOLS – Duct tape, knife, screwdriver, and scissors
Carry a basic repair kit with you to help repair equipment. The kit should include items such as duct tape, a knife, and scissors. Consider packing a multi-tool, a compact version of many tools that can include a knife, screwdriver, can opener, etc. Be sure to bring any tools specific to your trip and your activity.
Illustration of an apple and variety of nuts
NUTRITION - Food
You should always be prepared for the possibility of changes to your trip plans. Pack an extra day's supply of food, preferably no-cook items that have good nutritional value in order to keep your energy high. Salty and easy to digest snacks (e.g. trail mix, nuts, and granola bars) work well for outdoor activities.
Water bottle and filter
HYDRATION – Water and water treatment supplies
Staying hydrated on your trip is of utmost importance! Physical activity increases your risk of dehydration (loss of water and salts from the body), which can lead to negative health consequences. If you’re active outdoors (hiking, biking, running, swimming, etc.), especially in hot weather, you should drink water often and before you feel thirsty. Prepare your water before you need it and do not allow yourself to become dehydrated. Before heading out on your trip, be sure to identify if there are any bodies of water at your destination that you could collect water from and treat using your water treatment supplies. Learn more about purifying water.
Illustration of a tent
EMERGENCY SHELTER – Tent, space blanket, tarp, and bivy
Shelter is one of the most important elements during an emergency survival situation. It can protect you from severe weather conditions and exposure to the elements. A tent, tarp, bivy sack, or emergency space blanket are all light weight options for emergency shelter.

Plan and prepare for your trip with help from the NPS Trip Planning Guide and learn more about your Health & Safety in national parks.

Series: NPS Trip Planning Guide

1. This system was developed by The Mountaineers, and additional details can be found in the book Mountaineering: The Freedom of the HiIls, 8th Edition, 2010.

Last updated: May 26, 2020