About the Author, Jenn McCracken: “I was raised loving the outdoors. I love hiking, off-roading and rafting and worked as a guide in Moab. I love encouraging women to push through their own obstacles. I am a Jesus-loving, adventure chasing divorced furmama/pitbull advocate who follows a ‘do it big and do it right’ mentality. I can be found on IG: @Moabchic78.

What to throw in that pack…I’m not sure any of us has a steadfast, unchanging, laminated version of what we include in our packs when we hit the trail for the day, ok the planner in me is pretty darn close to it if I’m honest. But it would be safe to say that dedicated hikers/adventurers do have an essentials list of sorts. What one chooses to carry said essentials in is where I want to start the conversation. 

Growing up hiking in the 90’s, hip packs (no, NOT fanny packs) were fairly popular and it’s what I started carrying gear in. My mama, still to this day, prefers her hip pack with its two external water bottles and two zip compartments to any sort of pack and it works very well for her. I myself switched to a hydration style pack when I started hiking on my own. It has proven to be the best option for me with a lower back issue I have that doesn’t play well with any sort of belt as the primary source of weight distribution. I have gone through several variations that have increased in size and capability over the years. My original Camelbak that held a modest 50 oz water reservoir is still held on to and used on the nose of my kayak but it’s stiff with dirt and entirely too small to hold what I deem as ‘essential’ for my solo hikes. 

Over the last five years or so I have been using the Camelbak Adventura. Overall she was a great little day pack with one glaring issue…she wasn’t designed for anyone past a size 14 in the waist (when I got this pack, I was a 26 and I’m now a 22). I have always been resourceful and determined to make things work; duct tape, safety pins, twine, you name it, I will try it. So I went to REI and bought wide webbing and tied myself an extension to that short waist strap, and in the last two years had to add safety pins and another buckle to make it stay put. 

Due to a slight mix up, the pack I had picked out for the upcoming Grand Canyon trip ended up coming in the wrong size, it was the day pack size rather than the weekender size I was expecting. I decided to keep the smaller pack and replace my well-worn Camelbak Adventura with the Gregory Jade 33. I will do a gear review for my next write up after I have had a chance to use the new girl : ) 

So…what should one carry in ones chosen pack you ask? Well I am happy to share my insight as a point of resource for you to build your own laminated essentials list 😉 Each woman’s pack is as unique as the woman who chooses it, packs it full and hauls it up the trail!

My essentials are colored by a childhood being raised to be responsible and able to handle an emergency out in the great outdoors, as well as my time spent as a guide and a stint as the Camp Director for a Boy Scout day camp. It’s virtually impossible to shake the skills and responsibility that has been ingrained in me at this point. To that end I am a notorious over-packer but everything I choose to carry has a purpose. 

So how do you get started figuring out what all goes into that carefully chosen pack? Start with categories, then break it down within each. It’s a great way to think big picture then focus in on the details without bouncing all over and missing something. It also makes it easier in an emergency or sudden weather change to locate what you need.

Here are the basics I carry every time I hike: 

Trekking Poles 

-Even if the trail doesn’t require it, they are great if you injure yourself and need a crutch to get out or can be used as a splint in the case of a more severe injury. 

Water Container 

-I use a 100oz reservoir because I am a camel and would also prefer to have too much than too little. 

The following are sorted into 4 separate cubes: 

-I use the Eagle Creek Spectre Series but there are many options out there.

First Aid:

-Pain killers
-Alkaseltzer/Alkaseltzer Cold (works faster than a normal antihistamine)
-Any personal medication you take (I always carry a few of my daily meds in case I get stuck overnight). 

Wound Care
-Variety of Band-Aid sizes (be sure to carry ones that hold up well to sweat, dirt, moisture etc.
-Gauze pads (varying sizes)
-Gauze wrap
-Sports wrap
-Medical Tape

Chafing/Blister Kit 

-KT Tape
-Glide Stick
-Chamois Butter

**Extra Electrolyte Tablets in case of over exertion** 


(This will vary by your preferences)
-Protein Bar
-Babybel Cheese
-Clifbar Kids Fruit Rope
-Honey Stinger Waffle 


-Wind/Rain Breaker
-Sun Shirt
-Extra Bandana
-Hat/Visor (to protect from the sun) 

-Laminated card with emergency contact information on it -Wallet/Phone/Keys -Knife
-Blade Sharpener
-Extra Shoelaces
-Bear Bell
-Phone Battery Charger and cord
-Extra Chapstick
-Emergency Lightstick

Like I said, these are colored by my experiences above, but given how much hiking I do alone, I would rather be over-prepared than caught out on the trail unable to take care of myself if something were to happen. 

So if you are reading this as a beginner in the hiking world I hope this helps you think through the essentials and gives you a place to start. If you are reading this as a well-seasoned super hiker, I hope it serves as a quick checklist that comes in handy if you ever need to re-evaluate your system. I know mine changes periodically as I learn from others but these are my “laminated essentials” 😀  Hike Well…Hike Often…Hike with Confidence! 


Jenn (aka Moabchic)