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the ten essentials
for your elopement

The Ten Essentials are an important part of recreating outdoors, but what about when you’re getting married? These items can (and do!) still apply to your elopement — oftentimes in a very straightforward way but sometimes in very fun and creative ways, too. The Ten Essentials are all about keeping you safe, comfortable, and happy while adventuring, and those three things are very high on my priority list for your day (and make for the best photos!). Here, I’ll go over each of the Essentials in detail, how they pertain to your safety and enjoyment in the outdoors, as well as what you can do to include them in planning your elopement!


1. navigation

Not getting lost and staying found is obviously priority number one while you’re out hiking around, and it is possible to get lost on trail — missing a junction or poorly labeled trail systems are more common than one might think (it’s even happened to me!). The fear of getting lost while adventuring on your elopement day is probably pretty low on your list of concerns, but what if I told you that maps can serve other useful purposes for elopements, too?

Especially if you’ll be backpacking into lesser traveled areas, maps are a great way to know what kinds of terrain, natural features, and potential views will be coming up further along the trail. If you’re carrying any kind of time-tracking device, like a watch or your phone, you can also keep an eye on your pace by knowing how far you’ve gone and how long certain sections have taken to complete. This can give you a good idea of when you’ll arrive at your destination.

On a completely different note, sometimes things just don’t go as planned. Trail and road closures are an unfortunate reality year-round and, even if we have back-up plans in place, what if even the back-ups fail? Having a map so we can choose a new location last minute can be imperative in making sure your wedding day takes place!

2. sun protection

Chances are pretty high that you’ll be outside for most, if not all, of your elopement day, and sun exposure is always a concern — even on overcast days, and especially in the winter. Cloud cover acts like a giant softbox in the sky, dispersing light in all directions, and provides beautiful lighting without harsh shadows for your images. With that, however, can come some gnarly sunburn if you’re out in it for long enough. We often forget about sunscreen when it’s cloudy, and even more so when the temperatures are cool, but remember to apply it at regular intervals on exposed skin to avoid any painful damage.

In winter, the snow all around is basically a giant reflector, beaming those rays back up onto you from the side and bottom. You’ll need to make sure you’re covering all your bases with your sunscreen; remember to apply it under your chin and nose, since those areas are often forgotten and get hit the hardest this time of year!

3. insulation

Even in the warmer months, it’s always a good idea to have some kind of insulating layer(s) with you. In the desert or in the mountains, temperatures can change drastically between sun up to sun down — not to mention the wildly unpredictable weather — and having something extra to throw on will go a long way in helping you enjoy your day to the fullest. A personal favorite for summer adventures is a lightweight, weather-resistant or waterproof layer, like a wind blocker or rain jacket. This type of layer will protect you from chilly winds or rain showers without overheating you too much, especially if there are built in vents on the back or under the arms.

For winter adventures, you’ll naturally be more bundled up with layers but it’s important to have a variety so you can best regulate your body temperature based on the level of physical activity you’ll be doing at any given moment. The typical “line up” for layering in the winter is a light- or midweight base layer, one or two insulating layers, and a rain/wind protection shell on top. Having multiple layers allows you to remove them while you’re moving around and generating a lot of body heat, and to put them back on when you’re hanging around in one location. This keeps you from getting sweaty in your clothing, which can be detrimental to your warmth, comfort, and overall safety when you stop moving.

4. illumination

Depending on when you’ll be starting or ending your day, some kind of light source will be extremely helpful. If you plan to do a sunrise ceremony or photos at sunset, you’ll be hiking in the dark. Headlamps are, naturally, the more obvious choice for this purpose. They are inexpensive to buy, there are plenty of options to choose from, and they leave your hands free for trekking poles, carrying various items, getting up and down more tricky parts of a trail, or keeping your partner close for cozier moments!

Even if you’re not hiking, there are some other fun options for low-light scenarios. A personal favorite is battery-operated/electric lanterns. They add a little extra something to your photos and provide just enough illumination to capture your facial features and (very) immediate surroundings. Likewise, string lights can be versatile for a plethora of creative moments! Drape them over some branches while you enjoy a drink, wrap them around yourselves as you snuggle up under a blanket for sunset, or mimic campfire embers right in front of the camera lens for some magical pizzazz.

5. first aid & safety

This should definitely be a priority when packing your gear for your adventurous celebration. The unexpected can happen at any time and it’s always best to be prepared in case an emergency happens or someone gets injured. Best practice is to make sure you have enough supplies for the length of your trip and how many people will be in your group. If you have a handful of guests joining you, feel free to ask various guests to also bring a first aid kit with specific supplies in it so that you aren’t the sole person responsible for not only having a first aid kit, but also not the sole person who has to carry everything. Split it up between folks to lighten the load!

Some common items to think about bringing are things like bandaids, gauze, ointment, scissors, medical tape, burn and rash creams, tweezers, Ibuprofen and Tylenol, ace bandage and/or athletic wrap, etc. Obviously this is not an exhaustive list, but is a good place to start with the basics. If you’ll be doing a lot of hiking, including one or two SAM Splints in your kit is not a bad idea in case of injured joints.

6. fire

The chances that you’ll need to start a fire for safety/warmth/survival purposes are very slim, but it’s always important to be prepared to do so, just in case — if not for yourself, then for someone else who might be in need in an emergency situation on the trail. There aren’t too many “creative” ways to get around this, so I’ll just lay it out nice and simple. Stormproof matches are my personal favorite, as they truly are stormproof. They light easily and stay lit in rainy and windy conditions and burn nice and hot. Windproof lighters are also handy for the same reasons. A small, handheld butane torch, classic flint and stone; there are many ways to start a fire if you absolutely need to!

Of course, having a campfire is sometimes just a nice way to end an evening, just for fun! Be sure to know the regulations for campfires specific to your area, what the current conditions are, and if there are any bans in place. This can change daily, so check the morning of your elopement, too! If you’d like a similar ambience to a campfire without the potential hazards of one, you can get creative with string lights, lanterns, electric candles, and even headlamps for some fun low-light photos.

7. shelter

I feel like this is the last thing anyone thinks of bringing with them on their elopement if you aren’t doing a multi-day backpacking trip for your wedding because it’s so easy to overlook. If you are going backpacking, your tent is already built into your packing list and you don’t really have to think about it much further — but what if you’re only doing an easy day hike, or something similar? Having an emergency shelter is still really important for a variety of reasons.

Now, this doesn’t have to be anything grand, expensive, or fancy. So long as it keeps you protected from the elements, it’ll fit the bill. Weather, as we all know, can be wildly unpredictable, especially in more remote areas. Keeping dry under something as simple as a lightweight tarp could be the difference in staying warm versus hypothermic in inclement conditions.

Keep in mind that you can use your “emergency” shelter for casual use, too, so it doesn’t feel like you’re lugging around a piece of equipment you’d otherwise not be using. On particularly sunny days in more exposed areas, you can set up a rainfly or tarp to create shade and cozy up underneath for a charcuterie lunch!

8. nutrition

Easily one of the more fun Essentials to plan for is your food. This can include pretty much anything — from snacks and picnic lunches, all the way to trailside-prepared brunch and privately catered dinners! What kind of food and how much of it you bring along for the ride will depend on several variables, such as where you’re going, what’s feasible to pack, what other items you’ll need to prepare it, how many you’ll be feeding, and what will best keep in certain conditions.

Charcuterie is a popular food option for hiking elopements specifically because many of the items hold up well in both heat and cold, they pack well in backpacks, and, as an added bonus, they make for some beautiful photos. Besides, they’re simply delicious! Hard meats, aged cheeses, baguettes, fruits, berries, and nuts are just a few of the options available to you. If that sounds like a bit too much work and preparation, though, you can always fall back on your favorite sandwiches and trail snacks.

All fun aside, however, it is important to make sure you’re taking care of yourself nutritionally during your adventurous elopement, especially if you’ll be doing a lot of hiking. Even if you have a meal being prepared for you at some point during the day, make sure to bring along a few snacks just in case you need a little something to tide you over until then.  

9. hydration

This is a pretty simple one to accommodate, with your usual hydration pack or favorite water bottle, but being able to acquire more water when/if needed is important as well. In some cases, such as desert elopements, you’ll likely need to bring all of the water you will need with you from the start since it is a scarce resource in that environment, but in other locations you’ll be able to refill. More lush and mountainous areas tend to have an abundance of streams, creeks, and lakes so bringing in several liters of water isn’t always necessary. A filtration pump or purifying tablets will allow you access to safe drinking water wherever you are!

Winter elopements in cold, snowy environments can be a little trickier, though. How do you get more water when everything is frozen? Some water sources will remain accessible for use with a pump or tablets, but oftentimes you’ll need a way to make water — aka: a stove system to melt snow. You’re most likely to simply bring all the water you’ll need, like you would for a desert elopement, so you don’t have to spend the time doing this but it’s a good idea to have the tools and ability to do so, just in case.

10. repair & tools

Just like bringing a raincoat guarantees a blue bird day, bringing your repair items and tools ensures you won’t have any equipment or wardrobe malfunctions — or at least that’s what I like to think! In all seriousness, though, having a few of these things can definitely come in handy when you least expect it. A few of my “non-traditional” favorite repair items for elopements are safety pins, a mini sewing kit, and double-sided fabric tape. When you’re climbing over rocks and hiking through bramble-lined trails, you just never know when your attire might need a little pick-me-up.

As for the usual suspects in a tool kit, you’ll want to be sure you have the proper repair kits that go along with your gear, such as patches for a tent. A simple pocket knife or multitool can be useful in a pinch for a variety of mishaps, as well. Tenacious Tape is one of my favorite pieces to include in a repair kit, as it can be used for a multitude of things. Not only will it seal up a hole in a hurry, be it a jacket, sleeping bag, or tent, but it’s also waterproof! I’ve had this tape on my own sleeping bag for literal years now and it’s still holding strong.

And there you have it — the Ten Essentials and how they still pertain to your adventurous elopement! It can seem intimidating at first to think about bringing along extra “stuff” in your pack, but most of these items are small things you would be bringing along with you anyways (with a couple additional items). Being safe and making sure you’re prepared for minor emergencies is a sure-fire way to ensure you will enjoy your day to the fullest, no matter what!

If you haven't already, be sure to check out my article on planning a hiking elopement for a broader overview on what to bring, what to plan for, how to choose locations, and putting it all together in a timeline!

backcountry weddings for the WILDLY in love