From National Parks to local trails, hiking is a great pastime and one of our favorites. It’s cheap and free most of the time, and just about anyone can enjoy it. There are many trails to tackle and fit for almost every age and fitness level. It’s also more fun if you have the right equipment so having a “hiking gear list” is a must.
Wandering off into the great outdoors and on foot is very relaxing. It’s an excellent escape from everyday life. But hiking is an adventure full of surprises. And as such, you should be prepared; whether you’re climbing mountains or trekking through the desert.
What to Bring Hiking?
From protection to food, you want to be ready for anything. What you pack in your backpack can help or ruin your fun. Your safety and comfort should be your top priority and then have fun after. So set yourself up for a happy, healthy hike.
You’ll be grateful you were prepared, especially when an item comes in handy or saves your life. It just takes a little time and effort. And there are items available in every price range.
But where do you even start with a packing list? We have rounded up a hiking gear list to bring hiking with you. They are helpful when setting off on any hike. From large to small, each one serves a specific purpose.
1 – A Hiking Backpack
Duh. It’s obvious, and unless you’re a well-trained trail marathon runner, you’ll need one. But many people overlook the importance of choosing the right backpack. There are several factors to consider. Think about your priorities when selecting the perfect pack for you. Are you going for long multi-day hikes? A day hike? Backpacks vary for different purposes.
The support can make or break the comfort of a backpack. Where does the weight settle in? You want to look for a backpack that centers the pressure on your hips. If not, your shoulders will suffer on long hikes.
You might want to consider looking into specialized packs. There are types created for specific genders and body types.
Size does matter. You want to look for a pack that makes sense for the length of your typical hikes. If you are a short trail wanderer, a smaller backpack will do. But are you ready to take on something longer? You’ll need much more space to accommodate your supplies.
You’ll want to consider how you’ll organize your bag. It’s not helpful to have supplies you can’t find in your backpack. Look for pockets of various sizes. These will give you designated places for your gear.
External pockets are helpful for easy access to your most-used equipment. Straps and clips are great ways to attach items you use a lot.
Your backpack must be functional. Consider looking for features like water bladders. An insulated pocket is helpful for food storage. Are you into winter or primitive hiking? Attachment points for your trekking poles might be beneficial.
Your backpack is an extension of you on a hike. Make sure it works with you for comfort and convenience. Just take your time and try out hiking backpacks before you settle on one. It’s one of the essential pieces of gear you’ll purchase.
2 – Comfortable Footwear
Nobody likes blisters, and it’s no secret that hiking is hard on the feet. And your choice of footwear is vital. Make sure you choose wisely. It’s always good to have options. This is a personal choice and depends on your comfort.
Hiking footwear runs the gamut from sturdy to flexible. You can opt for a more protective and supporting hiking boot. Look for a style that supports your ankles well. You want to find a balance between sturdiness and lightweight comfort. Our editor personally loves his Indestructible Boots, which offer extra protection around the toes. Get 20% using our special code: ADONV73
Are you a fast walker? A runner, perhaps? Consider trail-running shoes. They are lightweight and provide excellent traction. These tend to be more comfortable for faster hikers. So if you plan to pick up the pace, it may be worth trying out.
It may be freeing to wear comfy hiking sandals from viakix.com. Or at least throw a pair in your bag.
They are perfect if you are headed to a trail with waterways. Sandals are much more comfortable for exploring a creek or lakeshore. And giving your feet some time to breathe on a hot day will be refreshing.
The most important thing is to make sure the footwear you choose fits well. Consider the various thicknesses of your socks you might wear. After buying, make sure to break shoes in before a long hike.
Your socks are an essential choice too. Many hikers opt for wool socks that breathe well and absorb moisture. Again, this is a personal choice, and you have to find what works best for you. Though it’s a good idea to throw an extra pair of socks in your backpack.
3 – Layers of Clothing
Extra clothing is always an important thing to include in your backpack. Your specific environment will govern what you need to pack. But you want to be ready for anything mother nature brings your way.
The best weathermen can get the forecast wrong. So dressing in layers is your best bet. And include a jacket in your backpack in case the temperature drops. It’s best to be prepared for anything. You may end up being out longer than expected, and a cool night comes.
Bringing along a poncho is also a good idea. Rainstorms can pop up, even on the sunniest of days. Trudging along soaking wet is no fun. A change of clothes is also helpful if you have space. Another great thing to carry is a packable down jacket, which is very lightweight and can pack down really small while keeping you very warm in cold situations.
4 – Protection from the Elements
Depending on the weather, you need different items to protect yourself from the elements. It’s essential to be prepared for whatever weather comes your way. Fortunately, these items are lightweight. This makes it easier for you to be prepared.
Sunny day hikes call for a good sunscreen. You can even get a lot of UVA and UVB exposure on cloudy days. So it’s a good idea to bring along a quality sunscreen like Sun Bum. And make sure to reapply every few hours.
Bug spray is essential in any weather above freezing. You want to protect yourself from uncomfortable bites. And you don’t want to pick up any nasty diseases bugs carry. Choose the long-lasting type formulated for use in the woods.
And don’t forget a good, quality lip balm. Look for a moisturizing one with SPF. This is important in cold weather or to prevent sunburn. It can also be used in a pinch to soothe sores or burns.
5 – Adequate Hydration
Water is so vital to staying healthy on a hike. You don’t want to find yourself dehydrated halfway through a long hike. You might be surprised at how thirsty you become. So planning ahead is essential.
Check the maps of your hiking area. Is there drinking water accessible? Water is heavy, so this gives you the option to lighten your load. Plan your route so you can stop at filling stations to replenish your water bottle.
You can also bring a water filter in the event you need to find water along your hike. This will allow you to treat water on the spot. Hydration tabs like Nuun are also light and helpful to bring along. You can dissolve one into any water for extra electrolytes.
6 -A First Aid Kit
Accidents happen, so a good first aid kit is essential. The trick is balancing well packed and lightweight. You want to consider your environment and its specific risks. You can purchase a kit or pack one yourself.
Make sure you have supplies for minor cuts and bruises. You’ll want to include bandages and antibiotic ointment. An after bug bite solution and anti-itch cream are always helpful. Tweezers are also great for removing splinters.
Think of your own medical needs. You may need extra allergy meds. Or extra bandaids if you are prone to blisters. And don’t forget an over the counter pain reliever if you are headache prone.
7 – Directional Tools
Even the most experienced hikers can veer off their path and get lost. It’s essential to make sure you have the tools to get back on course. They can also make it easier to find help if you need it. Fortunately, there are many options.
Make sure to print or pick up a map of the area before setting out. In the event of failed reception, you won’t be able to bring one up. Check where you are located on your map often to stay oriented. And keep it somewhere safe and dry in your backpack.
A compass is another essential hiking tool. Using a map is difficult if you get way off course or disoriented. Practice using your compass before hiking. You want to be calm and prepared when you need to use it. You can always use a specialized GPS tool like a Garmin, but if you’re tech-savvy like our editor, you can use an app on your phone that has a Topo map and uses its GPS instead of data or WiFi connection.
8 – Head and Eye Protection
A good hat and quality sunglasses are important. Besides making you look cool and legit, they help to protect your head and eyes. They will come in handy in different elements you face. Even if the weather doesn’t call for them, it’s best to bring them along.
Whether it’s hot or cool, your hat will serve several purposes. A cool-weather hat will keep you warm. But in warm weather, a brimmed hat can offer shade and protection from the sun. It can also protect your scalp from ticks lurking above.
Sunglasses are essential in protecting your eyes. This is especially true if you end up heading in the direction of the sun. Not only can the rays damage your retinas. But they can hinder your vision, making it difficult to hike safely.
9 – Plenty of Snacks
A good rule of thumb is to bring along a little more food than you think you’ll need. Hiking burns a ton of energy. And you might end up out longer than planned. You’ll need to refuel throughout your adventure to sustain yourself.
The stand-by hiking snacks like granola and trail mix are always great. You can also carb up with dried fruit and Clif Bars. And nut butter is full of protein. Calorie dense snacks are best to get the most of your space.
Whatever you choose, just make sure it’s quick and straightforward to eat. And in convenient packaging that’s easy to open. You want to eat and get back to enjoying your hike. Or you can pack options you can eat on the go.
10 – Fire Starting Materials
No one expects to get lost on a hike unless they’re Bear Grylls. But it’s important to be prepared for the worst possible scenario. Getting stuck spending an unexpected night outdoors is nerve-wracking. And knowing how to start a fire could save your life.
A fire will give you the means to stay warm overnight. It also provides a way to cook food. A good fire will also produce enough smoke to signal for help.
A lighter won’t take up much space and could be very useful. Firestarter sticks are also lightweight and dependable. With these two small items, you can start a fire in the roughest of conditions.
11 – Rescue Notification
Getting lost off the trail is a scary thought. So is suffering an injury that leaves you stranded. Make sure you have the tools to help yourself out of any situation. Give yourself the ability to notify anyone nearby that you need help.
An emergency whistle is lightweight. And it can be used to signal in the event of an emergency. Blow three short bursts into the whistle. Other hikers or rangers that hear it will know you’re in danger.
You might also want to invest in a portable beacon. This personal locator can send a GPS help signal. This is helpful in an area without cell service. They are expensive but can be lifesaving in a dire situation.
12 – Multi-Tool Knife
Now, who doesn’t have one of these? What boy (or girl) scout doesn’t have one? A good multi-tool knife is useful for so many purposes. So useful that many people choose to carry them all the time. And it’s essential to carry along on a hike. It can be helpful for both convenience and safety.
Having so many tools in a small size is perfect for your backpack. Find the right knife, and you’ll be prepared for anything. And you’ll want to make sure the size and weight and perfect for your needs.
Look for features that are important to you. The pliers and knife are often the most important part. Features like carabiner clips can come in handy. And some multi-tools even include safety whistles.
13 – Toilet Paper and Sanitizer
Hey, we’ve been caught in some emergencies when we were ill-prepared for when nature called. It’s always good to be prepared for this sort of situation. Trust us, some of us have been in situations where all we have are pine cones and sand (not fun). Don’t get caught in such situations. Even though you’re in the outdoors, cleanliness is essential. And you want to make sure you can avoid germs.
Bring along a roll of toilet paper. There are compact options available to fit better in your pack. It also makes an excellent alternative to tissues (or pinecones!). You can even bring along wet wipes for next-level clean.
Without reliable access to running water, look for other ways to clean. A small bottle of hand sanitizer is a must. You want to kill any bacteria you pick up before you eat. Alcohol wipes are a good idea to bring along to clean water bottles.
14 – Reusable Plastic Bags
Waterproof reusable bags are a great extra to throw in your bag. You never know when or what you will need them for. They are helpful for packaging food. And they have other convenient uses like stuffing them with the cool rocks you find in rivers.
Don’t ruin the wilderness you are trying to enjoy. There’s often a lack of trash cans on trails. Avoid littering or dropping trash. Use your bag to carry it with you until you can recycle it or throw it away.
Reusable bags are also perfect for stashing wet clothes. They can also help you better organize your hiking backpack. These bags are a great eco-friendly alternative to plastic. Plus, they are super easy to clean.
15 – Cell Phone and a Portable Charger
OK, so the point of hiking and being all out in nature is to get away and unplug. But you may benefit from bringing your cell phone along. And grabbing a portable charger along with it. Besides, you might just encounter an epic Instagram moment, and you would end up kicking yourself in the foot for not capturing it.
Your cell phone can be your most helpful navigating tool. Download a map when you have reliable service. A screenshot of a satellite view of the trail can be an excellent tool. These will be helpful even if you get lost and don’t have service.
Documenting your memories is important. And your cell phone is a great, compact camera. You don’t want to miss all the awesome shots of nature and scenery.
If you go out of your service area, your phone will roam and drain the battery. A portable charger is a must in this situation. You will be able to recharge right on the trail. Just make sure it’s charged before you head out.
The outdoors is our playground and yours. And, if you are going to explore it on foot like we are, come prepare as we are. Give yourself the peace of mind in knowing you have all the essentials. You can take on any challenge you face on the trail. You’ll be more confident and enjoy your hike more.
From plenty of food and water to your first aid kit, the basics are essential. And with good shoes and layers of clothing, your hike will be comfortable. You have your navigation tools and protection from the elements. So you can be sure of your safety.
Your backpack is well-rounded and primed for adventure. Get out there and get the most of your hike. Being prepared will give you the peace of mind to enjoy your adventure. And you’ll return to civilization safely with awesome memories.
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