Whether you’re planning a short and sweet day hike or you’re embarking on a multi-day adventure, carrying the proper hiking equipment is crucial for your safety and hiking enjoyment.
After all, when you’re hiking things can easily go wrong. Perhaps the weather takes a turn for the worse, or maybe you get lost. In situations like these, it’s important to have the hiking essentials to help you out of any bad situation.
Whether you’re new to the world of hiking or you’re a pro, here are the essentials for beginners and experts alike. As even if you’ve been trekking many a time, it’s always useful to have a handy checklist to use. Plus, it’s easy to miss an essential when packing from the top of your head.
Ready to get packing? Let’s go!
- Sun Protection
- Layered Clothing
- Foldable Poncho
- Suitable Hiking Footwear
- Illumination or Flashlight
- First Aid Kit
It’s so easy to get lost on a hike, especially when you don’t know the area well and the routes aren’t signposted. So, some form of navigation is crucial for your safety. We recommend bringing a couple of different options, to be on the safe side.
After all, you don’t want to end up walking completely the wrong way, becoming lost in the middle of nowhere.
A fold-out map and trusty compass are two classic navigation tools that should accompany you on any hike. As while using maps on your phone and a GPS tool works effectively, a map and compass will never run out of battery. Plus, they’re reliable, lightweight, and durable too.
Can’t read a map? Or use a compass? Brush up on your skills ahead of your hike as there’s no point bringing along these tools if you don’t know how to use them.
Every hiker and backpacker should be self-sufficient, and that means not relying on other people for your safety and learning how to use navigational items and devices. Be empowered on your trek and take 100% ownership for yourself.
For extra navigation, download a handy maps app on your phone such as GAIA or TopoMaps. They’re very easy to use – in fact almost anyone can use them with ease. Remember to charge your phone before heading out on your hike. You should also consider bringing a USB power bank to boost it up if using your phone as navigation is your preferred method.
Remember, while GPS apps and devices are very convenient, they should never replace your map and compass. Always have a backup!
It’s a no brainer but sun protection is another of the important backpacking items you should bring on a hike.
It can be easy to dismiss bringing sun protection if the weather is cloudy or cold but remember that you’re spending a lot of time outdoors and the suns rays can always reach you. This is even through the fog, believe it or not.
Bring along sunscreen, SPF lip balm, polarized sunglasses, protective clothing, and a brimmed hat if it’s looking sunny.
It may seem like a lot of extra gear but you’re not going to enjoy your hike if you develop a nasty sunburn and bleeding cracked lips!
Speaking of protective clothing, it’s important to wear a variety of different layers when hiking, even if the sun is beating down bright and beaming. After all, the weather can turn quickly, and it can get a lot cooler as the day begins to end.
A simple layering and quick-dry clothing system will ensure you’re warm, dry, and comfortable when the temperature starts to drop. And remember that while you can always peel off layers if you’re feeling too warm, you can’t add them on if you don’t bring enough.
As cotton clothing can take a long time to dry and draws heat from your body, you’ll want to avoid wearing layers in that material. As we know, wet clothing will be uncomfortable and freezing to wear when hiking.
Instead, opt for quick-dry synthetic layers. This material works to manage perspiration and sweat and dries quickly should you get caught in a sudden shower. Plus, it’s super breathable.
If you’re not sure where to find suitable clothing, simply ask in a shop that specializes in selling outdoors or hiking gear. They’ll know exactly what to offer you.
Even if you check the forecast religiously ahead of your hike, you can still get caught out in a downpour! If you’re wondering what to bring on a day hike, a foldable poncho is a must, even if it doesn’t look like it’s going to rain.
A foldable poncho is especially useful as it’s lightweight and doesn’t take up much space in your backpack.
You might also want to bring a rain pack cover for your bag, to stop the rain soaking through to your essential hiking gear inside it.
Or, for a cheap and cheerful option, use a trash bag! While it may not be suitable for longer hikes, it usually does the job for a day hike. Just don’t expect to be the most fashionable hiker on your trail.
A hiking must is bringing water, no matter how short the hike is. Your body requires hydration to run efficiently while hiking. Water cools you down when you’re hot and sweaty from trekking up a mountain or warms you up when you’re cold and shivering on a wet and windy trail.
Plus, water keeps your muscles and joints working efficiently to avoid injuries as you hike.
Always bring enough water for the duration of your hike. For a 24-hour water supply, one gallon is suggested per person. Make sure your water supply is easily accessible so you can sip as you hike.
It may also be useful to bring a lightweight water purifier if you research beforehand where to find water sources on your route.
As while it’s crucial to bring enough water, it’s also one of the heaviest items to bring on a hike. So, carrying too much water should be avoided too – you don’t want to weigh yourself down the entire route.
You’ll, of course, need a well-fitting and comfortable backpack to carry all the gear you’ll need.
Choose a backpack that’s large enough to carry all your essential gear, with some wriggle room for extra items you might want to throw in. Convenient storage compartments make it a lot easier to navigate, especially so you can access water easily for instant hydration.
If you’re wondering what to bring on a short hike, a bag that’s about 20 – 30 liters will offer enough space for all the essentials. For longer trips that span over several days, you may need to invest in a larger, sturdier backpack to fit in all the extra clothes and supplies.
Remember that there are a lot of backpacks on the market and some a lot better than others. If you plan on hiking often, it’s worth investing in a durable quality product that can withstand all weather conditions. Again, if you’re not too sure how to choose a backpack, consider asking in a shop that specializes in outdoor and hiking gear.
Just like bringing appropriate layers of clothing, it’s equally important to wear sturdy and strong footwear.
Trail runners work well for spring, summer, and fall hiking whether you’re walking across a dry trail or hiking through the dirt. They’re comfortable, lightweight, dry quickly, and provide great traction. Trail runners are especially suitable for gentle or smooth trails.
Even if you don’t think trailer runners are necessary, you’ll be surprised how big a difference an expert walking shoe can make on a hike.
If you’re expecting to trudge through winter snow conditions, trail runners aren’t suitable, and you’ll need to invest in a pair of appropriate hiking boots to keep your feet snug and dry. If you have trouble with your ankles, remember to opt for a boot with ankle support as you don’t want to be in pain during your walk.
For rocky and rugged trails, a quality hiking boot is also a suitable option.
Even if you’re heading out on a short day walk, you should always bring a form of illumination. After all, you never know what can happen on a hike. You may lose track of time, misjudge sunset time, or even get lost.
So, even if you don’t plan on hiking past dark, always bring a reliable torch or headlamp for extra safety. Make sure the batteries are charged and bring spares along too.
As daylight fades, you’ll be grateful to have a light source to help you find your way back home. Remember that most mobile phones also have a built-in flashlight, so this serves well as a handy backup.
Another absolute hiking must is to bring along food to sustain your energy for a day of walking.
If you’re not planning to hike during lunch hours, then snack bars, dried fruits, cookies, and nuts work well to boost that energy mid-hike when you’re feeling peckish.
If you’re planning a lunch, sandwiches and bagels are a fail-safe option to pop in the backpack. A peanut butter and jelly is a great option that’s packed full of calories and energy. Quinoa or a pasta salad is another handy option if you’re looking for something other than sandwiches.
But there are no real rules as long as you bring enough nutritious and high-calorie food to keep you going on the day. After all, it’s rather unpleasant hiking on an empty stomach.
You’ll always want to bring some kind of first aid kit on a hike, in case you suffer from any wears or tears, or suddenly feel ill during the walk. There are many pre-packaged first aid kits, which are always a convenient option and usually cover the basics.
Alternatively, you can make a first aid kit yourself. That way you can bring exactly what you think you may need on a hike. And as you gain more hiking experience you can add or subtract from your first aid kit depending on your needs. Just remember to replace anything you use when you return home from a hike.
Remember, it’s better to be safe than sorry.
While bringing survival tools may not seem necessary, it’s worth bringing a selection of lightweight and useful devices.
A small foldable knife is always handy. Choose a practical option that weights almost nothing but can cut through just about anything. You should be able to find a suitable option in a hiking or outdoors store. You never know when you might need a knife in an emergency, so always bring one.
And for a more challenging trail, you may consider bringing along a trekking pole to support you.
Another tool to use for emergencies is a waterproof fire starter. Now it may sound a bit dramatic, especially for a short hike, but it’s always worth bringing one along in case you get stranded after dark and need some warmth and a light source.
There are plenty of waterproof options that are lightweight, small, and can be used up to thousands of strikes.
A whistle is always a good shout too, in case you end up lost or in a sticky situation and need to attract attention from nearby hikers.
Finally, don’t forget to pack a camera or phone to capture the incredible views you’ll see on your trek!
Depending on your interest in photography, you may want to invest in a DSLR camera. It’s important to note, however, that these can be quite heavy. This is especially if you bring along extra equipment to support it.
These days many phones offer cameras with sublime quality that can capture scenery very well, so bringing a heavy DSLR may not be necessary.
Ready to Go Hiking?
We hope this checklist helps you feel safe, comfortable, and prepared on your next hiking trip. You’ll find that once you get into the habit of checking your essential hiking gear list before you head out, you’ll never leave without your essentials again.