What are the essentials for hiking? Here's the ultimate hiking gear list of everything you could possibly need to stay safe while hiking!
Why I love hiking
Hiking is one of my favorite outdoor activities! It's inexpensive, accessible, and customizable based on the experience you choose. It's such a fun way to explore a new location and spend time with people. You only need a few pieces of gear for hiking. Now throw them on your back and get going!
Hiking gear list
While this is a comprehensive hiking gear list, but you definitely don't need every item on this list. It's important to consider the duration of your hike, the weather, and the conditions of the trail. Split up the gear between you and your hiking buddy to lighten the load! Remember to double check for the essentials before you leave to help you stay safe.
Stay safe while hiking
One of the main reasons to bring gear is to help you stay safe while hiking. Along with have the right hiking gear, you can stay safe by hiking with others. You should always let someone know where you're going and when you expect to be back, just in case something goes wrong.
Hiking gear list
Here's a hiking gear list of everything you could possibly need! Keep reading to see suggestions and tips for each item.
- Hiking backpack
- Hiking boots
- Clothing layers
- Rain jacket
- First-aid kit
- GPS or safety device
- Hiking permit
- Camera / phone
- Trekking poles
A hiking backpack is one of the most important pieces of gear because it's how you will carry all of your gear. The size of the hiking backpack you will need depends on how much gear you will bring. The best way to choose a backpack is to figure out the gear you will need and make sure it will fit in the volume of the backpack.
What size backpack should you bring on your hike? That will depend on how long you're going to be gone. Here is a breakdown of backpack size options:
- Daypack: If you're going hiking for a couple of hours, this size backpack will work great. It's usually about 10-20 liters and big enough to fit water, layers, snacks, and other necessities.
- Weekend Backpack: If you're hiking all day or overnight, a weekend backpack should be able to fit all of your hiking gear. These backpacks range from 30-50 liters and are large enough to store nutrition, sleeping items, and other essential gear.
- Multi-Day Backpack: Hiking trips that will last from 3-5 days will require a larger backpack. These backpacks are usually 50-80 liters and are large enough to fit nutrition, sleeping items, clothes, and other essentials for being gone a couple of days.
What is the best hiking backpack?
The best hiking backpacks are durable, comfortable, and adjustable. Helpful features to consider for a backpack are adjustable straps, extra padding, and how it feels while you're hiking. If you don't notice the backpack while you're hiking (if it doesn't cause you poking, scratching, or pain), that's how you know it's comfortable! Other features to consider for a hiking backpack are water resistance, ventilation, and pockets. I like when backpacks have multiple pockets to keep all my hiking gear organized.
There are plenty of awesome options available online and you could choose a backpack after doing a little bit of research. You can also go to the store and try on a couple of options to find one that will work best for you. I love Osprey packs and would definitely recommend checking them out if you're not sure where to start!
One of the most important pieces of gear for your hike is a pair of hiking boots! You'll want to consider the comfort, support, grip, material, size, and cut of the boots.
- Comfort: It's important to wear boots that are actually comfortable because you're going to be wearing them all day! I recommend wearing a new pair of hiking boots around your home before you hit the trail to help break them in.
- Grip: Consider the amount of tread on the bottom of the boot. What kind of terrain are you going to be on the most? Hiking on dirt is a lot different than rocks or snow and would require a different kind of boot!
- Material: There are so many different kinds of materials such as full-grain leather, split-grain leather, synthetic, and more. I love to have full-grain leather because they're very supportive and sturdy for long, tough hikes.
- Size: I usually size up a half size in hiking boots so that I can wear thicker hiking socks. Additionally, your feet might get hot and swell up after being outside all day, so having some extra room might be more comfortable. Making sure the boots fit because if they rub your feet in a weird way, you might get blisters.
- Cut: The cut of the hiking boot refers to how high up the boot is on your ankle. Low-cut hiking boots don't provide any ankle support while high-cut are very supportive.
My favorite brand of hiking boots is Saloman! They make really supportive, durable, and comfortable hiking boots I bring on every sort of hike.
A good pair of hiking socks can be really important for comfort on your hike! Wearing the right pair of socks will also help prevent blisters. You'll want to consider the wicking, fit, padding, and how thick they are.
- Wicking: When socks have wicking, it prevents a lot of moisture on your feet. This is important because moisture is what causes rubbing and blisters.
- Fit: Consider how much extra toe room there is in the front of the sock and how high they go above your ankles. If you have a tall hiking boot and short hiking socks, the top of your boot might rub against your skin and cause some irritation.
- Padding: Some socks offer extra padding on the toes, heels, and other areas of the sock to prevent blisters.
- Material: There are different kinds of materials based on the type of hiking you'll be doing. Consider hiking socks that are made out of wool or synthetic materials as they help insulate your feet and keep them warm. Socks that have wicking technology are also helpful in blister prevention.
- Thickness: The thickness of the sock plays a role in what the temperature is going to be. On hot days, you might want a pair of thin socks, while on cold days a thick pair would add some extra warmth to your feet.
My favorite socks are wicking, light, crew socks. I wear to wear light wool pairs like these all year round. Check them out:
- Smartwool Casual Ultra Light Crew Socks - Women's Color Block Cable Crew
- Women's PhD Outdoor Light Pattern Mid Crew Socks (Smartwool)
- Smartwool Hiking Crew Socks Men’s Medium Cushioned Wool Performance Sock
An important consideration for hiking is what you are going to wear! No matter your hiking location, you will probably feel differently while you're hiking from when you start. ALWAYS check the weather! If there's a chance of rain, it's going to be cloudy, or you're hiking to higher elevations, you'll probably want to bring some upper layers. Layers can also be important for sun protection. Even if you're wearing sunscreen, wearing a long-sleeve shirt can help protect you from the sun.
Your best bet will be to pack extra layers in your backpack. Depending on what you choose to bring (I recommend lightweight, synthetic, and waterproof layers), extra clothing really won't add that much weight or take up much room in your bag.
My favorite top layers:
I NEVER HIKE WITHOUT A RAIN JACKET. That might sound insane, especially if the forecast says there is only 3% chance of rain. HOWEVER, I have been dumped on too many times to want to risk it. Investing in a rain jacket that actually works was one of the best decisions I ever made! Whatever rain jacket you bring, just make sure it covers your entire top and is waterproof (not all rain jackets are waterproof!) I also recommend looking for a jacket with a hood and that zips all the way. If it doesn't rain but gets chilly, you could also use this as a warmer layer and then you don't need to bring a top layer!
Here's my favorite rain jacket:
- REI Co-op Women's Talusphere Rain Jacket
- Marmot womens Precip Lightweight Waterproof Rain Jacket
- Marmot Men's Precip Lightweight Waterproof Rain Jacket
Wearing a hat is a great way to protect your face from the sun. Consider a hat that is breathable, lightweight, and has a full brim.
Even if you're hiking in a covered area, it can still get sunny! Bring a pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sunshine. Consider a pair of polarized sunglasses for extra protection!
My favorite brand of sunglasses is Goodr. They have affordable sunglasses that are great for outdoor activities because they are no slip, no bounce, and all polarized.
The rule of thumb I follow is to bring 3 liters of water per day. If you're going out for a short hike, 1 liter will probably be okay. However, if you plan to be gone all day, bring a few liters! You can either bring a water bladder that goes inside of your backpack or a few water bottles that equal 3 liters. It's so important to research if there is water available on the trails so you can plan the correct amount of water to bring!
Here are some options for a bladder and bottle:
- WACOOL 3L 3Liter 100oz BPA Free EVA Hydration Pack Bladder, Leak-Proof Water Reservoir
- Vmini Water Bottle with New Wide Handle Straw Lid, Wide Mouth Vacuum Insulated 18/8 Stainless Steel, 32-40 oz
If you're outside, it's a good idea to wear sunscreen! Even if there are trees and cloud coverage, there's still a chance to get a burn from UV ways. I like to wear sunscreen lotion on my face and sunscreen spray on my body. Don't forget to reapply!
My favorite sunscreen for my face:
- EltaMD UV Clear Facial Sunscreen Broad-Spectrum SPF 46 for Sensitive or Acne-Prone Skin, Oil-free, Dermatologist-Recommended Mineral-Based Zinc Oxide Formula
For my body:
- Sun Bum Original Sunscreen Spray | Vegan and Reef Friendly (Octinoxate & Oxybenzone Free) Broad Spectrum Moisturizing UVA/UVB Sunscreen with Vitamin E | 6 oz
Similar to sunscreen, it might be a good idea to consider bugspray. However, this will depend on where you're hiking, the time of year, and the climate. If it's a hot summer evening, I will always wear bugspray to avoid getting mosquito bites!
I always bring chapstick when I go hiking! This became a lifesaver when I started going on long hikes. Being in the sun all day can really cause some chapped lips, so considering a chapstick with UV protection really can help. I would definitely wear this if you decide to not wear a hat as well.
A great option for sunscreen lip balm:
- Sun Bum Lip Balm, SPF 30, 0.15 oz. Stick, 1 Count, Broad Spectrum UVA/UVB Protection, Hypoallergenic, Paraben Free, Gluten Free, Vegan
Even if you bring enough water for the a full day of hiking, it's helpful to bring some electrolytes to help with hydration. Electrolytes are important because they help balance the amount of water in your body and move nutrients to your cells. Most electrolytes can come in a tablet that dissolves in water or even a little packet.
My favorite electrolytes:
It's important to bring nutrients while you're hiking! If you're going to be gone for more than 3 hours, it's important to consider nutrition. Your body needs to refuel from the exertion so some hiking snacks can fix that!
I like. to bring easy, healthy snacks when I go hiking. Protein bars, trail mix, and foods with a balance of protein, carbohydrates, and healthy fats will give you the fuel you need for your hike! I avoid snacks that will melt (like chocolate), that take up a lot of space (bags of chips), and that aren't going to give me the fuel I need. If you're going to be gone longer than a day, consider all of the meals you will need and make a plan to fuel.
If you think you might be hiking when it's dark, you will need a light! A headlamp is more convenient than a flashlight because it keep your hands free. You'll be able to see the trails and your surroundings well. Having a headlamp with the strobe-light function can help in emergency situations as well. When purchasing a headlamp, consider the different power modes, batteries, and if it is waterproof. Don't forget to bring extra batteries!
My favorite headlamp:
It's important to prepare for potential injuries! This is a very basic first-aid kit, but you might want to bring a more advanced kit with medications if you're going to be in extreme wilderness conditions and far away from emergency responders.
GPS or safety device
If you're planning on hiking in unfamiliar places, it's a good idea to bring a GPS or safety device. There are apps you can download on your phone if you don't want to make a completely new purchase, but make sure you have a plan. If you're purchasing a GPS device, consider the maps, waterproof capabilities, battery life, readability, and affordability.
A GPS option:
Similar to a GPS device, if you're hiking on unfamiliar territory, consider a map. Most parks will have maps at the trailheads so you can take a picture of it before you head out. There are also navigation apps with maps you're able to download if you're going to be gone for a couple of days. I always bring a paper map (waterproof ones are great!) and download a map on my phone. It's so smart to have backup!
Some places require a hiking permit. In fact, most national parks and national forests require a permit, especially for groups of hikers going out for multiple days. It's important to do some research before leaving on a hike to make sure you have whatever papers you need. If you a permit is required, follow the proper steps to receive one and carry it with you.
Camera / phone
Several people enjoy carrying a camera or phone on their hike so they are able to document the adventure! It's so cool to take a picture at the top of a mountain or in a new place. Every smartphone has a camera so if you're already bringing a phone, there's no need to bring an additional camera. However, if you are planning on taking some action shots or videos, you might want to consider a GoPro. Remember to waterproof your camera or phone in case it rains!
Here's one of the more popular GoPros available:
- GoPro HERO7 Black — Waterproof Action Camera with Touch Screen 4K Ultra HD Video 12MP Photos 720p Live Streaming Stabilization
A multi-tool can be a really helpful piece of equipment when you don't have a lot of resources around. From repairs to fixes, a multi-tool can really save you in an emergency situation! When considering a multi-tool, think about what you might need it for, the tools available, and where you will carry it.
One of the most popular multi-tools on the market:
Several people choose to hike with trekking poles. While trekking poles aren't a necessity, they can provide balance and help relieve strain from your back and legs. Trekking poles can really make a difference when hiking on rocky and hilly terrain. When purchasing a pair, consider the height, material, durability, and affordability.
Hiking is such a great outdoor activity! Grab your gear, get out there, and start exploring!
This is not a paid review and opinions and experiences expressed in this post are all mine. This post does contain Amazon affiliate links. Jordo’s World is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to amazon.com. If you purchase an item through the link I will get a small percentage of the sale which goes toward the development I do for this site.