For a day on the trails, just a few essential pieces of equipment are required for hiking. But with a small hiking checklist, every piece is important. Bring these items along for convenience and safety.
When you're ready to go to a local trail or even a non-technical summit, there are a few things you should always have with you. Consider this list of 10 essential hiking items as the basis of your hiking equipment and not as a complete packing list that applies to every situation. Adaptation is the key.
Download printable checklist
When thinking about your packing list as a whole, it's important to consider the type of hike you plan. Some of the most important factors that can affect your equipment list are:
- Height difference
- Trail conditions
- Walking time
- Exposure to sun and wind
If you know these factors, you can change the hiking bases included in this list. For example, what you bring with you for a spring hike in the mountains differs from a summer day hike through the desert parks of Utah.
What you should bring with you for hiking: 10 basics for day hikes
1. daypack (11-30 l)
One of the most important things on our list of hiking gear is exactly what you need to carry everything: a backpack. Well, a daypack, probably in the 11L-30L range, to be precise.
With 11-13 liters you only have space for the essential items. This is a good size if you are taking a shorter hike or have other people with you to share supplies, e.g. B. an emergency kit and navigation items.
With a daypack of around 30 l, you can bring plenty of water, extra food and heavier layers in very dry or hot environments when it is spring or summer. Keep in mind that the extra space makes packing easier and increases weight.
2. Boots or shoes
Not all hikes require boots. However, they require shoes that offer you comfort, support, traction, and protection from the elements.
The requirements of a hike are a little different from those your sneakers are used to. You might want a dragged sole on slippery trails or a waterproof membrane for cool walks through wet grass or mud puddles.
As a hiker, you are likely to experience a variety of different hiking trails, and your walking shoes could be one of your larger investments. When deciding which pair is best for you, it's important to consider the weather and the terrain you're in most of the time.
A lighter hiking shoe (or trail running shoe) with a highly breathable upper is suitable for a well-marked local trail in summer. Nevertheless, you have to pay attention to the profile and waterproofness of your shoes if you live in a rainy place or are against the weather in spring and autumn.
A good start is the amazing selection of our tested hiking shoes. The options for men and women range from flat trail running shoes and summer-friendly hiking sandals to waterproof hiking shoes with full ankle support.
Day hike in Alaska; Photo by Sean McCoy
Always plan drinking water along the way. Choose from a simple Jane water bottle or an integrated daily water tank or even a running vest. In any case, hydration is high on our list of the top 10 hiking trails for a reason.
If you have no idea how much water you drink in a day, don't worry. A starting point for packing for an average adult is carrying 2-4 cups (½-1 liter) of water for every hour you plan on hiking.
Water bottles work well. However, if you take a slightly longer hike, you can take advantage of the comfort of a water reservoir or a water bladder. It distributes the weight of the water more evenly in your backpack and allows you to get water hands-free through a straw-like tube.
The CamelBak Antidote 50 oz reservoir is a bit smaller, but is well suited for short hikes and in conjunction with a water bottle that you put in a side pocket of your backpack. However, if you want to carry all of your water in your backpack, the Platypus Big Zip 3L Reservoir will be appreciated by everyone from occasional weekend enthusiasts to multi-day hikers.
4. Trail snacks
Depending on the length of your hike, you may not need to bring food. But for hikes that take longer than an hour, put a few snacks in your backpack.
What should you bring with you? We love granola bars, nut butter with a serving, dried meat, fruit or a bag of homemade GORP (good old raisins and peanuts). For higher aerobic trips like trail runs, consider some energy gels or chewing items designed specifically for athletes.
Plan to eat something small about once an hour. If you stop at larger snacks less often, you may feel uncomfortable when you start hiking again.
5. Backup navigation
With multiple navigation systems, you can make sure you don't get lost on the way.
A good idea is to have two options. If Google Maps or a walking map on your phone is your primary navigation system, you should also carry a map and compass or GPS with satellite rather than cellular (and know how to use it).
6. Light rain / wind jacket
Speaking of weather: a light jacket or an outer shell should also be included in your 10 hiking utensils.
If you are looking for the perfect hiking jacket, you want to find something that protects you from wind and rain while being breathable and comfortable. If you're mainly hiking in the summer or just taking short day hikes, a waterproof option is probably the one for you.
For hiking throughout the season, it's worth investing extra time and money to find a fully waterproof rain / wind jacket. Look for a Gore-Tex fabric or any other waterproof / breathable fabric. While they can get damp inside in hot or humid conditions, a waterproof, breathable shell keeps you dry during a thunderstorm and lets your sweat evaporate slowly.
One of the main advantages of a rain / wind jacket is that it can easily be packed in your daypack when you don't want to. Some of the best are unlined and can be put in your pocket for easy storage.
7. Sun protection
Excessive sun exposure can lead to dehydration, fatigue, and more serious problems like sunburn and heat stroke.
Sun protection is the first starting point. Shield your face and other places where you are exposed to significant sunlight.
Next, consider your clothes. All garments have some degree of sun protection, but many brands are now producing clothing with a known sun protection factor.
Add a hat and sunglasses, and consider headgear like Buff Multifunctional Headwear to protect your neck. As a bonus, you can immerse the buff (and your shirt and hat) in streams to cool it down quickly.
If you have a spotlight in your backpack, you don't have to compete with daylight to return to the starting point. It will also help you identify and keep the path once the sun has set.
A simple, small headlamp does not have to be an expensive addition to your equipment list. Something like the PETZL Tikka headlight is great for hiking and running on the trail and gives you a wide beam to see what's in front of you. It is also small enough to be stowed in a side bag.
9. First aid kit
Regardless of how many precautions you take, accidents can happen. Regardless of the terrain, weather, difficulty level and distance from home, a basic first aid kit is therefore intelligent.
Most trail injuries are relatively minor and can be treated on site. If you have the basics, you can make sure that something like that doesn't end your hike. If there is a major injury, your first aid kit can serve as a temporary solution until you receive additional help.
You can make your first aid kit yourself with plasters, medical gauze, antiseptic wipes, tweezers, ibuprofen, benadryl, adhesive tape, a multitool, a lighter and safety pins. Or you can buy a pre-assembled kit that you can throw in your daypack without any changes.
Remember, if you stray from the trail or want to turn your hike into a multi-day adventure, you'll want to modify your first aid kit and possibly take extra survival equipment with you.
10. Hiking clothes without cotton
Without the best clothing mentioned, no list of the most important hiking articles would be complete. Many different factors can play a role in choosing your trail wardrobe, but two of the most important things to consider are the fabric and layering options.
You want to choose something with wicking properties. Ultrafine wool, polyester and other synthetic fibers wick sweat away from your body and isolate you during a cool morning or afternoon hike. In the meantime, cotton retains moisture and becomes heavy.
When it comes to layers, you want to choose thin clothes that can all be worn at the same time – without feeling like a marshmallow. Think of a very thin, close-fitting base layer, a thicker layer for warmth and a top layer to protect against wind and rain.
Many people like to choose clothing with full coverage and a loose fit, such as: B. hiking pants and a light button-up. This protects your arms and legs from scratches and sunlight, but is still light enough to keep you cool in summer.
Make our list of hiking basics your own
If you set off, these 10 important things to hike are not likely to be all on your equipment list, but they do give you a solid foundation to build on. For example, this special packing list was inspired by what someone needs to enjoy a day hike in summer and in the off-season. Adding a few elements to what you see above will prepare you for a cold weather hike.
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And finally, keep in mind that most of the equipment here is very affordable. The focus is not on giving you the most boastful equipment around the campfire, but on equipping you with the bare essentials when it comes to your safety, health and comfort.
So go outside and do a great hike – and let us know if you have anything you want to add to this list.
Averi is a freelance SEO writer and blogger for adventure travel. She has over 10 years of experience and started her career as a marketing manager ghostwriter before working as a content manager for lifestyle brands at some of San Diego's top marketing agencies. In 2019, Averi left the agency world to work for herself. She is now a full-time digital nomad and focuses on the health, wellness and outdoor industries. In her spare time, she blogs about both her travels and how you can run a successful blog for your business.