Having an understanding of what to take hiking is one of the most important parts of a safe and comfortable experience. Overpack and you’ll have too much to carry; pack less and you won’t have everything you need.
Luckily, there are select items that you will always need to have, in your day hiking pack, so the more you hike the more you’ll remember them and the benefits they’ll give you on your journey.
In this day hiking essentials list article, you’ll learn the essentials that every experienced hiker brings out on the trail with them, so that you can have a safe trek, as well as an efficient one.
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What To Take Hiking
Wondering what to bring on a hike, but have no time to read this guide right now? no worries.
The section below gives you a list of all the things that should be on your hike packing list. You can also download this checklist, straight to your phone or print and use time and time again.
Essentials for Trekking & Hiking Packing List
- First-Aid Kit
- Navigation Tools
- Nutrition and Snacks
- Sun Protection
- Fire Starter
- Repair Kit and Tools
- Extra Layers
- Waterproof Hiking Boots
- Portable Battery Pack
- Bug Spray and Bug Nets
- Toilet Supplies
- Bear Supplies (depending on Country)
What To Pack On A Hike - Hiking Essentials List
If you’re wondering what to take on a hike, this article is for you. This hiking essentials checklist is brought to you by Catalin from Outdoor Adept, a site dedicated to bringing you the best hiking content. As an experienced outdoor specialist, he’s put together this useful list of essential hiking equipment.
Read on to find out his suggestions on what to bring hiking.
1. First-Aid Kit
Topping the list of what to take hiking, is a first aid kit. Having a first-aid kit could be the difference between having to cut your hiking trip short or not, as well as help prevent infections from minor cuts you may get on the hike.
If you don’t already have this on your hiking essential list, add it. You can buy pretty comprehensive adventure medical kits, although you probably won’t need the majority of stuff in them.
Instead, things to include in your hiking first aid kit should at least include the basics, such as adhesive bandages, disinfecting ointment, gauze pads, tape, blister treatment, and pain medication. However, a first-aid kit is useless if you don’t know what the items inside are or how to properly use them, so be sure to do some research ahead of the hike.
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Another essential in your hiking list needs to be some type of hydration or hydration method. Humans cannot survive long without water, making items such as reusable water bottles and hydration reservoirs another crucial addition to your hiking list.
It’s recommended to have at least a half litre of water per hour, however depending on factors such as weather, altitude, and length of height; that amount may be more or less. In case of emergencies, I’d recommend bringing along a Lifestraw.
A Lifestraw will enable you to still be able to drink filtered water in case your supply runs out or accidentally spills, as long as you can find a source of freshwater.
3. Navigation Tools
Another addition to your hiking gear essentials is navigational tools such as GPS devices, PLBs, compasses, and maps. Having a GPS will enable you to find your exact location, however, it’s important to keep in mind that they run on batteries, so you may need to add those to your day hike packing checklist as well.
PLBs are great in cases of emergency as they will send your location coordinates directly to emergency services so that they can find you. Compasses and maps are extremely beneficial as well as they will enable you to track your location but don’t require batteries.
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4. Nutrition and Snacks
While it’s true that humans can last longer without food than without water, it’s important to prevent hunger in the first place. You should always pack an ample amount of food for your backpacking hike, and then some.
I recommend packing at least 1-2 days the extra amount of food in case of emergencies. As a general rule, most of the things you bring should not require cooking and shouldn’t expire easily. Food items such as canned food, dried fruits and meats, tuna or salmon packs, cheese, nuts, and granola bars are all popular on many hikers “ hiking must haves ” lists.
5. Sun Protection
Another component of your backpacking essentials list needs to be some form of sun protection. Not protecting yourself from the sun’s harmful UV rays may result in sunburns and premature skin ageing, cancer, and eye damage.
To protect your eyes from the sun, part of your must-have hiking gear needs to be a good quality pair of sunglasses. It’s also crucial to bring sunscreen with an SPF of at least 30, and remember to reapply it when necessary, usually every 2 hours or so. Many outdoor companies also make SPF clothing and day hiking gear, which is essentially sunscreen in clothing form.
6. Fire Starter
Having some form of fire starter or a way to start a fire is essential for hiking. You never know when you’ll need to start a fire to warm up, cook a meal, drive away predators, or signal for help.
Some items that will enable you to start a fire are disposable butane lighters or matchbooks that are specifically made for hiking and camping trips and are handy to keep in your day pack as they’re more durable than the standard ones. For the actual firestarter items, you can bring along one of many options, including lint from your dryer, dry tinder, premade heat nuggets, etc.
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7. Extra Layers
You may be under the impression that bringing along extra layers is only part of your hiking gear essentials for cold weather, however, this is extremely false. While it’s true that it’s important to bring along thick, extra layers in case of cold weather to keep you warm, bringing along extra light layers for sunny days is essential as well.
Bringing along lightweight items of clothing will help protect your body from the sun, and can also be used to cool you down as well. If necessary, you can soak your extra layers in water and hang them around yourself, helping bring down your temperature. If you’re hiking in changeable weather, then go for hiking pants with zip-off legs to convert them from full-length trousers into shorts.
Although cotton is breathable, it’s not always the best material as it absorbs moisture and stays wet for a long time. Better options are technical sportswear or silk – also merino wool products not only feel great, but they are also the best ones to use for hiking.
And of course, another important piece of gear for trekking is to pack a rain jacket. There’s an abundance of choice when it comes to jackets, one suitable for light showers will be ok for summer hikes, and they act as a windbreaker too.
While it may not be on your day hike checklist, some form of illumination is crucial to hikes where you’ll be in the dark, whether it’s late at night or really early in the morning. A good hands-free option that many hikers enjoy is a basic headlamp.
Keep in mind that most headlamps are battery-operated, although lots are chargable via USB. If it needs spare batteries, you’ll have to incorporate these into the things you need for hiking. Illumination not only helps you find your way but can also help rescuers find you in case of an emergency. Bringing along items such as flares, or strobes will help emergency services find you.
9. Repair Kit and Tools
Bringing along a repair kit and tools is part of the essential gear for hiking, as they can help keep you efficient and safe. The more remote you are, the more these items are essential for hiking.
One of the most important tools to bring with you is pocket knives or multi-tool knives. Knives can help with food prep, hunting, and safety. Multi-tool knives come with a wide variety of beneficial tools such as screwdrivers, tweezers, scissors, etc. Typically, repair kits come with a multitude of helpful items like zip ties, rope, duct tape, and repair parts for common camping items.
Another part of your hiking essential list that will keep you safe in cases of emergencies or undesirable weather will be some type of shelter. A trekking tarp shelter will help you in the unfortunate event of getting caught in a downpour.
Items like a lightweight tent shelter will be easy to carry for backpacking, as well as a space blanket to keep you warm inside. Another option is a bivy sack, which is essentially a durable sleeping back with a single layer of protection. While there isn’t a lot of space in a bivy sack, it’ll keep you protected from the elements and keep you warm throughout the night.
Inspirational Hike: Hiking Mount Batur on Bali, Indonesia
11. Waterproof Hiking Shoes or Boots
A really important factor to take into consideration while putting together your essential gear for hiking is the weather and climate of the location you’re going. If you’re going somewhere rainy or snowy, bringing along a pair of waterproof boots for hiking is a necessity.
While chafing and blisters may be minor issues in the real world, when you’re hiking, not treating blisters in time can cause serious distress and may even be a valid reason to stop the hike. Waterproof hiking boots keep your feet dry, which in turn helps keep them warmer, further making them beneficial, especially in colder weather.
Another piece of equipment for hiking to make it easier is to use a decent pair of hiking poles. These take the strain off your knees, and also make hiking easier. Even with the best pair of hiking boots, walking on slippery or shingly surfaces is much easier when you use trekking poles.
12. Portable Battery Pack
Even if you’re going on your hiking trip to unplug from the world around you, portable battery packs are a must to add to your hiking list. If you’re on a road trip, you’ll be able to charge stuff in your car. However, for day hikes, it’s worth taking a battery pack.
A battery pack will be extremely beneficial if you plan on utilizing items such as GPS, headlamps, cellphones, or PLBs. Items such as these are often required to be charged up to turn on and function properly.
Many companies nowadays have started to sell solar-powered battery packs, so no matter how long your hike is, as long as there’s enough sun you’ll be able to charge the items you need to.
13. Bug Spray and Bug Nets
If you’re going anywhere with water or foliage, one of the most important day hike essentials for comfort, is bug repellant.
Bugs may be one of the most annoying aspects of hiking in the great outdoors. Whether they’re constantly buzzing around your head and landing on you, or even biting and stinging you, they can turn a beautiful hike into a nightmare.
Adding bug spray to your hiking essential list is the first step in solving this problem as it will keep many of the bugs from landing on or biting you. However, occasionally there are just too many and some don’t seem to care about the spray. Something to add to your list of hiking gear is a bug net to prevent the bugs from even being able to get near you, saving you from their annoyance.
14. Toilet Supplies
An important aspect in the world’s hiking community is the “leave no trace” movement, which not only says for you to clean up after your trash but after your own body as well.
Some hiking must-haves involve bringing along toilet supplies. This is one of the least-liked, hiking gear essentials out there. Bring along items such as a small trowel, toilet paper, and disposable bags. The trowel is for you to dig a hole beforehand, and the disposable bags are for you to dispose of your used paper or sanitary products.
It’s extremely important to bring a loo kit so that you can clean up after yourself to avoid spreading disease, as well as avoid disrupting the natural ecosystem you’re visiting.
15. Bear Supplies
In a lot of the world, this isn’t an issue, however, if you’re planning a hike in bear country (parts of the US and Canada) then one of the most important things to take when hiking, is protection from bears.
It’s always important to respect the predators in the area you’re visiting and to prevent them from wanting to get near you in the first place. One of the most essential gear for hiking there is bear supplies such as bear spray, bear canisters, bear lines, and bear bags.
Bear spray can be used as a last resort if a bear won’t stop approaching you, while bear canisters are good for keeping your snacks in your backpack from being smelled by them while you’re on your trek. Bear lines and bear bags are used to hang up your food while you’re away from your camp and while you’re sleeping, so that you don’t attract bears to the area as well as don’t get all your food for the trip eaten.
Inspirational Hike: Hiking the Tongariro Crossing in New Zealand
Where Are the Best Places to Buy Hiking Supplies?
The best places to purchase all your hiking equipment are from dedicated outdoor suppliers. For my European raiders, Decathlon or Go Outdoors are great choices. For those in the US, then go for Backcountry and REI.
All of these stores offer a wide range of products from the big name brands through to their own range.
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What’s Missing From Your Hiking Packing List?
So, now you know what to pack for hiking. Whether you’re just getting started, or a seasoned pro, it’s important to have the right kit for hiking.
Want to read more hiking resources? Then check out these other inspirational articles.
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