Hiking is probably one of the most inexpensive outdoor activities anyone can enjoy in their free time. You only need a few small items, which you can easily squeeze into your backpack, and you’re good to go.
So what are these items?
In this article, we will share with you a list of the 24 hiking items that you should consider bringing on a hike. Whether you are a beginner or an expert, the following list of hiking gear will help you handle a variety of situations you might encounter while out in the woods.
IMPORTANT: We did our best to give you an exhaustive list of items, but that doesn’t mean you need to have every item on this list. Instead, take time to consider how long you’ll be outdoors, the weather you’ll encounter, and the specific dangers that you might come across. As always, be sure to consult with a local hiking group if you have any questions about what you should pack.
Well, let’s get to it…
What You'll Learn
- 1. Hiking Backpack
- 2. Hiking Boots
- 3. Hiking Socks
- 4. Weather-Appropriate Clothing
- 5. Navigation Tools
- 6. Packed Water and Food
- 7. Water Purification Tablets
- 8. Headlamp
- 9. First Aid Kit
- 10. Knife or Multi-Purpose Tool
- 11. Stuff Sacks
- 12. Sunglasses
- 13. Sunscreen
- 14. Hat
- 15. Bug Repellent
- 16. Rain Pack Cover
- 17. Whistle
- 18. Fire Starter
- 19. Tissue or Biodegradable Wipes
- 20. Bear Spray / Bear Bells
- 21. Trowel
- 22. Camera
- 23. Trekking Poles
- 24. Hiking Permit
Infographic: Hiking Gear List: 24 items to bring on a hike
Want to go hiking? This infographic below provides a list of important items to bring on a hike.
1. Hiking Backpack
A backpack is going to be your essential piece of gear for any hiking trip. If you are going on a short hike, you should be fine with a backpack that holds 11 to 20 liters. However, if you will be out for the entire day (or longer), you will need a pack that can hold at least 20 to 30 liters for your extra clothing, gear, water, and food.
When choosing a backpack, you have to be certain of the total volume of your hiking essentials:
Daypack. A small backpack is usually enough for a half-day hike for some snacks, water, and necessities. But if you’re planning to do a whole-day hike, you’ll need a larger one that can carry around 35 liters worth of belongings.
Weekend backpacks. If you are going on a one- to three-day-long hiking/camping trip, all of your extra stuff will need more space. Even if you are a minimalist and would like to take an ultralight approach to packing and stuffing, your 40 to 50 liters worth of essentials will require a bigger backpack.
Multi-day backpacks. You’re going to need a backpack that can carry around 50 to 70 liters for a multi-day trip, which usually lasts for three to five nights. But if you can go ultralight or use compressible gear that don’t take up too much space, you may get by with less than the 50 to 70 liter standard.
Expedition backpacks. Expedition backpacks usually range in size from 80 to 110 liters or more. These bags are good for five nights or more, and are designed to carry a lot of things.
Specific product recommendation: Loowoko Hiking Backpack 50L Travel Daypack Waterproof with Rain Cover for Climbing Camping Mountaineering
This comfortable day-pack is durable and water-resistant, and provides great ventilation. It also comes with eight adjustable straps that you can use to tie up your pack or hang your sleeping bag, hammock, or other gear. The large, mesh side-pockets are great for keeping your stuff separate and organized.
2. Hiking Boots
It is important to have comfortable and secure hiking boots to keep you stable and prevent you from developing blisters on your hike.
Pro tip: Wear your boots for a long time before taking a long hike. You need to make sure they are comfortable enough and will last until the end of your hike.
Considerations when finding the perfect hiking boots:
Type. You will want light hiking boots for simple day hikes, mountaineering boots for rough terrain, and backpacking boots for really rugged terrain.
Material. Full-grain leather boots are the strongest, as they can protect your feet from long and difficult hikes. Split-grain leather boots are also strong and waterproof, but are less sturdy than full-grain ones. Synthetic hiking boots are simply a better version of walking shoes.
Cut. You need your hiking boots to fully support your ankles. Low-cut hiking boots will give you no ankle support, but they are lightweight. Mid-cut hiking boots offer high ankle support, but they are a little heavier. High-cut hiking boots are the traditional hiking boots, as they cover your ankles and provide you with full support when you’re hiking on rocky and rugged terrain.
Size. Find properly fitting hiking boots. If your boots don’t fit just right, your hike will be miserable.
Specific product recommendation:
These lightweight boots provide stability and protection. They have an ergonomic tongue for substantial comfort, laces that remain securely tied, and updated design details.
For women: Ahnu Women’s Sugarpine Hiking Boot
These hiking boots provide a neutral positioning system that is designed specifically to work with your foot’s natural biomechanics. These boots center and guide your feet to help you take efficient, steady, and balanced strides.
3. Hiking Socks
Just like your boots, your socks can make or break your hiking experience. You need to have the perfect hiking socks that can protect your feet from blisters. Take your time when shopping for walking socks, and consider the type of hike you will be doing and the conditions you might encounter.
Here are the features to look for when choosing:
Wicking. You want high-wicking socks when hiking because they keep moisture away from your feet to help keep you dry and regulate your temperature. Moist socks are subject to slipping, which can lead to blisters and other skin irritations.
Fit. If your socks are too tight, they will limit the blood flow to your feet. However, if they are too loose, they can lead to blisters or chafing. Also, you don’t want your socks to be so low that they don’t protect your skin from your boots, but you don’t want them to be so high that they make your feet hot.
Material. You want to stick with a material that is appropriate for the type of hiking you will be doing. A sock’s material is the key to its warmth, breathability, and ability to keep you dry. Popular hiking socks are often made out of either wool or a synthetic polymer because these materials can use water to insulate your feet and keep them warm, even during cold weather. Make sure you’re not allergic to any materials before purchasing your socks, and make sure the product you find is anti-bacterial and insect repellent. If you’re hiking in the summer, you will want to look for socks that offer cooling technology, as these highly ventilated socks are made from fibers constructed to allow air to circulate and wick away moisture.
Thickness. If you are going out for a short hike on a warm day, thin, light socks will suffice. You will want to get socks that are a bit thicker if you are going on a more challenging hike, even during warm weather. If you are going for a long hike in cold weather, you will definitely want to opt for thick socks.
Extra padding. Hiking socks often offer extra padding in vulnerable areas to provide extra protection to the parts of your feet that are susceptible to blisters. You may also want to look for socks with flat seams, as this is another factor that could lead to blisters.
Specific product recommendation: Injinji Liner Crew NuWool Socks
These light and breathable sock liners are designed to protect your feet from excess moisture and blisters, ensuring your feet remain dry, comfortable, and cool. These liners are made from merino wool and can be used as a light first layer to be worn under a thicker outer layer, or they can be worn alone, if preferred.
4. Weather-Appropriate Clothing
Find out about the weather of your hiking destination so you know what to wear, especially if you will be climbing to higher altitudes, as the weather may become colder and windier than you expect.
Wearing the appropriate set of clothing is important because your clothes can protect you from the UV rays of the sun. You will still need sunscreen for your exposed skin, though.
Always pack extra layers in your bag. Clothing is lightweight and takes up little room in your pack, so it’s not a hassle. One easy way to layer is to buy pants that convert to shorts, and get a long-sleeve shirt that allows you to roll up the sleeves. This will help you have some options during your hike.
Here are two things you should consider when choosing the best outfit for your hike:
Materials. You want to look for synthetic materials that will keep you dry throughout your hike as your perspiration increases.
Layering. You need to be prepared to endure a variety of temperatures during a single hike, especially if you will be changing your elevation. Try using a three-layer system of clothing to stay comfortable in any weather.
Specific product recommendations:
Hiking T-shirt for men (base layer): Baleaf Men’s Quick Dry Short Sleeve T-Shirt Running Fitness Shirts
These fitness shirts are a good choice for hiking because the breathable material will keep you dry and comfortable. They have flat seams to prevent chafing, and a tag-less collar for added comfort.
Hiking T-shirt for women (base layer): Woolx Mia Tee
These shirts are made out of 100% merino wool, allowing them to wick away any sweat or moisture so you can feel your best during your hike. Also, these athletic shirts can be worn for several days without developing an odor, so they are perfect to bring on weekend hikes.
Rain and inclement weather brings a special set of needs to hiking. See best hiking rain gear.
You must have direction-finding tools to help you get back on track if you’re lost. Learn how to navigate properly, and make sure you have all the gear you need.
Here are five essential navigation tools you need when hiking:
GPS. This can be a GPS device or a GPS app in your smartphone. A GPS device allows you to accurately find your location on a digital map. Those designed specifically for outdoor travel are often built to be rugged and weatherproof.
Map. A topographic map should accompany you on any trip that involves anything more than a short, impossible-to-miss footpath or frequently visited nature trail.
Compass. Learn how to use a compass. Combined with map-reading knowledge, a compass is a vital tool if you become disoriented in the backcountry.
Personal locator beacon. These devices are used to alert rescuers that a life-threatening situation has occurred and help is needed. Once activated, the beacon sends out a signal to request emergency services.
Altimeter watch. This tool uses a barometric sensor to monitor the air pressure and/or GPS information to give you an estimate of your elevation.
Specific product recommendation:
GPS device: Garmin Foretrex 401 Waterproof Hiking GPS
This slim, wrist-mounted GPS is great for hiking because it provides many tools in one lightweight device. It has a high-sensitivity waterproof GPS, an electronic compass, and a barometric altimeter. Users can easily share their data by connecting their Foretrex to their computer, or by sending data to another device wirelessly.
You can easily navigate your surroundings using this compass. Not only is it durable, but it also has a variety of practical features offered in a high-quality design.
6. Packed Water and Food
Bring enough water and food to keep you hydrated and energized. Only pack what works for you, but try to pack dense foods (an energy bar, sandwich, cookies, etc.) Make sure that you eat regularly in order to keep your fuel stores up.
This will help you make sound decisions while hiking. If you allow yourself to get hungry, your body will produce ghrelin, which is a hormone that scientists say negatively impacts your decision-making skills and impulse control.
For a water reservoir, Camelbaks are recommended. They are the easiest way to keep yourself hydrated. But if your hike is one that is quite long, bring extra water (and a water bottle) as well. Bring more water than you think you will need.
Specific product recommendation: Gluten Free Healthy Granola Snack Bar
These snack bars are made using premium ingredients to create a bar that is not only good for you, but also tastes great. They are individually wrapped, making them perfect for when you’re hiking. These bars are non-GMO, high in fiber, and gluten- and dairy-free—made with just nuts, fruit, seeds, and other natural ingredients.
7. Water Purification Tablets
If you get lost on your hike, you may be ok without food for a while, but you won’t be able to survive without safe water. Dehydration comes on quickly, so having these purification tablets in a pinch can save your life.
Water filters are not always necessary, but they may be if you are on a really long hike. Emergency water filters are particularly recommended for beginners, or those who are hiking in remote places they have never been before.
Specific product recommendation: Potable Aqua Water Purification Tablets
These water tablets are appropriate to use when you need to drink water of questionable quality, as they will disinfect contaminated drinking water if necessary.
Each tablet contains 20 mg of tetraglycine hydroperiodide, which releases eight mg of titratable iodine into water. The iodine can penetrate the cell walls of the microorganisms in water within 30 minutes, making the water suitable to drink.
If you’re going to be hiking any time after dark, you will need to have a light source. A headlamp is ideal for hiking because it is hands-free, allowing you to hold your poles.
If you are in an emergency situation, use the strobe function on your headlamp to signal for help. This will also help your headlamp save power. Practice using the strobe mode before hitting the trails because chances are you won’t be carrying the manual on your hike when you really need it.
Pro tip: Always bring extra batteries!
Specific product recommendation: LE Headlamp Flashlight
This water-resistant headlamp has four lighting modes to suit your needs, including a red flashing mode. It has two loop buckles to help it fit comfortably and securely on your head, and adjustable straps for an easy fit.
9. First Aid Kit
Depending on how long your hike is going to be and how many people are going with you, you will need to figure out the amount of supplies to bring. It can also be helpful to have a small guidebook detailing how to handle medical emergencies if you don’t have a medical background.
While first aid kits are essential for any form of activity, you must also be equipped with enough knowledge to apply first aid assistance. You might want to consider getting first aid training, not just for your hiking activity, but also for anything that you may encounter in the future. There are many wilderness first aid classes offered by the American Red Cross, and there are likely some independent classes available in your area.
Specific product recommendation: Adventure Medical Kits
This medical kit is great to have on hand for group outings. It is lightweight and easy to carry on your back, and 100% waterproof. It comes in four convenient models to help prepare you and your group for medical emergencies.
10. Knife or Multi-Purpose Tool
You will need to have a knife on hand in case you have to repair some gear, cook, handle an emergency, etc. It is essential for everyone to carry a knife on your hike.
There are different kinds of knives and multi-purpose tools. They come in a wide variety of designs, styles, and materials. You have to be careful when choosing the best knife for your hiking trip.
Specific product recommendation: Victorinox Swiss Army Multi-Tool, Fieldmaster Pocket Knife
This versatile pocket-knife has 15 features, ranging from blades and a wood saw to wire strippers, so you will always be prepared. This is a multi-tool that will be convenient to keep on hand even when you’re not hiking.
11. Stuff Sacks
If you are hiking long distances, you will want to minimize the weight you’re carrying. Stuff sacks allow you to protect your belongings and organize in a minimalistic way.
Specific product recommendation: Outdoor Products 345; Pack Ultimate Dry Sack
This three-pack of stuff sacks allows you to have the right size bag on hand for all of your things. They are made using a polyurethane-coated fabric and have a watertight roll-top closure to keep your belongings protected from the elements.
High-quality sunglasses protect your eyes from the sun’s damaging rays, which is even more essential if you are hiking in higher elevations. Also, a good pair of sunglasses will protect you from dirt, sand, snow, and other elements that may get into your eyes while you’re hiking. If you’re going on a long hike on snow or ice, it is best to have extra-dark glacier glasses.
Specific product recommendation: Duduma Polarized Sports Sunglasses
These ultra-lightweight polarized sunglasses will provide you with 100% eye protection. They are great for both men and women who want to protect themselves from harmful UVA/UVB/UVC rays, as well as wind and sand.
exposure, which can lead to sunburn, premature skin aging, and skin cancer. It is important to protect your skin by wearing sunscreen.
Pro tip: When choosing a sunscreen, choose one that offers at least 15 SPF (sun protection factor). But for extended outdoor activities, an SPF 30 would be better. Likewise, your sunscreen should be able to block both UVA and UVB rays.
Specific product recommendation: Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Water Resistant and Non-Greasy Sunscreen
This sunscreen goes on easily and absorbs quickly. It does not leave a greasy feel, so you won’t be uncomfortable while you’re hiking wearing this no-mess sunscreen that will last for hours.
Another effective way to keep the sun off your skin and out of your eyes is by wearing a hat. You will want to look for a breathable hat that offers a full brim and is water-repellent in case you encounter rain.
Specific product recommendation: Columbia Unisex Bora Bora II Booney Hat
This hat has an adjustable chinstrap and toggle to keep it securely in place. It offers UPF 50 protection, an ultra-sweat-wicking headband, and a mesh vent panel for proper airflow.
15. Bug Repellent
While you are hiking outdoors to enjoy everything in nature, you probably want to avoid bugs due to allergies, pain, or simply a phobia of not understanding why an insect is buzzing you. It is also important to minimize your exposure to diseases.
Certain insects such as mosquitoes and ticks act as vectors, transferring diseases to people when they bite them.
Even though hiking and nature are awesome, bugs and critters are not. For skin and health protection, always bring a bug spray with you to keep those insects off.
Specific product recommendation: Natrapel 12-Hour Mosquito, Tick and Insect Repellent Pump Spray
This bug repellant is DEET-free and offers 12 hours of protection against mosquitoes and ticks, and eight hours of protection from biting insects. Natrapel is safe when it comes in contact with your gear, and will not damage your synthetic materials.
16. Rain Pack Cover
Even if your gear is waterproof, when you go hiking in heavy rains or snows, water may still find its way into your backpack, leaving you with a wet change of clothes, ruined food, and wet gear.
You can never determine when there will be a change in the weather. When there’s uncertainty in the forecast, bring a rain pack to cover your bag. A rain pack is easy to use, inexpensive, and will keep your pack dry in camp. Additionally, you can use it as a trash bag.
Specific product recommendation: Frelaxy Waterproof Backpack Rain Cover
This rain pack has extra stability with its buckle straps, so you can ensure that your pack is entirely covered and secure. It is lightweight, comes in a variety of sizes, and offers reliable protection of up to 5,000 millimeters of rain resistance.
Having a whistle is important in case you get lost. It can easily grab the attention of other hikers so you can get back on track. Being able to signal for rescue is equally as important as the other items on this list.
The quicker someone knows that they need to look for you, the more likely you are to survive. Several types of hiking backpacks now have whistles built into the straps for safety purposes.
Specific product recommendation: HEIMDALL Safety Whistle with Lanyard
This emergency whistle is lightweight, easy to blow, very loud, visible, and floatable. It comes on a lanyard, but also has a large clip, giving you multiple carrying options.
18. Fire Starter
You need a waterproof fire starter whether you are planning to go on an overnight trip or in case you get lost (or miscalculate the amount of time that your hike will take, forcing you to spend a night outside). The fire will keep you warm, allow you to cook, and can even serve as a signaling device. It will also keep you safe during the night by scaring away small predators in the wild.
Pro tip: Make sure to keep your fire under control, whether you are creating it for warmth or as a signal. People trying to get rescue help using fire have started forest fires, burning thousands of acres.
Specific product recommendation: Survival Spark Magnesium Survival Fire Starter with Compass and Whistle
This fire starter is wind-resistant, easy to use, and reliable. It offers a compass, whistle, and fire starter to give you a three-in-one emergency tool. It is small and easy to carry, but strong and can greatly help in the case of an emergency.
19. Tissue or Biodegradable Wipes
You may not think about taking toiletries on your hike, but it is important to not forget to grab some toilet paper or wipes. It is best to find some that are biodegradable so you can bury your used toilet paper or wipes under the ground after using it.
Specific product recommendation: ArcherOG Biodegradable Wipes
These biodegradable wipes are an environmentally responsible way to keep yourself clean while hiking. They help minimize your carbon footprint while camping, and prevent you from having to pack up your used toilet paper and carry it with you.
20. Bear Spray / Bear Bells
If you’re planning to hike and backpack in wild areas, you want to take an active role in not only protecting yourself, but also protecting any bears. Bear spray is proven to be a successful tool for stopping aggressive behavior in bears.
This non-lethal deterrent can reduce injuries to humans caused by bears, as well as the number of bears that are killed by people who are defending themselves. Bear spray uses a mist of capsicum derivatives or other deterrents, which temporarily lessens the bear’s ability to see, breathe, or smell, and allows you time to escape.
Some people also use bear bells, which let bears know that people are around. This may warn them to stay away.
Specific product recommendation:
Bear Spray: Wrist Saver Pepper Spray for Runners
The Wrist Saver offers a unique, lightweight neoprene design. It holds half an ounce of pepper spray, which will give bears an intense burning sensation in their eyes, allowing you time to get away.
The Wrist Saver has an easy-twist lock top and is easily accessible on your wrist. It can spray from up to 10 feet away to keep you at a safe distance.
Bear Bells: Coghlan’s Bear Bell w/Silencer
These bear bells can attach to your clothing or pack using a Velcro strap. While they won’t make any noise while in your bag, when you ring them, they will warn bears of your presence.
You can’t leave your human waste in the woods for others to come across. You have to bury it. Also, after using your biodegradable wipes, you need to bury them so they can disintegrate. You will need a trowel to dig the hole to bury your wipes deep enough that they don’t surface easily. You may also want to pack some hand sanitizer to use during this process.
Specific product recommendation: TheTentLab New Improved Deuce
This ultralight tool is made in three models to offer you a variety in thickness, size, and weight. However, all of them are lightweight and made using aerospace-grade aluminum, so you can be sure that they will be durable.
This is not really essential hiking gear, particularly if you are more into the “experience” than the scenery. But just to save memories, you might want to bring a small camera to capture your hike.
23. Trekking Poles
Trekking poles make your hiking activity easier. They maintain your balance, ease your knee pain, and help regularize your walking rhythm. However, hiking with trekking poles is a personal preference. Some hikers prefer not to use them.
Specific product recommendation: BAFX Adjustable Anti Shock Hiking/Walking/Trekking Poles
These affordable trekking poles are great for people of all skill levels. They are made out of aluminum, so they are lightweight yet durable. They also come with comfortable ergonomic grips and wrist straps so you will be able to maintain your balance and stability.
24. Hiking Permit
Some trails require a permit to limit the number of people on the trail at one time. This allows hikers to enjoy their solitude while on the trails. Make sure to print your permit and carry it with you, if needed.
Having the right hiking gear can be the difference between having fun outdoors and being completely miserable. Hopefully this list assisted you with making a smart purchasing decision.
If have any questions or comments about what to pack or anything related to hiking, then let us know your thoughts in the section below!