Hiking Gear List

Comprehensive Hiking Gear List: 17 Essentials for the Trail

Hiking provides an enriching experience where nature’s splendor meets human perseverance. To ensure safety, enjoyment, and an efficient hike, the right gear is indispensable. If you’re looking for a beginner’s hiking gear list, you are in luck: Here’s a detailed examination of 17 different essential pieces of hiking gear, along with entry-level recommendations for each item. 

Table of Contents

The Complete Hiking Gear List

Remember: this hiking gear list is a starting template for beginners planning a day hike of 3-5 miles. If you are planning a more difficult or much easier trip, you can alter your gear list accordingly. For example, you will need extra layers and microspikes if hiking a 14er.

1. Backpack

Carrying essentials without being burdened requires the right backpack. It’s not just about the volume, but also comfort. Look for adjustable straps, padding, compartments for organization, and materials that resist weather changes.

Recommendation: Osprey Talon 22 balances weight, function, and cost for beginners.

2. Hiking Boots

Choosing boots is about more than just foot protection. Consider factors like ankle support, sole grip, breathability, and waterproof qualities. Remember, a poor fit could derail your adventure.

Recommendation: Merrell Moab 3 Prime Mid WP provides a blend of comfort, durability, and affordability.

3. Water Bottle or Hydration System

Dehydration can be a silent adversary. Choose a bottle or system based on the trail’s length, difficulty, and available water sources. Some prefer bottles for ease of refill, while others favor hydration bladders for even weight distribution.

Recommendation: CamelBak Crux 2L Reservoir ensures you remain hydrated with minimal fuss.

Hiking Gear List: Water Bottle

4. Map, Compass & GPS

Electronic tools can falter. So, always accompany your GPS with a physical map and compass. Understand topographical symbols and basic navigation principles.

Recommendation: Garmin eTrex SE for GPS navigation and Suunto A-10 compass for traditional orientation.

5. Knife or Multi-tool

A tool’s utility on hikes is invaluable, from preparing food to emergency situations or gear repair. Ensure it’s compact but versatile.

Recommendation: Leatherman Sidekick is a trustworthy choice with multiple functionalities.

6. First Aid Kit

A comprehensive kit can be a lifesaver. Include bandages, antiseptics, pain relievers, personal medications, and any location-specific remedies, such as altitude or allergy medications.

Recommendation: Adventure Medical Kit is both portable and all-encompassing.

7. Headlamp & Batteries

Daylight can be unpredictable. A reliable headlamp illuminates the path in twilight or unexpected situations. Ensure it has adjustable brightness and a good battery life.

Recommendation: Black Diamond Spot headlamp provides varying intensities suitable for multiple scenarios.

8. Rain Gear

Beyond precipitation, rain gear provides a barrier against wind and cold. Seek gear that’s breathable, easily packable, and ensures full coverage.

Recommendation: Marmot PreCip Jacket offers full protection without being cumbersome.

9. Sunscreen and Sunglasses

UV rays are formidable foes at high altitudes. A broad-spectrum sunscreen and UV-protected sunglasses ensure your skin and eyes remain safeguarded.

Recommendation: Sun Bum Mineral Spray Sunscreen and Julbo Trip Spectron sunglasses are stalwarts in protection.

10. Trek Poles

Beyond aiding balance, trek poles distribute weight, reducing leg strain. Look for adjustable, durable, and lightweight poles.

Recommendation: Black Diamond Trail Cork Trek Poles offer stability without weighing you down.

Hiking Sock Liners

11. Hiking Socks

Foot comfort pivots on the right socks. Opt for materials that wick moisture, offer cushioning, and prevent blisters.

Recommendation: Darn Tough Light Micro Crew Cushion hiking socks amalgamate comfort with longevity.

12. Bug Spray

Insect encounters can range from irritating to hazardous. An effective repellent should deter a variety of insects and last throughout your hike.

Recommendation: Sawyer Products’ Premium Insect Repellent with 20% Picaridin is a potent shield against pesky insects.

13. Food and Snacks

Hiking expends energy. Replenish with snacks rich in protein, good fats, and sugars. Consider the weight, perishability, and your own dietary needs.

Recommendation: Clif Bars deliver sustained energy without unnecessary additives.

14. Whistle

A compact yet powerful whistle is an understated safety tool. In situations where visibility is low or vast distances are involved, its shrill sound can be a beacon.

Recommendation: Fox 40 Sonik Blast CMG Whistle ensures your call for aid is unmistakable.

15. Fire Starter

Temperature drops can be abrupt. Having the means to start a fire, even in damp conditions, is crucial both for warmth and signaling.

Recommendation: UCO Stormproof Match Kit will spark a fire when you most need it.

16. Water Purification Tablets

Natural water sources aren’t always pure. These tablets are lightweight backups to ensure any water you consume is safe.

Recommendation: Potable Aqua Water Purification Tablets stand out for their efficiency and reliability.

Emergency Blanket

17. Emergency Shelter

When faced with unexpected overnights, a protective shelter can be a lifesaver. It should be lightweight, quick to set up, and offer protection from elements.

Recommendation: SOL Emergency Bivvy keeps you warm and shielded, while being feather-light.

Where To Shop For Hiking Gear: My 3 Favorites

If you are looking for high quality gear and competitive prices, you have a few options to choose from. REI is a trusted source for quality gear, offering both variety and expert guidance. Backcountry.com is perfect for those looking for specific brands or reviews from fellow hikers. And Wilderness Exchange caters to the budget-conscious, with a mix of new and used equipment. It is sometimes worth double-checking Amazon too.

Stay Safe with our Hiking Gear Checklist

Having the right gear is essential, but knowing how to use it is equally crucial. Practice with new gear before hitting the trail, and always be prepared for the unexpected. Each hike has unique requirements; always adjust your gear accordingly.

Hiking Gear FAQs

Have a question that isn’t addressed below? Ask it in a comment further below and we’ll reply with an answer within 72 hours.

A: For a 7-hour hike, your pack should be tailored for a full day on the trail. Here’s a suggested list:

  • Hydration: At least 2-3 liters of water. Consider hydration bladders for even weight distribution and ease of drinking.
  • Food: Energy-dense, non-perishable snacks like nuts, dried fruits, energy bars, and even a packed lunch.
  • Navigation: A map, compass, and potentially a GPS. Even on well-marked trails, it’s good to be prepared.
  • Protection: Sunscreen, sunglasses, a hat, and bug spray. Depending on the weather forecast and location, also pack rain gear and extra warm clothing.
  • Safety Items: First aid kit, whistle, headlamp with extra batteries, and a knife or multi-tool. For longer hikes or unfamiliar areas, consider carrying a fire starter and an emergency shelter.
  • Personal Items: Personal medications, identification, and a small amount of cash.
  • Footwear: If you’re not already wearing them, it’s wise to pack an extra pair of hiking socks.

A: Essential gear depends on the hike’s duration, location, and weather conditions, but generally, the basics include:

  • Hydration system (water bottle or bladder)
  • Nutritious food/snacks
  • Navigation tools (map, compass, GPS)
  • Protection gear (sunscreen, hat, sunglasses, bug spray)
  • Clothing appropriate for the weather (always layer)
  • First aid kit
  • Emergency items (whistle, headlamp, knife/multi-tool)
  • Backpack to carry everything

A: Yes, there is.

Hiking Shoes: They’re low-cut and often have a flexible midsole, making them suitable for day hiking. They’re lighter and might feel more immediate comfort compared to boots but offer less support and protection.

Hiking Boots: These are designed to provide more ankle support and protection from rugged terrains. They are excellent for longer hikes, carrying heavier loads, or hiking in rough conditions. They may require a break-in period.

A: The best backpack for hiking depends on the hike’s length and what you need to carry. For day hikes, a daypack with a volume between 20-30 liters usually suffices. It should have adjustable, padded shoulder straps, a hip belt for weight distribution, and multiple compartments for organization. For multi-day treks, a larger backpacking pack with features like load lifters, a rain cover, and a sleeping bag compartment might be needed.

A: Absolutely. Trekking poles:

  • Reduce Impact: They help in distributing the weight and reduce the impact on knees, especially during descents.
  • Increase Stability: On uneven terrain or river crossings, they provide extra points of contact.
  • Aid in Balance: They help maintain balance, especially with a heavy backpack.
  • Provide Rhythm: Many hikers find a rhythm with poles, which can assist in maintaining a consistent pace.

A: A general guideline is half a liter (17 ounces) of water per hour of moderate activity in moderate temperatures. However, this can vary based on factors like your exertion level, the weather, altitude, and individual needs. Always research the area you’ll be hiking in to see if there are reliable water sources along the way and consider carrying a water purification method.

A: Leave behind unnecessary weight and items that aren’t crucial to your hike:

  • Jeans or heavy cotton clothing: They retain moisture and can become heavy and uncomfortable.
  • Perishable foods: Unless you’re sure of their stability.
  • Excess water: Carry what you need, and have a means of purification if you’ll pass reliable water sources.
  • Non-essential electronics: Like laptops or other devices.
  • Valuables: That you won’t need on the trail.
  • Heavy books or similar items: Opt for e-readers or lightweight guides if needed.
  • Remember, the principle is: Pack what you need, leave no trace, and always prioritize safety.
Alex Derr, Founder of The Next Summit

Alex Derr is an Eagle Scout, climber, and environmental policy expert located in Denver, Colorado. He created The Next Summit to help others stay safe exploring the mountains and advocate to preserve the peaks for the future. Follow him on Linkedin or Twitter or click here to contact him.

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Hi, I'm Alex!

In 2018, I watched in disbelief as dozens of people hiked into a storm on Longs Peak, unaware of the extreme danger. Soon after, I started The Next Summit to educate and empower the public to safely and responsibly explore America's mountains.

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