There are many kinds of hiking – day hikes, multi day hikes, long distance hiking, circuit hiking, pilgrimages, tramping, bushwalking, trekking, and more. I’ve done and enjoyed them all. However I do have my favorites mentioned here in my best hikes around the world list. As much as I enjoy a simple day hike, I really enjoy the longer circuits or pilgrimages. They provide me a real chance to escape and get into a rhythm and truly enjoy nature. After a week on the trail, all other stress and worries float away and it’s just you and the trail. However, the long hikes are often the most hard to prepare for and require the most gear.
Choose a Hike You Want to Do
Before you know what you need to pack, you first need to know what kind of hike you are going to do, the location, duration, difficulty, and time of year. So first you’ll need to pick a great hike you want to experience. I’ve written about many, here are some of my favorite independent hikes I’ve done.
Independent Hikes I’ve Done
Choose an Operator to Go with Who Specializes in Trekking
And if you don’t want to plan it and do it all by yourself (which can be exhausting!), then consider utilizing a company who specializes in mountain trekking such as World Expeditions. They will plan all the details, provide excellent guides and often even provide gear! They have a tons of hiking styles to choose from that will take you all over the world. See their wide range of trekking & adventure travel holidays to suit nearly everyone.
What Essential Hiking Gear Should You Take?
Now you’ve chosen a hike, but the question of what gear to take still isn’t that easy. For each type of hiking your gear needs vary. Sometimes you are staying in tents, sometimes guesthouses, and sometimes hotels. In addition things like temperature factor into your gear needs. Because there are so many variations I think it’s practically impossible to come up with a definitive hiking gear list. Instead, I can provide you ideas of categories of gear that you should consider for each hike you plan. Go through this list and make sure you have some sort of solution for each of these categories! However, your exact gear in the category will vary for each trip. Since I’ve personally logged miles and miles in my hiking boots, I’ve also included some personal tips (lightbulb) and a couple of personal recommendations (checkmark) in each category too!
Don’t Start a Hike Without…
You need at least 3 quarts per day. It’s a good idea to drink plenty of water before your hike to get your body well hydrated. Take water bottles or a water bladder that has a straw and you can hike without having to stop to drink.
My favorite is this Osprey water bladder because it’s easy to fill and it carries 3 L of liquid. The Osprey bladder has a big opening for super easy filling and emptying, and they no long have twist on caps – they instead have a fold over clamp that ensures there’s no spilling and it’s so easy to use. In addition, the hose detaches in two places so that it’s easier to clean and get in and out of your backpack. Finally my favorite part is the magnet that you put on your backpack strap and holds the straw in place so it doesn’t flop around or end up in the dirt when you put your pack down.
Make sure to find out how readily available clean drinking water will be on your trek. If it isn’t available then take a SteriPEN with you. It’s a compact, handheld, ultraviolet light (UV) water purifier designed specifically for outdoor/expedition use. They are great!
Know yourself! I’m someone who doesn’t seem to hydrate enough when I’m drinking out of a bottle, however I drink much more regularly when I use a water bladder as I can easily drink while I hike. Test our which you prefer before your trek.
Choose a Backpack
The size and type depends on the length of the hike or course. Consider going to a good retailer such as REI and get fitted for a backpack. There are men’s and women’s styles for our different body shapes and a million different configurations to decide among.
Deuter Futura 45+10
This is the perfect size for multi day hikes where you aren’t carrying a tent (think Camino de Santiago, St Olav Ways, Hut to Hut hiking, etc). This particular pack is part of Deuter’s women’s series because women are built different than men…duh. It has a Vari-Slide System allowing exact adjustment to every back length; ensuring the pack sits perfectly on your hips. Plus the waist belt also moves with you as you step ensuring comfort for long term wear. I carried about 33 pounds in it for my Hut to Hut hiking in September and it worked great. I had no back or shoulder pain and the back ventilation system kept me cool. I’m a believer in packs designed for women!
Shop for the Deuter Futura
Osprey Sirius 24 Day Pack
Osprey is a leader in backpacks and I was eager to try out one of their daypacks with their new Stow-n-Go feature. This allows you to stow and remove trekking poles in seconds WITHOUT taking off your backpack! Hallelujah! I love this pack for many reasons (its length is adjustable, it has an attached rain cover, the waist pockets are big enough to fit a phone, the water system is great, and it allows air to flow to your back) – but I LOVE how easy it is to store and retrieve your poles. See how it works here. 24 L is a good size for long day hiking where you can store rain gear, first aid, water, and snacks comfortably. Other sizes are available though.
Shop for Osprey Sirius here
All I can say is don’t be frugal in this department (or the next one – Rain gear) as your backpack is really just an extension of your body and it is the item that you will rely upon the most and likely grow to hate the most too.
Put weights in it and test it out by walking around the store. The last backpack I bought I was in REI for an hour talking to salespeople while carrying around a weighted pack just to see if it worked for me or not!
If you also want to carry some photo gear like me, then consider the Lowepro Photo Sport BP300
Hiking Rain Gear
This is essential…unless maybe if you are hiking in the Sahara Desert! You can go all out and bring waterproof trousers and a waterproof jacket, or go a cheaper route and take a good rain poncho that will cover most of you and your backpack. I’ve used both and it normally depends on climate. If I’m hiking in a hot rainy climate then a poncho is great. But if it’s a cold weather rainy climate like New Zealand or Alaska, then you’ll want full on rain gear. If you choose to go with trousers and a jacket, then don’t forget you’ll also need a rain cover for your backpack!
If you don’t have a rain cover for your backpack, consider putting important items in a drysack inside of your backpack. If you want a cheap solution for waterproof gloves, just get dish washing gloves that can go over the top of your other liner gloves! If you are hiking with a camera, then don’t forget that it needs rain protection too! I use a LensCoat Raincoat so you can take pictures in any weather. Make sure to check out all of their sizes – one will be right for your camera!
Clothing for Hiking
Obviously clothing is a personal choice. However, you’ll want to make sure you have layers. Meaning you want to be able to warm up or cool down quickly by simply taking off or adding clothes. A base layer shirt or tank is useful and then multiple layers of longer sleeves and jackets depending on the climate. Also you’ll want to use a long underwear base layer in cold climates under your hiking pants. Or if it’s a hot climate you might want to try the zip-off-to-shorts hiking pants. Sure, they aren’t sexy, but they are great for hiking.
Layers aren’t just for tops and bottoms – you’ll want them on your feet and hands too if it’s a cold climate. I use a light base sock layer and then a smartwool sock over it if I’m doing long hikes. Smartwool is a great material for hiking, it dries fast and the best part is that the odor diminishes too! Perfect for people with sweaty feet like me! However much clothing you take, I strongly suggest that the material is a quick dry and lightweight fabric since you may have to wash things and have them dry overnight. Whatever you do, don’t take cotton clothes! I fight with my dad all the time on this and lose. But please don’t be my dad…and don’t take cotton t-shirts – they take forever to dry and just don’t wick the moisture away from your body which can leave you cold. Most all of my hiking clothes are from the Exofficio line of travel clothing. They have quick dry, lightweight gear that is made for travel and it’s great for hiking. It’s easy to layer their items too. Check out what they have on their website – you’ll especially love their underwear which dry in hours!
No matter if you are in hiking in a hot climate or a cold one, you’ll want sun protection! Make sure you have a hat with a good brim, sunglasses, and sunscreen.
Don’t forget the lips! I always forget this and then end up with sunburned, dry lips the whole hike! Bring lip balm.
Hiking Boots and Shoes
Should you bring boots, tennis shoes, or hiking sandals? That all depends on the type of hike you are doing! Find out about the terrain of the hike and if in doubt, bring hiking boots, you can never go wrong with them! A good rule of thumb is make sure they are waterproof and make sure they are broken in.
Don’t forget to bring a comfortable pair of shoes for multi day hikes if you have room. Nothing feels better than taking off your boots after a long hiking day and letting your feet have a little comfort If you have new boots start wearing them now and wear them everywhere you go. Everywhere. You need to put in your time wearing them before your big hike, else expect issues. If you are indecisive on hiking boot vs tennis shoe, then consider a trail running shoe. It’s sort of the middle solution between the two. I actually hiked the whole 5 week Camino de Santiago trail in trail running shoes and they were lighter than boots, but still had a supportive and good tread.
Food is your fuel! Make sure that high energy snacks with you. Even if your on a hike where food is provided, still bring a few snacks for emergency situations. I like to bring Clif Bars, or fresh/dried fruit.
Hiking Safety Gear
This is a broad category, but it includes things like hiking poles, first aid, whistle, phone, headlamp/flashlight, and matches/lighter. Hiking poles are great for balance and help you avoid having an accident. However, it’s a very personal decision; some people love them, some people only love one, and some hate them. Do what’s right for you. Make sure you have a small hiking first aid kit and know how to use it! I also love to have a whistle just in case I get lost or fall and am injured. Or be more modern and take a satellite-connected device with you for the ultimate safety solution. This is especially essential if you are going off the grid.
Bring duct tape…If you want to know why, just read this story of my boots failing on a trail in Patagonia! I used the In Reach Satellite device by Garmin when I went to the Arctic a few years ago. It kept me connected in the middle of the Arctic Ocean!
Hiking Maps and Guides
Of course you don’t want to lose your way when hiking, so make sure that you have some solution for finding your direction on your own. Bring a compass (assuming you know how to use it), or a GPS type device like a phone (assuming you have a connection). Of course you can also go vintage and take paper maps too!
If you are relying on your smartphone for your map/GPS, don’t forget a compact battery charger and you’ll want to make sure you have a good cellular connection. One way to have a connection in a foreign country is to rent a TelecomSquare mifi device. You can rent devices specific to the country you are trekking in. I use their mifi devices all the time when I travel to ensure I can stay connected no matter what country I’m in. Get a 10% discount off your Telecom Square rental device by using coupon code “sherry” when you check out. These are the essential hiking gear items for any kind of hike. Feel free to share any tips or recommendations in the comments below! Next step, get out there and hit the trails!
This article is brought to you by World Expeditions , and #BestMountainTrek. However, all opinions expressed here are my own based on my own hiking experiences.