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.
Over the years, I’ve gotten a lot of practice at packing the perfect hiking gear for the specific hike I’ve got planned.
This guide will help you put together a hiking gear list for your upcoming trek, no matter what type of hike you’re taking.
How This Hiking Gear List Works
For each type of hike, your gear needs vary.
Sometimes you are staying in tents, sometimes guesthouses, and sometimes hotels. In addition, things like temperature, weather, and terrain factor into your gear needs.
Because there are so many variations, here’s how this gear list works:
I’ve provided you with several categories of gear that I’ve found are essential on every hike, no matter the type.
In each category, I give you a few tips and things to look for in your gear, as well as specific suggestions for items that I’ve used and liked. When a variation becomes necessary based on the type of hike, I’ll give you a few different suggestions based on the different types of hikes.
Make sense? Let’s get you kitted out and on the trail!
Table of Contents
- Choose the Hike You Want to Do
- Hiking Backpack
- Hiking Boots & Shoes
- Hiking Clothes & Apparel
- Hiking Rain Gear
- Hydration Systems
- Safety Gear
- Navigation Tools
Choose The 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.
So before you can make a gear list, you’ll need to pick a great hike you want to experience.
Some things you’ll need to consider about your chosen hike (that will impact your gear list) include:
- Duration: Will it be a long multi-day trek or a day hike?
- Difficulty & Terrain: Will there be flat paths? Squelchy mud puddles? Rocky climbing sections?
- Time of year: Will it be cold? Will there be lots of other people? How early will it be dark?
- Climate/weather: Rainy or dry? Will it be cold rain or warm rain? Will it get colder after a certain time of day?
- Safety: Will you be camping or off the grid?
Independent Hikes I’ve Done
I’ve written about many, so here are some of my favorite independent hikes I’ve done, if you’d like some inspiration:
- Camino Ronda Coastal Path Spain
- Annapurna Circuit Nepal
- Camino de Santiago Pilgrimage Spain
- Kumano Kodo in Japan
- Saint Olav Ways in Norway
- Torres de Paine W Trek in Patagonia
- Kilimanjaro Trek in Tanzania
How to Choose Your Specific Hiking Trail
There are lots of different resources these days to find hiking trails on your own, both online and off.
Some online ways to find trails include:
- GaiaGPS (they also have an accompanying app)
- You can even find hiking rubreddits for up-to-date tips and suggestions from other hikers
But of course hiking is all about getting away from screens and out into nature, so there are even more ways of finding hikes offline:
- Hiking guide books
- Backpackers Magazine
- Suggestions from local camping or hiking groups
- Ask the staff at your local outdoor store
Using an Operator 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 trekking & adventure travel holidays 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.
Choose the Right Hiking Backpack for You
Your hiking backpack is really just an extension of your body when you’re on a hike, and it is the item that you will rely upon the most and likely grow to hate the most too.
All I can say is: don’t be frugal in this department!
Consider going to a good retailer such as REI and get fitted for a backpack that suits your body type and hiking goals. 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!
The size and type of backpack you use depends entirely on the length of the hike or course.
There are men’s and women’s styles for different body shapes and a million different configurations to decide among.
Here are my suggestions for different types of hikes:
Deuter Futura 45+10 Hiking Backpack for Long Multi-Day Treks
This particular pack is part of Deuter’s women’s series because women are built differently 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 Maine 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!
Osprey Sirius 24 Day Pack is the Best Day Hiking Backpack
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 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.
There are lots of other great features I love about this pack too.
- 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
All this combined with the easy trekking pole access makes this my go-to daypack for short one-day hikes.
Lowepro Photo Sport BP300 is the Best Camera Backpack for Hiking
If you also want to carry some photo gear like me, then consider the Lowepro Photo Sport BP300
It has storage space for a DSLR camera with an attached lens and an extra lens or flash, as well as having space for a water bladder reservoir and all your other hiking gear, layers, and snacks.
I also like that it has a built in weather cover, making sure you can keep your camera (and all the other stuff in your bag) safe from the elements.
Hiking Boots & Shoes
When it comes to footwear and hiking, there are lots of questions that might be circling around in your head. 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!
Tips for Your Perfect Hiking Boots
A good rule of thumb when getting new hiking boots is to make sure that they have plenty of room in them. As you hike, your feet get hot and sweat, and your feet tend to expand. You’ll want extra room in the toebox for that expansion. I normally go a 1/2 size larger than my normal shoe size.
Get the waterproof boots! Even if the climate isn’t rainy, you’ll have these boots for many hikes to come, and besides that, puddles and streams are everywhere no matter the season, and there’s few things worse than hiking in wet or damp boots.
When you get new boots, it’s important to break them in before you hike in them.
Make sure you start wearing them right away (well before your planned hike), and wear them everywhere you go. Everywhere. You need to put in your time wearing them before your big hike, else expect issues and bring lots of band-aids!
Oboz Hiking Boots
I am a huge fan of Oboz brand boots.
I use their winter insulated hiking boots, their regular Bridger boots, their lighter weight Juniper boots, as well as their Sawtooth Low hiking shoe. I also use their flip flops! Their foot bed and arch support are great; and that’s really important to me.
Plus, they plant a tree for every pair sold!
When You Might Want Trail Running Shoes Instead
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. But they weren’t great in the mud, but those days were minimal overall.
Don’t Forget Sandals For Long Hikes!
Don’t forget to bring a comfortable pair of shoes for multi day hikes if you have room!
I recently started wearing Chacos again after I found out that they now have an option that doesn’t have a toe loop. I’m not a big fan of the toe loop and apparently there are others like me as Chaco makes them without toe loops now! I bring my Chacos everywhere now for comfort and ease after hiking. It’s like putting on a slipper! I hang them off the back of my backpack just in case I feel like switching out of my hiking boots during the day, or if we have particularly big water to cross.
Hiking Clothes & Apparel
Obviously, clothing is a personal choice. However, when you’re hiking, you’ll want to make sure you wear layers.
How to Layer Your Hiking Clothes
On a hike, you need to be able to warm up or cool down quickly by simply taking off or adding clothes.
On top, you’ll have a base layer shirt or tank, and then multiple layers of longer sleeves and jackets depending on the climate.
On the bottom, 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.
Pay Attention to the Fabrics
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.
My Favorite Hiking Clothing Brands
They have quick dry, lightweight gear that is made for travel and it’s great for hiking and outdoor adventure. It’s easy to layer their items too. Check out what they have on their websites – you’ll especially love Exoficio’s underwear which dry in hours!
Everything in your hiking outfit starts with the base layer. Here are some of my favorite base-layer items from my go-to travel clothing brands.
Tanks & Shirts for Warm Climate Hikes
Pants & Shorts for Warm Climate Hikes
This summer I fell in love with my Title Nine Rouge shorts because they are light as a feather! They are made of stretchy fabric great for hiking and they will dry super fast if you want to wash them in the sink overnight!
Hiking Pants for Fall/Spring Seasons
I love the Title Nine Clamber Pants – they are my go-to hiking pants for Fall/Spring! They are stretchy, water resistant, and have great pockets to fit your phone! I love the stretchy waist band as it fits me without having to use a belt. I wear these pants day after day after day…even on the plane. They come in pants and capris.
Hiking Pants for Cold Weather
I often wear my Clamber pants with a warm Krimson Klover base layer underneath to stay warm for winter hiking or snowshoeing. Krimson Klover makes super cute baselayers that are as soft as a baby’s butt with fun winter designs. I love my snowflake baselayers for winter hiking, plus they are great for sleeping in too.
When I snowshoe or winter hike, I get really hot so I prefer to not wear snow pants. Last year I asked Marmot what they recommended for snow shoeing from their line and they suggested the Scree Winter Hiking Pants. These pants were perfect for the cold temps of Quebec and Alaska in the winter! The fabric is stretchy but rugged and even has a light fleece lining that will add warmth. They have zippers on the legs to go over bigger boots if needed and they have some great pockets!
Baselayer Shirt for Cold Weather
Don’t Forget The Right Underwear!
Depending on the hike you’re packing for, you’ll want different qualities from your hiking jacket. Here are my suggestions for different types of hikes and environments.
Lightweight Hiking Jacket
This is my go-to jacket, it’s got a down front to keep your body warm. I wear this under my rain jacket a lot or just alone. I always carry it on to the plane as it’s a great layer for long flights too! It’s also machine washable and dryer safe.
Hiking Jackets For Wind & Rain
It’s essential to pack rain gear for nearly ever hike. I always take my Marmot Eclipse jacket that is super against pouring rain as well as protects against wind. Make sure you get a large enough size to be able to wear layers underneath it.
Light Hiking Vest
A nice alternative to a big puffy coat to take the chill out. It can be squished up into a little ball and barely take up any space! I layer this under my rain jacket or sometimes just hike with it and a base layer. It’s versatile for any kind of hike or sitting around the campfire.
Half-Zip Fleece for Hiking in the Fall/Spring
Cold Weather Hiking Jackets
Big Agnes is known for making incredible down sleeping bags, so it only makes sense for them to get into the winter jacket game too. I love my Tiago Sweater 700 Downtek jacket. It’s machine washable and puffs right back up after the dryer. I love the thumb holes for some extra warmth on your hands. The 700 downtek will keep you cozy warm without taking up a lot of space!
Socks & Gloves
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 wool sock over it if I’m doing long hikes. Wool 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!
I’ve also started using compression socks for hiking too as it helps with muscle recovery. Vim & Vigr makes a wool light compression sock that is good for hiking.
Hiking Accessories for Sun Protection
No matter if you are 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! Make sure you bring plenty of lip balm with SPF.
Hiking Rain Gear
This is essential…unless maybe if you are hiking in the Sahara Desert!
There are a lot of options when it comes to hiking rain gear. You can go all out and bring waterproof trousers and a waterproof jacket, or go a cheaper route and just take a good rain poncho that will cover most of you and your backpack.
I’ve used both methods, and it normally depends on climate.
If you do choose to go with trousers and a jacket (I love this Marmot one), then don’t forget you’ll also need a rain cover for your backpack! Just make sure your rain pants are large/roomy and easy to pull on over your other layers. I love the long zippers on the legs of the Sierra Designs Elwah Pants.
Protect Your Stuff with a Drysack
If you don’t have a rain cover for your backpack, consider putting important items in a drysack inside of your backpack. (Or the budget option is to use a garbage bag as a liner inside 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!
Give Your Camera A Raincoat Too
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!
Hydration Systems & Gear
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 at the get go. Then of course, you’ll want to make sure you stay hydrated while on the trail, too.
Take water bottles or a water bladder (sometimes also called a hydration bladder or hydration reservoir) that has a straw and you can hike without having to stop to drink.
Not sure which you should use? I’m someone who doesn’t seem to hydrate enough when I’m drinking out of a bottle. However, I’ve noticed that 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.
Osprey Hydraulics Water Bladder
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 longer 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.
The SteriPEN is a compact, handheld, ultraviolet light (UV) water purifier designed specifically for outdoor/expedition use.
The Liberty is about the size of a water bottle and uses activated charcoal filters to purify the water. You can scoop the water or use the hose attachment, and then pump it through the filter. Easy!
Food is your fuel! Make sure that you bring high energy snacks with you. Even if you’re on a hike where food is provided, still bring a few snacks for emergency situations. I like to bring Clif Bars, Mighty Organic meat snacks, or fresh/dried fruit.
Safety Gear for Your Hike
This is a broad category, but it includes everything from things to help ease your steps and prevent injury to quick and easy first aid to making sure you don’t get lost and can get help if you’re off the grid.
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.
I am a big fan – especially after my knee surgery! I love the Montem hiking poles – they are very light and sturdy but reasonably priced! – as well as the LEKI Micro Vario poles, which break down much smaller than most hiking poles.
Hiking First Aid Kit
Make sure you have a small hiking first aid kit and know how to use it!
Satellite-Connected Communication Device
This is the ultimate safety solution. It allows you to navigate, send messages, and get help even if you’re out of cell service range.
I’ve used the Garmin InReach service and like it.
This is especially essential if you are going off the grid.
Other Extra Safety Items for the Trail
Whistle: just in case I get lost or fall and am injured.
Flashlight or headlamp: in case your hike goes longer than expected and you have to hike in the dark
A lighter, waterproof matches, or firestarter: another “just in case”
Duct tape: literally the fix-all solution. Hole in your tent? Duct tape. Your boot sole starts peeling off? Duct tape.
You definitely don’t want to lose your way when hiking, so make sure that you have some solution for finding your direction on your own.
If you’ll have a connection, you can just bring a phone with a trails app and a way to keep it charged (great for day hikes that are in cell range). A solar-powered portable charger might be smart if you go this route, as well, but depending on the hike, a regular pre-charged portable charger will do.
If you’ll be out of range, a satellite-connected GPS is always a safe choice.
Of course, you can also go vintage and take paper maps and a compass! Just make sure you know how to use them before you hit the trail, if you don’t already know how!
So there you have it! My ultimate list of hiking gear essentials. Hopefully now you have a clearer idea of what you need to pack based on what type of hike you plan to go on, and a few suggestions to get you started!
Was there something on this list you didn’t know or expect? What’s your must-have hiking gear when you hit the trails?
Let me know in the comments!
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.