Heading out on a hike and don't know what to bring? I've got you covered. While what you need for a hike really depends on how long is the hike, what's the terrain, weather conditions and many other factors, there're list of things that you need for any hike.
In this article I want to cover all the basics, essentials I think you need to get started and make your hiking experience comfortable, fun and safe. At the end I'll also list some additional bonus items, that would be beneficial to have for certain hikes. But if you take anything from this article, let be that: Never go on a hike unprepared and be prepared for anything.
Without father ado let's get started.
Table of Contents
I find that a backpack that holds somewhere around 10-25 liters of gear is the right for all my day hikes (ranging from as little as a mile to about 15 miles). You need a backpack that will fit enough food, water, clothes and other essentials for your hike. Personally I use Osprey Daylight Plus (20 liters) for most of my hikes. Some of the things I like about my backpack are:
Sleeve for hydration reservoir
Adjustable sternum strap with whistle
Dual water bottle side mesh pockets
Large main compartment
Some of my other favorites are:
It can be difficult to find a small backpack that fits taller people comfortably. You may find the Osprey Talon is a bit too small for someone over 6 feet. If that's the case I'd recommend the Gregory Nano 22.
Hiking Boots or Shoes
I've talked about hiking shoes in my articles too, so I'll briefly mention them here. There're variety of shoes you can wear on hike: Trail runners, hiking shoes, hiking boots, waterproof, water resistant, etc.
No matter what you choose, make sure you they give you enough stability and support you need for your hike ( considering the terrain of the trail of course). I've hiked in my Salomon Trail Runners as well, but I find that I'm most confident when I'm wearing hiking boots, even on the shortest and easiest hikes and I don't mind that they are on the heavier side when compared to trail running shoes.
Merrell Moab 2 hiking boots were my very first hiking boots and I'm still in love with them. They had literally zero break in time and are worth every penny you pay for them.
I also like the Columbia Newton Ridge Plus, which is great affordable option, especially for someone who's just starting hiking.
Bringing enough water on a hike is very very important, especially on hot summer days or strenuous hikes.
You should carry at least 0.5L of water for every hour of hiking.
Keep in mind that this is general recommendation for moderate hikes in moderate temperatures. I highly recommend investing in water bladder, (I use Osprey Reservoir pictured above, which pairs with my Osprey backpack) because it makes drinking water really easy. You don't need to stop every time you want to take a sip and on the trail you need to take many smaller sips to continually hydrate. If you decide to Gregory backpack or a different brand they usually have their own reservoirs specifically designed for their backpacks.
I also make sure I bring couple water bottles too. I usually leave one in a car and take the other one with me. I often bring Hydration Tablets and I use my water bottle to mix them in the water. The hydration tablets add flavor to the water as well as electrolytes and other minerals that need to be replaced while exercising, especially in hot weather.
There was a sound trending on TikTok and Instagram a while ago that people hike to eat eat food in beautiful places and that definitely wasn't far from the truth. Joking aside, hiking burns a lot of calories and you need to make sure to bring enough food to refuel your body. Also bring extra food in case you get lost or anything unexpected happens and you stay on the trail longer than you expected. These are some of my favorite snacks:
Fortunately I never had to use mine, but I always bring it on a hike and say it's better safe than sorry. In fact, I don't take mine out of the backpack at all. A lot of unexpected things can happen when you're out there exploring, that's why First aid kit one of the essential items you need to bring on every hike. You can buy pre-made ones from the store, but it's also incredibly easy to build your own kit. For beginner hikers it's easier to buy pre-made kit which has all the necessary items, so these are the couple options I recommend. One for you and one for your adventure partner, in case you have one.
*Keep in mind that even if buy a pre-made medical kit, you will have to refill it once in a while to replace expired items or after you use it.
Sun protection is crucial when you're spending lots of time outdoors no matter the season. Always apply sunscreen before heading out and bring it with you to reapply as needed. Getting a sun hat or baseball cap, good pair of sunglasses and a breathable long-sleave layer with sun protection are also great ideas, especially in summer. For sunscreen I use Supergoop products. I like their refreshing mist SPF 40, because it's so easy to apply and you can actually use it over the make-up as well. As for sunglasses, my all time favorite brand is Sunski. I own at least 3 pairs from them and I highly recommend.
Toilet Paper & Trash Bag
It depends on the trail, but usually there are toilets at least at the beginning of a trailhead, but it's always good to be prepared. I always keep toilet paper and trash bag in my hiking backpack (Please don't leave used paper in the nature, always pack it out). You can also invest in Pee cloth, which is a reusable option and very popular among hikers and backpackers. You can check out Kula Cloth if you're interested. Don't forget to keep hand sanitizer in your backpack as well.
I live in the Bay Area and weather changes like crazy here, but no matter your location it can be difficult to guess the weather correctly. Always make sure to bring some extra layers and socks. When choosing hiking clothes think breathable, moisture-wicking materials.
It is always best practice to bring a detailed topographic map of the area you are visiting and a compass, at least as a backup, in case you don’t have a phone signal or it runs out of power. I always bring a National Geographic map with me for every National Park I visit. You can also sign up for a navigational and compass reading class from REI or your local outdoors store. Being able to accurately navigate with a compass takes time, so it is good to practice before you are ever in a situation where you need to use it!
If you do use your phone, like me, I’d recommend Alltrails and Gaia GPS.
Alltrails is an easy-to-use app with trail routes and maps. While anyone can search and use the app for free, you will need a subscription if you want to download trail routes to use in areas without phone coverage.
Gaia GPS is a similar service to Alltrails with both a free and paid version, which has more detailed maps for backcountry hiking.
For those looking to invest in a GPS navigation device before hitting the backcountry, the Garmin inReach Mini 2 is an excellent choice.
The device allows you to set digital waypoints along your route and has the capability of sending a distress signal should it be required.
However, these features require an additional subscription (inReach® Subscription Plan) in addition to the cost of the device. So, this is best for those going out in the backcountry who want the peace of mind of being able to navigate as well as the ability to call for assistance if necessary.
Items listed here aren't really essential for every hike, but they may become so, depending on the weather, type of the hike and etc.
I hope this post gives you some good ideas of what to bring on a day hike and will inspire you to plan ahead and always go on a hike prepared. If you have any questions about hiking gear, let me know in the comments below.
Safe travels, happy adventures and I'll see you on the trail!