We call them “essential gear for hiking” and without them, you could end up in a tough spot. In this week’s breakdown, take a look at our 10 items that are essential gear for hiking.
Essential Hiking Gear: The Basics You Need To Have
Hiking is a wonderful past-time to get outside and really soak up what the earth has to offer. If you have never ventured out for a good hike, there are some items you will need. So, before I jump into gear for hiking, let’s establish some givens. I know there are other items you could bring, heck, there are fewer items you could bring too, but this list is designed to give the average hiker a quality list of “must-haves” on their hiking trip. Not having one of the items on this list, could be a really bad move.
As far as other items? Well, yeah, there is endless gear and gadgets you can buy to make your wallet shrink and your pack full, but that’s not that list. I’m sure Backcountry will cover you there (shhh! don’t tell them I said that word, I don’t wanna be sued, backstory on that drama, here).
Yep, I know, a shocker right? But your gonna need some footwear. Not just any footwear, you are going to need footwear that has some basic functions like a good structure with ankle support and quality tread soles that will grip slick surfaces like river rock, logs, or even rainy trails.
When it comes to hiking footwear, you generally have 3 choices:
Hiking boots will have a stronger structure for increased ankle support and will generally be a denser material that will give your feet more insulation for cooler temps. We recommend the Cloudrock Waterproof Boot. CJ wears these and really likes them, check out his review here.
Hiking Shoes will be of a softer material and not be as structured and stiff as a boot. Shoes are often regarded for warmer temperatures and environments where slipping and support are not as demanding. We Recommend the Vasque Juxt Hiking Shoe. I’ve been wearing these for years. They are tough as hell, very affordable, and have a great warranty.
Hiking Sandals are a great backpackers and weekenders option for routes that are generally safe from terrain that will injure in the hot summer days. Additionally, hiking sandals offer a great way to navigate water crossings without sacrificing your footwear. We recommend checking out Chaco’s. My wife wears these and she always raves about how comfortable they are as I’m getting blisters in my Teva’s. Needless to say, I’ll be getting a pair.
Another shocker I’m sure when it comes to gear for hiking, but good socks mean the world to a hikers arsenal of gear. I can remember being in the Army and doing their hikes which they refer to as a “Ruck March”, but its just a hike with a really heavy pack. Once you hit markers like 5, 7, or 10 miles, your feet get, well, not so sweet. They get moisture buildup and that friction of steps plus body heat and that equals a foot in dire need of a change of socks.
A favorite of ours is from Feetures. I first learned about Feetures when I was training for a half marathon. Feetures are great because they offer a seamless toe (nothing to rub oddly over time) and have a great moisture-wicking property they refer to as iWick. All I can say is, it works and has saved my feet in both athletics and the outdoors. I can’t recommend them enough. Check out Feetures here.
You knew this was coming, right? Well if you didn’t, be thankful we are discussing it now. Regardless of the gear for hiking you use, hydration is extremely important and I would go as far as to say THE most important element to a hike (besides clothes). Hiking is one of those tricky situations that where you won’t feel the loss of hydration and you most likely won’t even be breathing heavy or thinking about it. In reality, you are losing hydration by the minute, and keeping your levels topped off is a very important fact.
While at first thought you might think you just need to bring a bottle of water, and in some cases that may be just fine. However, if you reading this, you may be headed out for a slightly longer trip and you need more than a bottle of water.
In those cases, a hydration pack is a lifesaver. A quality hydration pack will allow you to carry your clothing layers, snacks, and have an internal water bladder to keep you hydrated for the duration of your trip. Another must-have. I personally use the Osprey SKARAB 30 and it’s really great. I have had a lot of packs over the years and the quality from Ospresy hydration packs along with the functionality of their pockets and compartments is top-notch. Check out our article on the Osprey Hydration Packs here.
4. Map of the Trail
A map. You need a map. Now, hear me out. I don’t expect you to be Dora the Explorer with a giant map in your hands on the trail. But I do expect you to use a good hiking GPS enabled phone app. AllTrails seems to be the king in this department with the highest rated app in the AppStore. Also, make sure you download the map offline to use in the event your hiking in an unfamiliar area and won’t have cell service.
If the app isn’t an option, at a minimum, take a picture at the trailhead of the board map. This will still allow you to use terrain association and landmarks to navigate back in the even you veer off course.
For a really well-done guide on the Best Hiking GPS devices out today, check out this great article from our friends at Sport Fitness Advisor, it’s worth your time if you’re in the market for a new Hiking GPS.
5. Food and Snacks
Food is an essential gear for hiking like water and shoes. Your body will be burning through calories and using its resources as you hike. If you’re going to be out for any period over an hour, I suggest having some food resources to keep your body replenished as you hike .
Many people bring trail mix, energy bars or take supplements to keep their levels in good conditions as they move along the trail.
Mountain Ops is a company out of Utah that has done a great job of keeping the outdoor crowd hydrated and fueled with their top tier line of supplements for outdoor activities. Check them out here as they generally have some good deals.
6. First Aid Kit
So, you’re out on the trail, you away from it all in nature and the best part? Not a soul in sight for miles, ahh the great outdoors. Wanna know how to ruin that? Injure yourself with no cell service and no first aid kit. That sucks. So don’t make your trip suck. Keeping a first aid kit in your pack is definitely a essential gear for hiking.
Basics like a splint, tourniquet, heavy gauze, and compression bandages all the way down to a pair of tweezers to remove that nagging splinter, a First aid kit needs to be in your bag.
Whether you make your own or buy an incredibly well-thought-out medic kit from MyMedic, you need to have something on the trail. Check out these sweet first aid kits from MyMedic.
7. Clothing (I know, bummer, right?)
Clothing, probably one of the most underrated items you need to put some thought into when packing for your trip. When hiking, you don’t want heavy, cumbersome, or cotton clothing to get in the way of your movement. Layers are your friend and moisture sicking fabric properties are a must. Depending on climate and time of year, everything from base layers to small packable rain jackets need to be considered when looking at gear for hiking.
In addition (and it goes with clothing….kinda) is protection from the sun. Keeping sunblock and thoughtful uses of clothing and hats will save you from unneeded UV rays and the associated fatigue and dehydration that the direct sunlight brings.
A beast in the outdoor community clothing and gear market is evo, they carry all the brands and gear you’re looking for, check them out here.
So there it is, the absolute essentials you need to go on a real hike. Keeping this list handy will most likely keep you in good shape for your upcoming hike. I hope you got something out of this and I’m happy you stopped by. Stay safe and GET OUTSIDE!
Mike is a Colorado resident, a combat veteran, and a former Police Officer, and an avid outdoorsman. Mike has camped, hiked, and Overlanded all over the United States. From backpack Elk Hunts on Public Land, solo truck camping to Multi-week Overlanding adventures with his family, Mike is very familiar with these outdoor topics.