Hiking Gear – Your Ultimate Guide


Hiking is one of the most popular activities in the United States. It is estimated that more than 50 million Americans will spend some of their free time engaging in walking one of the country’s many trails.

What hiking is, depends on your definition. Some feel that any kind of walking for leisure is hiking, even if it is just for a couple of minutes or an hour. Others have the opinion that you need to go to a large park and walk an entire day. More hardcore hikers will spend several days exploring an area on foot.

What each person does depends on their definition. But no matter what type of hiking one does, you need to bring the right gear.

What Gear Do You Need?

What gear do hikers need? The different types of hiking gear range from the essentials to equipment for more advanced hikers. Here is a list of what you need for your trip.

Keep Your Feet Happy

Your choice of shoes depends on the terrain and distance you want to walk. A good pair of sneakers is often sufficient for beginner hikers and most everyone has a pair of those. If you plan to make longer walks on rougher terrain you might want to invest in some special hiking shoes. Good ones are lightweight, durable, and provide good traction.

Socks are important too. You want socks that are comfortable and dry and should prevent blistering. Good, light-weight hiking socks are usually made of wool. They are expensive, around $20 per pair, but they are essential for an enjoyable walk. Bringing a change of socks is also a smart idea.

Don’t Be a Mule

The kind of backpack that you need depends on the kind of trip you are going to make. On a day trip, you probably do not need a lot. So, a small backpack that can hold a bottle, a snack, and maybe a basic first aid kit will do. Pick one that is sturdy and lightweight.

If you plan on a multi-day trip, you will need to bring more things. But there is only so much you can handle. A 70-liter backpack is probably all that you can carry.

Make Sure You Can Keep Going

Even if you go on a short hike, carrying a bottle of water is essential. Consider extra water if the weather is hot or you go on a larger trek. On the other hand, a thermos with a hot drink is very welcome if you are hiking in a colder climate.

There are different kinds of containers available, ranging from aluminum bottles to plastic pouches. See what works best for you. Hardcore hikers bring water purification tablets or filters along, so they have access to safe drinking water in remote areas.

Keep your sugar levels up as well. You don’t want to end up with hypoglycemia. It will take you a long time to recover from that. Good sources of energy are power bars and dried fruits. They are nonperishable, conveniently packed, and easy to carry.

What to Wear

Wear what is comfortable. Make sure that your clothes are lightweight and breathable. While you walk, you will likely get warm so it is practical to wear layers that you can easily take off and carry with you.

Optional Gear

The things above are items that should really be part of any type of hike. In addition, you can consider the following items, based on the specific needs of your trip:

  • A change of clothes. For trips of multiple days bring clean underwear and socks. During the hike, you might get wet. Wet clothes, including socks, can damage your skin.
  • Waterproof clothes in case of rain
  • A cap or hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses to protect you from the sun
  • Walking poles help you to walk in difficult terrain. Others like to use them simply for the exercise.
  • Tent and sleeping bag, all lightweight, for longer hikes
  • A travel towel for when you get wet or refresh yourself in the morning.
  • Camping stove, camping pot, pans, and cutlery. Again, only if you plan to stay overnight in a remote area.
  • A cellphone. We usually have a phone with us, and most smartphones have GPS and map applications. Be sure to have the maps downloaded on your device. Don’t forget to save your emergency contacts.
  • A compass and a map. An electronic device may fail.
  • First aid kit
  • Emergency blanket
  • A good knife
  • Identification and contact numbers for emergency
  • Matches and/or candle
  • Two-way radio or satellite telephone. Especially if you go out into remote areas.

Keep your equipment as light as possible so think about what you really need. There is little more frustrating than carrying excess weight. You’d better use your energy for more enjoyable aspects of your trips.

Conclusion on What You Need on Your Hiking Trip

Hikers come in all kinds. Some like to walk in a protected environment, others like to go off the beaten track. This article contained some good tips and suggestions for each one of them.

Most cities, national, and state parks are places where you can find specialized stores for hiking clothes and equipment. Also, many online shops offer great selections.