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Hiking Gear

When it comes to hiking, having the right gear is essential. No matter what your hiking experience is, it's important to be prepared. Hiking can be a fun and rewarding experience, but only if you're properly equipped for the journey. Our team of outdoor experts go over all the hiking gear available, from the essential to the optional gear and share their top picks for each category, so you can find the best hiking gear for your needs.
Flat lay composition with hiking gear and other hiking equipment on wooden background

Navigation

No one wants to get lost while hiking, so having the right navigation tools on hand in the woods is of the utmost importance. Let’s take a look at the equipment you need to stay found in the mountains.

Map & Compass

A compass on a map to chart the right course
It might seem a little old school, but a good ol’ fashioned map and compass can get you a long way in the woods—so long as you know how to use them. Whenever you go outside, be sure to pack a detailed topographic map of your area as well as a reliable magnetic compass that can help you find your way along the trail.

Our Maps & Compass Buying Guide:

Electronic Devices

Hiker holding a GPS navigation device
You should never leave home without a map and compass in tow, but modern technology has given us a wide range of electronic devices that you can use to supplement your navigation skills. These include:
  • GPS Device – A hand-held GPS device can make it easier for you to find your current location. You can also use a hiking GPS to track your route so you can retrace your steps in an emergency.
  • Altimeter Watch – In addition to looking snazzy, altimeter watches provide a simple and convenient way to know your elevation at any point along the trail. These watches also often come with extra features like sunrise and sunset times that can greatly enhance your hiking experience.
  • Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) – Although you hope to never have to use one, a Personal Locator Beacon, or PLB, is a true lifesaver in the great outdoors. With a PLB, you can quickly notify rescue teams if you’re lost or severely injured, which can make a huge difference in an emergency.
  • Satellite Messenger – Cell phone reception tends to be a bit spotty in remote places, so it’s important that you have a satellite messenger for communication on your hikes. Whether you use it solely for emergencies or for staying in touch with loved ones, a satellite messenger is a must for any twenty-first-century hiker.

Our Electronic Devices Buying Guide:

Emergency & First Aid

Hiker opening a first aid kit on a hike
An emergency and first aid kit is an essential part of any hiking gear list. Even though we hope you stay safe and healthy throughout all your adventures, you need to be prepared for any eventuality. That means packing the gear you need to deal with a wide range of ailments and injuries.

There are many approaches to creating a backcountry first aid kit. Some people opt to buy a pre-made kit that they supplement with personalized items that best meet their unique needs, like an extra knee brace or prescription medications.

Meanwhile, other people create their own med kits completely from scratch by assembling a selection of bandages, over-the-counter medications, ointments, and other first aid supplies. Either approach is totally fine, so long as you have what you need to handle a medical emergency on the trail.

Oh, and while they’re not necessarily first aid supplies, you should always carry an emergency shelter and a whistle while you hike. Both items can be super handy if you get lost or caught out overnight and they add minimal weight and bulk to your pack.

What’s not to love?

Our Emergency & First Aid Buying Guide:

Health & Hygiene

Staying healthy while outside is essential, especially if you’re traveling in remote areas. Whether you’re headed into the woods for a short day hike or on a month-long expedition in the desert, here are some key pieces of health and hygiene-related gear that you ought to have in your pack.

Sun Protection

A hiker with a backpack and UV-protective sunglasses on a mountain trek
No matter what kind of weather you’re expecting on your trip, it’s critical that you have equipment that can protect you from the sun. Frequent sun exposure is one of the leading causes of melanoma (a type of skin cancer), so everyone should strive to protect their skin while outside—even if cloudy skies are in the forecast.

There are many ways to stay protected from the sun, though regular use of sunscreen as well as a quality sun hat and sunglasses are vital. For very sunny or high-elevation environments, you might also want to consider wearing a sun shirt for added protection.

Our Sun Protection Buying Guide:

Bug Protection

Hiker applying bug repellent spray to her legs in the forest
Fact: Bugs are one of the least enjoyable parts of hiking.

While we can’t quite make bugs disappear completely from the great outdoors, we can help you get the right gear to stave off those annoying insects as you hike.

At an absolute minimum, you’ll want to arm yourself with some bug repellent spray for any outdoor adventure that you go on. If the bugs are really bad, you might want to add a mosquito head net to your packing list, too.

General Hygiene

A hiker using a gel hand sanitizer dispenser
It’s a common misconception that you have to be dirty while you hike. While it’s true that you will probably get covered in dirt during your excursions, there’s no reason for you to be unhygienic.

The best way to stay clean while hiking is to come prepared with general hygiene supplies like hand sanitizer, soap, and wet wipes.

Soap is particularly important for use before you eat as washing your hands with soap is essential for preventing foodborne illnesses. Hand sanitizer is a great supplement for soap, but it’s not a complete replacement, especially as far as mealtime hygiene is concerned.

Menstrual Hygiene

Hiker holding a reusable menstrual cup with tent in the background
If you menstruate, it’s important that you have plenty of spare menstrual products, such as pads, tampons, and menstrual cups in your pack while you hike. Even if you’re not expecting your period during your outing, there’s always a chance that your body will surprise you in the mountains, so you want to be prepared.

And for those of us who don’t menstruate? It’s not a bad idea to add a few tampons or pads to your gear list, too (we recommend keeping them in your first aid kit).

Although you might never use these items, you never know when someone in your group might run into a period-related emergency in the woods. You’ll be the hero of the day if you can help your friends or loved ones out with some much-needed menstrual hygiene supplies!

Tools & Repair Items

Set of multi-tools and a knife for hiking on a wood background
Hiking and adventuring in the great outdoors can be rough on your gear, so you always need to have a selection of tools and supplies that you can use to repair your equipment. Some essential items to have in your pack include:
  • Knife & Multi-Tools – Knives and multi-tools are indispensable items whenever a piece of gear breaks. You can also use them for little tasks around camp, such as making kindling for your fire, tightening loose screws on your trekking poles, or chopping up veggies for dinner.
  • Repair Kit – If you’re headed out into the woods for an extended period of time, you need to be self-sufficient. That means having everything you need to fix a wide range of problems that might befoul your gear. At a minimum, you should have a repair kit with useful multi-purpose items like sewing supplies, duct tape, gear repair patches, spare buckles, and even super glue. You never know when these items might come in handy!

Fire Starter

Start of a fire in the woods with hiker's hands holding a steel magnesium striker
Although most backpackers and thru-hikers prefer to cook over a camp stove, it’s always a good idea to have some fire starting supplies in your backpack, just in case you need to build a fire to stay warm.

As far as fire-starting supplies go, it helps to have some purpose-built fire starter that you can use to get flames going, even in wet conditions. You’ll also want storm-proof matches with you for those very rainy days when your lighter doesn’t work.

If you’re traveling above tree line or on snow, you might also want to bring a compact backpacking stove as you’ll be hard-pressed to find fuel for your fire in these locations. Also keep in mind that many places have fire bans during the summer months, so be sure to check local regulations before you head outside.

Clothes

A flat lay of hiking clothing and accessories against a turquoise background
There’s an old saying that goes something along the lines of “there’s no such thing as bad weather—only bad clothing.” No truer words have ever been spoken in the hiking world.

In fact, there are few things more important to your happiness and comfort in the mountains than wearing the right clothing. If you put on the wrong clothes for a hiking trip, you’ll find yourself cold, wet, and miserable. Pack and wear the right clothing, however, and you can handle whatever weather conditions come your way.

Although every situation is different, you should always have, at a minimum, the following items of clothing whenever you hit the trail:
  • Base Layers – Your base layers are normally your bottom-most layer of clothing and they’re designed to wick moisture away from your skin.
  • Insulation & Jackets – On top of your base layers, you should wear insulating layers, such as a puffy vest or a fleece jacket.
  • Rainwear – The outermost layer of your clothing system should be your rainwear. Rain jackets and pants can help keep you dry in wet weather and they can protect you from the wind in the alpine.
  • Hiking Pants – A quality pair of hiking pants should be stretchy, abrasion-resistant, moisture-wicking, and water-resistant enough to help you stay comfortable as you trek.
  • Hiking Shirts – Hiking shirts come in a wide range of styles and materials, from merino wool to synthetic fabrics. Depending on the season, you might opt for a long-sleeve hiking shirt or a t-shirt to accompany you on the trail.
  • Underwear – While you could just wear your regular underwear on a hike, a pair of outdoor-specific underwear is usually much more comfortable. Hiking underwear is normally better at wicking away moisture and reducing odors than what you wear at home, so it’s a great investment in your comfort.
  • Gloves & Hats – No matter what the temperature forecast is for your hike, you should always pack a pair of gloves and a warm hat. Even a thin pair of liner gloves and a beanie can help you stay warm if the weather turns sour or you get benighted on the trail.

Footwear

Of all the gear that you bring into the backcountry, few items have as large of an impact on your hiking experience as your footwear. Let’s take a closer look at some of the key footwear items you need on every hike.

Shoes and Boots

Hiker ties the shoelaces of her walking boots
Your shoes play a huge role in both your comfort and performance on the trail. If you have a pair of shoes that lacks traction and ankle support, you could find yourself slipping around as you hike.

The good news is that there are hundreds of different hiking shoes and hiking boots on the market today. Anyone that prefers more of a lightweight shoe can opt for a trail running-specific model or a purpose-built low-top hiking shoe. Or, if you plan on carrying a heavy pack or trekking over rugged terrain, a proper mid-top or high-top hiking boot might be the better option.

Our Hiking Shoes & Boots Buying Guide:

Accessories

In addition to your hiking shoes and boots, you’ll also need to outfit yourself with a selection of footwear accessories. Some of the most important footwear accessories to have include:
  • Socks – What’s better than a fresh pair of hiking socks you might ask? Not much. It’s important that you wear a pair of durable, cushioned, and non-cotton socks as you hike to prevent blisters and other foot ailments in the mountains.
  • Gaiters – Getting trail dirt, snow, and rain into your boots as you hike isn’t exactly anyone’s idea of a good time. With a quality pair of gaiters, you can protect your socks and boots, all while keeping pesty debris and moisture away from your feet. What more could you ask for?
  • Crampons – If you expect ice on the trail or in the mountains, you’ll need a pair of crampons. Crampons are effectively spikes that you can strap onto the bottom of your shoes or boots to give you traction on slippery surfaces, so they’re critical for wintertime excursions.

Our Hiking Footwear Accessories Buying Guide:

Trekking Poles

Trekking poles in the hand of a hiker
Trekking poles are some of the most underrated pieces of hiking gear. While it’s true that you can hike without them, you’ll almost always be better off with them.

In fact, trekking poles provide a range of benefits for hikers, including improved balance, reduced impact on your joints, and a lower risk of athletic injuries. You can also use trekking poles to help set up a tarp or tent, so they’re an ideal multi-purpose piece of gear.

Illumination

A hiker with a headlight flashlight in a dark forest
Staring up at the starry night sky is a superb way to enjoy an evening in the backcountry. But at some point, you’ll probably need light for brushing your teeth, reading in bed, or making your way down the trail if you get caught outside after dark. Therefore, you’ll want to bring one or both of these illumination items with you on your hikes:
  • Headlamp – The headlamp is the gold standard in hiking illumination because it provides you with a hands-free way to light up your world.
  • Flashlight – Flashlights aren’t as popular as headlamps because they require that you use one hand to operate them. However, they’re often a more affordable option, so they’re definitely worth considering for backcountry travel.
But, don’t forget: A headlamp or flashlight is only helpful if you can power it. Be sure to pack extra batteries on every hiking trip, just in case!

Backpack

A hiker with a backpack in the high mountains
If you want to efficiently carry all your gear while you hike, you’ll need a proper hiking backpack. There are dozens of different backpacks on the market today, each of which is designed for a specific type of hiker.

The key thing when it comes to backpacks is that you get a model that’s both comfortable enough for you to wear all day and large enough to carry all of your gear. Extra features are great and all, but if your backpack is uncomfortable or it can only fit half of your essential equipment, it’s not going to be very useful in the woods.

Our Hiking Backpack Buying Guide:

Hydration

A hiker is drinking water from a bottle during a break
Staying hydrated in the backcountry can be a challenge. Nevertheless, it’s critical that you drink enough water while you hike so you can avoid dehydration and the issues that come with it.

There are two main types of hydration systems that hikers use in the mountains:
  • Water Bottles – Tried and true, the classic water bottle is a simple, low-cost, and no-nonsense option for on-trail hydration. At a minimum, you should strive for 2 liters of water carrying capacity while hiking (two 1L water bottles generally does the trick).
  • Hydration Bladder – If you want to be able to stay hydrated without having to stop to take a sip from your water bottle every few minutes, a hydration bladder might be the better option. These tend to be more expensive than water bottles, but they’re super convenient as you hike.
In addition to a water-carrying system, you also want to be sure that you have some sort of method for treating your water while in the mountains. To reduce your chances of developing a waterborne disease, consider using a water filter or water purifying tablets. In a pinch, boiling your water to kill off any diseases works wonders, too!

Our Hiking Hydration Buying Guide:

Gadgets

Most pieces of hiking equipment are in your pack in order to help you stay safe or comfortable as you trek. But sometimes gear is there to help you stay entertained and engaged with the world around you. Here’s a quick look at some of the gadgets you might want to pack for added fun during your adventures.

Camera Equipment

Hiker with digital camera on top of a mountain taking pictures
Capturing every moment of your outdoor expeditions can be a great way to share your experiences with others. To do so, don’t forget to pack the following equipment before you head into the mountains:
  • Camera – A camera is a great addition to any packing list. You can keep it simple and get a point-and-shoot model or you can go all-out and invest in either a DSLR or mirrorless camera.
  • Action Camera – In addition to a camera for still photography, you might want an action camera, like a GoPro, to capture stunning video footage of your trips.
  • Camera Strap – Carrying around a camera in your hand can be a bit tedious. To solve this issue, get a comfortable camera strap that you can wear while you hike to help keep your camera as accessible as possible during your outings.
  • Hiking Tripod – If you want to capture that perfect waterfall shot or a timelapse of the stars above your campsite at night, you’ll definitely want to add a sturdy hiking tripod to your gear list.

Our Hiking Camera Equipment Buying Guide:

Binoculars

Hiker enjoying the spectacular view through binoculars
Cameras often steal the spotlight as far as fun gadgets go for hiking. However, if you want a fun, simple, and versatile piece of gear to add to your pack, consider a reliable pair of binoculars.

Binoculars are particularly great for birdwatch and for spotting other wildlife. You can also use them to scope out an upcoming section of the trail or just to get a better view of the surrounding region from the summit.

Where to Buy

Set of hiking gear and accessories on a dark wooden background

Hiking gear is only useful if you actually have it in your pack during your adventures. To get all the equipment you’ll need, you’ll have to gear up at a reputable outdoor store.

Thankfully, there are plenty of outdoor shops out there to choose from. The best stores for hiking gear include places like REIBackcountryMoosejaw, and Campsaver. Small local gear shops are worth checking out, too, especially if you want some expert advice on a specific piece of equipment.

Also, keep in mind that there are plenty of second-hand gear marketplaces out there if you’re looking for affordable used equipment. There are great deals to be had on everything from eBay to Facebook Marketplace, so there’s truly something for everyone when it comes to shopping for hiking gear.

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