What to Bring on a Hike
You’re ready to get out there and start hiking, but wow, there’s A LOT of hiking gear you can buy. How do you know what to bring on a hike?
On this list, we’ll breakdown the essentials that you want to bring on every hike you take. This way, you’ll be prepared for just about anything that can happen on the trail without feeling like you’re bringing everything and the kitchen sink from your home.
1. Hiking Backpack
Obviously, one of the most important items to bring on a hike is something you can use to carry everything else. That’s why a good hiking backpack is absolutely essential.
If you’re only planning to do day hikes, you don’t have to go out and buy something designed for backpacking. Instead, look for a backpack that’s lightweight, comfortable, and offers enough room for everything you want to bring along.
This is the backpack I use on my day hikes because it checks off all of those requirements. It also comes with a 2-liter hydration bladder that gives me another option for water.
Related: The Best Hiking Backpack for Every Hiker
2. Hiking Clothing
Next up, you want to get the right hiking clothes. One of the biggest mistakes that beginner hikers make is wearing the wrong clothing when they go hiking.
Your jeans might be comfortable, but they’re not good for hiking. If they get wet, they’ll get heavy, uncomfortable, and cold. The same is true for any type of cotton, so leave those pieces in the closet as well.
Related: The Best Hiking Pants for Women
Instead, wear clothing made from polyester or wool. You’ll be even more comfortable if your clothes are quick-drying or moisture-wicking.
Related: 10 Amazingly Comfortable Hiking Pants for Men
Also, think about either wearing or packing a few layers. Even if you check the forecast, you never know how the weather might change when you’re hiking.
Related: How to Hike in the Rain
I know some people think they’re goofy, but I absolutely love to wear these quick-drying convertible hiking pants when I’m on the trail. I can start off wearing pants, and if I start to get warm while I’m hiking, I can simply unzip them and immediately turn them into shorts.
Related: The Best Leggings for Hikers
3. Hiking Boots
The next essential item on your “What to Bring on a Hike” list absolutely must be a good pair of hiking boots. If you take care of your feet, your feet will take care of you.
Wearing the right pair of hiking boots is key to preventing blisters when you hike.
Once again, you’ll find a variety of boots out there that all seem to offer something different. Not sure where to start? Check out this list on the best hiking boots for women and these awesome hiking boots for men.
You’ll find options that range from the best boots for beginner hikers to the best waterproof boots, so you know you’ll be able to get a pair that will perfectly suit your needs. Also, don’t forget to grab some of the best hiking socks or these best hiking socks for summer to help with blister prevention!
Related: How to Easily Break in Hiking Boots
4. Snacks and Water
Don’t make the mistake of thinking that just because you’re going on a day hike you don’t need to bring along any food or water. While you might not have to pack meals like backpackers going on a multi-day hike, you’ll still be burning a lot of calories. That means you’ll want something to snack on while you’re on the trail.
The best snacks are ones that are easy to eat and offer a good amount of carbs, protein, and healthy fats. Here are a few of my favorite snacks for hiking:
Since my son is allergic to peanuts, we also create our own trail mix using cashews, almonds, pumpkin seeds, walnuts, cranberries, and M&Ms.
Related: Must-Know Tips for Hiking With a Toddler
When you’re packing water, try to bring 16 ounces for every hour you’ll be on the trail.
I also recommend bringing some type of water filtration system so you can create clean drinking water on the trail if necessary. I carry a Sawyer Mini in my backpack. This water filter removes 99.9% of all bacteria and protozoa and 100% of microplastics.
Related: The Best Water Filters for Hiking
5. First Aid Kit
While you always hope you never have to use it, you definitely want to have a first aid kit with you when you hike. From blisters to splinters and cuts to bites, you never know what might happen when you’re on the trail. That’s why it’s always good to be prepared.
I keep this first aid kit in my hiking backpack because I like the selection of supplies it comes with.
In addition to the supplies that come in the first aid kit, I also recommend throwing in some of these blister bandages. They are by far THE BEST bandages I have ever found to not only heal blisters, but actually help prevent them in the first place.
If you’re on the trail and can tell your hiking boots are going to cause a blister, you’ll be so glad you have some of those bandages handy.
Bonus Tip: Stick a pack of matches or some other tool you can use to start a fire in your first aid kit. It’s always a good idea to have an easy way to start a fire if you need to.
A multi-tool is a very handy item to have on the trail. It has so many different tools in one device that it can help you with everything from first aid to gear repair.
Related: Understanding the Basic Rules of the Trail
7. Navigation Aids
While you should definitely bring your cellphone with you on your hike, you absolutely shouldn’t rely on it as your only navigation tool. Instead, make sure you have a trail or topographical map and a compass.
These items are reliable, lightweight, never lose their signal, and never have a dead battery. Just make sure you know how to properly use a map and compass.
I also recommend storing them in a waterproof bag to make sure they’re always safe and protected.
Related: Best Hikes Around Chattanooga, TN
8. Sun Protection
Even if the weather forecast calls for clouds or you’re hiking in the winter, you’ll still want to bring sun protection on your hike. After all, sunscreen is one of the most important items to have with you when you’re hiking in the heat.
This is one of the best sunscreens for hiking.
It’s a reef-safe sunscreen that’s free of biologically harmful chemicals, including oxybenzone, avobenzone, parabens, and phthalates. It also offers SPF 50+ protection, and it’s water-resistant for up to 80 minutes.
You should also bring lip balm with SPF, polarized sunglasses, a hat, and clothing with built-in sun protection.
Related: Best Hiking Trails in Florida
I know chances are good you’re not planning on being out on the trail after sunset, but plans can always go awry. If you’re making your way back to your car in the dark, you’ll definitely appreciate having a source of light.
While flashlights are nice, I actually recommend getting a headlamp. Headlamps keep your hands free and provide a concentrated beam of light exactly where you’re looking.
Don’t forget to test your headlamp before every hike to make sure the batteries still work!
If you’re not sure what type of headlamp to get, check out this post on the top-rated headlamps for hikers for several great options.
10. Hand Sanitizer
Dirty hands are one of the leading causes of getting sick from a hike. This mainly comes from improper hygiene because hikers aren’t prepared for getting their hands in the dirt or having to use the bathroom when they’re on the trail.
Related: The Right Way to Use the Bathroom in the Woods
To make sure your hands are always clean before you eat, keep a small container of hand sanitizer in your backpack. I hook one of these silicone sleeves to the outside of my backpack so I always have a container of hand sanitizer within reach.
What to Bring on a Hike Every Time
Whether you’re heading out on a 30-minute hike or an 8-hour hike, you need to bring the essentials. Now that you know what to bring on a hike, you’ll be better prepared for every adventure you take.
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