Carrying the proper gear is critical—whether you’re bagging a difficult summit or hiking to a favorite waterfall. If things get tough, your gear can be the difference between a dire result and a minor inconvenience. Dialing in the essential hiking gear is one of the most important parts of preparing for an adventure, especially if you are a first-time hiker or backcountry traveler.
Don’t even think of starting your trip without a trusty compass and a topographic map. And, before you start your adventure, you need to learn how to read a topo map and how to use a compass. Having a topo app and a compass app won’t cut it.
You need a real map and a real compass. You can rest assured they won’t run out of batteries. Both of these items are designed to be durable and reliable. They are also convenient to carry around as they are small and lightweight.
Although they are not essential for backcountry trips, it may be a good idea to bring a GPS device and a PLB (Personal Locator Beacon). Both of these can be of great help in emergency situations. Make sure to bring a power bank with you as well.
When you are on a trail, dehydration can be a serious risk. And, when you are walking all day long, you need more water than you’d usually need. As a rule of thumb, when you are hiking, you need 4 liters of water per day.
Make sure to bring a reusable water bottle or a collapsible water bottle. Vacuum-insulated stainless steel water bottles can keep your water cold, but a collapsible water bottle can usually hold more water. It may be a good idea to bring both items.
Try to stick to routes where you won’t have problems finding drinkable water. However, it’s always a good idea to bring a water filter and water purification tablets.
When you’re backpacking or hiking, you should have a bivy, blanket, or backpacking sleeping bag. You can get a good backpacking sleeping bag for less than $100, so it may be the best option.
Bringing a lightweight hiking tent is also a good idea, but that may be overkill on a short and easy trail. A “space blanket” may be enough to protect you from the elements, so make sure you have that at least. If you are in a really bad spot, having a shelter in your pack can potentially save your life.
When you’re traveling, a comfy and well-fitting backpack is a must. You have numerous options when it comes to daypacks. Just make sure to get a daypack that has convenient storage compartments and enough storage for all your essential gear.
Unless you have knee problems, trekking poles aren’t really an essential item. However, they can be of huge help when you’re hiking.
When you are on long downhill or uphill sections, trekking poles can significantly increase your stability. If you have a space blanket, you can also use trekking poles to build an ultralight shelter.
Food and Spork
Why carry a fork and spoon when you can bring a spork! A spork can really come in handy on such an adventure. It’s small, light, and doesn’t cost much.
It’s also good to have some snacks on you. Pack food that does not require cooking and has a long shelf life. Food like protein bars, nuts, jerky, and dried fruits are ideal for hiking or backpacking.
For spring, summer, and fall adventures, trail running shoes are the best option. They are lightweight, comfy, and quick-drying. Since you’ll always be on the go, it’s best to get some sock liners and wool socks as well.
If the conditions are very hot and the terrain is not so rough, you can also wear a pair of hiking sandals. However, if you expect to encounter a lot of streams, rocks, and roots, you should get a pair of sturdy boots. There are many options to choose from, but the bottom line is—your footwear should be comfy and well broken in.
When it comes to hiking shirts, pants, and jackets, your options are limitless. Stick to polyester and wool when it comes to next-to-skin clothing and mid-layers. These fabrics are moisture-wicking and quick drying. They are great for cold and hot conditions. Merino wool is especially great as it does a great job of regulating temperature.
However, if conditions are temperate, like in early fall, cotton may be good enough. It doesn’t have the same moisture-wicking and quick-drying properties, but it can be more comfortable for some folks.
Swiss Army Knife
If you’re camping, don’t forget to bring a swiss army knife. It’s great for gear repair and food preparation. Your average swiss army knife comes with multiple options that can come in handy in emergency situations. If you think you’ll need a bigger knife, you can get a bigger multitool kit.
First Aid Kit
To be prepared for medical emergencies, make sure to bring a first aid kit. You can forego guesswork by buying a pre-assembled first-aid kit. You can always customize it by adding items that fit your personal needs.