Hiking Gear Listhikinggear list
Hiking is by far one of the most widely enjoyed recreational activities and it’s easy to see why. It has become so easy to take half a day and breathe in the fresh air of the outdoors with a large number of short trails just waiting to be used. With how accessible many of these are, it is very easy to be under-prepared for these excursions. That’s why I’ve created a short list of some of the basic “must-haves” for a day hike, along with a few extras that I like to bring along.
For strolls in the park or on paved trails, just about anything you’re comfortable walking in will work. For those of you who want to get further off the beaten path, the types of shoes you use becomes increasingly more important. In general, you will want a shoe that won’t slip off your feet and that will help you avoid slipping on anything else. Good traction is key, but even more critical is how the shoe fits. Most hikers are moving away from big, heavy boots and moving towards a lighter, but still supportive, hiking shoe. You don’t have to get the most technical-looking piece of footwear you can find though I’d recommend anything that you can lace up snugly and that won’t get destroyed brushing up against rocks or roots.
There are a lot of different opinions about what to look for in a hiking backpack, so here is the advice that I would give. Part of deciding which backpack to choose comes down to what you are wanting to use it for. Will it be solely used for day hikes, or will you also want to use it for other activities? Are you the minimalist type, or do you like to bring everything you think you need plus some extra? (By the way, I’d generally avoid bringing too much stuff, but I’ll get to that later)
No matter what you are planning on doing with your backpack, here are a few things that I’d prioritize for any backpack. If your pack is bigger than 10 or 12 liters, make sure you have a waist strap. This can mean anything from a piece of 1” webbing on lightweight bags to a full suspension system on more burly bags. I also enjoy having smaller pockets on my pack for organizational purposes. This isn’t required, but it is certainly handy. A sternum strap can be beneficial if your pack is going to be on the heavier side as well.
These next features vary widely per bag but are good to keep in mind when comparing different packs.
- Ventilation system- is it right up against your back or is there some sort of mesh to increase airflow?
- Shoulder straps- some straps are solid, some are ventilated. There are pros and cons to each so it really depends on what is more comfortable for you. I personally like more ventilated straps.
- Rain protection- Most technical backpacks have some sort of water-repellant fabric or coating to protect your belongings. Some backpacks also have an integrated rain covering for those extra rainy days.
- Water bottle pockets or water bladder sleeve- This I would say is a must. The backpack doesn't have to have both options but you need some way to carry water, ideally a way that is easily accessible.
- Trekking pole attachments- I personally don't use trekking poles but I know people who always use them. If you find that hiking with poles is something you like, having straps on your backpack to carry them with could be advantageous.
- Weight- For a simple daypack, lighter is usually better. If you are going on longer hikes or are carrying lots of gear, a burlier bag will be much more comfortable.
- Frame- Daypacks usually have an internal metal frame (most often aluminum), foam backpanel, or no frame at all. Determining the type of back support, if any, for your backpack will come down to how far you plan on traveling, how much weight you will be carrying, and personal comfort preference.
I mentioned not bringing too much stuff. For a lot of my short trips, I use an 8-liter sling which is perfect for water, snacks, and a small first aid kit. If I'm going to be out for several hours then I'll bring my 20-liter pack, especially if the temperatures are going to fluctuate (and I need an extra jacket) or I need to carry extra gear for someone else.
Water bottle or bladder #
Water is life. If you’re dehydrated your trip will be much less enjoyable, and your health will be at risk. I would advise always bringing some amount of water on any hike, no matter how short. General practice is to drink at least .5 liters of water an hour for moderate activity. This quantity will obviously vary depending on age, weight, and fitness level. And of course, the more you exert yourself and the hotter the temperature, the more water you’ll need to drink.
The next question to answer is a water bottle or water bladder? This one really comes down to personal preference. Water bladders usually carry more water and are great when getting a water bottle is a burden. Water bottles are generally more versatile but are also a bit bulkier.
Rain gear #
The type of rain gear depends on the climate you live in and what the weather forecast is. Anywhere that there is even a chance of rain I would recommend bringing at least something to keep you dry. Whether that be a simple poncho or umbrella, or a fully-featured raincoat if you can avoid being soaked your trip will be much more enjoyable. I personally bring a packable raincoat on my trips. If you are thinking about buying a higher quality jacket, here are a few things to look for:
- Weight- if it's too heavy you won't want to keep it in your pack when it's dry
- Packability- similar reasoning, a bulky jacket is harder to carry with you
- Breathability- a jacket that doesn't breathe can make it feel like it's raining on the inside and outside of your coat!
- Waterproofing- Not all jackets are created equal. Some are designed to withstand higher amounts of precipitation than others.
Bear spray #
Bear spray is an absolute necessity if there is and danger of encountering a bear. Keep your spray where it is easily accessible. Running into a bear, especially if you are with a group, is not very common but it is always important to be prepared. An alternative to bear spray is carrying a small air horn. A few years ago one of my neighbors was a Fish and Game officer and when talking with him he mentioned that he actually preferred the air horn to bear spray.
First aid kit #
Having a basic first aid kit is another necessity for any outdoor adventure. Now, this doesn't mean that you have to carry 5-10 pounds of supplies, but make sure that you can treat the most common injuries like blisters, cuts, and scrapes. Carrying a bandana and string is also useful if you ever need to build a makeshift sling
I believe that a hungry hiker is not a happy hiker. I like to bring a combination of granola bars, trail mix, and dried fruit for my snacks. These are lightweight, full of calories, and I think that they taste pretty good too!
Some sort of guide, map, GPS, compass, etc. #
Basically know where you are, where you're going, and how to get back to your car. For short hikes bringing a map isn't really necessary, but for long trips (several hours or multi-day) having something to help you keep your bearing can be very beneficial.