Hiking is one of my favorite things to do. It’s relatively low cost, you can go on your own or in a group, it’s suitable for most ages, and it’s a fun way to burn some extra calories.
However, as enjoyable as it is, if you’re not sufficiently prepared, it can quickly turn into a difficult and grueling slog.
So, in this post, I’m going to list 13 essential items that you should take on every hike.
I’ll try and make it quick.
13 Essential Items Of Equipment For Hiking
The essential equipment that you need for going hiking remains the same no matter where or when you hit the trail. These items are non-negotiable and all are recommended by many scouting and hiking organizations.
1. Comfortable walking boots
It goes without saying that you need a comfortable and suitable pair of walking boots or shoes.
Sore feet, bruised soles, and blisters are a sure-fire way to ruin any hike – especially if you still have several miles to go!
2. Walking trousers/shorts
Although you may live in your jeans at home, do not wear a pair of jeans when hiking. They are too thick and uncomfortable in the heat, they get heavy when wet and are very slow to dry, and they can limit your movement when having to scramble over rocks and climb over stiles.
Instead, opt for either a pair of purpose-made walking pants or a pair of exercise pants, such as yoga pants.
You can choose between shorts or full-length trousers. Personally, I always wear full-length, even in the summer, for two reasons; ticks and nettles.
3. Clothing you can layer
Layers are your friend!
When out in the mountains, the weather can change dramatically, especially at different levels of altitude.
Wearing clothing that you can layer gives you multiple combination options to ensure that you stay comfortable regardless of the elements.
A basic layering system includes;
- A base layer – made of natural or synthetic material that will wick away sweat and water from the skin
- A mid-layer – a fleece or light jacket to add insulation
- An outer layer – a windproof, showerproof, and durable coat
Even if the weatherman is forecasting a heatwave, ALWAYS pack your waterproofs!
I’d much rather pack them and not use them than get caught in a downpour and not have them.
Walking when piss-wet through and cold is never a fun experience.
I have a pair of waterproof slip-on pants and a small cagoule. They’re very lightweight and can be packed down small and give more water protection than a standard hiking jacket; which tends to be more showerproof than waterproof.
5. A backpack with comfortable, adjustable chest and waist straps
Okay, so you know that you need a backpack, but don’t just throw anything on your back. You’re going to be carrying it for quite a few hours over various terrain, and the last thing you want is to finish your hike with sore shoulders and a bad back.
I highly recommend watching a few YouTube videos showing you how to pack and fit your backpack correctly. Even small adjustments can make your load easier to carry and your hike much more enjoyable.
6. A fully-charged mobile phone pre-programmed with emergency contact and medical information
This is pretty self-explanatory, but safety first!
Most smartphones will allow you to nominate an emergency contact and store your medical information for emergency personal to access should the worst happen.
7. A map and compass/navigation
A lot of hikers will tell you to always take a physical map and compass and not rely on your phone or any other GPS navigation.
The problems with relying on a technological device are that you can run out of battery power and/or lose signal.
However, I’ll be honest and admit that I don’t always take a map and compass. Battery power is getting more efficient and lasting longer, and you can always take a backup power bank. And even if I lose GPS signal, I can still see the map on my phone – which is no different from looking at a physical map.
Either way, you need some form of navigation. Don’t go wandering up a mountain thinking that you’ll be able to just follow the track. The track isn’t always clear and visible and not every route is signposted.
I cannot believe how many people go hiking without suncream.
Even in cool weather, walking around all day directly under the sun’s rays can lead to redness and burns – especially if you are like me and have fair skin.
Not only does suncream protect you from getting sunburn, but it also helps to prevent skin cancer and prevent signs of aging. It’s a win-win around!
9. Insect repellant
You’ll thank me should you have to walk through a swarm of midges!!
Related Read: 9 Tips For Avoiding Flies, Midges, and Mosquitoes
10. A handheld torch or headlamp (NOT your phone!)
Getting lost is one thing, but getting lost when the sun is going down is in a league of its own, and having a decent torch can make a BIG difference.
As the autumn months hit, it’s very easy to be caught out by the dark night rolling in faster and faster.
Obviously, don’t rely on your phone torch. This probably won’t be powerful enough and you don’t want to run your battery down in case you need your phone for an emergency.
11. A first-aid kit
Yep, you know you should be taking one of these! And yet, so very few people do!
Go to Amazon, search for ‘first aid kit’ and get yourself a small kit for your backpack. They’re not expensive, they don’t need to take up a lot of space, and they’re not heavy.
There’s really no excuse.
I regularly dip into mine for the odd plaster, a spritz of wound spray, and some steri-strips for the time I fell into a waterfall!
12. Extra water and snacks
Even if you don’t plan out being out very long, always always always take plenty of water and a few snacks.
Things don’t always go to plan. You could end up getting lost, forced to take a detour, or an injury/mishap could keep you out longer than what you expected.
It’s much easier to problem solve when you’re hydrated and have something to eat.
13. Rubbish bag, toilet paper, trowel
Leave no trace!
Take all your rubbish home and bury your toilet waste.
The above are 13 essentials that I recommend you take on every hiking trip, however, I’ve also included some optional extras below that you might want to take as well.
- Lip balm to prevent your lips from becoming dry and chapped
- Spare batteries for your torch (depending how new/powerful your current ones are)
- A water filtration system or water tablets in case you run out of water
- An emergency shelter such as a bivy or lightweight tent
- Whistle to draw attention if you get lost or injured and need help
- Binoculars to make the most of the wildlife and stunning views
- Trekking poles to aid stability on uneven terrain and can also be used as emergency splints in an emergency
- A long(ish) piece of rope or cord which can be used in a multitude of situations
- Professional camera for videos and photos if you don’t want to use your phone, with additional tripod or Gorillapod
Go take a hike!
Hiking is fun! But only when you are sufficiently prepared for all outcomes and all weathers.
You can choose what other equipment is applicable for the trail you intend to hike and for the time of year, but my first 13 essential items should be regarded as compulsory for your health and safety out on every hike.
If there are any other essentials that I have missed that you think should be on this list, please let me know in the comments below.
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