OUTDOOR BASICS

Hiking Must Haves: The Ultimate Equipment Solution Guide

Hiking-Must-Haves
Jerry Mueller
Written by Jerry Mueller

When it comes to hiking, you don’t want to leave out anything essential. Many people believe that means taking everything with you on your trip, including the kitchen sink. However, doing so will overburden you with gear that you may really not need. Instead, this article is designed to help you figure out what the hiking must haves are that you should take on your trip.

Let’s look at the items that should be in your pack to get through a basic walk, an emergency or unforeseen situation, and should also be present on a long walk.

There are three basic categories to help you sort what you need to remember to pack: Outdoor Essentials, Clothing and Electronics. Let’s break those down into proper detail and discuss each item that should be packed in to your backpack under those categories.

Two man and woman unpack their bags

Outdoor Essentials – Back to Basics

A backpack

If you are going on a short and straightforward hike, a small- to medium-sized pack should be more than sufficient to fit all the gear in that you may require.

If you are going on a longer hike that may involve camping overnight, then it is highly advisable to look into a larger backpack with shoulder and lower back support structures. One pound on your feet can equal 5 pounds on your back, and therefore you need to look after the part of you that will be hauling all the greatest weight on your trek. It is recommended to get a pack that is between 25 – 40 liters in size.

A hike that is less than 4 hours in length or done in an urban environment without any rugged terrain will definitely require far less from a pack than an outdoor mountaineering expedition in rugged terrain.

Man preparing to put his backpack

Smart tip: For a hike that will include an overnight stay or camping, it is recommended to pack your backpack in such a way that all of the items that will be most used during the day, such as water, maps, snacks etc. are packed in the outside pockets of the pack, and the overnight items such clothes and so on, are packed on the inside of the pack.

A Map and Compass

Regardless of howexperienced you are as a hiker, how well you know the area or how many times you may have completed the trail before, a map and a compass should always be essential elements of your equipment. Ensure that the map is an updated version and relevant to the area you will be walking in.

Become competent at using a compass too, because as helpful as it may be to use technological devices such as GPS systems, a hardier and more reliable option should always be on hand as well. If you are taking a GPS, ensure that you have an extra set of lithium batteries too.

Hiking compass on map

There is nothing like the appearance of a wild animal, an injury, bad weather, a closed trail, or a friend that knows a short cut, to force you to have to change your route and get off course. Hikers getting lost remains the biggest reason Search and Rescue get called out, by seasoned hikers and beginners alike.

Proper Hiking Boots

Can honestly make the most arduous walk a pleasure, or the easiest walk a nightmare for your feet. Ensure that you have a good pair of comfortable shoes, again, because, with the slightest unexpected turn of events, your walk could extend much longer than you had anticipated it to.

Along with the right boots, make sure your socks are thick and supportive and pack an extra pair of those too. A lot of body heat can be lost via the feet, keeping them warm and dry can drastically improve your level of comfort.

Hiking shoes in mountain nature

Water

Although this essential should probably be number one on your list, it is often taken in far too small of a quantity. Due to the unfortunate weight of water, people are often tempted to take less in order to lighten their load.

  • Some people feel that a portable water system like a camelback, which is carried like a backpack, solves most of their weight concerns (although this makes carrying a backpack a secondary challenge).
  • Some feel that if a route is well-planned out, a water stop along the way may be of better value if you carry a lightweight filtration system, as this makes any flowing water a drinking possibility.
  • An alternative to this is, of course, water purification tablets.
  • Other options for carrying water include Nalgene bottles, made from a plastic that is almost indestructible and can be carried in a backpack.

Personally, I feel that it is highly advisable to hydrate well before a hike, regardless of how you choose to carry your water with you. Expending energy makes your body require more water than it ordinarily would, and starting strong can go a long way in helping you maintain good stamina.

Water bottle for hiking

Sun Protection

Regardless of whether you are intending to venture into cold weather or hot weather, it is always necessary to be prepared for a sudden change.

  • Sunscreen should always be in your pack, and it should be no less than an SPF 35. It’s often been found that sunburn can still occur on overcast days if you spend prolonged periods outdoors without cover, so do take care to apply sunscreen even if the sky is not totally clear.
  • Lip-Care: Take extra care to pack something that will shield your lips from drying out or cracking.
  • A good pair of sunglasses can also stop you needing to squint in brighter light conditions, and a pair of glacier sunglasses can offer protection from the glare off of snow too.
  • A hat: It is always recommended to wear a sunhat if the weather is clear. A sunburn on day 2 of a weekend hike can make matters uncomfortable, and a hat will, of course, keep the sun out of your eyes too.

Hiking hats sun protection

Nourishment

Compound foods that are space-effective and calorie dense are ideal foods to pack on a hike. Always pack a little more than you anticipate to need. Including a concentrated source of glucose, such as glycogen can also be extremely good too. Glucose powder is also light and easy to squeeze into a small corner and can provide that bit of extra stamina to counteract fatigue or keep you going in an emergency situation.

Hiking food

Insect Repellent

This is really one of those items that can make or break your experience in the outdoors. Many people swear by DEET alone, while the more health conscious individuals may prefer equivalents that contain natural extracts from plants like camphor.

It is highly recommended to find out if the area you are visiting may carry a malaria risk, in which case it is best to discuss adequate protection from that with your doctor.

Hiking insect prevention

Let There be Light

Even if you only intended on a day hike, as mentioned, plans can change very fast due to unforeseen circumstances arising, and having some form of light in the darkness can be very helpful. It is easy to remember to pack a flashlight, but batteries can sometimes slip the mind.

A great way to store batteries for various devices you may require on your trip is to keep them contained together in a waterproof container. Always remember to pack lithium only batteries, as these still function in the most extreme conditions.

A man with headlamp sitting near tent

Outdoor Essentials For an Emergency Situation

Add some spark

Include something to help you to start a fire with. From keeping warm to cooking food, this is an essential element to both comfort and survival. In order to ensure that you will always have a sure-fire way to spark a flame, include:

  • Waterproof matches
  • A lighter
  • Some fire-starter material
  • To be able to make a fire when all your gear is wet, it can be worthwhile to consider carrying a magnesium lighter. The unfortunate downside is that it does weigh a bit extra, but it may just keep you warm when all else fails.

Keep all of these items packed into a waterproof bag or container to prevent them from getting soaked.

Fire-starter material

First Aid Kit

Injuries are an inevitable. Many outdoor apparel shops supply pre-packed first aid kits based on what most hikers or outdoorsmen would typically require. The price of the kit would depend on how comprehensive it is, so how much you invest into your kit is how much you will yield from it in the future.

If you opt to compile your own kit, pack your essentials into a case and including:

  • Band-Aids
  • Bandages
  • Medical tape
  • Gauze
  • Antiseptic
  • Tweezers
  • Ace Bandage, which is great for sprains 

An emergency whistle: A whistle can be carried around the neck with minimal effort, and provided you are conscious, can be blown from anywhere requiring only a breath to pass through it in order to alert others that you may be in danger or injured somewhere. A whistle should only be used in an emergency situation when there are no other options available to seek help.

Young girl given first aid her friend

Clothing – Expect the Unexpected

Cold Protection

As fast as the weather conditions can change, so can your plans, whether it is intentional or not. If a member of your unit is injured and help cannot arrive until the following day, or you are delayed for any reason, you will need adequate protection from the cold. Always pack:

  • Warm hat
  • Some sort of waterproof material,
  • Gloves and a waterproof jacket.
  • A pair of socks for each day you expect to be out, plus one extra pair.

A great innovation in keeping warm and dry in wet conditions is smart wool. Clothing made from this will take you much further in maintaining a good body temperature in unfavorable conditions.

Man walking with waterproof jacket

Heat Protection

Overheating on a hike is no joke, and can lead to dehydration faster. Try to ensure that you have cooler clothing to change into when the temperatures rise unexpectedly. Look for clothing that is breathable and will wick moisture away from the skin so that you can stay cool.

Man used an umbrella to protect himself from the sun

Tools and Electronics – To Heighten your Hike Experience

Tools: An implement to help with fixing anything that could be broken, a cutting device and something that can twist or tweak. A tool that contains multiple features is a Leatherman tool. Once again, the number of features you want will directly affect the price you can expect to pay. A knife with a 3-inch blade will suffice just fine for most purposes too. I believe that toilet paper can be included in this category, it is a much-appreciated tool should nature’s urges nudge a hiker towards a private moment.

Binoculars: Some of the items you may wish to include in your trip that are not essential for comfort or survival, but for the sake making memories or enhancing your experience. They are especially great for forest terrain as the bird life may be spectacular and worth getting a closer look at.

A camera: Can be great to record memorable moments or scenery can also play a big part to those you enjoy wildlife and the scenic outdoors.

A GPS: Or any navigation system. These can provide much needed security for those who feel they may get lost easily.

Man hiking in mountain with camera

Remember To Take Common Sense, And Respect For Nature Along Too

While a hike in the wilderness can be a quiet, and peaceful experience, designed to set your body clock back into its natural rhythm, we are essentially creatures of urban life. Survival in the wild no longer comes naturally to most of us, and therefore it is paramount to your safety to remain aware of our surroundings at all times, never try to outsmart planned routes, and know your own limits. Respect the untouched environment, and remain sensible and careful.

The most important element to add to any planned adventure into the wild parts of the world is to take your sense of adventure. Delve into nature with your mind being ready to experience it with child-like wonder. Take note of the simplistic beauty that surrounds you, and breathe in the fresh air.

Hiking backpack in mountains

Whatever you have added to your list of necessary items, and whatever you have decided to include in your backpack, be a respectful hiker and always make sure that you take everything away with you that you brought into nature, while doing your best to leave nature exactly as you found it, alive, well, and intact for other hikers to enjoy after you.

What have you found to be particularly handy in the outdoors, we would love to hear about your experiences, please share your thoughts with us in the comment section below!

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jerry Mueller
Jerry Mueller

Jerry ‘Boy Scout’ Mueller spends 99% of his time camping or teaching others how to live in the wild. He became an Eagle Scout which is the highest rank attainable in the Boy Scouting division when he was 17 and after that he still lives the scout life. Jerry always plans neatly every trip, takes leadership very seriously and if you listen to his tips and stories, you can learn tons of useful things.

  • Tommy Alexander

    This article is a lifesaver! Thank you Jerry for writing this. I am planning to go on a hike with my friends and as a newbie I am excited and nervous at the same time. I was researching about important pointers to remember when I came across this. Great job.

  • Mark Williams

    I love hiking and backpacking so this is really helpful for me. Great tip about lithium batteries because I did not know that. Also, it’s a good thing you listed the important items to place in a first aid kit. Will be sharing your tips to my friends for sure.

  • Jerry Mueller

    Happy to help! You will now have everything you need and know how to use it before you go on your trip. You will have some exciting times while hiking.

  • Jerry Mueller

    This is great! We hope you are more prepared and excited to go hiking now that you have read this article.

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