20 Essential Items Every Hiker Needs
Updated: Oct 14, 2019
Whether hiking has been a passion of yours for years, or the latest Instagram influencer / photographer / self-timer phenomenon has sparked an interest in you to experience the outdoors, exploring in mountain-fresh air is a pastime that everyone should experience.
Into the Wild
It can be intimidating getting out into the wild, especially if it’s unknown, uncharted territory for you. So, we rounded up our best tips for beginner and intermediate hikers who are looking for a check-list — what to wear, what to pack, what items to bring to help keep you safe, and more.
Where to start? Find a hike / trailhead that interests you, find its map, find a friend (or a few) who are along for the adventure, bring and wear gear that will keep you comfortable and safe, and get exploring…
20 Items Every Hiker Needs
5. Did you know that bear bells are a thing of the past? Park rangers have found they, in fact, do the opposite, and may attract a bear your way….bear spray is now recommended, and often required, when hiking back-country in certain parts of the country (especially terrain within Grand Teton National Park and Glacier National Park). Sabre Frontiersman Bear Spray is one of the most recommended bear sprays; hopefully you won’t ever need it, but if you encounter a bear, never run — “stop what you are doing and evaluate the situation. Identify yourself by speaking in a calm, appeasing tone. Back away slowly, preferably in the direction you came. Walk, don't run, and keep your eye on the bear so you can see how it will react” says Bear Smart.
6. Packable snacks to give you energy when on the trail. Some of our fav packed items are Perfect Bar, nuts and seeds / trail-mix, a sandwich, beef jerky, fruit, nut butter, tuna, granola, and veggies.
7. High-quality crew-length hiking socks are essential to avoid blisters, keep your hiking boots from rubbing on your ankles, keep the feet from absorbing moisture, and keep your arch and feet comfortable throughout your adventure. Smart Wool is one of our favorites, as they perform well, and also come in fun patterns and prints -- like the Women’s Hike Light Summer Nights Print Crew Socks and the Men’s PhD Pro Endurance Print Crew Socks.
8. Camping hammocks are perfect when you want to take a load off and take in the views; Legit Camping’s Double Hammock is lightweight and portable, perfect for taking a little nap mid-hike, or snagging the perfect IG photo from your Insta-Husband or BFF. We love all the color options, which give a large variety for anyone’s taste. Wise Owl makes a great single option.
9. Light up your adventure so you’re never left in the dark; packing a headlamp allows you to illuminate a trail or path when and if needed. There are many varieties great for camping and everyday use, but Black Diamond and Petzl are two standouts.
10. You should never hike alone and never hike without a first aid kit; if you’re hiking with a fury friend, you absolutely have to check out the Adventure Medical Kits ADS Trail Dog First Aid Kit — designed for common injuries dogs may experience on the trail, it’s packed with dog-specific medical solutions. In case you need some TLC? The Adventure Medical Kits are top-rated.
11. Venture off the road while still staying in touch…You really can’t go wrong with any Garmin products, but the inReach SE®+ Satellite Communicator allows you to satellite text, trigger an interactive SOS to the 24/7 search and rescue monitoring center in case of an emergency, track and share your location with family and friends, enables access to downloadable maps¹, U.S. NOAA charts, color aerial imagery and more, and has onscreen GPS routing plus built-in digital compass, barometric altimeter and accelerometer.
12. Whether you’re into fitness tracking, have to monitor your heart rate for a health condition, want to monitor blood oxygen saturation levels, be able to access maps, analyze sleep monitoring, sync other devices, play music, use card-less pay systems, or just have a watch that can last up to a couple weeks without having to re-charge, the fēnix® 5X Plus by Garmin is an excellent watch for hiking, since it truly does (and tracks) it all.
13. Keep your eyes safe with glare-free vision on the trails with polarized sunnies; make sure you chose a style that offers 100% UV protection and lenses that block reflected light. Also be sure to test the comfort of your travel sunglasses, and see how they feel and fit under a hat. The ERIKA CLASSIC by Raybans are great for women, and the Maui Jim
Red Sands Polarized Sunglasses for men are both great picks.
14. Speaking of sunnies, are they really complete without rocking Croakies?! Born out of Jackson Hole, WY, and crafted up in Bozeman, MT, these gems are fun, stylish, durable, and functional for all your outdoor activities, hiking and beyond. They’ll keep your shades on through all your explorations, and you’ll look cute/dapper while doing so.
15. You don’t have to be worried about aging, sun-spots, and wrinkles for sun protection to be important. A UPF 50 hat keeps your skin and eyes safe from the sun when on long adventure days. We found a few that will still keep you hip and stylish on the trails (because we know that’s important, too). A few of our faves: Sloggers Women's Wide Brim Braided Sun Hat, ELLEWIN Unisex Baseball Cap UPF 50, The North Face Horizon Ball Cap, and The North Face Horizon Breeze Brimmer Hat
16. A Leatherman is one of the most popular multi-tools on the market, and for great reason. It offers a variety of functions, variety of blades, wire cutters, plyers, screwdrivers, and more…it’s small and compact and fits easily into any daypack to help keep you safe in case of an emergency, or for daily uses, like cutting food, fixing your gear, etc…The Leatherman Squirt PS4 Multi-tool is a great choice.
17. While getting outdoors should mean unplugging, it’s safer to bring your phone in case of an emergency, and let’s be real, to take the perfect shot for IG. If you’re not bringing a point-and-shoot or DSLR camera, and you’re wanting to capture footage with your phone’s video or photo app, be sure to pack a portable charger like the Anker PowerCore. Heaven forbid you took a wrong turn and needed to contact someone (hopefully when you’re in range of cell service), it’s nice to know your phone won’t die from snapping photos and/or video during your hike.
18. Clothing with UPF 50 and/or bug-barrier protection is essential if your hike is going to be in the sunshine or an area well-known for mosquitos. Royal Robbins is one of our favorite clothing lines that incorporates both of those things into their functional pieces. With both pants, shirts, shorts, and accessories offering UPF and bug protection, scope their site to browse all their styles, like the Women's Bug Barrier Discovery III Pant, Men's Bug Barrier Traveler Zip N' Go Pant, Men's Expedition Long Sleeve Shirt, and more.
19. When hiking, you’ll typically find yourself in higher elevation than you may be used to; this means your skin will likely be drier and your lips will be more chapped. A lip balm with SPF is great to pack in your day bag so you can keep your lips hydrated and happy while in the elements. We grab COOLA because it’s low on the EGA’s rating (scores only a 2, so is super clean), is SPF 30, and frankly, because it doesn’t taste like soap like many other brands we’ve tried. If COOLA is a little too froo-froo for your liking, a classic chapstick like Blistex Medicated Lip Balm SPF 15, is our favorite for SPF + moisturizing go-to.
20. While no one ever wants to think about it, in the case of emergency, it’s important to have a mini stock of survival items. Fire starter, matches, an emergency blanket, a whistle, and a lighter should all be mandatory items you throw in your day-pack for the knock-on-wood-just-in-case scenario. A few of our faves — UCO Titan Stormproof Match Kit, SOL Emergency Blanket, and Soto Pocket Torch with Refillable Lighter.
Leave No Trace
We hope to see you on the trails! As with any trip into Mother Nature, respect the public spaces you’re enjoying by leaving no trace — there are 7 Leave No Trace Principles, as defined by the National Park Service, as the following:
Plan ahead and prepare
Travel and camp on durable surfaces
Dispose of waste properly
Leave what you find
Minimize campfire impacts and be careful with fire
Respect and do not approach wildlife
Be considerate of other visitors
Have fun, be safe, and take a hike!
Outdoor Essentials Via the USDA