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When you’re packing for a hike on the trail, you don’t want to be halfway there before realizing you’ve forgotten something essential. Use our packing list to help make sure you have all you need.
What To Take On A Hiking Trip
Written by: Lily An
Table Of Contents
Summer and early autumn are the perfect seasons to explore the wilderness on foot. Packing for a hiking trip takes forethought, since civilization can seem far away once the mountains and forest are in sight.
In order to have a safe and enjoyable trip, check out what are the must have items you need to take on a hike!
(Please note: this list is relevant for warm to moderate weather. Adjust accordingly for the weather in your destination.)
Hiking Essentials Packing List
Feet First! Wear Trail Appropriate Footwear
The most important factor when considering what to take on a hike is footwear. Having well fitting, comfortable footwear can make all of the difference between a good and bad experience and can also impact how well your body copes with the conditions.
Not only will telescopic hiking poles help to reduce shock; the right shoes will soften the impact of hiking as well. The best shoes have support for the feet and ankles, along with tread, which will provide the stability that is needed on variable terrain.
In summer weather, only for short hikes through streams and watering holes, Keen sandals that cover the toes might be fine. But if you’re going further or in more temperamental weather, Gore Tex hiking boots are able to offer better ankle and foot support (along with dryness)—even in rain and over rocky soil.
Merrell and Salomon make footwear with treads that can handle mud and dirt. Lowa Renegade might be pricier, but they are conveniently designed to fit either narrow or wide feet. You can also try this waterproof hiking boot from Columbia!
For more inspiration, we have a long list of hiking boots for women!
Use Layers of Clothing to Combat All Elements
The second thing to consider when planning what to take on a hike is your clothes. While there are feminine clothing items to choose from, this is one instance where function always trumps fashion.
Layered clothing provides comfort during a long hike, and it’s important to know how each item functions to keep you comfortable.
A bikini top, worn instead of a bra, allows summertime dips in tempting springs to cool off after the workout. On top of a sleeveless top, breathable or long-sleeved layers give warmth that can be shed as you work up a sweat.
When midweight base layers with sleeves are no longer needed, a light vest might be sufficient. Columbia benton springs vests are breathable and light, and Arcadia Ii makes thin-as-skin windproof and rain-resistant jackets that easily tie around the waist as well.
Long pants should be worn for coverage from plants and scrapes. These can also prevent bites from nasty bugs and even ticks, which sometimes carry Lyme disease.
When the temperatures drop – maybe on a sunrise hike or an overnight expedition – a good set of thermals is essential along with the right outerwear!
Use an Ergonomic Bag to Lug Your Load
Unlike regular travel, packing for “what if” moments is prudent in the wild. Small essentials to include when you plan what to take on a hike include: a bandaid or two (in cases of blisters), a flashlight on a keychain (in case one needs an emergency signal or light if darks sets in early), and waterproof matches never hurt for firewood (and for detaching leeches that might find unwitting hikers near lakes).
These pocket-sized items can be carried in a lightweight bag. Eddie Bauer sells 8L Rippac Traveler packable backpacks and Cruiser daypacks, which can be folded into a pocket packet after use.
Choose a backpack that sits well across your shoulders, and make sure you fit it to yourself carefully, using all of the straps it has, otherwise you risk back pain or aches and pains.
Unless you are in bear country, plastic containers or bags should be switched for biodegradable paper lunch products for sandwich-wraps in the wilderness. Also, BPA-free compressible water bottles are sold at sporting stores, along with Camelbak soft water reservoirs and hydration backpacks for more strenuous hikes.
Our readers share their best travel water bottle options for both cold and hot beverages!
Protect Yourself From the Beating Sun
Eyewear and sun protection are important for everybody in the family. Travel-sized sunscreen should be brought along and reapplied partway through hiking. Choose one with a high SPF, even on overcast days, as you never can tell how much the sun affects you until it’s too late!
Along with a hat or visor and sunglasses, you can opt for natural deet-free bug repellant as well.
Take a look at their tried and tested sun hat recommendations!
Keep a Digital Connection For Safety
Even though cellphone towers may be far from view, GPS tracking abilities are essential to locate lost or stranded hikers, in case conditions suddenly turn for the worse.
Along with a solar powered portable power bank, a smartphone should be equipped with an album or storage-space for maps and photos. Taking a screenshot of hiking trails is prudent to do before commencing on the hike. Before progressing too far along the trail, it’s a good idea to send friends or family a photo as a location marker, so that people will know where you are trekking.
Also, a spare sandwich-ziploc bag or small waterproof bag could help save your cell phone, in case you might be crossing over slightly treacherous waterways. It’s always better to be safe than sorry when you prepare and plan what to take on a hike. Always let someone at home know your estimated time of return or arrival.
How to Pack Your Hiking Essentials
Many of our readers use packing cubes to organize their things, even for short day trips or overnight hiking. Compass Rose packing cubes allow you to arrange by number and color so you know where you put everything, even when you aren’t using the cubes for lots of clothes, but smaller essentials. Learn more in the video below.
Learn about our hacks with packing cubes in this video!
We also put together a five-part YouTube series showing the different methods to use packing cubes. If you use this specific packing strategy, packing cubes can also compress your belongings or other things.
What are your tips on what to take hiking? Please comment below!
For more hiking packing tips, please read
- Hiking Gear List for the Everest Base Camp Trek
- Best Hiking Gear List for Female Trekkers
- The Best Hiking Boots for Women
- Machu Picchu Packing List
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Author Bio: Lily An is a Canadian educator and Vancouver-born nature enthusiast. When she isn’t working or traveling, she is likely to be skiing, diving, or mountain biking with her family.