Edited by: Keri Stooksbury
& Kellie Jez
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Whether you enjoy vigorous walks through challenging terrain or a gentle ramble across open plains, hiking is extremely beneficial for your body, mind, and soul.
Up your outdoor exercise game with these brilliant hiking essentials that will help you to stay warmer, move easier, eat better, remain safer, and even keep your 4-legged friend by your side.
Take 5 and enjoy a seat around the campfire with a compact and lightweight camping chair that offers a comfortable perch on uneven terrain. When choosing your next hiking chair, look for models that set up nice and quickly and include carry bags for easy transportation.
Good old-fashioned foldable camping chairs come with 4 legs and offers exceptional stability and a high seated position, but there are also some brilliant 3-legged options, as well as low-level chairs, that allow you to stretch your legs out and really relax.
Before you buy, check that the chair has the capacity to hold you comfortably, and look for useful added extras such as drink holders, footrests, and even rain covers for even more comfort.
Say goodbye to hard floors and uneven surfaces and sleep suspended from the trees. Easy to set up, compact enough to carry with you, and super comfortable to sleep in, you can sleep, rest, or swing with these beautiful sling-style beds.
Available in single or double sizes, these awesome old-fashioned sleepers are an excellent choice for modern-day adventurers. Cotton hammocks are breathable and quick to dry when wet, while those made from parachute material are extremely durable and resistant to tears.
Measuring in at around 13 feet apiece, you can choose between spreader bar hammocks that offer a flatter, wider profile or classic hammocks that are raised at both ends.
Hot Tip: For even better protection in the great outdoors, invest in a hammock that comes complete with a tarp or mesh bug shield. Most makes and models also have straps and carabineers included for easy setup and can be folded up into their very own little stuff packs.
Enjoy all the comforts of home even when you are away with a compact and incredibly comfortable travel pillow. While household pillows can be bulky and cumbersome to carry, these petite pillows will ensure a great night’s sleep, even when you are out in the open.
Choose from compressible pillows that fold up into half their size to fit in your backpack, inflatable pillows with an air chamber core that can be inflated super quickly, or a memory foam pillow that is larger in size and just as comfortable as its contemporaries on the ground.
With soft and washable covers or removable pillowcases, and a choice of sizes and even shapes, camping pillows are the ultimate accessory for your bed beneath the stars.
A tent should be your number 1 priority on your next camping trip. There are literally thousands to choose from, and they are available in a variety of shapes, styles, and sizes. Before you buy, consider how many people will be using it and then size up a sleeper or 2 so that you have enough space to sleep comfortably and hold all of your belongings.
If you plan hiking or traveling long distances, you won’t want it to be too heavy, so the weight when packed will be an important factor. Most tents have 1, 2, 3, 4, or even 5 season ratings to describe their ability to withstand the ever-changing weather conditions. As a general guide, 1 season tents are extremely basic, while 4 or 5 season tents claim to be waterproof, windproof, and built to last.
Your tent should also offer “windows” for ventilation as they can feel really stuffy and cramped in hot weather, and built-in rainflys help to keep downpours at bay. Finally, consider the footprint or flooring in your tent, and ensure that it is strong enough to keep water out and protect you and your fellow campers against the discomfort of uneven terrain.
Keep your feet and ankles dry with a sturdy pair of gaiters. Designed to cover the gap between your hiking pants and boots, these easy-to-wear protective sleeves come with a loop on the bottom to hook under the heel of your footwear. These are a waterproof, breathable, and versatile addition to your hiking gear, available in a range of different styles and lengths.
To ensure maximum protection, look for gaiters that are made from a waterproof and breathable material, and those that fasten on the front are easy to put on and take off. Particularly useful on multi-day hikes, a good pair of gaiters will keep the water away from the top of your boots and protect your clothing from mud, snow, and waterlogged conditions.
While you would never consider going hiking without the correct boots, coat, and warm weather gear, your hands are surprisingly 1 area that often gets neglected. Open to the elements more than any other part of your body, finding the right pair of hiking gloves will keep your hands feeling warm without limiting your dexterity.
Typically made of multiple layers, the best hiking gloves have a water and windproof outer shell, an insulated middle to keep your hands warm, and a liner to wick away sweat no matter how hard you hike. They should also have adjustable, longer length cuffs that come up above the sleeve of your jacket to keep snow, ice, and rain out in harsh conditions.
Finally, make light work of touch screens with clever digit patches that allow you to use your phone or GPS, as well as increased grip patterns on the palms to hold your hiking poles.
A hiking hat will not only keep your head warm and dry in bad weather, but it can also protect you from the harmful rays of the sun. As one of the least technical but most important parts of your hiking gear, you should take the time to consider the best type of hat for your favorite type of hike.
Choose from wide-brimmed Booney hats that offer incredible ventilation, UV protection, and the ability to shade your eyes from the sun in warmer climes, or opt for a snug, thickly woven beanie hat to keep your head protected from the cold and snow.
While a basic hat will do the job well enough, you can upgrade your comfort and protection by choosing headgear with built-in sun flaps, ear protection, or even fur trims for extremely cold weather.
Hot Tip: Before you buy, be sure to be familiar with the size of your head as an ill-fitting garment will do you no good. You should also look for hats with chin straps to keep them on, even in the wind, or adjustable tabs at the crown to ensure you can always enjoy a comfortable fit.
Like most of your hiking gear, the items you choose will be determined by your destination. For increased versatility, look for jackets that offer a traditional 3-layer design with a warm and soft base layer that wicks away moisture from the skin, a middle layer of insulation, and an outer shell that offers protection against rain, snow, and wind.
Your jacket’s weight and durability is also an important consideration, as you won’t want to be weighed down with a bulky jacket that looks fashionable but isn’t built to last. Many hiking jackets come with a removable outer shell, allowing you to remove it when it is no longer needed.
There are a variety of premium brand fabrics such as Gore-Tex or Polartec that offer extreme, waterproof levels of protection. Hoods are a must-have for inclement weather conditions, and zipper pockets and adjustable ties add comfort and practicality on the go.
A good pair of hiking leggings can be worn on their own or as an additional layer underneath your waterproofs when the weather really turns. Made from advanced moisture-wicking and odor-resistant materials, they are an excellent choice for technical hikes in any weather.
Form-fitting and high-waisted, these leggings are designed to fit you like a glove while offering an excellent level of protection against damp weather, vegetation, and even bug bites. Look for leggings that cover the full length of your legs, reinforced knees to ensure greater durability, and flatlock seams to prevent rubbing or chaffing.
Versatile enough to be worn for almost any kind of outdoor exercise, they should also be stretchy enough to allow for a wide range of movement without restriction.
Modern-day hiking pants offer lightweight protection against the elements. Made from hard-wearing and durable synthetic materials, a good pair of hiking pants will be waterproof, windproof, and comfortable enough to let you move with ease.
Choose from convertible hiking pants where the bottom legs can be removed when the sun shines, roll-up hiking pants that offer extra ventilation, or traditional hiking pants for everyday hikes in every kind of weather. Your hiking pants should be strong enough to perform every time you wear them, so look for ripstop fabrics and reinforced panels to ensure that they are able to keep up with you.
Elasticated waists feel super comfortable, while zipper pockets are practical and convenient. Moisture-wicking liners are also a good option if you are planning on lots of physical excursions, and woven linings will keep your legs warm even in the wind and cold.
Comfort is key when you are hiking, and cold feet or bunched up socks can eventually become a major irritation that will dramatically damage your performance.
Look for breathable socks to keep your feet at a comfortable temperature while also being thick enough to offer shock absorption and prevent blisters when you walk. Merino wool is a popular choice with regular hikers as the fabric feels soft against your skin while being breathable and antibacterial to help keep foot odor at bay.
Crew socks offer a practical mid-calf length for wearing under or over your pants, and the elasticated ribbing at the top will prevent the annoyance of your sock slipping down into your shoe. For more extreme conditions, you can opt for double-layer socks that will help to prevent blisters.
Underrated but extremely important, the undergarments you choose to wear while hiking can have a significant impact on your comfort and performance.
Look for underwear that is made from breathable, moisture-wicking, and quick-drying material, and avoid designs that may chafe or irritate your skin. Merino wool is once again a popular choice as it allows your skin to breathe and is naturally antimicrobial to prevent the build-up of sweat or bacteria.
Synthetic fabrics like nylon or polyester blends are also a good choice as they are easy to wash, quick-drying, and designed to offer an excellent range of movement. Whatever fabric you choose, look for flatlock seams to prevent any irritation.
Let your dog carry their own gear with them with a specially-designed doggy backpack. Made from durable, lightweight, and dog-proof materials, these smart little backpacks can turn your pampered pooch into a pack hound in an instant.
More like a saddlebag than an actual backpack, the 2 pannier pockets are designed to evenly distribute the weight across your dog’s back, and the adjustable harness is secured under your dog’s chest and belly. Made from water-resistant nylon or polyester, the contents will remain dry in light rain, and some come complete with water bladders and additional gear straps and loops.
Keeping your 4-legged friend fed and watered on your hike is easy with the right type of pet-friendly accessories. Your pet pooch will love water bottles with silicone dish-spouts for quick sips, collapsible bowls that can be used for a light lunch or sneaky snacks, and even pocket-friendly fabric feeding bowls.
Look for materials that are lightweight and easy to clean out, and carabiners and hanging straps make it easy to attach the feeding kit to your rucksack while you hike.
Also suitable for long car journeys and walks in the park, there is a huge variety of lightweight, portable, and easy to use dog bowls available, which means you’ll never have to hike without your best friend ever again.
Hot Tip: Our ultimate guide to traveling with pets helps you plan for the road ahead (and the unexpected), from packing to boarding and feeding.
To cook efficiently over an open fire or on a camping stove, the most important items in your cooking set will be your pots and pans. Lightweight and offering excellent heat conductivity, most hiking sets are made from stainless steel with a nonstick coating for easy cleaning.
Well-fitted lids will prevent splatter, and foldable handles make it easy to fit different size pans inside of one another for compact carrying. Utensils for cooking and eating will also be needed, and for hot drinks or a warm cup of soup, be sure to bring an insulated cup with you, too.
You can compile your own cooking kit using your favorite items or choose one of the many ready-prepared ones that include essentials such as pots, pans, cutlery, knives, ladles, and much more.
No matter where you are headed, you will definitely need to take water with you. Hiking water bottles need to be sturdy enough to withstand potential knocks, drops, and falls while still being light enough to carry in your backpack.
Look for bottles made from BPA-free materials to prevent any weird tastes or odors permeating your water, and choose ones that are easy to drink from. Stainless steel canteen-style bottles offer insulation to keep your water cold, while reusable plastic bottles are leakproof and lightweight.
Wide-mouth designs allow you to add fruit or ice to your water, and with a wealth of styles, designs, and even capacities available, it shouldn’t be too difficult to find the perfect hiking water bottle for you.
Hiking boots are designed to protect your feet from wet conditions and uneven terrain without being too heavy or uncomfortable to move in. Spend some time considering where you will be wearing them before you commit to a particular style.
You could opt for mid-cut hiking boots that offer increased ankle support and balance, or go for a high-cut option that will still protect your ankles while also providing support on dangerous terrain.
To ensure you enjoy maximum traction even in wet conditions, look for boots that offer a chunky tread pattern on the outsole and a cushioned midsole to help your feet to absorb shock and increase your energy return on the move. If you are planning on wet weather walks, a waterproof liner and uppers are a must.
A great choice for trials and hikes where water will be involved, these lightweight but incredibly durable sandals are great for mild climates and tame terrain. Look for sandals that offer arch support and cushioning as well as a footbed that is partially shaped to fit your foot.
Sandals that come with EVA or foam midsoles work harder at absorbing shock for increased comfort, and adjustable straps made from leather or synthetics can offer a tailor-made fit for the shape of your foot. Rugged outsoles with non-slip tread patterns will help you to remain upright even in the water, and the open design of the sandals ensures that they will dry quickly even after being fully submerged.
Hiking shoes offer a practical alternative to boots for casual hikes and trail walking. Lightweight and comfortable to wear, these rugged running shoes allow you to remain nimble on less technical terrain.
A great choice for dry weather walking, hiking shoes should still offer non-slip outsoles, cushioned midsoles, and an element of protection against uneven terrain, as well as support for your heels and arches.
If you are planning on undertaking more extreme adventures, look for hiking shoes with reinforced soles and toes, as these super durable runners offer better protection for your feet without the weight and bulk of heavier hiking boots. If you plan on spending some time near water or wading in creeks, you might also want to bring a pair of water shoes with you.
Hiking backpacks come in a huge variety of sizes and designs, and the best backpack to suit your needs will depend on exactly what they are. Consider a pack that offers up to 20-liter capacity for day hikes, while larger 35-liter capacity backpacks would be better for multi-day hikes.
Waterproof material is a must for life in the open air, and padded shoulder straps and breathable back panels offer the comfort you need to traverse long distances on foot. Larger backpacks may need built-in frames to keep them upright, and sternum and hip straps help to distribute the weight of your belongings evenly.
Useful additional features include exterior webbing and loops, plenty of zippered pockets, and even split compartments for keeping your sleeping bag separate from the rest of your gear.
Finally, ensure that the backpack you choose is the right size for your torso, especially with larger models, to ensure that it doesn’t hurt your back or shoulders no matter how much gear you take with you.
Enjoy hands-free carrying with a fanny pack. Designed to sit around your waist, these useful little pouches are a great choice for wear during outdoor exercise such as running, cycling, and hiking. Your fanny pack should be large enough to fit your wallet, cell phone, and other essential items without being bulky.
Look for models made from a water-resistant material, and high-quality zippers are a must to prevent the rain from seeping through. Breathable back panels add comfort and increased ventilation, while adjustable waist straps help you to find the perfect fit either under or over your outdoor clothing.
Additional extras, including headphone holes, hidden pockets, and key fobs, are also nice touches to have.
These lightweight hiking accessories help to provide stability and reduce the impact on your legs, knees, and ankles while you walk. Made from super lightweight materials such as carbon fiber or aluminum, most hiking poles can be adjusted from 24 to 55 inches, and you should look for twist or lever locks that make them easy to adjust in an instant.
Most poles come with either foam, rubber, or cork grips on the handles that can wick away moisture while being comfortable to hold, while built-in wrist straps will prevent the poles from slipping away from you.
On the bottom end, the walking tips offer increased traction on rough terrain, while additional “baskets” prevent the poles from sinking into the mud or snow and are wide enough to stop them from getting stuck in the cracks as you go.
Folding or telescoping trekking poles are compact enough to fit into your rucksack, making them a convenient option for hikes away from home.
These lightweight and incredibly portable blankets are designed to keep you warm even in the most extreme conditions.
Made from vaporized aluminum, these super-thin sheets of plastic film redirect the infrared energy from your body to help regulate the temperature in freezing conditions. Essential in emergencies, they are cheap to buy and compact to carry, and could literally save your life should the worst happen.
When choosing an emergency blanket for your next adventure, look for one that is large enough to wrap around your entire body when fully open to prevent heat escaping, and ones that come with paracord are useful for tying down as an emergency shelter in really harsh conditions.
Designed to perfectly fit the female form, these handy little devices will ensure that you never get caught short away from home.
Highly portable, these straw- or funnel-shaped plastic extenders allow women to pee while standing, offering you easy relief even in the most extreme and remote locations. Choose from disposable cardboard models for temporary use, or invest in a reusable plastic or silicone device that can be cleaned with soap and water in between uses.
While nearly all makes offer a similar concept, look for models that offer a reliable seal and thin funnels for easy use and portability, while those that offer hydrophobic capabilities to wick away moisture or antibacterial agents for increased hygiene should be considered on longer hiking trips for the ultimate in comfort and practicality.
Accidents can happen, especially when you are traversing uneven ground, so a first aid kit is a must-have for any outdoor adventurer. While you don’t need to take the contents of your entire bathroom cabinet with you, there are some essentials that can take care of most mishaps on your hikes.
Stay safe with a first aid kit that includes at the very least antiseptic wipes, antibacterial cream, assorted bandages, gauze pads, medical tape, Band-Aids, blister treatments, bug spray and sting cream, antihistamines, tweezers, safety pins, and basic pain-relief medication.
Pack everything in an obvious bag or container so your first aid kit can be found easily by any member of your party, and make sure it is waterproof to protect the contents in all weathers.
Sunscreen is just as important to use while you are hiking as it is when you are on the beach. Exposure to the sun’s harmful rays can cause painful damage to your skin that can not be reversed. Even on overcast days, the sun’s powerful rays can still reach your skin, and exposed areas such as your face, arms, and neck can burn if you are not protected.
Look for broad-spectrum sunscreens that offer SPF 50 UVA/UVB protection with added water and sweat-resistance to ensure maximum protection for your skin. You must take enough sunscreen to allow for a full reapplication every 2 hours at the most. Waterproof sunscreens may only offer protection for even shorter periods of time if you are in the water, so you may need to reapply at more frequent intervals.
Take more than you think you will need, and invest in several smaller bottles to ensure that you have easy access to them. Finally, sunscreen does expire, so check the date on the container before you leave home.
A compass will help you to orient your map, identify nearby land features and locate your position, making it a must-have for any kind of hiker.
Look for compasses that use a global needle to find the magnetic north in both the Northern and Southern Hemispheres and one that offers declination adjustment so that you can correct your compass for the magnetic field in your area. A sighting mirror will offer more precise navigation if you are heading away from the trails, and a clinometer can help you to assess avalanche hazards on mountains and high peaks.
Also, consider a compass that offers a magnifying glass to make it easier to read your map. Compact, incredibly useful, and easy to use once you know-how, a compass should always be included in your hiking kit.
A flashlight will cut through the darkness and help you find your way when the light fades. Flashlights with adjustable beams offering between 250 and 2,000+ lumens of light are a popular choice with hikers as they can easily illuminate the path ahead of you, and lithium batteries offer an advantage over regular batteries in colder conditions.
Choose a small but rugged model to ensure it is hardy enough to withstand bumps and knocks on the move. With many flashlights offering different modes, one that offers a flashing SOS setting is a sensible choice in case you find yourself in dangerous situations in the dark.
Hot Tip: Investing in a flashlight with waterproof housing is also a good idea as these will withstand very wet weather and even be submerged in water.
It goes without saying that a piece of rope can be used in any number of ways, and nowhere more so than in the great outdoors. When you are hiking, you do not need great long coils of climbing rope, but compact and super strong lengths of cord that are easy to carry but incredibly strong.
A rope can allow you to safely descend down rocky crags, be used as a safety barrier, or can even be used to tie down your tent or fix a broken shoelace. Chose a length of paracord that is water-resistant enough to cope with all weathers and offer high tensile strength.
Available as a small coil or combined with other clever hiking essentials, you should always keep a rope handy when hiking.
Wearing a watch while hiking will not only allow you to keep your eye on the time, it can also act as an excellent navigational tool. Hiking watches offer so much more than just a regular watch, and although they can be more expensive, they are a worthwhile accessory for every avid outdoor adventurer.
Look for a watch that comes with an altimeter, as well as an onboard digital compass or GPS to help you find your location and track how far you have traveled. Many hiking watches are also equipped with a barometer or temperature sensor to allow you to track changes in the weather, and some also feature built-in fitness trackers to monitor your heart rate, sleep pattern, and daily steps.
Sync your phone with your watch, and you will have easy access to a record of your hiking achievements, as well as precise and accurate location data in case you need to call for assistance while away from home.
Whether you are heading out into the mountains, exploring state or national parks, or staying closer to home, hiking is an inexpensive and easily accessible way to enjoy time out of doors. Having the right gear with you on your next hike will ensure that you are able to maximize your performance while minimizing the risks as you move your body and refocus your mind.
While you might be tempted to go all out as a beginner hiker and purchase lots of gear, you can get started with a few essentials and gradually build your gear. At a minimum, beginner hikers should invest in a decent pair of hiking shoes or boots, a first aid kit for emergencies, a comfortable hiking backpack or fanny pack, and breathable and practical clothing.
While it may seem tempting to overpack for a hike, this can make your trip less enjoyable. You should not take heavy and bulky things on a hike that you will regret having to lug on the trail as you chew up the miles. Extra clothes, a huge camera, or books are just not necessary.
Jeans are not a good choice for hiking as the material isn’t suitable for the conditions you could face. You’ll want hiking pants that are breathable, waterproof, warm, and can wick away sweat.
It can come down to how technical the terrain is, but a good pair of hiking shoes or boots are what you want to wear hiking. Look for shoes or boots with cushioned midsoles for comfort, good treads from traction, and ones made from waterproof or water-resistant materials.
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