10 Essential Items for Hiking

Being new to hiking can be as overwhelming as it is exciting. What do you have to take? What don’t you really need? After all, you can’t carry everything. What are the must-have items and why? Here are some basic items that are good to include in gear for any trip.


Keeping your feet healthy and happy is one of the key successes to any hike, whether it is backpacking or going for a day.  However, answering the question “what type footwear should I use?” has no real answer. When it comes to footwear, everyone has their own preferences and priorities. You need to pick something that works best for you and the type of hikes you will be doing. Do you want something that is light-weight and dries quickly, like a trail runner? Or would you prefer something that provides more ankle support like a hiking boot?

Whatever you choose, make sure that your feet are comfortable and well protected.

Map, Compass, and/or GPS

Not only do these items tell you where you are on a trail, but they also provide information for campsite locations, water accessibility, and even emergency escape routes. Some maps even show terrain information to better help you plan.

A great idea for storing your map is to place it in a Ziploc or waterproof bag to prevent it from getting damaged along the way.


We all know how important it is to keep our bodies hydrated, but did you know that consuming too little water can make you susceptible to hypothermia and altitude sickness? Extra water weighs a lot so it can be difficult to convince ourselves to carry more than we think we need, but consider if you get injured and cannot continue your hike? What if you run out of water before you have rested or before help has arrived?


Even on day hikes, it is important to bring along a snack or two. You never know what might happen that could cause you to be on the trail longer than you thought. Extra food will help you keep your energy up so you can keep moving.

We also had a situation one time where we came across a couple of people who were on the last day of their hike and ran out of food. We were able to share some of ours with them to help keep them fueled and not deprive ourselves.


Dressing in layers can be one of the most beneficial things you can do for a hike. It helps you prepare for any weather, such as hot sunshine or sudden rainstorms. The rule of thumb is to avoid cotton and always carry a hat.

Safety Items

Items that provide light, help start a fire, and signal for help (such as a whistle)  are great safety items to include in your gear. Not only are they light-weight, but they can aid you in many different situations.

First Aid Kit

Anytime you are out in the wilderness, it is a good idea to carry some form of first aid kit. Prepackaged ones are available for purchase or you can build your own.

Remember though that having the items is not enough. You need to be able to determine what to use and when and how to use it. Taking a Wilderness First aid class can help prepare you.

Knife and/or Multi-Purpose Tool

Both of these tools can help in many different ways. For example, a knife is excellent for cutting bandage strips, making tinder for a fire, and removing splinters.


Bandanas are more than just a fashion statement. You can use them to protect your skin from the sun, in your first aid kit as a bandage or brace, or even as a pre-filter to cleaning your water. There are so many different and unique ways of using this little piece of cloth that make it valuable to any type of hiker.

Sun Protection

Protecting yourself from the sun comes in many forms. Sunglasses and sunscreen are some of the most common forms of sun protection. Another option is to purchase sun protection clothing. These clothes have ultraviolet protection factor built in to better protect the parts of your body that they cover.

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