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Hiking Essentials: 24 Must-Have Adventure Items

If you need a list of hiking essentials that you should pack for each and every adventure, you’ve come to the right place. In this guide, I share the 24 hiking-must haves we don’t leave home without when exploring the great outdoors.

Hiking is one of the most rewarding activities in the world. Getting lost amongst nature, encountering wild viewpoints and epic sights, and challenging both your body and mind, you just can’t beat it. It’s a meditative activity for me—a time when I can truly be present.

There is a lot to think about when preparing for a hike, though. You need to plan your route. Check the weather. Make sure you’re capable and prepared for whatever the trail might throw at you. And, of course, be sure you have all the hiking essentials for a safe and enjoyable adventure.

In this guide, I share the 24 must-have adventure items that consistently find their way onto our hiking packing list. Let’s get to it.

woman standing on viewpoint while hiking
Keep reading for our 24 must-have hiking essentials!

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Hiking Essentials

These hiking essentials are relevant for day hikes, multi-day hikes, and everything else in between. All fit nicely into one hiking backpack, so you don’t need to worry about carrying lots of stuff. It’s all reasonably lightweight as well.

Our Top 10 Hiking Must-Haves

1. Lightweight Hiking Backpack

red lightweight backpack for hiking

Every hiker needs a reliable backpack. Choose a lightweight, durable, and comfortable pack with multiple compartments to store all of your hiking essentials.

Our hiking backpack is also a hydration pack with a 2-litre water bladder incorporated into the design. This has been a game changer for us on long hikes ensuring we have plenty of water to last us all day.

Also, opt for a design with a waterproof cover, or you can buy one separately. That way, if it rains, you don’t have to worry about all of your things getting wet and ruined.

2. Waterproof Hiking Boots

hiker wearing waterproof boots on walking trail

A good set of waterproof walking boots are a hiking must-have for obvious reasons. It might take you a while to find the right pair, but it is imperative if you want to enjoy your time on the trails.

Your hiking boots should be comfortable and relatively lightweight so that you can wear them for hours at a time. They should also provide good ankle support and have excellent traction to withstand a variety of terrains.

3. Headlamp

man wearing a headtorch while hiking through a forest

A bright, hands-free headlamp is a hiking must-have for navigating dark trails or caves and also for multi-day hikes when you need to set up camp and find your way around in the dark. Opt for one with adjustable brightness levels and a comfortable, adjustable strap.

Even if you don’t expect to be out on the trails when it’s dark, always keep one of these in your backpack. We’ve all been there when a hike takes longer than expected; it’s always better to come prepared.

4. Insulated Water Bottle

four insulated water bottles for hiking essentials

An insulated water bottle keeps drinks hot or cold for hours. It’s perfect in extreme weather conditions when you might need a refreshing beverage or a warm cup of tea. Look for a durable, BPA-free bottle with a leak-proof cap.

5. First Aid Kit

first aid kit for hiking

Safety first! A first aid kit is another hiking essential that you hope you won’t have to use, but nonetheless, it is a must for any hiking packing list.

At an absolute minimum, opt for a compact first aid kit with essentials like bandages, pain relievers, and antiseptic wipes. Blister plasters are also a handy addition.

6. Lightweight Rain Jacket

a person wearing a waterproof jacket in the rain

The weather can be unpredictable, especially when hiking in the mountains. Even if it’s forecast to be dry all day, a waterproof and breathable rain jacket is an absolute essential.

For convenience, choose a packable design that you can stow in your backpack without taking up too much space. Having one with an adjustable hood and zippered pockets is also a good idea.

7. Power Bank

solar power charger for hiking must haves

Don’t forget a fully-charged power bank when planning your hiking packing list. Ours has saved our behinds on numerous occasions, allowing us to recharge our phones and other devices too.

If you’re going on a multi-day hike, consider a solar energy power bank, so you can keep it topped up throughout your trip. Also, look for a lightweight and waterproof model with multiple USB ports.

8. Multi-tool

multi tool for hiking

A versatile multi-tool with a knife, screwdriver, scissors, and pliers is an invaluable hiking essential when out on the trail. You probably won’t need it most of the time, but it’s one worth having ‘just in case’.

While a multi-tool can help with everyday things like preparing food, it’s especially handy in an emergency, whether it’s first aid or preparing a fire. Choose one that’s compact, durable, and easy to carry.

9. Navigation Device

somebody holding a compass with hiking trail in background

A GPS device, compass, or topographic map is a hiking must-have for safe navigation. Even if you have the route mapped out on your phone, it’s always wise to have one of these methods as a backup.

Opt for a device with long battery life and an easy-to-read display, or choose a durable, waterproof map. Also, you’ll want to familiarise yourself with how to use/read it before heading out.

10. Portable Water Filter

portable water filters for hiking essentials

A portable water filter is essential for hikes, allowing peace of mind that you always have access to safe drinking water should you need it.

We always try to carry enough water in our hydration pack and additional flasks, but we always have a water purification straw with us as a backup.

There are tons of designs and methods you can choose from. But for hiking, consider a compact, lightweight filter that removes bacteria, parasites, particles and microplastics.

More Hiking Essentials

11. Hiking Socks

a hiking boot with wool socks

If you’re serious about hiking, you really need some proper hiking socks to give your feet the protection they need to withstand multiple hours or days of exercise.

High-quality hiking socks can help to prevent blisters and provide proper support over tough terrains. Opt for moisture-wicking, cushioned socks made from wool and consider thermal socks for low-temperature hikes.

12. Hiking Poles

hiker using hiking poles on a trail

Hiking poles provide stability, balance, and support on uneven terrain. You may not think of them as a hiking essential, but they have several advantages.

They are great for keeping balance, especially when carrying a heavy backpack. They help to take pressure off your joints. They’re also handy in slippery or icy conditions.

Look for collapsible, lightweight poles so you can easily stow them in your backpack. They should also be adjustable in height with comfortable grips.

13. Emergency Blanket

emergency blanket for hiking packing list

Nobody ever wants to find themselves in an emergency situation when hiking, but it does happen, and it’s better to be ready. If you get injured on the trail, or the weather changes for the worse, you may find yourself having to wait for help.

A lightweight, compact emergency blanket could be your saving grace. It will help to retain body heat in cold weather and can also be used as a ground cover or shelter. Look for an emergency blanket made of durable, reflective material.

14. Insect Repellent

a person using insect repellent while hiking

Insect repellent is a must for keeping pesky bugs at bay. After being eaten alive by midges on the Trinnacle Trail in the Peak District, we now consider it a hiking essential.

There are many natural insect-repellent remedies which are kinder to your skin and the environment than DEET. You can also buy DEET-free formulas that are proven and long-lasting.

15. Travel Towel

microfiber travel towel for hiking

A quick-drying, lightweight travel towel is perfect for wiping sweat, drying off after a swim, or cleaning gear. Find a towel made of microfiber for fast absorption and easy packing.

16. Trail Snacks/Hydration

essential hiking snacks in tupperware

Nutritious, tasty trail snacks like energy bars, nuts, and dried fruit are essential for fuelling long hikes. Look for high-protein, low-sugar options that provide sustained energy.

Also, consider packing some electrolyte tablets or hydration sachets that you can add to water. These will help replace lost salts and minerals that occur during physical exertion.

17. Hiking Hat

hiker looking at viewpoint on a trail

A suitable hiking hat provides protection in a variety of conditions. A breathable hat with a brim is a must-have in a hot and sunny climate, helping keep the sun off your face and your head cool. On the other hand, a warm hat with ear flaps is a good choice if you’re hiking in cold temperatures.

18. Sunscreen

suncream on skin

An obvious hiking essential but worth mentioning nonetheless is sunscreen. Even if you’re hiking in cold conditions, the sun can still burn you and cause skin damage. Whack a layer on exposed skin before you head out and top up periodically throughout the day.

19. Sunglasses

couple taking a selfie on hiking trail

What’s the point of a fantastic view if you’re too blinded by the sun to see it? We always carry sunglasses with us on hikes, and it’s very rare that we don’t end up using them.

For comfort, be sure they fit snuggly to your face. There’s nothing worse than sunglasses that constantly need readjusting or hoisting up your nose. An all-time pet peeve that one!

20. Gaiters

hiking wearing gaitors

One of the most exciting things about hiking is the adventure into the unknown. Unaware of the sights you might see or the terrains you might have to conquer.

Saying that, it’s all fun and games until you come across a particularly deep stream or boggy section that will leave you with soggy feet for the rest of the day. That’s when gaiters become a hiking must-have.

Gaiters slip on over your shoes and lower legs so you can wade through unexpected waterlogged areas. These would be useful when hiking in the Peak District or other places renowned for its open moorland.

21. Firestarter

somebody starting a campfire while hiking

Regardless of whether you’re going on a day hike, a multi-day hike, or anything in between, it’s always smart to keep a fire starter of some kind in your hiking backpack. That way, if you do get stuck for any reason, you have the means to start a fire.

22. Extra Clothes

Again, the weather can be unpredictable when hiking, so it’s good to come prepared for all the seasons. It’s also not unusual to catch a chill after sweating a lot, even in warm climates, so keep some extra layers to hand as a backup.

23. Enough Food & Water

hiking viewpoint

It goes without saying, but unless your trek passes through villages or towns where you can stop to refuel, you’ll need to carry enough food and water to last the hike.

For a full-day hike, you’ll want to allow for two sufficient meals per person, a variety of snacks, and approximately 3-litres of water per person.

Our go-to hiking meals are overnight oats, chicken and avocado wraps, peanut butter sandwiches, and pasta salad.

24. Tissues

It’s unusual for hiking trails to have toilet facilities along the route, so we always carry tissue with us for when nature calls. Also, take a small bin bag to place your rubbish in so you don’t litter the trail.

Do You Have These Hiking Essentials?

There you have it – the 24 hiking must-haves we always carry on our outdoor adventures. Are these on your hiking packing list? Is there anything that we missed?

Let us know! We love hearing from you. You can reach out to us in the comment section below. Otherwise, we wish you safe and happy hiking!

If you enjoyed this article, you might also be interested in our other Vanlife Guides to help with inspiration.

Charlotte & Natalie
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Charlotte & Natalie

Hi There!

We’re Charlotte & Natalie, a British lesbian couple with a passion for travel and adventure.
Here you will find everything from LGBTQ+ travel & lifestyle advice, to comprehensive guides and itineraries designed to make your travel planning easier.
We want to inspire you to live the life of your dreams.

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