This list provides a comprehensive list of hiking gear and descriptions of different pieces of equipment that you might need on a hike. Everything listed on our checklists is included and described here in our comprehensive hiking gear list.
Next to the name of each piece of gear in the hiking gear list, you’ll find a brief description of the item and often some tips on how to use it or on what to think about before purchasing it. You’ll find that you won’t need every piece of gear on this list, but some of the items described will make your hike a whole lot easier!
|An avalanche beacon gives off a signal that can help rescuers find someone who has been buried by an avalanche. They cost several hundred dollars and weigh ~ half a pound. If you’re hiking, skiing, climbing, or snowshoing in an avalanche-prone area, seriously consider carrying one of these – it could save your life.
|Backpacks, obviously, hold your stuff. Before buying one, consider your needs and preferences. Don’t use a pack designed for a multi-day backpacking trip for a dayhike – you don’t want to carry around a 5 lb. pack for no reason! Consider pockets when deciding on a pack. The extra fabric adds weight, but pockets can also help keep you organized. Packs are designed differently for the torso length and shape of women vs. men, so choose accordingly. The size of a backpack is measure in cubic inches with multi-day trip packs generally over 3500 cubic inches. Buying a smell proof backpack with a big amount of different pockets and a holder for a tent will be the best choice.
|If you encounter a sudden downpour, a backpack cover can save your trip. It will protect your spare clothes AND your sleeping bag from getting wet – and if that stuff gets wet, you might be in for a rough time. If you can’t get dry because all of your gear is wet, hypothermia is a real possibility. Backpack covers range from sturdy trash bags to covers produced for this exact purpose. When buying a cover, get one that will fit over your backpack when it’s full with gear strapped to the outside.
|A balaclava is a piece of winter clothing that covers the head, much of the face, and the neck. It can be worn so that only the eyes are exposed, it can be folded up into a hat, or it can be rolled down around the neck.
|Bear spray is essentially a large can of potent pepper spray that is designed to deter a bear from attacking. Spray distances range from 10 to 30 feet. Use with caution – don’t spray yourself. While no deterrent can guarantee safety around a bear, the US Fish & Wildlife Service argues that properly used bear spray is most effective in fending off a bear attack. If traveling by plane, plan to buy bear spray at your destination.
|Bear proof containers are a must, and in some areas a requirement, when hiking in areas where you might encounter a bear. Typically these containers are very durable plastic cylinders with wide-mouth openings. Very lightweight bear bags are also available but aren’t permitted in some areas (the High Sierras, for example, require the use of a can). The other benefit of the bag is that it collapses as you eat your food; the can holds its shape and takes up a lot of room in your pack.
|Use biodegradable soap to wash dishes and yourself while hiking or camping – it breaks down in soil and is more environmentally-friendly than ordinary soaps. Don’t use these soaps IN water because the ingredients will negatively impact the water body. Collect water and use the soap several hundred feet away from the water source to minimize its impact.
|A bivy (short for “bivouac”) sack is an alternative shelter that’s far lighter than a tent. Most are waterproof, yet breathable, and are generally just roomy enough for a person in a sleeping bag. A mesh window gives you fresh air and a way to view the stars! A bivy sack is also considered to be a useful piece of emergency gear if you’re just out for the day, but you want to be prepared to spend the night in case of injury or bad weather.
|Boots are likely the most important piece of gear that you’ll buy- there’s no better way to ruin a hike than by wearing poorly-fitting boots. Boots protect your feet from rocks and other obstacles, providing comfortable support for miles and miles of walking over often difficult terrain. They are available with synthetic and/or leather components, in high top or low top styles. See our “Hiking Boots” page for more information.
|You are pretty likely to encounter flying or crawling critters while hiking! Bug repellents discourage insects such as flies and mosquitoes, as well as ticks, from landing on your skin or clothing and can prevent insect-borne diseases like Lyme disease and West Nile virus. The most effective repellents contain synthetic compounds such as DEET or picaridin, but the CDC reports that plant-based oil of lemon eucalyptus is generally effective as well. Pregnant women and parents should discuss the use of repellents on themselves or their children with a physician.
|For many, a camera is a required piece of gear. You never know when you might stumble across the most beautiful view or the most intriguing plant or insect. When choosing a camera to take on a hike, consider the size and weight. And don’t forget a waterproof case, even if it’s just a plastic storage bag! Also, depending on the length of your trip, cameras that require batteries (rather than requiring electricity for recharging) are usually preferable for hiking because you can easily carry along extra batteries but finding an outlet in the woods is very rare…
|A carabiner is a metal loop or oval that has a spring-loaded “gate”. Carabiners are most commonly used in climbing, but they are handy for hiking too. They are a great way to attach water bottles, camera bags, and other pieces of gear to the outside of a pack or to a belt. The gear is securely attached, but quickly and easily accessible.
|A must when hiking in cold and/or wet weather, a coat made with Gore-Tex is windproof and waterproof, yet breathable. While rubber rain coats are also waterproof, they are not acceptable for hiking or outdoor exercise because your own moisture will be trapped and you’ll end up wet and cold from the inside out.
|Compasses are used, along with a map, to navigate. An important thing to keep in mind is that in most places, magnetic north (north according to the compass) is not the same as true north (the “top” of Earth and usually “up” on a map). This phenomenon is termed “declination.” USGS topo maps tell you the amount of declination where you are. So if you’re hiking in Arizona, the declination is 14 degrees off from true north
|Compression sacks are useful for organizing your gear in your backpack. Additionally, you can squish out as much air as possible in clothing bags, freeing up room in your pack.
|Convertible hiking pants
|Convertible hiking pants have legs that can zip off so suddenly you’re wearing shorts! Perfect for days that start cool but warm up considerably.
|Before deciding on exactly what pots and/or pans you want to bring along, think about what meals you might make. If you want to limit the weight of your pack, make meals that only require a single cooking pot. If you don’t mind a little weight and would love to have brownies and pizza after a long hike, consider packing an outdoor oven, like a Bakepacker. Cookware with a removable handle is easier to fit in your pack. As far as the kind of material goes: aluminum is cheaper, but less durable; stainless steel is less likely to scratch and easier to clean, but heavier; titanium is light, durable, and easy to clean, but expensive.
|Coffee is a must drink after hiking or outdoors as it gives you a break and in parallel makes your mind more active for the next moves. There are equipment that you can carry easily in your backpack without much fuzz. You can read about camping coffee makers at Friedcoffee and select as per your needs.
Crampons, which attach to the bottom of hiking or mountaineering boots, have sharp points to prevent or limit slipping on snow and ice. Typically, crampons are used for serious winter mountaineering situations or ice climbing, but in-step crampons can be used for hiking on hard-packed snow or in potentially icy conditions. For example, in-step crampons are highly recommended for winter hiking in the Grand Canyon.
Not everyone needs all of the hiking gear listed here, but consider each item carefully and decide for yourself if it’s a good fit for the way that you enjoy the outdoors.