Don’t hit the trails without packing these hiking essentials that could save your life, or just your summit attempt.
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Hiking Essentials: Gear
Backpack: A good backpack is key to a comfortable hiking trip. The right backpack for you will depend on personal fit and the length of your trip (along with how much you’ll be carrying.) For a short hike, pick a backpack that’s lightweight and big enough to hold all your hiking essentials, but not so big that you’re tempted to overpack. The Hyperlite Mountain Gear Daybreak Ultralight Daypack is one of the lightest daypacks out there, weighing in at just 1.26 pounds. The light weight doesn’t mean that important features are skimped on—it still has comfortable padded straps, a hip belt that can be stashed away, a water-resistant exterior, and a padded back panel. Keep your backpack organized with Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s Stuff Sacks which are equally lightweight. Bonus: All Hyperlite gear is hand-made in Maine.
For a longer trip, we love Osprey’s Eja backpack, which comes in a variety of sizes. This backpack can hold a ton without adding extra weight (it weighs just over 2.5 lbs.). The Eja features Osprey’s trademarked AirSpeed suspension system that allows for maximum airflow between your back and the pack, keeping you cool instead of sweaty.
Water Bottle: If you don’t want to carry a ton of water on a long hike, or just want to be prepared in case of an emergency, the Lifestraw Peak Series is a good choice for a water bottle. The included filter removes bacteria, parasites, and microplastics, so that you can safely and quickly drink from any water source you find. The soft bottle is lightweight, easy to pack, and collapsible when not in use.
Portable Battery: Don’t be stuck with a dead phone in an emergency. The Biolite Charge 80 PD won’t take up too much room in your pack and can charge anything from a smartphone to a 13″ laptop.
Trekking Poles: A good set of hiking poles can help save your knees from strain on the descent, and prevent slips and falls on tough terrain or muddy trails. I like LEKI’s Cressida FX Carbon poles, which quickly break down to a packable size, making them easy to store in your backpack when you’re not using them. With a hollow shaft made from a lightweight carbon fiber, these poles won’t weigh you down, coming in at a mere 8.64 ounces.
Hiking Essentials: Footwear
Hiking Shoes: Low-top hiking shoes are lighter weight and more nimble than hiking boots. Danner’s Trail 2650 GTX shoes are designed to comfortably carry you no matter what distance you’re hiking. Even though they weigh just 18 oz. per pair, they are still waterproof, so you can trample through mud and streams without worry.
Hiking Boots: Opt for hiking boots over shoes when you’re facing a longer, tougher hike, or for those times when you’ll be carrying a heavier pack—like on an overnight trip. Hiking boots offer more ankle support, as well as additional protection from bites, scrapes, and water. I love Salewa’s Pedroc Pro Powertex Hiking Boots which focus on three important factors: comfort, protection, and lightness. Weighing an impressive 290 grams per shoe, these boots won’t slow you down on the trail.
Hiking Essentials: Clothing
Hiking Tights: Tights are a tempting choice for hikes. You probably already own something similar to these super-flexible leggings in your wardrobe for running or yoga, but a hiking version are designed to withstand the rigors of an intense hiking trail. Fjallraven’s Abisko Trekking Tights are tough enough for hiking thanks to a super durable four-way stretch fabric that has extra reinforcement over the rear and knees to protect your skin when you’re scrambling over rocks or sitting on the ground. Plus, unlike most leggings, these trekking tights come with plenty of pockets and are available in a men’s version as well.
Socks: Good socks are the key to comfortable hiking. They keep your feet dry, prevent blisters, and provide cushioning and warmth. These socks from Smartwool are made from upcycled nylon and merino wool, with a padded sock cushion for extra relief.
Hiking Pants: For serious backcountry hikes you’ll want some heavy-duty hiking pants, like Arcteryx’s Gamme LT Pant. These pants are lightweight, durable, and wind and water resistant. These pants are specially designed for women with a lower adjustable waist and a slim feminine silhouette.
Base Layer: For cold weather hikes, add a layer underneath your hiking pants with lululemon’s Fast and Free Tight, which are made from patented Nulux fabric that’s quick-drying and sweat-wicking, yet designed to feel like you’re not wearing anything at all. For trail running or less-intense hikes that don’t involve scrambling these can be worn alone.
Sunglasses: Enjoying the view at the summit means protecting your eyes with sunglasses like these options from Maui Jim. Opt for their wrap-around frames for full eye protection and scratch-resistant lenses to handle whatever the hiking trail throws at you.
Hiking Underwear: Your favorite delicates might be comfortable, but they aren’t immune from the wear of lengthy hiking trips. Look for underwear that’s moisture-wicking and odor-resistant, like these pairs from ExOfficio for both women and men. For women, Patagonia’s Switchback Sports Bra is a soft and supportive option that’s also quick-drying and won’t cause chafing.
Hiking Shirts: Smartwool’s Merino 150 Base Layer Micro Stripe Short Sleeve tops for both women and men can be worn alone or layered for cooler days, and merino wool fabric means it won’t smell, even on a longer backpacking trip. For warmer days, Patagonia Capilene Lightweight T-Shirts for women and men are an ultra-light option that’s moisture-wicking, breathable and features patented Polygiene for odor control.
Hiking Tanks: For ultra-hot days (or hikes where you want to look good in the summit photo), Krimson Klover’s Cora Sleeveless Graphic Top is a fun option. Made from a cooling cotton/spandex fabric, the tank is available in a variety of fun colors and graphics (we like the Explore mountain option).
Hiking Shorts: For hot trail days, Helly Hansen’s Technical Trail Shorts are designed to keep you cool and dry, thanks to a moisture-wicking fabric. These lightweight shorts offer plenty of stretch so you can scramble over anything in your path, and a zippered back pocket keeps your valuables secure.
Jacket: Even if it looks like it’s going to be a warm day, packing a jacket is always a good idea on hikes, especially ones with a summit above the tree line (where it can be significantly colder/windier than it is at the base). The weather can change quickly: Prepare by bringing along a lightweight jacket like the Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody, available for both women and men, which delivers an impressive amount of warmth and wind-resistance for the weight.
Hat: You’ll want a hat to keep the sun off of your face, but a regular ball caps can get very sweaty after a while. Get a hat that’s made for activities and wicks away moisture, like Arc’teryx’s Calvus Cap.
Gaiters: Although not very fashionable, gaiters, waterproof covers that slip on over your boots to protect your ankles and calves from rain and mud, are very practical. I like this pair from Outdoor Research which easily slip on and off.
Hiking Essentials: Miscellaneous
Snacks: Peanut butter sandwiches, bananas, and trail mix are also good options for packable sustenance.
Caroline Morse Teel loves to hike, especially in New England. Follow Caroline on Instagram @TravelWithCaroline for photos from the summit.
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