All hikers put careful thought into the jackets, boots, and backpacks that they bring on the trail. But there are a few essential hiking items that most people don’t consider before setting out. These five unexpected things could make or break your next hiking trip.
All of the products featured in this story were hand-selected by our travel editors. Some of the links featured in this story are affiliate links, and SmarterTravel may collect a commission (at no cost to you) if you shop through them.
Suunto 7 Smartwatch
Many of the world’s best hikes are off-the-grid, which is great for solitude, but not so great when you lose the trail—unless you have the Suunto 7. This smartwatch relies on GPS (not cell data) to pinpoint your exact geographic location. Before you set out on the trail, download offline maps to your watch (you can even use the Suunto app to plan out your own custom route), and easily see at a glance if you’re on track. The maps show heatmaps of highly-trafficked trails, so you can discover hidden gems (or avoid the crowds if you prefer).
The Sunnto’s battery will last for more than a full day of activity, so you won’t have to worry about running out of power before your hike is over.
Hiking boots are considered the most important piece of gear for any trek, but there’s an easy way to make any pair instantly better—add in performance insoles. Superfeet’s Adapt Run orthotic insoles add cushioning and support to trail runners, and actually even help your foot move the way it is supposed to.
The insoles add moisture-wicking, breathability, and odor control to keep your shoes fresh for longer.
Snacks and meals are essential for fueling a hard hike, but choosing the wrong food to bring can make your trek harder than it has to be. Eating candy or processed carbs can be tempting for the quick energy spike they bring, but they will likely be followed by a blood sugar crash that can leave you feeling even worse.
For sustained energy that will power you through to the summit, pack nutrient-dense, easy-to-digest foods. Some good options include trail mix, whole-grain peanut butter sandwiches, and fresh or dried fruit (without added sugar).
You always bring a water bottle on your adventures, but have you considered what you’re putting in it? If you’re going on a hike that will last more than an hour, it’s recommended that you supplement your water with electrolytes. Sodium, in particular, can help you retain fluids and rehydrate more effectively than plain water. Nuun Sport tablets dissolve quickly in water and don’t have many extra ingredients beyond electrolytes.
Even if you’re only setting out on a short hike, you should always pack an emergency kit in the event something goes wrong. Look for one (or make your own) that contains everything you’d need to survive a night in the outdoors: a light, bandages, whistle, firestarter, blanket, and water purification tablets.
You Might Also Like:• Planning a Trip to the Grand Canyon
• The 7 Best U.S. Cities and Towns to See Fall Foliage
• What to Pack for a Weekend Trip
• 12 National Parks You Need to See in the Fall
• The Ultimate Backpacking Packing List: 18 Key Items To Take
We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.