hiking gear checklistWhether you’re headed for a short day hike or a camping trip, there are some essentials that any hiker just can’t do without. The ingredients for a perfect backpack are rather simple. Getting rid of unnecessary objects should be a priority.

Packing light can boost your endurance, so it’s important to narrow down your hiking gear checklist to the bare minimum.

Wonder what to pack? Keep reading to find out exactly what your bag should look like:

Sun Protection

First up on the essential hiking gear checklist: SPF 30, a hiker’s best friend. It’s the lowest recommended SPF for prolonged outdoor activity. Make sure to reapply every two hours, and purchase the kind that blocks both kinds of UV rays.

Don’t forget to protect your vision. Besides being bothersome, bright UV rays can actually be hazardous to your eyes during long periods of exposure.

Grab a pair of sunglasses that protect against both UVA and UVB rays. Both have been linked to cataract development.


If you expect your hike to carry into the nighttime, you’re going to need a flashlight.

Even if you’re only planning a day hike, a flashlight is essential in case of an emergency. There’s nothing worse than being lost in the woods with no illumination.

Headlamps are also excellent for nighttime hiking. They keep your hands free and are pretty lightweight compared to some bulky flashlights.

Extra Clothing

Expert layering is the only way for a hiker to dress. It allows you to prepare for all weather conditions. Preparation is the name of the game here.

You’ll need a base layer, insulating layer, and outer shell (and that’s just for the top half of your body). Make sure all your clothing is as lightweight as possible, even your insulating layers.

If your day hike goes sour and you’re spending the night in the woods unexpectedly, you’ll be glad you brought extra clothes.

First Aid Kit

Buy a pre-made first aid kit to make sure you have everything you need in case of injury.

Double check that your kit includes sterile gloves and band-aids. Don’t forget about gauze pads and tape, blister treatments, disinfecting ointment, and pain medication. Bring something to write with to keep track of illness or injury.

Longer trips will require some extra first aid gear. Purchase a kit that’s optimized for the length of your trip to ensure you’ve got everything you might need.


You’ll need some sort of fire creator, such as matches or a lighter. Make sure that your lighter is geared up with fluid. The matches should be waterproof, or kept in a secure waterproof case.

It’s also a good idea to bring a firestarter. This can mean a variety of things: candles, heat nuggets, or tinder. You can even make your own.

Whatever you use, make sure it’s dry and can sustain a fire for more than a few seconds. You don’t want to get caught having to rub two sticks together to stay warm.

Nourishment and Hydration

Extra water is a must. Make sure to bring food that’s high in protein for sustained energy. Think nuts, jerky, energy bars, or trail mixes.

Freeze-dried meals are a great option for quick, light meals during overnight hiking trips. They’re a luxury essential on the hiking gear checklist.

Never underestimate the value of a hot meal after a long day, though.

Knife or Multitool

Regardless of what you bring, knives and multitools are worth their weight in gold in your backpack.

They can be used to prepare food, cut kindling for fires, first aid purposes, cutting bandage cloths, gear repair… the list goes on and on.

If you can afford the weight, bring both. Knives on multitools tend to be rather dull. It’s a good idea to have a sharp knife handy for whatever comes your way.

Rain Gear

There’s nothing worse than hiking while soaking wet. Oh, wait, just one thing: hiking while wet and cold.

Bring a waterproof shell in case you get stuck in the rain. It’s also a good idea to pack a lightweight emergency poncho. Waterproof hiking boots and moisture-wicking socks are essentials for staying dry too.

Camping and Emergency Gear

If you’re going on an overnight hike, pack your warmest, most lightweight sleeping bag, if not a tent. You’ll also need a sturdy tarp to place beneath your tent or sleeping bag to ensure a warm, dry night.

If you’re sleeping sans roof, bring some cord and a tarp to string above your head while you sleep. This will prevent dew from forming on your forehead overnight.

You’ll be glad in the morning when you check out how much liquid actually formed on the tarp while you stayed warm and toasty beneath it.

Also, take some type of signaling gear along with you in case of emergency. This can include flares, whistles, or long-range signaling devices like radios or walkie-talkies.


The most important essential on the hiking gear checklist: your GPS. A quality hiker’s GPS will hopefully render all emergency equipment unused since it makes it so easy to get home.

Today, hiking is more accessible than ever thanks to GPS technology. You can have the world at your fingertips, and feel free to roam, explore, and chart new territories in nature around you.

You can even use your GPS to find geocache sights along your hike. Geocaching is a shared experience real-life treasure hunt played with strangers via a geocaching app. And it’s only possible through GPS technology.

Your Hiking Gear Checklist

Depending on how much weight you feel like carrying, you can tweak your hiking gear checklist. Include anything and everything you might find handy in nature.

Some common additions include cameras and binoculars. Walking sticks can be useful too. You may also bring a bathing suit for impromptu dips.

Get in touch with us with any questions about your hiking gear, or to score a free copy of our e-book: “A Beginner’s Guide to Hiking.”