Hiking For Beginners: Essential Hiking Gear Checklist
Are you heading out for a hike but not sure what to bring? Especially as a beginner hiker, it can feel overwhelming or daunting to think about packing so many things just for a day on the trails. We’ve put together a hiking equipment essentials list for what you should bring. Shorter, more straightforward routes might require a shorter list of essentials than an overnight trip. Generally, you want to keep your day pack as light as possible, so you are not carrying around unnecessary weight. On the other hand, for a multi-day backpacking trip, you will need to take more gear. Essentials are often dependent on the situation, so choose the best ones for your activity.
Hiking Equipment Essentials List
- Navigation Tools
- First Aid Kit
- Extra Layers
- Appropriate Footwear
First, bring at least one liter of water (more on hot days) for every two hours of activity, and don’t forget to drink it. If your urine is not clear and frequent, you are not drinking enough. You may need to bring a water filter or purifying tablets, depending on the location/duration of your hike.
Food and Snacks
Similarly, you will need food and snacks to fuel you along the way. Trail mix, nuts, seeds, dried fruit and veggies, and energy bars are great options as they have a lot of protein and keep well over long periods of time. Don’t forget to bring extra of everything because it is always better to have too much food and water than not enough. Hydration and nutrition are some of the most essential aspects of any trip.
Next, a GPS navigation device, compass, and topographic map of the trails are must-haves on all hiking adventures, especially if the area you are hiking in is new to you. If you have a smartphone there are plenty of apps available to help you navigate. Avenza is a great option for offline maps. Many of the maps on Avenza are free and the maps available for purchase are a reasonable price. You can even import your own map if you already have one on file. The app shows your GPS point on the map of your choice making it much easier to navigate compared to using a physical map. In addition to mapping out your route ahead of time, it is a good idea to tell your friends and family exactly where you will be traveling. That way, they know where to send help in case of an emergency.
First Aid Kit
When it comes to health and first-aid kits, everyone will have their own set of essentials that is personal to them. For example, people with allergies should bring an EpiPen. If you take medication, you should bring it with you, as well as an extra dose or two just in case. And hikers who tend to get blisters might want to bring a lot of band aids and antiseptic. Some generic first-aid items include band-aids, gauze pads, waterproof tape, scissors, antibacterial ointment, and more.
If you have more room in your first aid kit, there are a bunch of additional items that could come in handy. This includes duct tape, zip ties, fire starter, a pocket knife, a whistle, a small flashlight, a splint, pencil and paper, toilet paper, hand sanitizer, bug repellent, and sunscreen. All of these are great to bring along because they can be used for many different purposes and generally don’t take up too much space.
Weather conditions can be very intense and unpredictable, so it is important to prepare for the worst. Your packing list for cold weather should include long underwear or under armor to help your body preserve heat, warm jacket, a rain jacket/windbreaker, rain pants, a pair of gloves, a warm hat, ski goggles, hiking socks, and boots.
Packing extra layers can help defend against harsh winds, freezing rain, or super low temperatures. It is better to be too warm and remove layers than to be too cold, especially for overnight trips where it gets even colder at night. Hiking clothes should be lightweight, breathable, and quick drying / waterproof. Even if there is a 3% chance of rain, I recommend bringing a zip up raincoat with a hood or a rain poncho which will cover your backpack. Clothes that are made of stretchy fabric or have SPF protection from the sun are pluses as well. This will help pull sweat/moisture away from your body, reduce chafing, and increase overall comfort throughout the hike. For super sunny hikes, a hat with a bill, sunglasses, and sunscreen are essentials to protect against the rays. Be sure to reapply the sunscreen throughout the day.
Hiking boots can make or break a hiking trip, so be sure to find a high-quality, well-fitting pair of boots that will be comfortable over long periods of time. Hiking boots may be one of the most expensive items necessary for a hiking adventure, but finding a good pair is 100% worth it and will allow you to have an enjoyable experience. If it is your first time hiking, you should be sure to walk around in the boots before departing on your trip so that you can loosen them up and make sure they are comfortable.
In addition, socks are really important on your hike! Wearing the right pair of socks can also help prevent blisters. Socks have various thicknesses, material, fit, and padding, so make sure to try them on before departing on your trip. Remember to bring extra dry socks because you do not want wet, cold feet!
Headlamp or Flashlight
One of the biggest mistakes that beginner hikers tend to make is forgetting to bring a headlamp or flashlight. An accessible source of light can help you navigate your way around at night, avoid obstacles and dangers on the trail, and be prepared for the unexpected. In addition, a flashlight can be a lifesaver in the unlikely event that you find yourself stranded or in a dangerous situation. Now that you understand the importance of having a hiking flashlight you should also know how to choose the right one. You are going to need to get a reliable flashlight that can handle any outdoor condition. A waterproof, light-weight flashlight with various settings such as strobe mode would be ideal. Finally, make sure to bring extra batteries or a charger if it is not rechargeable.
Whether you are a beginner hiker or an experienced one, it is essential to have a plan for heat and shelter. You are going to want to think about how you are going to start a fire or boil water as these can help keep you warm despite some of the harshest environments. Some of the best options are heat nuggets or dried timber and matches to help start a fire. If you have space for it or are on a longer hike, consider bringing a small stove that can serve as a fire as well as a way to cook food along the way.
Bring Additional Gear for Longer Excursions
And obviously, if you are doing a multiday hike with no permanent shelter, you are going to need a tent, a sleeping bag, and a sleeping pad. Tents can provide complete privacy as well as bug protection. They come in many different styles, sizes, designs, weights, and costs. I recommend doing your research to find which one will be the most effective for the place you will be hiking. Overall, shelters with wind and rain protection will be the best options. You may also want to consider bringing trekking poles depending on specific trail and hiking experience. Finally, you can’t forget your phone/camera! Especially as a first-time hiker, you will 100% want some device with you to capture the amazing views around you.
Beginner Hiking Tips
Use Common Sense
Many outdoor problems can be prevented by having common sense, being prepared for the weather, being familiar with the route, and knowing the time needed to complete the hike in plenty of daylight. Another essential hiking tip for beginners is to research your desired hiking trail in advance to be well prepared before setting off on your trip. Additionally, be honest about your current experience level and fitness level when choosing a hike. You want to enjoy your first few hikes rather than struggling to safely complete them because you picked way too challenging ones.
Choose Appropriate Hikes for Your Fitness Level
If you feel out of shape, I recommend working on your hiking fitness and stamina to help you enjoy your time on the trails once you set foot on them. Similarly, as a beginner, you should start with a short hike or two before doing any longer ones. It can be challenging to determine how long a hike will take because it depends on so many factors such as weather, trail condition, elevation, and fitness level or desired pace. For example, a 3-mile hike on flat, easy terrain may only take an hour, but it could take 3+ hours if you trek through a steep mountain with hot or wet conditions. You also must factor in water, food, bathroom, and photo breaks when considering the duration of a hike.
Start Your Hikes Early in the Day
Starting your hike earlier in the day has several advantages. First, you have plenty of daylight hours to complete your day hike, so there is no rush or pressure to hike faster to end your hike before sunset. Hiking at a comfortable pace makes hiking more enjoyable or relaxing. Second, there are typically fewer people on the morning trails, especially on busy holidays or summer weekends when everyone decides to make their way out later in the day. Finally, hiking in the mornings can help you avoid excessively high temperatures or even afternoon thunderstorms (for those walking in the mountain ranges). Lightening and extreme heat can be potentially very dangerous, especially if you are not prepared for it. If you are looking for a quieter, cooler, and less stressful experience, you should embark on your journey as early as possible.
Be Aware of Animals
While hiking is a very relaxing and enjoyable activity, you must watch out for specific wild animals and know how to act if you encounter one on the trails. Most of the time, these animals don't see humans as a food source and won't attack unless they feel threatened or are starving. While they typically avoid humans, bears, bear cubs, and mountain lions are some of the animals to be aware of. If you encounter a bear, stand your ground and avoid eye contact as they will see that as a threat. Do not climb a tree or try to outrun the bear. The worst thing you can do is accidentally sneak up on it because they may turn aggressive and attack out of fear. Many people see bear cubs as cute little animals, but they can be just as dangerous. Whenever you see a bear cub, chances are the mother is nearby and will be very angry if she sees you near her cubs. If you see a bear cub, turn around and get away as quickly as possible so that you never find yourself in a situation where you are between a mother bear and her cubs. If you stumble across a mountain lion, don't approach it and don't try to run from it. Instead, face the animal, back away while maintaining eye contact, and appear as large and loud as possible.
You can bring several items for protection if you feel like you need them. First, you can use bear spray on bears or any animal that is a direct threat to you. The spray should only be used in an emergency, and you must be incredibly careful with it because it is toxic and harmful if it gets into your eyes. Second, bringing your dog along on a hike is a great way to keep yourself safe while giving it the exercise it needs. Your dog's senses are much better than yours, so they will be able to warn you of a predator much before you would otherwise. Also, they will do whatever they can to protect you if an animal was to try to attack you. Finally, something loud like an outdoor air horn is a great item to bring on a hike. An air horn can scare away wild animals such as bears or mountain lions. They are not only for your protection but they can also be used to signal for help if you were to run into trouble. The chances of encountering a predator while hiking is minimal, but now you have all the information you need if you were to find yourself in a potentially dangerous situation.
Save Money and Buy Lightly Used Hiking Gear
Out of all the possible outdoor activities, hiking remains the easiest and least expensive. But it is entirely possible to spend hundreds of dollars on boots, rain jackets, clothing, backpacks, and more. If you need gear but don't want to pay full price, Rerouted has got you covered. Check out Rerouted's Hiking Collection of affordable and effective equipment perfect for any hiking adventure.
Keep Learning and Growing
We hope that this hiking gear checklist can help you pack and enjoy a safe and fun journey into the wild. The top 10 equipment essentials for any hiking trip can be found here: