Whether you go on a short or multi-month hike, it’s important to bring with you all the hiking essentials to keep you safe and comfortable. The essentials you need on the trails differ depending on the distance and time you’ll take.

The length of the trip, changes in terrain, and weather conditions can make deciding what to bring on a hike a daunting task. But generally speaking, the below essential pieces are what every hiker should bring out with them when on a trail.

Check out this list below!


A backpack is one of the most important things you’ll need for a comfortable hiking trip. Choose one that’s lightweight and spacious enough to hold your hiking essentials.

It would help if you considered a backpack that has a water-resistant exterior with comfortable padded straps. Other features to look for in a pack include a hip belt that can be stashed away, an interior pocket for a water bladder, and a padded back panel.

Nothing is as convenient and handy as a backpack when you’re on hiking adventures.


This is a no-brainer for what to bring on a hike. As you exert your energy on the trail, you’ll need to fuel your body. Even so, deciding on what food to bring on a hike is a balancing act.

Generally speaking, trekkers should have about 2 pounds of food each day. You should also consider having at least an extra pound just in case.

Make sure your dinner, lunches, and breakfast are easy to prepare. Bring food with sufficient calories while keeping the weight to a minimum. Foods that combine the benefits of little preparation, plenty of energy, and easy portability include honey, energy bars, peanut butter, freeze-dried meals, and macaroni.


You can lose anywhere between 0.5 to 1 quart of fluid through sweat every hour you walk in the heat. So carry plenty of water with you, especially in summer. The electrolyte/fluid loss can double per hour if you hike uphill during the hottest time of the day and in direct sunlight.

If you have plans to drink water from the backcountry, ensure it’s treated for parasites. It’s best to use a filter capable of removing tiny particles. You can also boil your water for at least one minute.

Emergency Shelter 

In the mountains, the weather can be very unpredictable. While emergency blankets can save you from hypothermia, if you’re on a multi-day hiking trip, bringing a shelter with you becomes essential. For day hike trips, you should consider taking with you a small, lightweight emergency shelter.

First Aid Supplies

When traveling to the backcountry, you should consider carrying a comprehensive first aid kit. A lot can go wrong on a hike so be prepared for splinters, cuts, blisters, and other bundles with a well-equipped first-aid kit.

Backpackers who aren’t sure what to bring on a hike might want to buy pre-packaged first aid kits. These kits are usually lightweight and include reliable supplies to treat minor injuries and illnesses.

Start by learning how to use the items in your first aid kit. With more trail experience, you’ll be able to customize your first aid kit to suit your trekking needs. Always remember to replace used items before your next hike.

Rain Gear and Dry-Fast Layers

Check the forecast and dress for the occasion. No matter the season you’re hiking in, dress in layers that help adjust to changing weather. You don’t want to get stuck in the rain during the hike, so prepare yourself for anything by bringing along a windproof umbrella.

Wear moisture-wicking items, such as breathable wool that helps regulate body temperature. The kind that you wear is also important for comfort and safety reasons. Always take with you a lightweight raincoat, gloves, and a hat if you think it might get cold.

Proper Footwear 

Decide what shoes to wear based on the terrain. On gentle hikes, trail runners or hiking shoes are sufficient. For treks on rugged, rocky trails, boots will come in handy.

Go for nice-fitting shoes with lightweight Vibram soles that give traction. You also want a trekking shoe that’s breathable and completely waterproof. Opt for hiking boots that provide more ankle support and extra protection from bites and scrapes.

Safety Items 

A means to ask for assistance is essential. A whistle, for example, could be your lifeline if you end up stranded or injured. Blowing a whistle several times should signal other hikers or anybody nearby that you need help.

Also, bring protective items like bear spray just in case.

Map and Compass/GPS

Navigation tools and maps might be the most essential hiking instruments. If you’re lost it might seem scary. Yet if you know your exact location, you can figure out how to get home.

Some of the useful devices include a compass to navigate with paper, GPS watch with maps loaded, hike printouts, and a smartphone app with offline maps.

Sun Protection

Use SPF protective clothing and sunscreen to avoid sunburn. Speaking of sunscreen, bring along a bottle that’s at least SPF 30. Also, you want a sunscreen that won’t come off when you sweat.

Sunglasses and breathable brimmed hats are also useful items to protect your face and eyes. While the need for these essential pieces might be obvious in summer, it’s not uncommon for hikers to experience “snow blindness” due to the sun reflecting off the snow.

Bug Spray

Insects are everywhere, and they can ruin your fun. While wearing insect-repelling clothes is a good way to keep bugs at bay, you also want a bug spray to keep away incessant bugs. Use your bug spray to protect yourself against those biting flies, mosquitoes, ticks, and gnats.

Repair Kit and Multi-Tool 

Always bring a piece of lightweight basic repair equipment and a multi-tool on every backcountry trip you take. Electric tape and duct tape are great tools for repairing gear in the field. A multi-tool with a knife can also be used to repair gear and for first aid.

Know What to Bring on a Hike

For first-timers and experienced backcountry travelers alike, their choice of what to bring on a hike could mean the difference between a fun trek and one full of inconveniences.

Items that are part of this checklist are a great choice of what to bring on a trek. They can be tailored depending on factors like your stay duration, weather, distance from help, and terrain.

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