Hiking Gear: The Essentials
We’re going hiking and here are the ten things we should always have with us!
There are going to be people who bring much more than this and some who bring much less, and that is quite alright. Carrying more means you are extra prepared and will be buff before you know it. Carrying fewer means you might be a trail runner..and many kudos to that.
Let’s carry on with the 10 essentials.
Let’s talk packs! There are multiple options for packs- smaller packs for trail runs, standard day use packs, and all the way up to multi-day backpacking packs. Most people fall in the middle and own a pack that is sufficient for moderate hikes (anywhere from 3 miles to 20 miles). Since we want to be able to fit the rest of our essentials in this pack, we are going to primarily talk about day use and backpacking packs.
Day use packs are typically anywhere from 25L-45L (go with what you will be able to handle). You should look for a pack will fit your essentials, water bottles in an accessible area, places to attach your trekking poles, snowshoes, etc and a way to access your food efficiently.
My favorite pack (I typically hike anywhere from 5-25 miles/hike) is the Deuter 45+10SL. This size allows me to pack for a long day hike, but also “shrinks” down for when I just want to go for a short jaunt in the woods. The SL stands for slim fit, which is created for women and their beautiful curves! It has easy access to food, plenty of places to attach gear and is adorned with the signature flower (maybe my favorite part?!)
Backpacking packs will be used for hikes longer than 1 or 2 days. These packs generally are around 45L-65L, however as previously stated, everyone has their comfort level on what/how they pack so this is just a guideline. Storage on the outside of the pack is KEY. You want to be able to access your food, head lamp, maps, etc, easily. Having hip belt pockets is quite a bonus so you can store your snacks in there because who doesn’t eat every 5 minutes on the trail? (please tell me I’m not alone!)
I am very partial (and loyal) to deuter packs and while I do not personally have one of their backpacking packs I can absolutely vouch for the comfort of my 45L and would be ecstatic to be trekking with it on my back for more than a few days.
Unless you have extremely thick skin, you are going to be partial to having appropriate footwear (although I’ve always longed for the bare foot scene).
Hiking Boots vs. (Trail) Running Shoes
Hiking Boot Pros: More durable, better ankle support, waterproof
Hiking Boot Cons: Heavier, can be expensive
(Trail) Running Shoe Pros: Cheaper, Lighter (so you can go quicker),
(Trail) Running Shoe Cons: Short life, less ankle support, usually less reliable in wet conditions (on rocks)
I enjoy wearing both trail running shoes and hiking boots. If the terrain is rugged or the conditions are wet I will opt for my hiking boots, but if the trail is smooth sailing and I know I will make good time, I will opt for the trail running shoes. I like to have extra ankle support so I always go for the mid length running shoes or boots.
Here are some of my favorites:
If you are looking for excellent grip on those rock slabs while trail running- these are perfect! Salomon fit is usually a half size too large (So– if you normally wear 8.5 I would size down to an 8).
These hiking boots are so comfortable! I have nothing bad to say about them, except they are NOT water proof. They have a breathable mesh in the front (which keep the feet cool), but if you dip your toe or foot in the water..it will be wet.
With that said– they still get my vote for being one of the most light weight and comfortable hiking boot to date (NO break in time required).
Every pair of KEEN boots I own, I have loved! They are true to size, beyond comfortable, the toe box is roomy (so no squished piggys) and they’re beautiful (if boots can be beautiful–which I believe they can be!).
I had to wear these boots a few times to break them in, but they are excellent weather proof boots and are very light weight! Fits true to size.
LAYERS, LAYERS, LAYERS! Why are layers so important? . Because you can shed a layer to stay cool and then re-dress at the summit. One thing I know to be true is weather is very unpredictable and it’w always better to have more clothing than needed (especially in Winter!)
- Base Layer: Performance shirt (can be long or short sleeved)- should wick sweat!
- Winter time base layer– a MUST have is this SmartWool Merino 150 Long Sleeve
- Middle Layer: Fleece (Wool)
- Outdoor Research Radiant Hybrid Jacket (Inexpensive, great mid-layer)
- Outer Windproof Layer: Wind Jacket
- Women’s Marmot Featherless Hoodie (Synthetic Insulation–great in the wetter weather)
Unmarked trails or even just the thought of getting lost will have you wishing you had a map and compass. Even more importantly that you familiarize yourself with using them.
I understand that electronics are heavily relied on, but I would strongly suggest watching tutorials on compasses and map reading or even take a class on it!
5. Sun Protection
Have you ever hiked in the snow on a sunny day? If yes, then you know all about snow blindness and how awful it is! The best way to avoid this is by wearing sunglasses or a brimmed hat!
Going with the sun theme- find yourself an all natural way of protecting your skin if you burn easily.
6. Emergency Supplies/Shelter
Scenario: You get bit by a snake, fall into poison ivy and a freak snow storm just rolled in.
Glad you have an emergency shelter and supplies, right?
Things I like to keep in my emergency kit:
- Pocket Knife or Leatherman Multi-Tool
- Fire Starter (I have a little kit with wood shavings, lint & a lighter)
- Water Filter
- Space Blanket (For when you’re stranded in that freak storm!)
- First Aid Supplies: Bandaids, Antibiotic Ointment, Advil, Ace Bandage, KT tape (MUST HAVE), Energy Gels/Bars
- Hand/Toe Warmers
Whether you are chasing a sunrise or you just find yourself lolly gagging throughout your hike (lollygagging is absolutely acceptable!) make sure you have at least two headlamps or light sources on you.
Also, solar chargers are a great back up to your head lamp if you ever get into a pickle.
This is my favorite topic and partially a reason why I hike in the first place, complete and utter guilt free satisfaction.
Whenever I set foot out in nature I multiple my expected time by three (1 day = 3 days, etc) and that gives me a buffer if anything were to go awry.
Favorite foods to have on trail (Will reflect my plant-based diet):
- Protein Power Balls (recipe to follow)
- Grapes, Cherries, Apples
- PB&J&H (H=honey)
- Maple syrup packets
- Nori Rolls
- Vegan Coconut Jerky
I know we touched briefly on carrying a water filter in your pack, but I cannot stress enough how crucial it is. Filters can be extremely light dependent on brand and can save your life. Hydration is a very important part of being safe on the trail, and keeps you from desperately drinking from a mud puddle.
10. Plastic Bags
This was going to be a bonus item, but after careful consideration it made it to the list. You may be thinking this to be strange, but plastic bags can be quite useful in various ways.
- Smaller plastic bags can go over dry socks into wet boots if you fall in the water (Especially in the winter!)
- Larger plastic bags can act as an emergency poncho, keeping your heat in and repelling the weather
- Attach the bag to your pack to pick up trash left behind by other hikers. (Doing a good deed!)
You’ve got the Essentials, You’ve got the Motivation, You’ve got it All!
This was a LOT of information, but if you are carrying the “essentials” you will feel so much more confident in your adventuring. Trust me, I’ve had the pack with one water bottle and a few Clif bars before, but knowing that I can live out of my pack is a liberating feeling, you’ve just got to go and do it. Above all, be safe and be happy.
With all the pawsitive love,
Ciara, Boone & Crockett