Are you a seasoned hiker or a bit of a novice when it comes to hitting the trail? Truth is, it doesn’t matter. When it comes to packing your backpack for a hiking trip, every hike—your first or fiftieth—requires a few hiking essentials, like good hiking boots.
Don’t worry. We’ve compiled the following guide to hiking essentials so you can prepare for your hiking trip now. We’ve included hiking essentials for safety, what to wear, what to eat, and how to safely and confidently navigate the trails.
Hiking Essentials You Need to Pack on Every Trip
Good Hiking Boots
Owning a pair of good hiking boots is a must for any level of hiker. Hiking requires a lot of walking on rocks and trail debris—and good hiking boots will best protect your feet from the elements. When searching for hiking boots, look for boots with good grip, the technology to keep your feet dry, and be light enough to move around easily.
Summer weather is finicky. What looks like a nice, sunny day can quickly turn into a rainy afternoon. Make sure you’re prepared for afternoon rain showers by tucking rain gear into your backpack ahead of time. Avoid cotton clothing. Wear poly-blends and other moisture-wicking clothing instead.
Trail Maps & Compass
Always carry a map of the trail you are hiking and a compass. Forests and natural trails can be disorienting, especially if you’re a new hiker. Having a trail map and a compass on hand can help you out of a sticky situation, like if you were to lose direction or go off the path. You can also download offline map apps to your smartphone—like Hiking Project—to track your location. It works even without a cell phone signal to show exactly where you are on the map, along with trails and topography.
When hiking alone, you need to make sure you put safety first. Add a few safety items to your backpack—like a flashlight, a whistle, and a pack of matches—to make sure you’re prepared for any situation.
First Aid Kit
While you likely won’t have to use it, a first-aid kit is 100% a hiking essential. Make sure you invest in a useful kit that can help you deal with small to major injuries. Prepacked first-aid kits can be found at almost any outdoor outfitter or here on Amazon.
Doesn’t matter if you’re hiking during the summer or the winter, make sure to pack sunscreen to protect your skin from harmful UV rays. Plus, you don’t want a sunburn on day two of your hike.
Hiking overnight? You might want to look into a list of tools and essentials for backpacking too. For a backpacking hike, you’re going to need a tent or hammock, a sleeping bag, a water filter, and plenty of food to last two or more days. Make sure you have some sort of shelter from the elements—like an emergency tarp. You never know when a sudden rainstorm may strike.
Water & Extra Food
Just like when you’re running on a hot summer day, you’re going to need to stay hydrated on a summer (or winter!) hike. Without water, your body will get dehydrated and could be more apt to a heat stroke or altitude sickness. In addition to water, always pack extra food for a long hike. You never know when there will be a delay along your way, and having extra food packed can keep you from going hungry too soon.
Good Hiking Boots + Hiking Clothes Recommendations
Purcado intern, Kate, is an avid hiker. In her lifetime, she’s hiked over 1,000 miles and she even started a club at her university to gather hiking lovers together. Plus, she worked for a while in an outdoors store with a focus on hiking—so we think she’s pretty qualified to give advice on good hiking boots and hiking clothes. We sat down with her to ask about hiking fashion, the best hiking boots, and tips for beginners. Here is her advice.
Q: What do you consider to be good hiking boots?
A: Defining a pair of good hiking boots will vary by person. When you pick out running shoes, do you usually opt for a stability shoe or one with extra arch support? Look for those same features in a hiking boot. Also, always go for a waterproof boot if possible—your feet will be a lot happier if they’re dry.
Q: Are hiking boots required for long hikes? Or no?
A: Lately, more hikers are transitioning to hiking shoes instead of hiking boots. If you feel that you need extra ankle support, stick with a boot—a twisted ankle will put a damper on your day in the woods. But if you feel comfortable in a lower-cut shoe, Salomon and Altra make popular trail shoes that are breathable, waterproof, and lightweight. Low-cut hiking shoes will allow for more free movement, but it’s really a personal choice.
Q: What are your outfit tips for a summer hike?
A: No matter the season, avoid cotton. Usually, I opt for a quick-dry, breathable tank top. If you’re wearing a backpack, beware the straps—they might rub your shoulders uncomfortably. If so, choose a shirt with sleeves. Lucy makes a pair of hiking pants that are light and comfortable for summer. If you go for shorts, you can use antiperspirant to prevent chafing.
Q: What are your outfit tips for a fall or winter hike?
A: Dress in layers. You’ll warm up while you’re hiking, but you’ll get chilly as soon as you take a break. Merino wool is a great lightweight, soft, and quick-drying fabric for base layers. Bring a lightweight, down jacket, with some sort of windbreaker.
Q: What advice would you give to a beginning hiker?
A: Hike your own hike—listen to your body and your mind over other people when deciding how far and how fast. Unplug and immerse yourself in the beauty around you.
(Another quick tip: wrap duct tape around your water bottle. You’ll be surprised at the number of binds you can get out of using duct tape. For instance, cover a blister with duct tape and it’ll stay on all day, protecting the skin from any further rubbing.)
Shop The Look: Hiking Boots and Shoes We Love
The Purcado team loves to help our customers find the perfect footwear for their favorite activity—including hiking! Here, we’ve tracked down the best pairs of good hiking boots for your next adventure—all pairs ship for free!
How Purcado Can Help You Find Good Hiking Boots For Less
At Purcado, we aim to make expensive hobbies a little less expensive. When you shop with us, you’ll never pay full price for shoes again—not even your hiking boots. With our one-of-a-kind search technology, we track down the lowest price on the shoes you want from over 100 retailers—instantly. No more hopping from site to site to compare prices yourself, our search engine does the work for you. All you have to do is buy and save—it’s as simple as one search! Not convinced? Try us out!