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Planning your first hike and not sure what to bring with you?
It can be hard to decide what is absolutely essential for a hike and what could probably stay behind, especially if you’ve never done this before.
If you aren’t sure where to start, we’ve come up with a few of the most important things to take on your hike with you.
Take a look at this guide to make sure you have the best hiking gear for your trip.
The Best Hiking Gear for Beginners
The type of hiking gear you’ll need will depend on exactly where and how far you’ll be hiking. But regardless of these things, there are a few necessary supplies you’ll need for any hike.
Here’s our list of the best hiking gear for beginners.
1. The Right Hiking Footwear
You may not think shoes and socks are all that important, but after a few hikes, you’ll stop thinking that. You’re not going to get far in your hike if you have shoes that fall apart or leave you with tons of blisters.
Now, for the occasional hike, you can get away with wearing a normal pair of tennis shoes you had buried in the back of your closet. But for anything other than these short hikes, you’ll need real hiking shoes.
The right hiking shoes will give you more support and stability, better traction, and protect you from sharp rocks and whatever else you might be stepping on.
But it’s more than just your shoes…
Don’t just buy a pair of hiking shoes and call it good. You have to think about your socks too.
How are hiking socks different from normal socks?
Fair question. Most hiking socks are moisture-wicking and stink-mitigating. That means they protect you from getting blisters and keep your sweaty foot smell under control. These socks are heavy duty, which means they won’t wear out after a hike or two like some other socks.
If you’re planning a backpacking trip, you definitely can’t skip the socks. They won’t just make the hiking part of the trip easier, they will also keep your feet warm in your tent at night.
The right footwear, both shoes, and socks are absolutely essential to a good hike.
2. Hiking Clothing
Getting the right hiking clothing is almost as important as hiking footwear. We say almost because the clothing you’ll need is highly dependant on the type of hike you’re planning.
A day hike, even one that’s several hours long, won’t need the same clothes a multiple-day hike needs. You can wear pretty much whatever you want for a normal hike, even jeans, and a t-shirt if you want, but for any other kind of hiking trip, your clothes are very important.
Your clothes will be a form of shelter.
Because of that, you should stick to things like waterproof jackets and pants. The colder it gets, you’ll want more layers, but avoid cotton. It’s not something you want to be wearing during your hike.
It doesn’t have to be anything big or fancy, but it should have at least most of the following features.
- A hip belt to take the weight off your shoulders
- A lid or waterproof zippers to protect your supplies from rain
- A frame
- Compression straps to stabilize the load
- A quick-access pocket
If you aren’t going on a long hike and the climate is mild, you can get by with a backpack that’s anywhere from 500 to 1,500 cubic inches. Any long hikes in more severe climates will need a backpack with more carrying capacity.
4. Water/Water Filter
Not drinking enough water on your hike can be dangerous, which is even truer if you’re hiking in a hot or humid environment. You don’t want to risk suffering dehydration, especially if you are hiking somewhere on your own.
So how do you make space for all the water you need?
If you’re just heading out on a day hike, a few normal water bottles shouldn’t be hard to load into your backpack. You can save space on longer hikes with plastic water pouches. When they’re empty, you can roll them up and tuck them away.
It’s always a good idea to bring a water filter with you on long hikes. Sometimes you can’t pack all the water you need during your hike, and sometimes the water you think will be enough isn’t. Water filters let you turn water from streams, ponds, or lakes into safe, drinkable water.
You’ll want to pack calorie-dense food that can refuel your energy. Depending on how long you’re going to be hiking, you can also find some freeze-dried meals or food that only requires boiled water to prepare.
Other good options are things like energy bars, trail mixes, and candy bars.
6. Maps/Guide Book/Compass/GPS
To avoid getting lost, you should plan out your trail before you leave.
Taking things like a map, compass, or GPS on your hike with you is also a good idea. That way, if you do end up in a place you don’t recognize, you’ll be able to find out where you are and get back on track.
You can even get a GPS specifically designed for hiking. Here is more info.
7. Emergency Supplies
These are things like a first aid kit, a whistle, extra food, and a pocket knife.
You could easily end up with a few scrapes or bumps along the hike, and you’ll need to make sure you clean and bandage them properly. If you find yourself in need of help, blowing a whistle can help other people hear and find you. You can use a pocket knife for protecting yourself, setting up camp, preparing bandages, cooking, finding food, etc.
And you never want to end up without food or water in the middle of a hike. You should always bring a bit of emergency food just in case.
Make Sure You Have the Best Hiking Gear
You shouldn’t go off on a hike unless you know you have the best hiking gear. Prepare yourself with the right footwear, food, water, clothes, GPS, and other supplies before you leave.
Still trying to pick the perfecting hiking spot? Check out these five Lake Tahoe hikes you can’t miss this summer.