The key to a safe, comfortable and enjoyable hike is preparation. You need to dress for the elements and be ready for the unexpected, as well as choosing items such as footwear and rain protection very carefully.
To help you prepare for your next adventure, we’ve put together a helpful list of hiking essentials to ensure that you’re covered for a wide range of different situations. So, whether it’s unseasonably hot or you’re caught in an unexpected rain shower, you’ll still have a great time.
What to take on a hike
Every hiking kit list should start with the basics. These include:
- A well-made, waterproof rucksack - make sure this fits you well and is properly adjusted and comfortable before setting off
- Walking boots or shoes that suit the walk you’ll be taking on - for example, thick mud, rocky terrain or steep mountain paths
- A waterproof (and ideally windproof) coat
- Waterproof over trousers, or at least legwear that dries quickly
- A warm hat and gloves (in cold conditions)
- Insulating and breathable layers - these allow you to layer up or down if the weather conditions change, so you’ll never be too hot or too cold.
Once you have these essentials, add the following to your packing list:
- Sunscreen and sunglasses - remember that you can still get burnt or find the sun’s glare too bright on overcast days or in snowy conditions
- A fully charged mobile phone, plus a spare power pack and charging cable - this will be essential if you need GPS map directions or to call for help
- A first aid kit - containing at least plasters, bandages, painkillers and any medication you require, just in case of an emergency
- A large bottle of water and some high energy snacks
- A spare pair of socks in case the ones you’re wearing get wet, as walking in wet socks can be an extremely unpleasant experience
- A torch and whistle - for attracting attention if you get lost, or for finding your way if it gets dark before you finish your walk
- A blanket or sit mat - perfect for enjoying a mid-hike picnic without having to sit on the wet or cold ground
- Walking poles - they aren’t for everyone, but some hikers prefer using poles as they help to support your weight, give you more purchase on uneven ground and take the pressure off your knees.
Must-have gear for hiking
It’s advisable to have all of the checklist above before tackling any serious hike, but some pieces of kit are more important than others. Unless you’re unlucky enough to face an emergency, you’ll probably have a perfectly good hike, even if you forget your torch or your spare power pack for charging your phone. But if you forget one of the must-have items below, or choose the wrong type of kit, you could be in real trouble.
This means that you definitely should take more care when choosing these particular items, doing more in-depth research into quality and perhaps spending a little more too.
Your three must-have pieces of hiking equipment are:
Opt for walking shoes for speedier, more natural walking on normal terrains, and walking boots for difficult, mountainous, rocky or snowy terrain. If you’re unsure what you’ll be facing on the walk, go for the heavier-duty option, just in case. Choose lightweight footwear that is waterproof, breathable and that suits your walking style.
2. Rain protection
Be wary of ‘moisture-resistant’ jackets, instead going for fully waterproofed outer layers from reputable brands. Your rain jacket should be breathable, roomy and have lots of accessible pockets.
3. Insulating layers
Start with a light, breathable base layer that wicks sweat away from your body. Add an insulating midlayer such as a fleece or down jacket to keep you warm, and finish with a waterproof outer layer to keep you dry and protected from the weather.
If you remember these three hiking essentials, and you choose the right products for your needs, then you can usually be confident of a comfortable, enjoyable hike.
What food to bring on a long hike
Last but not least, you need to ensure you’ll have enough energy on your walk. Packing snacks rather than full meals is recommended, so you can top up your energy levels at regular intervals and keep hunger at bay.
High energy, nutritious snacks such as flapjacks are ideal, as they’re light to carry and are packed with slow-release carbohydrates. Other good options include energy bars or gels, granola bars, fresh whole fruit (such as bananas, oranges or apples that don’t need to be kept cold), nuts and seeds. Hydration is absolutely essential on any hike. A full water bottle may feel heavy in your rucksack, but you’ll definitely need it. Besides, the bottle will gradually get lighter as you drink the water throughout your hike.