So you’re just getting into hiking and you’re not familiar with the hiking 10 essentials? Well welcome to the jungle, baby!
You’re gonna die… of sweaty, dirty, sun-kissed bliss!
You are going to feel so informed after reading this, that you’re going to have a great freakin’ time with some great freakin’ gear.
That’s what you’re going to do. And if you didn’t get that reference, then sorry but not really sorry.
Let me help make your life a little bit easier, save you from wasting your time & money, and point you towards some quality gear.
Be warned young grass stomper, quality outdoor gear is not cheap.
The price of some items could scare off some folks who are new to the game, which is totally reasonable.
But if you’ve been hiking, know that it stokes you out, and your ready to invest in some quality gear than these are fantastic options.
Related: How to Save Money on Outdoor Gear
I’ve included pieces that are reasonably priced for the performance + durability they offer. The good stuff is going to hold up for a long time & needs to be rugged enough to handle the elements.
Consider it an investment in a long term, healthy relationship. #gearismylovelanguage
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The Hiking 10 Essentials
Let’s start by going over the modern “10 Essentials of Hiking” first.
I’ve included a few other pieces of gear at the end to keep you safe, healthy, and stoked in the wilderness.
- Sun protection
- First aid
- Fire Starters
- Emergency Shelter
- Extra food
- Extra water
- Extra clothes
Essentially, you should be able to answer the following question with confidence:
“Are you prepared to stay overnight if you needed to?”
You know those cutesy memes you see that say “Let’s go get lost” with dreamy scenery of a mountainous landscape? Yeah, don’t do that. It’s not as fun as it sounds, trust me!
Stay safe and navigate your way through the wilderness like a boss with navigation tools like:
- Topographic map
- Essential to keeping tabs on where you are, where you are going, milage and elevation gain/loss, and where the nearest water source is.
- Keep your maps protected from flash storms and leaky water bladders with a map protector or another type of water-tight plastic bag.
- If you are feeling ill-equipped to read and navigate with an old school map and compass, I highly recommend taking a navigation class!
- Opt for a compass with a mirror. The mirror can be used to signal rescue personnel and helicopters if you were to ever find yourself in an emergency situation.
- A topographic map and compass are the bare-bones essentials for navigating through the backcountry. They are the perfect backup if your GPS device dies considering they do not require batteries.
- A GPS unit will allow you to accurately pinpoint your specific location on a digital map. Features can vary depending on which model you choose. Some devices allow you to leave a breadcrumb trail in case you get lost and want to backtrack and other will alert you with weather changing conditions. Keep in mind that these all run on batteries.
- GPS Watch
- These aren’t necessary to bring but very nice to have along since the altimeter can tell you what your elevation is helping you decipher your location on a map. Also, the barometric meter will alert you when weather changes are detected.
- Personal Locator Beacon (PLB) or Satellite Communicator
- Once activated, a PBL will alert a rescue team in case of an extreme emergency. PBLs and satellite devices can request emergency rescues via government and commercial satellite systems where cell phone service doesn’t reach. Literally, life savers.
Look, things don’t always go as planned, and that is no different in the mountains. Be prepared to navigate the trail in the dark with a headlamp. Don’t forget to bring extra batteries!
- Weight: 3oz
- Brightness: up to 150 lumens
- Burn Time: 60-220 hours depending on the brightness you have it dialed to.
- Batteries: AAA (included) but also compatible with the CORE rechargeable battery (sold separately)
- Why I love it: This is hands down the best user-friendly headlamp for the price. Perfect for an outdoor newbie looking to complete their list of the 10 essentials. Simple, light, and very affordable.
UPF Sun Protection Clothing
Look for long sleeve tops and full-length pants with a UPF rating.
Many outdoor brands create hiking clothes for women suitable for the mountains with a UPF rating designed to protect your skin.
Some of my favorite outdoor brands that offer great UPF clothing induce: Prana, Patagonia, Kuhl, REI, and Columbia.
Quality sunglasses are crucial in the outdoors considering how sensitive our eyes are to radiation.
The corneas of our eyes can burn before we even feel anything!
How freaking scary is that? It’s super important to always wear sunglasses outside when it’s bright to protect those beautiful peepers— even in snow, ice, water, and cloudy conditions.
If you will be traversing through snow and ice for a significant amount of time, you will want to opt for extra dark sunglasses.
Check that your sunglasses block both UVA & UVB rays. We’re not trying to mess around with any cataracts around here!
Apply generously to all of your lovely exposed skin.
Don’t forget to lather your ears, neck, hands, and bottom of your nose! Ultraviolet rays take no mercy!
Check that your sunscreen protects from both UVA & UVB rays and be sure to reapply every few hours.
Lips burn too so pack a chapstick with SPF to be prepared for your summit smooches— I mean summit selfies.
Badger SPF 35 Sport Sunscreen Cream
- SPF: 35
- Active ingredient: Natural Mineral Zinc Oxide
- Why I love it: It’s reef safe, biodegradable, cruelty-free, water and sweat resistant with 94% certified organic, non-GMO ingredients! Hell yes. This babes is broad spectrum protection so it ninja kicks both UVA & UVB rays outta town! But prepared, this lotion is thicc with two “c”‘s.
- Cons: It can leave a white tint on your skin if you just try to rub it in all over like a silicone-based sunscreen. Rub it in between your palms to warm it up + dab it onto your skin before spreading it around.
- UPF: 50
- Why I love it: I have this big sun hat in the nocturnal dark blue color and absolutely love it! With UPF 50, a sweatband interior lining, faux leather lining, and an extra wide brim, this has has me stoked on my outdoor adventures. Gotta protect that money maker, baby! Also, it doesn’t hurt that it’s pretty damn cute.
- You can also opt for a baseball style cap but I would recommend a hat with a full brim for those with sensitive skin who burn easily. Hi, I feel you.
First Aid Kit
Always be ready to respond to blisters, cuts, wounds, and pain management. I recommend starting with a pre-built kit like the one below and customizing it as you need.
The length of your trip and number of hikers in your group will determine the size needed for your first aid kit.
Boost your ability to respond positively to an emergency on the trail by taking a first-aid class or a wilderness first-aid class.
Adventure Medical Kits .7 Ultralight and Watertight First Aid Kit
- People: 1-2
- Trail Time: 1-4 days
- Weight: 8oz
- Why I love it: This adventure medical kit carries a little bit of everything from medication, to wound care, to moleskin for those impending blisters, and a mini roll of duct tape for, well, you know— everything. Coming in at half a pound and under $30, this is a great all around kit to keep you moving and groovin’ on the trail.
Knife/ Multipurpose Tool
These come in handy for a variety of reasons including:
- First Aid
- Repairing gear
- Removing splinters
- Food preparation
- Making kindling
- Cutting clothing or gear in case of an emergency
Other small useful items to carry with you on extended multi-day hikes include duct tape, safety pins, a small sewing kit, and replacement parts for water filters and tent poles.
You’re going to want a foolproof way to start and sustain a fire in any and all conditions.
You can choose to bring either waterproof matches or a butane lighter. Always bring a backup in case one fails.
You never know what the weather conditions will bring or what the terrain will be able to offer you at that exact time. I highly recommend bringing some type of kindling to get a fire going in wet and windy conditions like:
Emergency situations are never planned but you can be prepared for epic situations with emergency shelters like a lightweight tarp, a bivvy, or even a big ass plastic trash bag.
Having something to act as a force field against wind, rain, hail, or snow will be your new favorite piece of gear if you ever find yourself in this situation.
Ahem, been there, done that.
Moral of the story: DON’T DIE. BE PREPARED. ♡
I recommend an emergency bivvy.
These little bad girls are super lightweight (3.5 oz), waterproof, heat reflective (mmmm, yes!), and zip around you like a mummy sleeping bag to capture and lock in your precious body heat.
These things are a life saver- literally!
And obviously, you can’t forget your snacks, hat, snacks, sunglasses, snacks, electrolytes. Wait, did I mention not to forget your snacks?
Always take an extra day’s worth of food into the mountains.
You never know what could keep you in the wilderness longer then expected: someone getting injured, temperamental weather conditions, or your crew getting lost.
Ward off hangriness and keep spirits high with extra snacks that are high in calories and don’t require cooking or refrigeration .
Snacks are crucial to your happiness, vitality, attitude, and survival whilst on adventures. It’s science.
Some of my favorites include trail mix, Lara bars, GoMacro bars, figgy bars, and peanut butter to squeeze upon all the snacks! Or straight into your mouth. You do you, booboo!
No judgement here.
Everyone’s water needs will be different depending on body mass, how much they are sweating, temperatures, and intensity of the hike. A general rule of thumb is:
- 1/2 liter for every hour of hiking at minimum
It’s advised and more than encouraged to bring more water than that on a hike and the gear + skill set to filter/treat more water.
To be able to drink water from lakes, rivers, or streams you will need to have a water filter, water purification tablets, or boil water with a backpacking stove and know how to use your weapon of choice.
Pro Tip: Always test out your gear before hitting the trail. There isn’t a feeling worst than having the gear you need but not knowing how to use it.
Don’t get caught slippin’! Dehydration is a nasty condition that can lead to:
- Higher susceptibility to altitude sickness
- Higher susceptibility to hypothermia
- Lethargic muscles
- Lethargic organs
- Major drop in energy & performance
Prevention is the best treatment so be sure you drink plenty of water before the hike, begin drinking water before you feel thirsty on your hike, and keep your water easily accessible.
Adding electrolytes to your water can be a game changer for hikes that are long and/or in the heat.
Related: The 10 Best Supplements for Long Distance Hikers
And then all of a sudden, everything was wet from an unexpected downpour and you have to spend the night on the mountain because of an unfortunate injury.
Would you be prepared to stay warm enough over night?
Extra clothes could include things like: an insulating jacket, beanie, gloves, wool socks, and a thermal base layer.
- I highly recommend always bringing an extra pair of hiking socks. Keeping your feet happy and healthy is essential for a good time in the mountains.
Well there you have it! The updated, modern list of the 10 Essentials for Hiking.
Don’t hit the trail without them!
Bonus! Below are 3 items that aren’t included in the 10 Essentials list but make your hiking experience so much better. Check them out!
You are going to want something to carry all of your essential hiking items in to keep you safe, healthy, and stoked. Check out these different styles of hiking daypacks.
Ultralight Option: Outdoor Research Isolation HD Pack
- Volume: 19L
- Weight: 12.8 oz
- Perfect for: throwing in a few snacks, a layer or two, water bottle, and clipping your bluetooth speaker on the outside for your all day excursion. There’s nothing fancy about this one: zippered pocket up top, two external side pockets, and a very minimalistic hip belt. It’s not the most comfy pack, but it’s one of the lightest. Keep it light. Keep it right. Plus, it doubles as an urban pack for your daily commute.
- Cons: It’s not built to house a water bladder. No pocket and no hole to route the hose through. But if you’re more of a Hydroflask kind of hiker, than this isn’t your problem anyways.
Comfort: Gregory Maya 16L Women’s Day Hiking Backpack
- Volume: 16L
- Weight: 1.7 lbs
- Perfect for: day hikes and cycling. I love that you can access the compartment for the water bladder from the outside. Um, yes! I’m so over having to take everything out of my pack to refill my water. This pack has a more substantial hip belt with pockets (for easily accessible snacks, duh) and loops on the shoulder straps for your hydration hose and sunglasses. Also, can we just talk about this blue for a moment? I am ABOUT it!
Hydration: Osprey Women’s Mira AG 26L Hydration Pack
- Volume: 26L
- Weight: 2.5 lbs
- Perfect for: day hikes and cycling. This heavyweight champ really does come with more to love! Included is a Hydraulics LT 2.5 water reservoir, a perfectly fitted rain cover, and stow-on-the-go trekking pole attachments. Considering the helmet and “hey, don’t hit my ass!” light attachment, it’s also great for cycle commuting and other two-wheeled adventures.
- Cons: Price is a bit steeper than the other options here but it comes with other pieces you would end up buying separately anyways like the hydration bladder + rain cover.
12. Hydration Bladder
Hydration bladders make it so much easier to drink more water while you are hiking, decreasing your risk for dehydration. Bonus points if you throw some electrolytes in your reservoir!
Platypus Big Zip Water Reservoir 3L EVO with Fast Flow Valve
- Volume: 3L
- Weight: 6.4oz
- Why I love it: The Fast Flow Valve is everything! I see you, you little self-sealing, leak-proof handsome devil, you! All the perks of a solid water reservoir without the weird taste. Not the mention the high mount disconnect link for an easy water filtration experience. Sweet baby Jesus, the trail gods have answered my prayers.
Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir
- Volume: 2L-3L
- Weight: 12.8oz
- Why I love it: This one has a backing on it so it keeps it’s shape in your pack and it’s more durable when setting it down on rocks when refilling outside. No one wants to baby their gear on top of worrying about everything else in the backcountry. But if you are on Team Save Weight, then you can check out their lightweight version here. I’ve never had any leak problems with this one before and I absolutely love the magnetic attachment that clips onto the sternum strap of your pack (you know, the strap that awkwardly sits across your boobs when you try on a men’s pack). Fucking brilliant and thank you Osprey!
13. Trekking Poles
Trekking poles? Aren’t those for old people with knees like a drunken baby Bambi?
Hell to the nah, my friend! Trekking poles are awesome at taking a good amount of the beating off of your joints and protecting your beloved knees.
If you want hiking to be a part of your lifestyle long-term, then I recommend trekking poles for your next elevation hike!
All Around: Black Diamond Women’s Trail Trekking Poles
- Weight: 15.9 oz
- Usable Height: 23-49 in
- Collapsable Height: 23 in
- Why I love these: I’m all about the price and double flip locks that extend the poles! These are a great pair of well rounded, quality poles. They are made of aluminum but narrow so they are super strong without being too heavy. The wrist straps are padded and the tips can be interchanged for different terrain.
Collapsible: Black Diamond Distance Carbon Z Trekking Poles
- Weight: 9.3-10.4oz
- Usable Height: 39in-51in (100cm-130cm)
- Collapsable Height: 13-17in
- Why I love these: These carbon fiber poles are super light with cushy foam handles (my personal preference) and fold down smaller than the majority of trekking poles.
- Cons: The poles are a fixed height once you assemble them. 9 out of 10 times I am adjusting the height of my poles to compliment my terrain— especially when trekking up and down steep mountain turf. This honestly isn’t a huge deal but something to keep in mind.
14. Adventure Bag!!!
Don’t forget your adventure bag! Bring along a plastic bag or zip baggie to collect trash on the trails.
Let’s keep the wild wild by removing invasive, environmentally damaging trash and preserving the beauty of the mountains. Ow ow owwwwww! That was a howl btw. 😉
What are some pieces of gear that you’re thinking of purchasing for your hiking arsenal? Comment down below!