10 Hiking Essentials to Pack in Your Backpack
Here we’ve come up with 10 essential items that you shouldn’t leave home without. All of these items are lightweight and can easily fit into your hiking backpack.
The list is broken up into the items we’ve determined are hiking essentials but we’ve also included specific recommendations we think you should check out.
Let’s get started!
1. Navigation Tools for Hiking
This is definitely a hiking essential for those of you that are beginners. When you’re planning your hike, we recommend sticking to designated hiking trails if you’re just starting out.
These trails will usually have checkpoints and maps that indicate your location.
So why are we recommending you bring navigation tools? Trust us, it pays to be prepared.
Depending on where you hike, it can be easy to become disorientated. The last thing you want to do is get lost. Packing a compass in your bag along with a map is the smart way to go.
If you’re looking for something a little more high-tech, we recommend the extra durable Garmin Oregon 600 GPS. It has a great touch screen that retains high visibility in sunlight.
2. Sun Protection – Sunscreen, Hat, and Sunglasses
Speaking of sunlight, you’re going to want to protect your body from extensive time in the sunlight.
Apply sunblock before you start your hike and pack some in your bag to reapply as needed.
There are plenty of sunscreens you can use, but BullFrog Sunscreen is our preferred choice. Considering it doubles as a mosquito repellent and is water resistant, it’s safe to assume why so many people take it with them on the trail.
We also highly recommend packing sunglasses and a hat to shield you from the sun as well.
If you’re looking for sunglasses that are durable enough to withstand some serious hiking, then check out Julbo Trek sunglasses. These sunglasses provide exactly what a hiker needs, from sweat blockers to removable side shields.
3. Small and Portable First Aid Kit Perfect for the Outdoors
A big mistake of novice hikers is not bringing a first aid kit. For those of you who think it’s unnecessary, you’ll thank us for recommending you pack it.
You never know what kinds of problems you might run into while you’re hiking. Packing a first aid kit is a great way to be prepared, without taking up to much space in your bag.
If you need a first aid kit for your hike, biking, and outdoor adventures, the Lifeline Trail Light 5 is perfect. It contains 99 total pieces, and as its name would suggest, is extremely lightweight.
4. Healthy and Nutritious Snacks to Fuel Your Hike
Hiking can really work up an appetite. You’re going to want to pack snacks that are easy to transport and have some nutritional value.
We recommend packing some nuts, granola bars, dried fruit or jerky. It’s easy to throw in your bag and snack on while you hike.
Better yet, it will keep your energy up so that you can keep on hiking.
More experienced hikers will tell you to pack at least a days worth of food in your bag.
This goes for those that are doing some more remote hiking. Worse case scenario, if you happen to become disorientated, you won’t be completely unprepared.
So if you’re looking to be extra prepared then pack items that are no-cook items and non-perishable.
5. Durable Water Bottle to Keep You Hydrated
Being active and spending so much time in the sun is sure to cause you to break a sweat.
You’re definitely going to want to stay hydrated. You’re not going to run into a whole lot of fountains on your hike through the woods so we suggest packing a durable water bottle you can carry with you.
Anyone who uses water bottles knows that buying a cheap bottle or bottle designed for style alone is almost always an immediate regret.
The Nalgene 32 oz. water bottle, however, is constantly in the discussion as the top choice among outdoorsmen.
It might not be the prettiest bottle you’ve ever laid your eyes on, but its effectiveness and durability have made it famous for all the right reasons.
6. Illumination – Flashlights, Headlamps, Etc.
What we mean when we say “illumination” is items that provide a source of light. This can be things like flashlights, headlamps, etc.
Why are these items essential? Well, the big theme on packing hiking essentials is being prepared for anything and everything.
Having a dependable source of light is critical if you happen to get lost. This way you can more easily navigate and are also able to signal for help. Be sure to pack extra batteries to keep them lit.
If you’re looking for hands-free illumination, then we recommend the Princeton Tec Remix Headlamp. Its 125 lumens and 200 hours of battery life make it a necessity for any trail.
7. Extra Clothing for Changing Weather Conditions on Your Hike
Picture this. It’s a beautiful, sunny day – perfect for a hike. You’re making your way down the trail and then it happens; it starts to rain. You’re soaked and decide to cut your hike short.
Doesn’t sound ideal, does it? Weather conditions can change pretty abruptly so it’s smart to pack some extra clothing just in case.
Consider the time of year and the area where you’ll be hiking to try and narrow down your extra clothing options.
Some items that are always a safe bet are some extra socks, a rain jacket, a hat and a vest.
8. A Swiss Army Knife and Other Small Hiking Tools
You never know when you might need a swiss army knife but when you do, boy, is it handy.
Swiss army knives and other multi-tools are great because they’re compact and easy to throw in your bag. Some are small enough to even attach as a keychain.
Another great item to pack in your bag is a roll of duct tape. It’s extremely versatile and can really help you out when you’re in a pinch.
If you’re on the lookout for a great swiss army knife, then we recommend the Victorinox Swiss Army Climber Pocket Knife. The Climber is a little pricier than some pocket knives, but it’s well worth the investment. The nine tools on the Climber are very durable, yet they only add up to weigh 3 oz.1.
9. Signaling Devices in Case of an Emergency
We’ve already talked a lot about how it pays to be prepared when you’re out in the wilderness. So if you want to be extra prepared then consider packing signaling devices.
These are meant to help alert others if you’re in need of help while you’re in the outdoors.
A lot of you might be counting on your phones, but think about where you’re doing to be hiking. Can you count on your phone provider to give you reliable service?
If you answered no then you might want to include some of these items to help in case of an emergency
We recommend packing a whistle and a flare but you can also pack a two-way radio if you’re especially concerned.
10. Fire Starters – Lighters and Matches
It’s important to have a dependable source of light. Packing items like a lighter and matches are basic survival items that hikers should get used to carrying around with them.
Now when we say you should pack matches, we’re not talking about your typical convenience store matches. These are often too flimsy for outdoor use.
Invest in matches that are waterproof and that are intended for outdoor survival. Having a lighter is also handy but we recommend packing both.
Final Thoughts on What Hiking Essentials to Pack
Now we hope that reading over our list of hiking essentials, that we didn’t scare any of you novice hikers away from the great outdoors.
We’ve talked about preparing for an emergency and the types of things that can go wrong, but that’s the worst case scenario and depends largely on where and how you’ll hike.
If you’re just starting out, we recommend starting small and then working your way up to more intense trails. For all the effort and preparation, it’s worth it to surround yourself with the beauty of nature.
There are just so many great hiking trails in the U.S. and beyond that, you need to explore. So check all of our things to bring hiking off your packing list and go explore what nature has to offer.
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