The Ultimate Packing List for Hikers

Hey, hikers and wanna-be hikers — just because the weather outside is frightful doesn’t mean you can’t still get out there and enjoy the beauty of Mother Nature. 

Now, your mother-in-law might think your penchant for the outdoors is crazy or foolish, but you know the fresh air and beautiful sunsets bring out your best self, something everyone needs around the holidays. 

To stop family members from worrying about your safety and whereabouts so you can traverse the highest mountains and explore area trailheads, here are the top items you should have on hand when hiking. From GPS gear to footwear, you’ll be more prepared than ever if you bring these and other essentials along.

Trip Planning

It’s no secret hiking with another companion will keep you safer in case you take a spill or have a health scare. But for hikers who prefer going solo, experts recommend you leave a detailed plan of your whereabouts and when you expect to arrive home. 

 will keep you safer in case you take a spill or have a health scare. But for hikers who prefer going solo, experts recommend you leave a detailed plan of your whereabouts and when you expect to arrive home. 

Additionally, you’ll want to take several safety precautions, including turning off your smartphone or leaving it in airplane mode to preserve the battery life in case you need to call for help. Or, better yet, bring along a satellite communications device, as cell service isn’t always reliable.


Bringing an old-school paper map is essential so you don’t get lost, which at best could prove embarrassing and at worst dangerous. Additionally, having a GPS watch will allow you to cross-check your location and track your health, including your heart rate and stress level. 

Other obvious but essential gear should include a lightweight backpack to carry food and clothing, a headlamp with a long battery life, a sleeping bag (rated appropriately for the climate and season) and a tent for overnight trips.


Minimalists might be all about paring down their possessions. But when it comes to hiking and generally spending a good amount of time outdoors, some accessories are worth packing and the weight on your shoulders — literally.

For example, you’ll need a portable charger for any electronics, such as a smartphone or GPS device. Meantime, photography enthusiasts will need a Joby tripod and camera phone lens kit to snap the most amazing shots. Additionally, on longer hikes or overnight trips, a good hiker knows to bring a trowel in order to dig a hole for when nature calls. 

Weather-Appropriate Apparel

In most weather conditions, a three-layer system of clothing works best. Start with a base layer of polyester or merino wool to wick moisture away from your skin. Then, add an insulation layer and shell layer, as needed, for warmth and protection from rain, wind or snow. Additionally, a pair of wool hiking socks and waterproof hiking boots will keep your feet cozy and blister-free.


Remember, on difficult trails or in high elevations, hikers need to combat fatigue and potential altitude sickness. With that in mind, pack water purification tablets and a hydration bladder or water bottle. Additionally, plan to fuel up with trail-friendly foods like instant bean and rice packets that you can heat over a lightweight camp stove.

Repellent and a First-Aid Kit

Hikers like to think about the grand photo opportunities they might encounter in remote areas, but not the hazards that come with them. To combat sun, bugs and beasts, don’t forget the sunscreen, insect repellent and bear deterrent spray, respectively. Additionally, pack a first-aid kit that includes items like adhesive bandages, ointment, aspirin, gauze, bandages, tweezers, a rubber tourniquet and other essentials as you see fit.

Onward and Upward

Whether you decide to brave the high desert of Arizona or trail run in Minnesota, go forth with confidence. With gear like a GPS watch, smartphone lens kit, waterproof hiking boots and repellent, hikers can face almost anything. Next up? Facing the in-laws again at Christmas.

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