With spring approaching, it’s time to make sure your hiking gear is on-point.
Whether you’re relatively new to hiking or basically half mountain goat, solid gear makes a huge difference. Hiking is one of the most straightforward pastimes, so the essential equipment is pretty straightforward too: it’s all meant to keep you safe, healthy and able-bodied.
However, deciding on a versatile, reliable set of hiking essentials can be tough. There’s a lot of options for hiking gear out there, and because each product serves such an important purpose (i.e. a GPS for finding your way home or a first aid kit), you don’t want to take a risk with a bad product. Plus, it’s easy to go overboard with too much gear, which ruins the experience by weighing you down.
To help find a definitive set of hiking essentials, we’ve rounded up 12 pieces of hiking gear that everyone should have on the trail. We’ve found the best of each, from water bottles to hiking shoes, so you can make the most of the great outdoors.
1. Patagonia Men’s Quandary Hiking Pants
BEST HIKING PANTS
A must-have for anyone hiking during any season, these Patagonia Quandary hiking pants will protect your legs from tall grasses, rocks, dirt, and loose trail. Breathable and flexible, these pants will serve you for many seasons. Made from a recycled mixture of nylon and spandex, these pants will prove to be a great fit as well as great for the environment.
2. Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter
BEST WATER FILTER
If you’re heading up the mountain or far from any source of reliable water, it’s a smart idea to bring a water filter, especially if you are hiking further than the amount you think you can carry (although it’s a good idea to plan a hike exactly around how much water you need and can carry). A water filter is different from a purifier, which is best used when you aren’t sure of the water source or if you’re traveling and hiking in another country. But the Sawyer Squeeze water filter is easy to use and filters out pathogens such as E.coli and other bacteria.
3. Black Diamond Astro 135 Headlamp
Everyone needs a headlamp in case of emergency and besides, who knows if you’ll make a wrong turn and end up trekking home in the dark on a rocky trailhead? Black Diamond is one of the best headlamp makers and the wattage on the Astro 135 can’t be beaten. With a 175 lumens range, an LED light and a red light, you’ll be set for an unscheduled adventure in the dark.
4. Neutrogena Sunscreen SPF 45
Sunscreen is pretty obvious, but the rigors of hiking for hours in the sun requires a high-performing tube of protection. We recommend Neutrogena’s best-selling Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch sunscreen because it has a non-greasy formula that’s easy on sensitive or acne-prone skin, but it’s still tough enough to keep sunburns at bay. It’s also water-resistant for 80 minutes, which is essential when hiking as you’re bound to sweat. For short hikes, leave a bottle of this in the car or by your front door, but be sure to keep it in your bag on longer treks.
5. DeftGet First Aid Kit
BEST FIRST AID
Every hiker should have their own first aid kit, even if you’re in a group. But let’s be honest: it can feel excessive sometimes. That’s why we think a super-compact, affordable first aid kit like this one from DeftGet is a great investment. Even though it’s compact (about 8 x5 x 2 inches) and affordable ($17), it comes equipped with 163 pieces of survival gear such as bandages, sting relief, an emergency blanket and a credit card-sized multi-tool. It should cover the majority of accidents that happen while out the wilderness and makes a great addition to your car or home as well.
6. LifeStraw Go Water Filter Bottle
BEST WATER BOTTLE
Hydration is arguably the most important concern while out in the wild. Recently, we’ve been blessed with water bottles that feature a built-in filter at an affordable price. It’s is a game-changer for any adventurer because it means you don’t have to pack a huge bottle of water, and you can always get more if you’re out longer than expected (i.e. lost). This makes it a great purchase for any adventurer — from casual hiker to extreme explorer. We suggest this one from LifeStraw because it’s reasonably priced at $37, comes very highly-rated with 4.7 stars after 8,000+ reviews, and features a quality replaceable filter. The filter is made using a hollow fiber membrane that traps bacteria and protozoa, allowing you to drink any water you find.
7. Foxelli Trekking Poles
BEST TREKKING POLES
Trekking poles aren’t just for old people. Along with making it easier to walk, the poles also improve your posture, activate more muscles, help with balance and allow you to move faster. These trekking poles from Foxelli are a great option with a collapsible design for easy storage in your bag, and a 100% carbon fiber build that reduces shock. They also feature comfortable ergonomic cork handles that absorb sweat and prevent slipping. Users are very impressed, as the poles boast 4.8 stars with almost 2,000 reviews, saying the poles are super lightweight, easy to adjust and well-valued at $60.
8. Merrell Moab Hiking Shoes
BEST HIKING SHOES
Proper footwear is probably the most important piece of gear when hitting the trail. You can’t go wrong with these simple, highly-rated hiking shoes from Merrell. They’re not as bulky as hiking boots, but they provide the same support with zonal arch support that keeps your feet ready for more. The suede and mesh upper balances breathability and ruggedness, allowing you to confidently scramble up rocks and stay comfortable in the heat. You’re also getting the reliability of Merrell, a brand that’s become a go-to for hikers of all levels since 1981.
9. Osprey Nebula Backpack
Versatility is the name of the game when picking a hiking backpack for your adventures, which is why this Osprey Nebula is our top pick. It offers 34L of storage space, which is just big enough for an overnight camping trip but still small enough for easy day trips. It’s also a great option for non-wilderness adventures with a TSA-approved laptop sleeve, while comfortable padding on the shoulders and back keep you happy in any setting. If your hike or commute gets more serious (say, jogging on the trail or rushing to catch the subway) a waist strap provides some extra security.
10. Oakley Half Jacket Sunglasses
You need sunglasses more often than you might realize. Cloud cover doesn’t reduce the radiation that can harm your eyes, and if it’s snowing or freshly rained, glare can make it difficult to see where you’re going. Because of this, it’s imperative that you equip yourself with some great shades like these Oakleys. A few key features make them a serious upgrade from regular shades, such as Unobtanium ear socks and nose pads that stay put even while you sweat. Plus, polarized lenses featuring Oakley’s patented high definition optics offer clear, glare-free vision so you can easily see any obstacles or dangers along your path. They’re slightly more expensive than some athletic sunglasses, but we think these upgrades and the brand-reliability of Oakley makes the extra dough worth it.
11. Arc’teryx Atom Insulated Jacket
The best go-to jacket for hiking should keep you comfortable in the widest possible range of weather. This Arc’teryx takes the cake with coreloft insulation that keeps you warm in all conditions (including wet weather), as well as an adjustable hem, hood and sleeves to keep the jacket secure. The hood is also designed to slide easily over a beanie in especially cold weather. We think the versatility of this Arc’teryx makes it better than a down jacket that can get easily ruined or a simple rain shell and sweater combo. Plus, it comes very highly-rated with 4.5 stars and over 200 reviews on Backcountry.
12. Garmin Instinct GPS Watch
Even the best hikers get lost sometimes, which is why a reliable GPS is essential. Garmin is the name-of-the-game when it comes to GPS systems, so this watch is definitely your best bet. The watch isn’t simply a GPS tool, as it also comes equipped with two other satellite systems, GLONASS and Galileo. Other useful features include Garmin’s TracBack, which guides you back the way you came (like a 21st-century bread crumb trail). It’s also tough as nails with a military-grade, shockproof construction that provides 100 meters of water-resistance. Use it as an emergency tool if need be, or alternatively, let yourself get a little bit lost and then find your way back with the watch.