Hiking is a fantastic way to connect to nature and the world around you. However, without the proper supplies, a rewarding outdoor trek can quickly turn into a miserable, and potentially even life-threatening experience. That’s why the Big Daddy Life team has compiled this list of essentials that you should bring on such an excursion. Check out and check off the following items the next time you plan a hike through the great outdoors.
This is probably a “duh” item, but again, it’s quite common for beginner-level hikers to underestimate what they need, even on intermediary hikes. Always bring a sufficient amount of water on any hike. It doesn’t hurt to bring along a sports drink either, to replenish any electrolytes you may have lost on your journey.
Just like hiking can work up a thirst, it can also work up an appetite. If your hike is on the shorter side, a few energy bars or a bag of trail mix should be fine. However, if you’re going on a longer trek or want to err on the side of caution, you’ll want to bring more. From sandwiches, and canned foods, to leftovers in storage containers, you can’t go wrong with your hiking menu. Just be sure that you bring items that won’t go bad in the conditions and timeframe in which you are hiking, and that you bring along utensils, napkins, or cap openers if needed.
Getting lost is a cardinal fear among hikers. However, when you prepare properly, there should be no reason for this to happen. While you may think your smartphone is all you need, solely relying on this device can cost you. Should your phone die, get damaged, or if you are simply starved of bars, phones can quickly become useless. Paper maps are a much more reliable option, and are often freely distributed at popular trails. Bring along a compass as well.
Skin that is left exposed to the sun unprotected can start to burn in as little as 10 minutes, and, depending on the severity of the burn, can take anywhere from days to weeks to heal. Not only does this hurt (a lot) but it can cause your skin to age prematurely and even lead to cancer. Using sunscreen, protective clothing, hats, and sunglasses are all ways you can prevent yourself from burning on your hike. So, be sure to bring them along with you, even on overcast days.
Extra Clothing and Footwear
The outdoors can be extremely unpredictable. Additional clothing may be needed for a long hike, if the trip exceeds a day, or the weather takes an unexpected turn, and it is essential to know how to layer correctly. For adverse weather, like wind or rain, a light, easy-to-pack shell layer is recommended. These can add enough protection without weighing you down. Protect your hands with gloves and your feet with a change of socks, as this helps to prevent blisters and other walking injuries. For colder climates it is good practice to insulate yourself, so warm sweaters and fleeces are must-haves.
Knife or Multitool
Knives and multitools are great for a variety of situations you are likely to encounter while hiking. While probably not crucial for your more casual hiking trip, knives and multitools can prove useful in a variety of situations you are likely to encounter on more ambitious treks. This includes:
Cutting and preparing food
Opening bear canisters
Breaking down wood branches for fires
Cleaning fish (if fishing on your backpacking trip)
Repairing broken gear
For overnight trips, or in case of an emergency, you want to be able to build a fire relatively easily. Whether you need a source of light, to warm yourself, or cook food, fire is truly one of nature’s multitools. Waterproof matches, an electric lighter, or a mag strike should be on any hiker’s checklist.
Being able to see after the sun is no longer in the sky can help you see features on the trail that could injure you. Headlamps are preferred options, as it allows you to have your hands free while moving and the light is a little more controlled than using a flashlight. Don’t forget extra batteries or recharge before you go.
Whether you are planning on an overnight adventure, or you find yourself in a bind, having a shelter to protect you from the elements while you rest is extremely important. Pack a tent, bivvy, or mylar sleeping bag at the bottom of your pack. Or if you prefer, survival blankets are also a good option.
Accidents happen. However, while you can’t always prevent these instances from happening, you can prepare for them. Having a first aid kit on hand can be a lifesaver. This is especially true when going on longer hikes in more isolated areas. The longer any form of injury goes untreated, the worse it gets. So it helps to have some supplies on hand to treat them as quickly as possible. Even if it’s just a simple cut or scrape, at the very least, it can be quite annoying to deal with untreated for the duration of your hike. Be sure to include items that can clean and cover open wounds.
While hiking is a fun and fulfilling outdoor activity, this only applies to trips in which you are fully prepared. Whether you are packing items for inevitable use, or just in case of emergency, check the above items off before your hiking adventure to help ensure you will enjoy your time and get home safely. Be sure to click the button below for a downloadable version of our full hiking checklist, and, as always, happy hiking!