Hiking gear essentials: The complete checklist you need for your next hike

Everything you need to know. Including what to wear, safety gear and more

Haystacks from the NW ridge of Fleetwith Pike Lake District Photos Tom Bailey.JPG

by Caitlin Casey |

It's not always easy knowing what to take on a hike. Firstly, there's the clothes that you should be wearing and the boots to walk in, then you have to think about safety gear and the best rucksacks - you want to be comfy but efficient.

Live For The Outdoors has compiled a complete list of all of the gear and products you'll need to complete a perfect day hike or long-term overnight hike. From waterproofs to multi-tools, follow these recommendations and you'll never forget anything.

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The more you go hiking, the more you'll become familiar with everything you'll need. Of course, not everyone takes the same things, but you'll get to know what you like by starting with a foundation of essential tools and accessories. Even better for you, we've got an 'Editor's Pick' in each of these sections, so you can learn the tried and tested 'best of' products.

Live For The Outdoor's complete hiking guide:

1. What to consider when purchasing hiking gear

2. What to wear for hiking

3. Safety gear for hiking

4. Sleeping products for long hikes

5. Hygiene gear for hiking

6. Food & drink for hiking

7. Tools for hiking

8. Accessories for hiking

Firstly, let's kick off with what you should consider before you even purchase anything for your hike or walk.

What to consider when purchasing hiking gear

Purchasing hiking gear can be a bit of a mission if you don't know what you're looking out for. Whether you're going on a day hike to a new village or a longer trek through mountains, there are lots of different elements to consider. Waterproofs may not be necessary for warmer summer months, but in winter you'll want to stock up on layers - so it's really what you and your team are up to.

There are some things you should think about before stocking up on your hiking gear.

Season and weather: This plays a big factor in what you will want to take on your hike. Winter trips with icy mountains mean more layers, crampons and maybe even ice picks. On the other hand, if you're going on a summery day trip, you may not need so much gear. Waterproofs are handy even when it's not raining, but may become a bit too bulky if you're looking for space on a hot day. Make sure you understand the climate of where you're hiking before you buy any gear.

Terrain: Are there long hills or steep ridges? Will you be walking cross-country, scrambling or staying completely on the path? These will all change what types of shoes and clothes you need, as well as any other accessories you might need to consider, like GPS, compasses and maps for more rural locations.

Budget: Can you afford to invest in loads of new hiking gear? If not, there are loads of budget options that can be just as good in value, or you may want to consider second-hand gear. You don't need masses of clothes and accessories to make your hike efficient, so only buy what you need.

Length of hike: Day hikes are very different to overnight camping and can completely change what essentials you need. If you're staying longer, you may want to consider investing in some portable cookware, and you'll need a sleeping bag, tent and mat. You probably already know whether or not you're doing a day trip, so just consider this.

What to wear for hiking

What you wear when hiking is one of the most important things to consider when going on your next adventure. There are some major essentials you should be thinking about when purchasing new hiking clothes and gear, as uncomfortable clothing could be the make or break of a successful hike.

Base layers and mid-layers: Base and mid-layers are extremely important for keeping you comfortable, dry and warm when walking and hiking. You'll want a layer that balances weatherproofing and breathability well, while also fitting and stretching well.

Waterproof jacket or coat: Needed for keeping rain and wind at bay, a waterproof jacket or lightweight insulated jacket is a must-have for hiking and hillwalking. Look for something durable, breathable and lightweight, with a well-fitting hood that packs down small when it’s stashed inside your rucksack. It’s also useful if you can access the pockets without having to unbuckle your rucksack first. Fleece jackets are also helpful for colder hikes.

Walking trousers: Having suitable legwear can help protect you from wind, rain and cold, plus any scuffs from rough terrain. Flexibility is key with walking trousers, as you want full movement in your legs, especially when scrambling or climbing. Except for specialist products, walking trousers will rarely be waterproof, but water- and wind-resistant options are readily available for bad-weather walking. Walking trousers should also have enough durability to withstand bumps and scrapes on rocks.

Walking boots: Good walking boots with ankle support can go a long way to protecting your feet and keeping you comfortable on the hillside. It’s a matter of personal choice whether you wear traditional leather boots or lighter synthetic versions, but you should always ensure they have a strong and grippy sole, and enough protection to keep your feet safe on tough mountain routes. Remember you'll need good hiking socks to go with these. For quick and agile hikes, you may want to consider trial shoes.

Headwear: You lose heat through your head and even in fine weather, you’ll face a big temperature drop between sea level and mountain top, so a warm hat is always worth keeping in your rucksack. And make sure you pack a spare on really cold days! To help you fend off the worst of the sun, a cap is also recommended for warm weather walks.

Rucksack: You need a backpack big enough to hold all of the additional essential kits listed below. Dedicated walking packs have lots of pockets that allow you to separate gear, while alpine-style designs usually have one main compartment and a lid pocket. Make sure you get the right size for your trip.

In your rucksack: Don't forget about the insides of your rucksack! Depending on how long you're away and where you'll be hiking, you'll want to make sure you have one or two of the following items:

• Plenty of water

• Food for the day

• Buff or similar neck gaiter

• Mobile phone

• First aid kit

Headtorch

• Extra warm layers

Overtrousers

Gloves (plus an extra set in winter)

GPS device (optional)

• Camera (optional)

What to wear hiking: Editor's picks

Safety gear for hiking

Next up in line on our complete guide to hiking gear, you'll want to remember safety items that can be incredibly important when taking more difficult paths or on longer journeys. Products like head torches, lanterns, first aid kits and compasses are an important part of your inventory. Here's a full list of safety gear you should consider before going on your hike.

Head torches, lanterns and hand torches: Perfect for when it gets darker or if you're walking in winter months. Make sure you have at least one of these just in case. We recommend head torches for ease, lanterns if you're planning to stay or sleepover as well as hand torches, which are a classic tool to stock up on. You can check out Live For The Outdoor's buying guide on head torches or reviews of the best hillwalking head torches if you want to know exactly what you need.

First aid kits: Including plasters, bandages, antiseptic wipes, gauze pads, medical tape, painkillers, insect bite treatment, tweezers, antihistamine as a baseline. You can get miniature kits to safe space or go for full-sized collections for longer hikes.

Survival kits: In use for emergencies or if you find yourself in sticky dangerous situations. Should include products like a multi-function knife, emergency blanket, whistle, keychain light, fire starter and more, depending on what you think you need.

Map and compass: Conditions can turn quickly in the mountains, making it essential to carry a map and compass (and know how to use them). The Ordnance Survey lead the way in terms of paper mapping, and it’s also possible to print custom maps or access maps on your smartphone through an OS subscription. You may want to consider investing in a GPS watch so that you can keep track without having to faff with maps.

The best safety gear for hiking: Editor's Picks

Sleeping products for long hikes

If you're going on extra-long treks or looking to sleep over through wild camping or at sites, then you'll want to grab some sleeping products for hikes that help you rest successfully. Make sure you grab products that are lightweight, but comfortable enough for you to sleep and keep you full of energy for continuing your hike.

Some products that you'll want to consider are:

Sleeping mats: These go underneath your sleeping bags, inside your tent. Sleeping mats give you a bit of extra comfort rather than laying flat on rocky or uncomfortable ground.

Sleeping bags: Of course, the most traditional sleeping product you can find is a sleeping bag. These are available in lots of prices and materials, to suit all budgets and seasons.

Camping pillows: Of course, you don't want to get caught out camping without a comfy pillow to rest your head-on. Make sure you pick up an easily condensed camping pillow that won't be too bulky to carry.

Tents: Unless you plan to camp totally in the open or a bivvy, you'll want to invest in a tent to sleep in. Try to find a tent that folds up easily and efficiently and is lightweight to carry for the duration of your hike.

Check out our full tent guides here:

Buying guide: backpacking tents

The big solo tent test: eight of the best one-person tents reviewed

Six of the best two-person tents reviewed

The best three-man tents reviewed

The best six-man tents for families and groups

Which bivvy should I buy?

Best sleeping products for long hikes: Editor's picks

Hygiene gear for hiking

Personal hygiene is one of the most important things to consider when going on a day hike or overnight camp. It's always handy to have wipes, travel toothbrushes and antibacterial sprays at hand so that you can freshen up.

Some products you'll want to pop in your bags are:

• Wet wipes

• Antibacterial spray or gel

• Tissues

• Travel toothbrushes

• Travel toothpaste

• Microfibre towels

• Biodegradable soap

Although it's unlikely that looking glamourous is your primary concern when hiking, it's still important to have hygiene gear packed away. Make sure to stay away from hygiene products full of strong chemicals, as can damage the environment.

Make sure to pick up eco-friendly biodegradable products that are neutral in pH and full of natural ingredients. Remember to take all packaging and used products with you to dispose of correctly when you're back in civilisation.

The best hygiene gear for hiking: Editor's picks

Food & drink for hiking

You'll also want to think about what food you want to bring on your hiking trips, especially if you're planning to stop and eat lunch or think you'll need some energy boosts. More than anything, make sure you have enough water to suffice for the trip so you can stay hydrated for the whole journey.

Make sure you plan for the whole of your trip. Think about the duration, amount of hikers and how much you can carry, because these are all things that will change what food and drink you need. Flasks that can carry hot drinks, and food may be helpful if you're going on a shorter day trip.

On hikes or day trips, you'll want to bring food that's full of energy, but not too big or heavy to carry. Fresh food can work because it won't be going off. You'll want:

• Energy and granola bars

• Nuts, seeds and trail mix

• Perishable foods to eat like sandwiches

• Fresh fruit

• Pre-made lunches like salads, pasta, rice and cous cous

• Dried meat

On overnight hiking trips consider bringing portable camping stoves so that you can have a fully cooked meal. This will take up some space and can be fairly heavy - especially with a gas canister. So, make sure to check you'll be able to take the load.

For longer journeys, you'll want to pick up the list above as well as:

• Packaged fish, meat and vegetables in individual servings

• Individual packets or sachets of sauces and condiments

• Dried pasta, cous cous, rice and cereal for carbs

• Dehydrated food – this comes in handy if you can find a boiling water source

• Lots of water

Food & drink accessories for hiking: Editor's Pick

Tools for hiking

Hiking tools are incredibly important if you're planning to set up tents, pitch a campfire and for overall hiking safety. In your tools, you'll want to carry the safety gear, as mentioned above, as well as a few other pieces of kit that will make your hike run smoothly. Camping gadgets can be particularly helpful if you want to get techy with your gear.

Multi-tools: Grabbing a multi-tool can save space as well as keep your journey running smoothly. Look to find tools that include bottle openers, pliers, files, tweezers, screwdrivers and knives. You'll be amazed how often they come in handy.

Pen knives: Similar to the multi-tools mentioned above, these usually come all in one with different tools to flip out. Pen knives are usually smaller and can get into trickier places. You never know when you might need one.

Mallets: You'll want to pick up a mallet if you're looking to tie down your tent. These come in super handy for popping down those pegs and keeping things in place. Depending on what tent you have, you may need a different style of the mallet - for steel pegs, use a steel hammer, otherwise, you can grab traditional rubber or wooden mallets for keeping at basecamp, or a modern lightweight alternative.

Bottle opener, can opener or corkscrew: Depending on what food and drink you bring, these tools may be important for you to carry - so don't forget them.

Ice axes: Useful mainly in winter and in colder countries, ice axes are extremely helpful when trekking up snowy mountains. Similar to this, you may want to invest in some crampons and ice grippers if you're going on a snowy hike.

Best tools for hiking: Editor's picks

Accessories for hiking

We've mentioned a lot of gear so far in our ultimate guide to hiking, so you may be feeling a bit overwhelmed. Accessories are things that may not feel necessary, but make hiking just a little bit more efficient. Here are some of the last bits that you may want to consider before setting off on a long hike:

Walking poles: One of those bits of gear you’ll never truly appreciate the benefit of until you’ve used them properly! Walking and trekking poles can take a huge amount of pressure off your ankles, knees and muscles during a big ascent or descent, which is great for conserving energy – especially if you’re carrying a heavy pack.

Camping chairs: Hiking somewhere with a view? Make sure to pick up your camping chairs so you can enjoy your destination. They're also helpful if you get tired easily and need to take a rest.

Bags: As mentioned before, backpacks and rucksacks are the first things you'll think of when investing in a bag for hiking. Within that though, you'll want to consider organisation bags so you can keep all of your bits and bobs easily to hand. Packing cubes can make a long hike just that much more efficient.

What to read next

Read our full guides on individual outdoor hiking kit here:

The best trekking poles

The best walking boots and hiking boots

The best budget walking boots

The best walking shoes and trail walking shoes

The best walking socks

The best leather walking boots and leather hiking boots

The best waterproof trousers

The best walking boots for winter

The best 40-50l large rucksacks

The best sleeping mat

The best fleece jackets

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