Hiking Gear Checklist: Choosing The Best Gear for Backpacking

As with camping, fishing or hunting, going on an exhilarating hike is a great way to get some beneficial exercise and to enjoy the great outdoors. As you hit the trail, you will experience many wonderful sights and sounds. But that does not mean you should skip planning, packing and preparing for your hike. By bringing everything necessary to ensure your safety and enjoyment, you can ensure your next hike will be the best one yet.

To be prepared before you get out on a hiking excursion, use a hiking gear checklist. There is nothing worse than arriving at your destination only to find you have forgotten a key piece of equipment or gear. Even worse is when an emergency arises out in the middle of nowhere and you do not have the supplies necessary to assist yourself or your fellow hikers.

Anything can happen on a hike like inclement weather, accidents and other unexpected situations. By using a concise hiking gear checklist, you can be ready for whatever comes your way. When you know you have everything you need, you can relax and enjoy your hike in the wilderness without any worry or fear.

If you aren’t sure what you should bring on a hiking trip, fear not. This list will help you identify everything you need to have a safe, productive trip. This list also includes important details on the items you should bring with you on the trail. So, keep reading about the hiking essentials in this guide, so you can protect your personal safety and well being while enjoying all the beauty nature has to offer.

1. Navigational Necessities

Hiking GPS for Backpacking
You should always carry a Compass or a GPS unit when backpacking.

Getting lost can ruin any hike, so start by gathering a few things for your navigational needs. The following items will help you keep track of where you are and where you are going:

  • Maps: Bring a map of wherever you are hiking. Look to see that it has the proper topographic details listing everything in the local area. Always bring a paper copy, not just the map on your smartphone, just in case your battery loses power.
  • Compasses: A compass will help you stay in the direction you should be heading. You can easily fit one in your pocket and the best part of all is that you’ll never have to worry about recharging it. There are many compass apps, but just like maps, always bring the old-fashioned kind for a backup.
  • GPS Devices: A GPS device  is not necessary, but many hikers find them helpful. This type of device gives you a precise readout of where you are, so there are no questions. However, you need to bring batteries or a portable external charger for your GPS device, so you always have enough power ready for its use.
  • Flares and Signals: You should also bring flares or other signaling items in case you are lost. When hiking in the woods, the trees can make it hard for rescuers or other hikers to find you. A flare is easy to spot for miles.
  • Radios such as a two-way radio and an emergency radio.

These navigational materials will help you find your way around, although there is always the chance you may get lost. To be safe, always pack these essential navigational items with your hiking gear.

2. Survival Tools

Survival Tools For Backpacking
You’ll want to make sure you have a reliable knife while backpacking.

Survival tools are highly useful to bring with you out in the wild. Not having the right survival tools can ruin a hiking trip. You can use survival tools for cutting, making fires, repairing things and personal protection. Be sure to pack a:

  • Small cutting blade and a pair of small shears
  • Filing tool, pliers and a screwdriver
  • Can and bottle openers

You can find many of these tools in an all-in-one multi-tool. Multi-tools include a variety of helpful items and some even include an LED mini-light. But whatever you choose, everything in your survival tool should be retractable. The pieces in the tool should fold back into a secure body. If they stick out inside your backpack, they could cause damage.

3. Choosing the Best Hiking Clothes

Wear the Right Clothes For Backpacking
You should always dress for the occasion when going backpacking.

Consider the clothes you wear while hiking carefully. Always wear something that is comfortable but still protects your body from the elements. Long-sleeve shirts and full-length pants cover more parts of your body, so they can keep the sun’s rays and harmful insects from being a threat. However, if it is hot outside, long sleeves and pants can cause heat stroke. If you must dress in shorts and a tank top, be sure to use sunscreen and bug repellent.

Here are some additional tips for your hiking gear checklist:

  • Wear layers that are appropriate for the season. Lighter layers work best during the summer because you can slip the outer layer off when you start to feel hot. Heavier layers will keep you warm in the winter, but be sure to look for moisture-wicking fabrics to avoid hypothermia.
  • Treat summer clothes with insect repellent. You can spray a scent-free repellant directly on your clothes before you get dressed. Don’t forget to use repellent on your skin to keep you fully protected.
  • Make sure your clothes fit your body. Your clothes must be secure and easy to wear without slipping off or catching on branches. Clothing should not be too restrictive to move, too. Avoid anything that is worn out. Clothing with holes or rips can catch on things and become dangerous. Holes can also allow pests access to bite your skin and expose you to more UV rays, too.

4. Hiking Footwear Basics

Hiking Shoes while Backpacking
Always make sure you are wearing the right shoes while backpacking.

The footwear you bring hiking should be fully secure and have a good grip on the sole. Anything that is waterproof always helps, especially if you plan on getting into damp areas or the weather is rainy and stormy.

Also, choose your footwear depending on the season. Thick boots are perfect in the wintertime, but lighter footwear is more comfortable and cooler in the spring or summer. Observe how tall the footwear is, too. For example, hiking waders are great if you plan on going into extremely damp or wet areas. Such waders might be several inches in height and will cover more parts of your body, too.

Whatever the case may be, make sure your footwear fits you perfectly. Your boots or shoes need to fit without slipping around, which can create blisters and intense abrasions. If you buy new hiking boots, wear them a few times before hiking to break them in, so they will be comfortable.

5. Sun Safety

Sunscreen While Backpacking
Sun exposure is something that not every backpacker plans for, but should.

Always keep yourself safe from the harmful UV rays of the sun. Your backpacking checklist should include the following:

Sunscreen: Bring enough sunscreen to protect your skin from the sun’s rays with a sun protection factor (SPF) of at least 30 or higher. Apply sunscreen at least 15 to 30 minutes before your hike. Reapply regularly, especially if you sweat profusely or decide to take a swim.

  • Sunglasses: Look for shades that offer full polarization to shield your eyes from the sun’s rays. Polarized lenses sunglasses also your eyes from severe glare.
  • Lip Balm: Lip balm protects the delicate skin on your lips from the sun. Make sure the lip balm has an SPF-rating of at least 30. Be sure to reapply often.
  • Clothing: As long it is not too hot and humid, wearing long sleeves, a hat or long pants can protect you from sunburns. A wide-brimmed hat, or even a baseball cap, can provide additional protection.

Remember that sun protection is vital at any time of the year. Even when it is cold outdoors, you still need protection from the sun’s rays. If anything, the sun might be even more dangerous in the winter, because it provides a false layer of confidence. In fact, the sun’s rays are still dangerous and can also bounce off the white winter snow, making them stronger.

6. Lighting the Way

Firestarter While Backpacking
You should make a habit of packing a firestarter anytime you are spending time in the wilderness.

Good lighting is vital for any trip, no matter where you go. However, you cannot guarantee that you will be near a light source while outdoors on a hiking trail. Even if you don’t plan to be hiking after dark, if by chance you are lost and night falls, you’ll be prepared. Therefore, a good flashlight or headlamp is always an essential backup plan.

Always bring plenty of batteries to ensure you always have a light source. Avoid bringing matches with you, if possible. Matches can get wet or damp and not spark, so bring a firestarter rod with a steel body that produces sparks. That way, you can always start a controlled fire with ease.

7. First Aid Kit Tips

First Aid Kit while Hiking
You should always have a first aid kit while hiking or backpacking.

Always add a first aid kit to your hiking checklist. Be sure to wrap, package and store everything in your first aid kit so it will be ready in the event of any medical issues or injuries. Your first aid kit should include:

  • Bandages, tape and medical adhesive.
  • Medical shears and tweezers.
  • First aid cream or antibacterial ointment.
  • Rubbing alcohol and pads.
  • Cotton swabs.
  • Magnifying lens.
  • Hand sanitizer.
  • Pain relief medicine.
  • Any medications you or anyone else in your hiking party might require.

You have the option to add anything else you want to your first aid kit. But watch for how you organize your kit, so you can find what you need fast. Also, be sure the kit is sturdy, roomy and waterproof, as well.

8. Helpful Hydration Hints

Keep Hydrated While Hiking
You’ll always want to make sure you have purification readiness planned in advance to stay hydrated.

You must bring enough supplies to help you get drinking water ready. It is not practical to take loads of water bottles with you on your hike. They will weight too much and take up too much space in your backpack, as well. Take some water bottles to use and make sure there is one bottle per person per day. Make sure there is enough water to keep everyone hydrated by rationing properly.

You can also use water you find in the wild. Just follow these steps:

  • Gather a portable cooking stove and some pots to boil any water you find nearby. Remember, boiling the water is the only sure way to kill bacteria.
  • Use iodine tablets to kill the bacteria in the water you find. These tablets mix in well with any bottle.
  • Use a hydration filter, if possible. A charcoal or UV-powered filter force out metals and other toxins from water.

It is possible to have an unlimited supply of water with you when backpacking. Add the right water cleaning materials to your backpacking essentials checklist, so you can enjoy a clean water supply whenever you need it.

9. Shelter and Sleeping Strategies

Shelter While Hiking or Backpacking
While tents are ideal, even a solid tarp makes for a good outdoor shelter.

Think about the shelter you need when creating your camping gear checklist. It should create a comfortable space that protects everyone in your hiking party. Tents are essential to have for keeping everyone warm and sheltered from the elements, especially at night. Be sure to make sure your tents are high-quality and durable.

Also, be certain that you can quickly set your tent up with ease. Make sure you bring enough shelter for all the people in your party, too. Think about the sleeping items to go with your tent, as well. Get the right sleeping items to create a comfortable space for everyone to be during the night. You can bring the following items for extra comfort:

  • A sleeping mat for the bottom part of the tent. This covers the natural surface and keeps people from becoming uncomfortable with grass, dirt and other things below them.
  • A portable camping mattress for a softer base. Make sure to pack it well and check for leaks. In most cases, you to inflate it.
  • Light sheets or blankets for chilly nights. Don’t pack anything overly bulky or heavy unless it is cold and you need a thicker cover.
  • Bring small pillows for neck support. You can use those inflatable pillows that match up with a camping mat, too. The best part it, they do not take up much space in your gear.
  • A sleeping bag for each person. Sleeping bags provide comfort and protection from bugs and the cold. Choose the lightest weight sleeping bag, so it is easier to roll up and carry. Bring a mat or mattress for under the sleeping bag for additional comfort.

Get all the right gear ready for sleeping, so everyone who hikes with you will feel comfortable. You do not want to have to put up with people being stuck in an area where they are too cold or unable to get the sleep they need because of the environment in question.

10. Packing Personal Care Items

Toilet Paper While Backpacking
Personal care items are a bit of a necessity. Plan sparingly for any successful trip.

You still need to take care of sanitary functions when out in the wild. A complete backpacking list should include all the personal care items you require for daily hygiene, such as:

  • Toilet paper
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Feminine hygiene products
  • Bags for handling and securing waste, including medical waste
  • Soap and shampoo
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste

Secure the bags you use for handling waste and disposed of them carefully. Although human waste can break down on its own over time, it is vital that you keep it from contaminating nearby water sources that others may use. This means to avoid taking care of private affairs near the water itself. The products listed in this guide should break down well enough as long as you use them right.

You also have the option to bring a portable shower with you. A portable shower connects to a water tank. You will need to make sure the water in the tank is clean and safe to use, though.

11. Cooking and Meals

Cooking Gear for Hiking
Having the gear to cook with on any backpacking trip is important.

You have already read about handling water correctly, but you must also look at how you store and prepare food. Add the following materials to your hiking gear checklist, so you’ll be ready to cook meals on the trail:

  • A portable stove and fuel in a propane or gas can
  • Cooking pots and utensils
  • Plates and eating utensils
  • Packaging materials like vacuum or zip lock storage bags, foil and plastic tubs

Bring food items that are easy to transport and consume. These include foods that will provide energy for the hike. Add the following foods to your backpacking gear kit:

  • Energy bars, preferably ones with whole grains
  • Dehydrated meats and other food that you can cook on a portable stove
  • Canned meats, fruits and vegetables
  • Dried fruits, meats and vegetables
  • Peanut or almond butter

These types of foods offer energy through protein and fiber, among other things. Make sure to organize everything you bring to make it easier to locate. Don’t forget to check the freshness of whatever you bring to avoid sickness. Vacuum bags are ideal for food storage because they collapse into small packages that fit well into a backpack.

12. Backpack Facts

Backpack While Hicking - Best Backpacking Gear
Finding the right backpack for the type of expedition you are taking is essential.

The backpack you bring with you is important. With so much outdoor gear to bring, you may not be able to have an ultralight backpack. However, you must secure your backpack properly, so you can tote everything you need for your hiking trip easily. Here are some tips for finding a quality backpack for your next hiking trip:

  • Weight: The weight of the backpack should be approximately two to three pounds at the most. Any heavier than that, and you’ll end up struggling to reach the end of the trail.
  • Construction: Look at the stitching on the backpack for loose or missing threads. A well-constructed backpack can handle the excess weight. The stitching should be tight enough to keep the entire backpack secure.
  • Frame: Check the frame of the backpack for sturdiness. A great frame should include a rugged design that keeps the pack in its original shape by providing extra support.
  • Waterproofing: Make sure your backpack is waterproof and watertight. It needs to be solid and secure enough to keep rain from becoming a threat.
  • Storage: The backpack should be enough compartments to organize all your items. Your backpack should be able to secure separate items from one another. Small pockets are helpful for storing and finding your gear fast.

Whatever backpack you choose, you need one that is easy to carry around and is not a pain to use for long periods on the trail.

Everything in this checklist of the best backpacking gear will help you get the most out of your next outdoor trip. Make sure you are careful when getting your hiking gear checklist ready. Cross off the items as you add them to your backpack. Remember, being prepared is vital to your safety and enjoyment out in the wild.

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