hiking essentials for beginners largest

35+ Hiking Essentials Checklist: Your Ultimate Guide

Are you amped about your first hiking adventure but unsure what to bring? You’re not alone. Many beginners feel overwhelmed by the number of items they might need. Fear not! We’re here to help you pack smartly and confidently. Understanding the essentials can make all the difference between a memorable hike and a challenging one.

Key Takeaways

All Hiking Trips


  • Water and hydration pack
  • High-energy snacks
  • Map and compass/GPS
  • First-aid kit
  • Sunscreen, hat, and sunglasses
  • Multi-tool or knife
  • Weather-appropriate clothing
  • Emergency shelter and whistle
  • Insect repellent
  • Trash bag
Overnight Hikes


  • Tent, tent footprint, and sleeping pad
  • Sleeping bag and pillow
  • Portable stove, fuel, matches, and cookware
  • Extra meals and snacks
  • Water purification system
  • Extra clothing and cold weather gear
  • Hygiene supplies and toilet paper
  • Personal locator beacon (PLB) and extra batteries
  • Camp chair, fire starter kit, and extra trash bags
Women Specific


  • Menstrual products and disposal bags
  • Female urination device (FUD)
  • Extra sanitation wipes
  • Supportive sports bra and hair care items
  • Anti-chafing products
Men Specific


  • Shaving supplies and sanitation wipes
  • Quick-dry boxer briefs
  • Anti-chafing products

What are the Hiking Essentials you need as a Beginner?

Before embarking on any hiking adventure, it’s crucial to pack the right hiking gear. Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a beginner, having the proper essentials can make your experience safer and more enjoyable. The following list includes the hiking essentials you’ll need for all trips (over and above the normal 10 hiking essentials recommended), ensuring you’re well-prepared for whatever nature throws your way. From hydration to navigation tools, these items are the foundation of a successful hike.

All Hiking Trips – Essential Hiking Gear

1. Hydration Packs or Water Bottles

For hydration on hikes, I always opt for either a hydration pack or a water bottle. A hydration pack allows easy sipping without stopping, keeping me constantly hydrated. On shorter hikes, water bottles are a simpler choice. Just make sure they’re easy to access. Staying hydrated is key, so choose what fits your hike best. Both options are essential hiking essentials for any trip. Aim for at least 1-2 liters for a short hike and 2-3 liters for longer hikes.

2. Water Purification Tablets or Filter

I never hit the trail without a portable water filter. It’s one of those hiking essentials that gives me peace of mind. When my water supply runs low, I can safely refill from streams or lakes. It’s lightweight and easy to use, making it perfect for longer hikes. Just knowing I have a reliable way to access clean water keeps me confident and prepared for any adventure. But please, research if there are water sources on your hike!

3. Snacks

I always pack plenty of snacks for my hikes. High-energy snacks like nuts, trail mix, and energy bars are my go-tos because they’re easy to carry and provide a quick boost when needed. Dried fruits and jerky are also great options. 

4. Navigation

A map and compass are must-haves, even if I’m familiar with the trail. These days I prefer GPS devices and smartphone apps that work well in offline mode. I also ensure I have a portable charger with me at all times.

5. First-Aid Supplies

This is the biggest essential! I always carry one, stocked with band-aids, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, tweezers, and blister treatment. It’s a small, lightweight addition to my pack that brings peace of mind. You never know when you’ll need it, whether for a minor scrape or something more serious.

6. Sun Protection

I always pack sunscreen with at least SPF 30, a wide-brimmed hat, and sunglasses. The sun’s rays can be harsh, even on cloudy days, and protecting my skin and eyes prevents burns and long-term damage. I apply sunscreen before starting and reapply throughout the hike. These simple steps keep me comfortable and safe, allowing me to enjoy the hike without worrying about sunburn.

7. Multi-Tool or Knife

I always carry one because it’s incredibly versatile, handling tasks like cutting rope, opening food packages, or even first-aid needs. My multi-tool has everything from a small knife to pliers and screwdrivers.

8. Clothing

I always dress in layers to adapt to changing weather conditions. A moisture-wicking base layer keeps me dry, a mid-layer provides warmth, and a waterproof outer layer protects against rain and wind. Don’t forget a hat and gloves for added comfort.

  • Weather-Appropriate Layers: Base layer (moisture-wicking), mid-layer (insulating), and outer layer (waterproof/windproof).
  • Hiking pants (I use pants that can zip off), t-shirt
  • Windproof jacket
  • Rain pants and rain jackets
  • Hat, visor, buff, sunglasses
  • Rain jacket, rain pants, gloves
  • Extra Socks: Dry socks can make a big difference in comfort.

9. Emergency Shelter

I always pack a lightweight emergency space blanket or bivy sack. It’s compact but can be a lifesaver in unexpected weather or if I need to stay overnight unexpectedly.

10. Whistle

For signaling in case of an emergency. Three blasts is the universal distress signal. It’s lightweight and takes up no space, yet it can be a lifesaver in emergencies.

11. Insect Repellent

To keep bugs and ticks at bay. Consider repellents with DEET or natural alternatives. I prefer a DEET-based spray or natural alternatives like lemon eucalyptus oil. Apply it before and during the hike to keep those bugs away. A real life saver in areas like Scotland or Iceland.

12. Trash Bag

The most important item: Leave no trace principles. Pack out everything you bring in. Leave nature as you found it so that we all can enjoy it.

13. Hiking Backpack

It’s the backbone of my hiking essentials. I prefer one with padded straps and multiple compartments for easy organization.

  • Comfortable and Sized Appropriately: Look for one with adjustable straps, padded back, and multiple compartments. A 20-30 liter pack is typically sufficient for day hikes.
  • Rain Cover: To keep your gear dry in case of rain.

14. Trekking Poles

Not everyone uses them, but trekking poles are a game-changer for me and now I include it in my hiking essentials. They provide extra stability on uneven terrain and help reduce strain on my knees during long hikes. I love how they improve my balance and make steep ascents and descents more manageable. As you increase distance or attempt more challenging trails, these will be a knee saver. Lightweight and adjustable, they fit easily into my day pack when not in use.

15. Headlamp or Flashlight

Not necessary for all hikes, but vital if you will be starting early in the day or finish late. I always carry one, even on short hikes, because you never know when you’ll be out longer than expected. I make sure to pack extra batteries too.

16. Fire Starter

I always pack waterproof matches, a lighter, or a fire steel to ensure I can start a fire if needed. It’s a small, lightweight addition that can help me with warmth, cooking, or an emergency signal.

17. Personal Identification and Emergency Contact Information

Crucial for when hiking alone but also very useful in a group. I always have my ID, health insurance card, and a note with emergency contacts in a waterproof bag. In case of an accident or emergency, this information ensures first responders can identify me and contact my loved ones quickly.

18. Photography

There are many opportunities in nature to capture special moments.

  • Bring a reliable camera or smartphone with a high-quality camera for stunning photos.
  • Don’t forget a portable charger or extra batteries to keep your devices powered.
  • If you’re into aerial shots, a lightweight drone (like the DJI Mini 4 Pro) can add a unique perspective.
  • Ensure you have a protective case for your gear and a microfiber cloth to keep lenses clean.

Overnight Hikes

19. Shelter

For overnight hikes, a good shelter is crucial. I always pack a lightweight tent, complete with a tent footprint for added protection. A reliable shelter keeps me dry and shields me from insects and animals. Setting up camp after a long day of hiking is rewarding, and having the right shelter makes all the difference for a restful night.

  • Tent: Lightweight, durable, and suitable for the expected weather conditions.
  • Tent Footprint: To protect the bottom of your tent and provide an extra layer of insulation.
  • Ground Tarp: An additional layer to protect against moisture and provide extra insulation.

20. Sleeping Gear

Nothing can ruin a good night’s rest after a long day’s hike than not sleeping well. I always bring a cozy sleeping bag (rated based on the season) and a lightweight sleeping pad for comfort and insulation. An inflatable pillow adds a touch of home. This setup ensures I get a good night’s sleep, which is crucial for energy and morale on multi-day hikes.

  • Sleeping Bag: Choose one rated for the expected nighttime temperatures.
  • Sleeping Bar Liner: For extra warmth and comfort.
  • Sleeping Pad: For insulation and comfort.
  • Pillow: A lightweight, inflatable pillow or use a stuff sack filled with clothes.
  • Basic repair kit: Essential if you need to fix your sleeping pad or tent.

21. Cooking Supplies

For my overnight hikes, I always pack a portable stove, lightweight cookware, and enough fuel for my trip. A compact pot, pan, and spork cover all my cooking needs. I bring easy-to-cook meals like dehydrated food and instant noodles, which are quick and satisfying after a long day. Don’t forget a lighter and matches for backup. I also pack a small sponge and biodegradable soap for cleanup. Cooking in the great outdoors is one of my favorite parts of camping, and a good cup of coffee in the morning lets me start the day the right way.

  • Portable Stove: A compact camping stove for cooking meals.
  • Fuel: Sufficient fuel for the duration of your trip.
  • Cookware: Lightweight pot, pan, and utensils.
  • Lighter and Matches: Multiple fire-starting methods.
  • Biodegradable Soap and Sponge: For cleaning dishes.
  • Bear Canister or Food Bag: For storing food safely away from wildlife.

22. Food

I bring lightweight, high-calorie meals like dehydrated foods and instant noodles. Snacks like nuts, jerky, and dried fruits keep my energy up throughout the day. I also pack a few treats for morale.

  • Meals: Lightweight, high-calorie meals for dinner and breakfast. Consider dehydrated or freeze-dried meals.
  • Extra Snacks: Additional energy bars, nuts, and dried fruits.
  • Coffee or Tea: For a warm drink in the morning or evening.

23. Water Management

I carry a larger water supply, often a hydration bladder and extra bottles. Additionally, I bring a portable water filter or purification tablets to refill from natural sources safely.

  • Extra Water: Carry additional water or plan for reliable water sources along the trail.
  • Water Purification: Additional purification tablets or a more robust filter system.

24. Clothing

I always bring moisture-wicking base layers, insulating mid-layers, and a waterproof outer layer. Extra socks (wool socks) and underwear are a must for comfort. I also pack a warm hat and gloves for chilly nights. Layering ensures I’m prepared for changing weather and having dry, clean clothes makes all the difference for a good night’s sleep.

  • Extra Clothing: Extra set of base layers, an additional insulating layer, and a change of clothes for sleeping.
  • Cold Weather Gear: Gloves, hat, and thermal layers if temperatures are expected to drop significantly.

25. Hygiene Supplies

Feeling clean at the end of the hiking day is a luxury. I bring biodegradable soap, a small towel, a toothbrush, and toothpaste to stay fresh. Wet wipes are handy for quick cleanups, and a trowel with toilet paper ensures I can follow Leave No Trace principles.

  • Toilet Paper: And a small trowel for digging cat holes.
  • Toothbrush and Toothpaste: Travel-sized.
  • Sanitation Wipes: Biodegradable wipes for personal hygiene.

26. Safety and Emergency Gear

It pays to be safe. I always pack a personal locator beacon, a whistle, and a compact first-aid kit. Extra batteries for my headlamp and a multi-tool are also essential.

  • Personal Locator Beacon (PLB): For emergencies.
  • Extra Batteries: For your headlamp, GPS, and other electronic devices.
  • Signal Mirror and Extra Whistle: For signaling rescuers.

27. Comfort Items

If you are up to it, these items can make your evening memorable. When I can, I try to bring a lightweight camp chair and an inflatable pillow for relaxing by the fire. A small book, kindle, or journal helps pass the time in the evening.

  • Camp Chair: A lightweight, portable chair for sitting around camp.
  • Reading Material, kindle or Journal: For relaxation.

28. Extra Trash Bags

  • For Packing Out: All trash, including food scraps and hygiene items.
  • They’re also handy for storing wet or dirty clothes.

29. Fire Supplies

Please be aware of the rules of the area that you are in before starting a fire. Gathering around a campfire is one of the best parts of camping, and having the right supplies makes it easy and enjoyable.

  • Fire Starter Kit: Waterproof matches, fire starters, and a small tinder kit if campfires are permitted.

Bonus: Specific to Women

30. Personal Hygiene

  • Menstrual Products: Tampons, Pads, or Menstrual Cups; Bring enough for the entire hike.
  • Disposal Bags: For used products if necessary; pack out all waste.
  • Portable Urination Device: Such as a GoGirl or Shewee.
  • Extra Sanitation Wipes: Biodegradable Wipes; For personal hygiene.
  • Privacy Tarp or Shelter: For changing clothes or attending to hygiene needs privately.

31. Comfort and Safety

  • Sports Bra – Comfortable and Supportive: Consider bringing an extra one in case of extended hikes.
  • Hair Care: Hair Ties or Bands. Extra ties for securing hair.
  • Brush or Comb: A small, travel-sized brush or comb.
  • Quick-Dry Underwear: Extra pairs for comfort and hygiene.
  • Layered Clothing: Additional warm layers tailored for a woman’s fit, ensuring comfort and warmth.
  • Extra Socks: More pairs of moisture-wicking socks to avoid blisters.

32. Health and Comfort:

  • Chafing Cream or Powder: To prevent and soothe skin irritation.
  • Extra Insect Repellent: Ensure you have enough, as some women may find they attract more insects.
  • Moisturizer and Lip Balm: To protect against dry skin and chapped lips.
  • Pepper Spray: For personal protection against potential threats.

33. Practical Tips

  • Pee Cloth – Reusable Antimicrobial Cloth: For use after urination; easy to clean and eco-friendly.
  • Lightweight Mirror – Compact Mirror: Useful for various tasks, including applying sunscreen evenly.

Bonus: Specific to Men

34. Personal Hygiene

  • Compact Razor and Small Shaving Cream: For maintaining facial hair grooming on longer trips.
  • Electric Trimmer: A small, battery-operated trimmer if preferred over manual shaving.
  • Sanitation Wipes – Biodegradable Wipes: For personal hygiene and cleaning hands and face.

35. Comfort and Safety

  • Quick-Dry Boxer Briefs: For comfort and to prevent chafing.
  • Extra Pairs: Bring additional pairs for longer trips.
  • Body Powder – Anti-Chafing Powder: To prevent chafing and keep skin dry.

36. Practical Tips

  • Compact Multi-Tool: With additional functions tailored to typical men’s gear, such as bottle openers and screwdrivers.

What are Hiking Essentials?

When planning a hike, especially as a beginner, understanding what makes up hiking essentials is key to having a safe and enjoyable experience. These must-have items ensure you’re prepared for the unexpected. Whether you’re out for a short day hike or a multi-day trek, having the right gear can make all the difference between a great adventure and a nightmare!

Hiking essentials encompass a variety of categories, from hydration and nutrition to navigation and emergency gear. It’s not just about having enough water or snacks; it’s about making sure you have tools like a map and compass to stay on track, a first-aid kit for unexpected injuries, and proper clothing to adapt to changing weather conditions.

Everyone is different, thus personalizing your essentials to fit your specific needs is crucial. For instance, women and men have different needs when it comes to gear. Adding comfort items like a camp chair or an inflatable pillow can elevate your hiking experience, making it more enjoyable and less taxing. By carefully selecting the right gear, you make sure you will be back on the trail in no time.


Wrapping up, having the right hiking essentials is crucial for any outdoor adventure, whether you’re a beginner or a seasoned hiker. From ensuring your safety with navigation tools and first-aid kits to enhancing your comfort with proper hydration, nutrition, and clothing, these hiking essentials prepare you for any scenario nature might throw your way. Personalizing your gear based on specific needs—be it for women or men—ensures a tailored and enjoyable hiking experience and memories.

By carefully selecting and packing your hiking essentials, you’re not just preparing for a hike; you’re setting the stage for an amazing memory. My years of experience on the trails have taught me the importance of being prepared and how the right gear can transform a hike from challenging to enjoyable. Pack smart, and embrace the great outdoors with confidence. Happy hiking!

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: What are the most important hiking essentials for beginners?

A: For beginners, the top hiking essentials include water, snacks, a map and compass, a first-aid kit, sun protection, a multi-tool or knife, appropriate clothing, emergency shelter, a whistle, insect repellent, and a trash bag. These items ensure safety, comfort, and preparedness on the trail.

Q: How much water should I bring on a hike?

A: For short hikes (under three hours), carry at least one liter of water. For longer hikes, plan on at least two to three liters. Always consider factors like temperature, humidity, and your personal hydration needs, and carry a portable water filter for refilling from natural sources if needed.

Q: What should I wear for a hike?

A: Dress in layers to adapt to changing weather. A moisture-wicking base layer, an insulating mid-layer, and a waterproof outer layer are key. Don’t forget a hat, sunglasses, and comfortable hiking shoes or hiking boots. Extra socks and appropriate clothing for the weather are also essential.

Q: Why is a first-aid kit important for hiking?

A: A first-aid kit is crucial for handling minor injuries, blisters, and emergencies. It provides the necessary tools to treat cuts, scrapes, and other common hiking injuries, ensuring you can continue your hike safely.

Q: How do I stay safe while hiking?

A: Stay safe by planning your route, carrying essential gear, staying hydrated, and being prepared for emergencies. Always let someone know your hiking plans, check weather conditions, and stick to marked trails. Carry a whistle and personal identification for added safety.

Q: What should I do with my trash while hiking?

A: Practice Leave No Trace principles by carrying a trash bag to pack out all your waste, including food wrappers and biodegradable items. Keeping the trails clean helps preserve the environment and ensures it remains enjoyable for everyone.