My Top 14 Hiking Essentials

Hiking Essentials

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Let me start by saying, I am not a professional hiker. Far from it. You won’t catch me backpacking along the 211-mile John Muir Trail in California or even the 96-mile West Highland Way in Scotland (though, I have done a very small part of this one). So, giant backpacks, tents & sleeping bags will not make my list of hiking essentials.

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But, I do love to hike while on vacation. Give me a good scenic trail (up to 10 miles or so) and reward me at the top with beautiful views and I’m a happy girl!

We always try to fit in a few hikes anytime we go on vacation. We’ve hiked through the rainforest in Costa Rica, through the heather in Scotland, through the mountains surrounding Lake Tahoe (one of those took us 7.5 hours) and all over Yosemite National Park (just to name a few).

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Along the way, I’ve come up with this list of my most valued hiking essentials! These are all things I truly love and never go hiking without. I bought/buy most of these items off Amazon and have added the links for each item below.

Hiking essentials

1. Good Hiking Shoes or Boots

I LOVE the Salomon X-Ultra Hiking Boots. They are pricy, but totally worth it, in my opinion. They are super comfortable & have great support. I’ve worn them through mud, in the rain, in a stream, on granite mountain tops – you name it. I NEVER go hiking without them. I’ve had mine since 2017 and they are still going strong (though they are a bit dirty). UPDATE: Still going strong! Buy them HERE.

PRO TIP: Check out our recommendations for the best hiking shoes for beginners. If you need a wider fit, check out our top recommendations for hiking shoes for wide feet. Or, if you like a barefoot feel, here are our top picks for barefoot hiking shoes. Heading to Hawaii? You may choose to pack a different pair...the terrain there is a little different. And, we have a list of the best flat foot hiking shoes too! Need a great hiking shoe with a wide toe box? We've covered that too!

2. North Face Aphrodite 2.0 Pants

Okay, maybe pants aren’t a hiking essential. But, I assume you do plan to wear clothes, and, as far as clothes go, the North Face Aphrodite 2.0 Pants are awesome! I seriously have these in every color they make (no kidding, I’m wearing them in every photo). They are SO comfortable. I love how soft and thin they are. I can wear them when it’s hot or cold, though I usually throw a layer on underneath if it’s really cold. They dry super fast if they get wet too! Buy them HERE.

3. Backpack

The Bago 25L Packable Lightweight Backpack is a great choice for an inexpensive, general-use backpack. This is the backpack I’ve been using for years. It is not a fancy hiking backpack, but I like it because it’s really lightweight.

You can fold it up nice and small if you need to pack it and it’s waterproof. For super-short hikes, I have found that it’s all I need. It’s more durable than the first impression would indicate. Buy it HERE.

UPDATE: I have been looking into getting a more serious hiking backpack now since we really do a lot of hiking and I'd really like one that has the water in the backpack.

If you are also considering buying a hiking backpack, check out The BEST Hiking Backpacks For Women (sorry guys – maybe I'll write one for you soon 🙂 My team and I researched, compared, and reviewed all of the top packs.

Hiking Must Haves
At the summit of Mount Tallac trail in Lake Tahoe

4. Visor or Baseball Cap

While it may not turn me into the next Instagram model, wearing a hat or visor is a practical must, in my opinion. In addition to the obvious benefit of keeping the sun off my face (I’m not getting any younger & sun damage is real), it keeps my hair pulled back and out of the way. I like to buy a hat or visor as a souvenir when traveling.

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5. First Aid Kit

I carry the Surviveware Small First Aid Kit. This kit is compact and only weighs 1 pound, so it’s easy to throw in the backpack. Luckily, I’ve never needed it, but better safe than sorry. Buy it HERE.

6. Sunscreen

I discovered Neutrogena’s Wet Skin Kids Sunscreen when my son was little and we’ve used it ever since. It’s 70 SPF and comes in a spray For the body & a rub on stick (which is awesome) for the face. This one can be applied to wet skin, which is helpful when you’ve been hiking all day and you’ve worked up a sweat (or really anytime you’re outside). Be sure to buy sunscreen before your trip – souvenir shops charge a fortune for sunscreen, especially in beachy areas. Buy them HERE.

Hiking essentials

7. Bug Spray

Okay, I’m from Texas and I live near a lake, so mosquitos are a serious problem. We always have some Deep Woods Off on hand. But, depending on where you’re going, you may need something else. Buy it HERE.

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8. Portable Phone Charger

I really like the Anker Portable Charger, PowerCore Essential 20000mAh Power Bank. This is a serious portable charger. It will charge your phone up to four times. Just make sure you pack the cord as well. It also has an LED flashlight as a bonus. Buy it HERE.

9. All Trails App

This app has a ton of hiking trail maps (though, not all). It tells you where to park, how long the trail is, the elevation change, the difficulty, and the distance of the trail. There are also recent trail reviews from other hikers, which can be really helpful. Although, there is a free version, it only works if you have a wi-fi connection (which you often do not have when hiking). We paid for the annual upgrade. We can plan out the hikes we think we might want to do in advance and download the trail maps. If the trail you plan to hike isn’t on the app, definitely get a trail map before heading out. Get the app HERE.

Hiking essentials

10. Rain Jacket

If there is ANY chance of rain, just throw it in your backpack – or just keep one in there. You don’t want to get caught without one if it begins to pour. This light-weight hooded packable waterproof jacket is perfect. It rolls up nice and small and even has a little bag of it’s own to put it in (super packable). Buy it: HIS / HERS.

11. Water, Water, And More Water (the MOST important hiking essential)

If you are flying in, just find a local grocery store. Better yet, find a Costco or Sam’s Club and load up on the water. Always take more on your hike than you think you will need. You never know what might happen and you do not want to run out of water.

Pro Packing Tips

12. Snacks

We like to take bags of nuts, granola bars, Cliff Bars, etc. Anything you can easily throw in the backpack that will give you a little fuel. We also take some electrolyte powder packs or tablets to add to our water every once in a while. A CraveBox has a huge assortment of snacks you can try. Buy it HERE. Nuun Sport electrolyte dissolving tablets are small and easy to throw in your backpack and are a well-known and trusted brand among hikers. Buy them HERE.

Hiking Must Haves

13. Your I.D.

I’m pretty sure you rarely leave home without it, but it really is important so, I thought it was worth mentioning. Again, just in case.

14. Phone and Camera

I personally just use my phone camera, but I know many people like the higher quality photos they can get from a “real” camera, so that’s up to you. Either way, take your phone. Not only will you want to take pictures and possibly use your all trails app, you never know when you might need to call for help.

And there you have it…my list of 14 hiking essentials! If you have all of these items with you on your next hike, you’ll be well prepared and able to focus on enjoying the great outdoors and the beauty that surrounds you.

If you love to hike, check out these blog posts – some of my favorite hikes are in here!

Until next time…

About The Author

Jody Phifer has been a travel blogger & travel planner since 2019. With her husband and son by her side, she takes on incredible adventures all over the world. She especially loves hiking through the mountains & soaking in breathtaking views. Jody is passionate about sharing her experiences and love of travel, by offering valuable information and inspiration! Learn more about Jody here.

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5 thoughts on “My Top 14 Hiking Essentials”

  1. Pingback: Lake Tahoe In The Summer ⋆ My Travel Obsession

  2. Big Bend National Park have awesome trails. One of the most popular is the hike to the Window from the basin. Beautiful. Be sure to take plenty of water and snacks. It gets pretty hot and you will need to hydrate.

  3. Have you been to hike the Mountains of Cloudcroft, NM? We went this summer and it was beautiful and definitely nice and cool.

    1. No, we haven’t been there, but I’ll have to add it to my list! That’s nice too because it’s within driving distance (a really long drive, but still do-able) 🙂

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