Planning a Hiking Trip: The Complete Guide SEE FULL GUIDE prev next Hiking Pants Hiking Shirts Hiking Socks Baby Carriers Hiking Watches Trekking Poles Compasses A Complete Packing List Tips for Hiking With Kids Tips for Hiking With Dogs Mapping and Navigating Your Route 10 Essential Safety Tips Tech for Backcountry Communication Best Hikes in US National Parks Amazing Mountain Hikes in the US Best Hiking Trails in Canada Best Hikes in Europe Best Hikes in Africa Best Hikes in South America Best Hikes in Southeast Asia World's Best Long-Distance Hikes Hiking Boots, Shoes, and Sandals: How to Choose Buying and Breaking in Hiking Boots Hiking Boots Lightweight Hiking Shoes Men's Hiking Boots Men's Hiking Sandals Waterproof Hiking Boots Women's Hiking Boots Women's Hiking Sandals List of Essential Gear Planning a Hiking Trip: The Complete Guide close Overview Outdoors Trails & Climbs The 12 Best Hiking Gear Items of 2022, Tested by Experts The essentials to have your best day on the trail By Nathan Allen Nathan Allen Outdoor Gear Editor University of Missouri-Columbia Lindenwood University Nathan Allen is the Outdoor Gear Editor for TripSavvy. Nathan loves many outdoor activities but makes it a priority to run or bike on singletrack every day. TripSavvy's editorial guidelines Updated on 04/17/22 Share Pin Email We independently research, test, review, and recommend the best products—learn more about our process. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission. TripSavvy / Nathan Allen. In many ways, hiking is the perfect outdoor activity. In terms of skill, if you can walk, you can go hiking—especially if you start your first forays into the sport on beginner-level trails before leveling up to tackle summit hikes or those that might involve rock scrambling, exposure, or river crossings. It’s also one of the easiest ways to become enveloped by the natural world. Trails exist practically everywhere, from an urban oasis like Washington, DC’s Rock Creek Park to an array of county, regional, and state parks. The only thing you really need is the gear that can make hiking all that more enjoyable—the proper footwear, packs, first-aid kits, and other accessories that assure success, even if your pace is more meandering than record-breaking. Read on for our top picks of the best hiking gear available. Table of contents Expand Our Picks Final Verdict Product Selection How We Tested What to Look for in Hiking Gear Why Trust TripSavvy Best Day Pack: Deuter Speed Lite 20 Pack Deuter View On Amazon View On Moosejaw.com View On REI What We Like Super comfy thanks to padded shoulder straps and a back panel Perfect size for day trips and can be used in many settings Hydration compatible What We Don't Like The back panel can get warm despite the mesh panel Deuter’s Speed Lite 20 Pack is a do-everything multisport backpack at a reasonably accessible price. There are many reasons we love this pack, but the top one is how functional it is in many situations. We clearly like it for day hikes. But beyond that, it’s solid for bike rides, commutes, trips to the farmers market or grocery store, as a carry-on, or even ski tours. Thanks to padded straps and a padded mesh back panel, the pack is super comfortable. It’s also got a slender single-webbing sternum strap and an equally sleek waist strap for better weight distribution. The waist strap is removable to cut back on a bit of weight if desired. We also dig the different pockets. Besides the large main compartment, this pack features a zippered top pocket where we stored keys, wallets, and snacks. There are side pockets for water bottles and a back mesh pocket for extra layers or other gear. Bonus: The pack is hydration compatible if you’ve got a water reservoir. So far, we really haven’t found anything we don’t like about this pack. It can get warm on the back, despite the mesh back panel. But at this point, we’re just nitpicking. TripSavvy / Nathan Allen. Best Boots: Scarpa Rush Mid GTX Shoes Backcountry View On Amazon View On Backcountry.com View On Moosejaw.com What We Like Great fit and feel Gore-Tex is not overly hot A comfy blend of trail running shoes feel with the stability and traction of a traditional hiking shoe What We Don't Like None We keep looking for a boot we like better than Scarpa’s Rush Mid GTX but so far, no dice. Full disclosure: I’m not a real fan of hiking boots. Give me a pair of Chaco’s or running kicks. I prefer the minimalist feel. But these lightweight hikers (less than two pounds per pair for men’s standard sizing) have a way of providing support and grip without feeling bulky or heavy. The reason? We think it’s Scarpa’s proprietary “Interactive Kinetic System,” blending the smoothness and cushioning of a trail running shoe and the stability and traction of traditional hikers. Besides that smooth and supportive feel, these kicks have two broad things going for them. First, the “Sock-Fit” construction provides a comfy fit and feel. We took these hikers straight out of the box and onto an 18-mile round trip backpacking mission in California’s High Sierra and finished with no blisters. Second, we usually find Gore-Tex shoes to be hot and not breathable. That’s not the case with the Rush Mids. The Scarpa Rush Mid GTX hiking shoes. Photo by Nathan Allen / TripSavvy. Best Shoes: Altra Lone Peak 6 Amazon View On Amazon View On Altrarunning.com View On REI What We Like Classic Altra with a wide toebox It works well for both trail runs and day hikes Lightweight and minimalist, yet full of support and grip The updated lacing system and upper construction improve the fit What We Don't Like If you’re not a zero-drop fan, this one won’t be for you Not everyone likes mid-height shoes like the Scarpa’s above. We get it. They can feel like a lot, and if you don’t need the extra ankle support can be overkill. Enter the Altra Lone Peak 6 trail running shoes. These shoes have the minimalist feel of a zero-drop running shoe (because that’s what they are) and excellent grip and stability. I’ve logged over 200 miles in these shoes, both trail running and day hiking, and they continue to be the shoes I seek out for most runs and hikes. In its sixth iteration, the newest version of the Lone Peak has an updated rock plate that provides more protection from rocks yet uses less material. And we also dig the features for which Altra has become infamous, like the wide toe box and balanced height in the heel and forefoot. TripSavvy / Nathan Allen. Best Socks: Swiftwick Flite XT Trail Sock Swiftwick View On Amazon View On Swiftwick.com What We Like We found these socks incredibly supportive and comfortable Sock innovations galore (seamless toes, mesh upper, merino wool, etc.) So far, seem durable What We Don't Like Expensive for a sock, but probably worth the investment Socks might be one of the most underrated items in a hiking kit. But if you find yourself on a long hike in a lousy pair of socks, it can be annoying at best and miserable at worst. We recommend investing in a pair of Swiftwick’s new Flite XT Trail socks (or two or three pairs). There’s so much newfangled tech in these socks that it’s hard to keep up with. The upshot: These socks provide a super comfy and supportive fit while wicking moisture quickly. Swiftwick takes some typical innovations now default in high-end hiking and running socks like seamless toes, a mesh upper, and merino wool, and then goes to another level in what it's calling the most technologically-advanced sock for trail running and hiking. New tech we love: A proprietary Nanofiber at the heel and forefoot that boosts grip and Olefin—a synthetic fiber usually used in car interiors known for its strength, durability, and comfort. These socks are a bit pricey. But if you’re going to be hiking or trail running in any sort of frequency, we think it’s worth the spend. Going Hiking This Summer? Here's What to Wear Best First-Aid Kit: Uncharted Supply Co. Triage Kit Uncrate View On Amazon View On Bespokepost.com View On Uncrate.com What We Like It’s a great travel companion It’s incredibly lightweight and compact The kit has everything you’d need for a basic first-aid situation What We Don't Like None You might never plan to use it, but a solid first-aid kit is essential while doing anything outside. Take it from someone that has personally been in backcountry emergencies and has come across people in wilderness emergencies: A first-aid kit is something you don’t realize you need until you absolutely need it. We love the Triage Kit from survival and first-aid specialists, Uncharted Supply Co. Christian Schauf founded the company after driving through Colorado in a blizzard and seeing many helpless drivers hunkering down. The Triage Kit is the perfect companion for travel, hiking, mountain biking, and backcountry travel. It features bandages, wound closure strips, blister gels, Aspirin, a space blanket, storm matches, and other clever emergency tools. Built on the advice and expertise of more than 100 outdoor experts and adventurers, all this comes in a compact, abrasion-resistant package weighing about 5 ounces. If you’ve got room or are hiking with a partner, we love pairing the Triage Kit with ust Gear’s Featherlite 2.0 survival kit. Ust’s kit features a poncho, whistle, compass, multiple lights, a towel, and a fire starter, among other items. TripSavvy / Nathan Allen. The 10 Best First Aid Kits to Ensure Safety at Home and Away Best GPS Watch: Garmin fēnix 6 Pro Solar Amazon View On Amazon View On Garmin.com View On Moosejaw.com What We Like A seriously do-everything outdoor watch Solar charging is cool, but we didn’t notice a huge boost It’s a bit hefty to wear, but not like some other similar options What We Don't Like Expensive Is this watch overkill for someone hiking a few times a year? Perhaps. Do we still recommend it? Absolutely. There probably isn’t a better all-around GPS tracking watch on the market for anyone doing things outdoors. It’s got features out the wazoo, and we love damn-near all of them. Besides the basics of tracking any outdoor activity you can think of—hiking included—we like clever features navigation, pace guidance, overall body monitoring, and, of course, the solar charging capability. Garmin claims the watch’s battery will last up to 14 days with help from the sun. We could never stretch it that long, but we did extend the life longer than other GPS watches we tested. This watch is spendy. If you’re looking for a more affordable hiking watch, we recommend Garmin’s Instinct Solar. TripSavvy / Nathan Allen. Best GPS App: onX Backcountry App onX View On Onxmaps.com What We Like Good offline capabilities Easy and straightforward to use What We Don't Like Nothing yet If GPS watches aren’t your thing, but you still want to use navigation and tracking on your hikes, we recommend downloading onX Backcountry to your smartphone. While there is a free version of the app, we say pay the $30 per year subscription to get full access. A subscription gets you many things; two of the most important to us are the offline access to maps and the route building feature. If you’re doing any long-distance hiking or backpacking where your cell service is spotty, or you need to switch to airplane mode to conserve battery, these features are clutch. TripSavvy / Nathan Allen. The 9 Best Handheld GPSes of 2022 Best Sunglasses: Tifosi Swank Sunglasses 4.6 Tifosi View On Amazon View On Backcountry.com View On REI What We Like Looks good Affordable price Good sun protection What We Don't Like I prefer polarized sunglasses when possible, but for hiking, polarization isn’t super important I have a major problem. It’s a problem of losing sunglasses. I’ve put them on top of my 4Runner and driven off, leaving them broken in the street. I’ve dropped them into rivers to watch them get swept away. I’ve left them on airplanes, and I’ve had toddlers throw them across the room. You get it. The Tifosi Swank sunnies are a budget pair of shades that look and perform well beyond their price tag. They’re not polarized (although you can pay more for the polarized version), but they block the sun and look good doing it. My favorite thing about them? When I inevitably lose them, it won’t break the bank to replace them. TripSavvy / Nathan Allen. Best Layering Kit: Eddie Bauer Super Sevens Kit TripSavvy / Nathan Allen. View On Eddiebauer.com What We Like Unique lightweight yet warm fleece Every item packs into its own pocket Entire kit weighs just over a pound What We Don't Like Nothing yet—it all holds up Layering for outdoor activities can be tough. Eddie Bauer takes the complication and thinking out of the equation with its new Super Sevens Kit. The kit includes three new layers—a fleece pullover hoodie, wind jacket, and rain shell. All three are quality items and together weigh just more than a pound. All three can pack into their own pockets—a trend in outdoor gear we’re digging. The hoodie uses PrimaLoft fabric and recycled materials to create an almost scary thin and lightweight product (it holds up in the washing machine, but we did a hang-dry with it). The 4-ounce wind jacket has a proprietary moisture-shedding DWR finish. And the rain jacket is the heaviest piece of the kit, weighing in at 8 ounces (still incredibly light for a waterproof shell). It uses proprietary waterproofing tech and a durable 2.50-layer nylon ripstop material for an ultra-durable and protected shell. TripSavvy / Nathan Allen. Best Water Bottle: Hydro Flask 32-Ounce Wide Mouth Bottle View On Amazon What We Like Dishwasher safe BPA and BPS Free Good size for day hikes What We Don't Like None Hydro Flask's 32-ounce wide mouth insulated bottle is simply a classic. We love many things about this water bottle. First, constructed of pro-grade 18/8 stainless steel, it's nearly indestructible, and it doesn't develop weird stains or smells if you put something other than water in it. Hydro Flask's TempShield technology keeps your drinks cold for up to 24 hours or hot for 12 hours. Now, this bottle is a bit heavy, but hear us out. We've found that the added weight is worth it because where other non-insulated bottles can get warm on hot days hiking in the sun, this indeed does keep your water—or whatever else—cold. Sometimes we also prefer hot coffee or tea on sunrise and early-morning hikes. This bottle is perfect for that. Lastly, this can eliminate the need for any other travel liquid containers as it does well traveling for fun or to the office. If you think this bottle is a bit overkill, we hear you. We suggest the trusty—and equally classic—Nalgene wide-mouth 32-ounce bottle. It’s also a good size for hiking, is dishwasher safe, BPA and BPS free, and will fit some water filtration devices. While it's a lot lighter, we wouldn't recommend putting hot drinks in it, and it's not going to keep your cold beverages cool for as long. TripSavvy / Nathan Allen. Best Water Filter: Lifestraw Peak Series Collapsible 650 ML Bottle with Filter REI View On Amazon View On Cabelas.com View On REI What We Like Collapsible Super lightweight What We Don't Like None We love it when companies that do good in the world also make solid outdoor gear. That’s what you get with the recently released LifeStraw Peak Series. The public health B Corp wants to provide equitable access to safe drinking water across the globe and launched five backcountry-focused water filtration devices. For hiking, we love the 32-ounce collapsible squeeze bottle. It weighs in at about 3 ounces, can be packed down and stuffed into a small spot, is BPA-free, and will protect against basically anything you’d come across in the water in North America. TripSavvy / Nathan Allen. Best Shirt: REI Co-op Sahara T-Shirt REI View On REI What We Like UPF 30 sun protection Super soft polyester and spandex blend Great at moisture-wicking and quick-drying What We Don't Like Merino wool is better at stink-blocking REI Co-op’s Sahara shirt has quickly become my favorite shirt. Not my favorite hiking shirt. Not my favorite running shirt. Not my favorite travel shirt. Overall, my favorite shirt. The 92 percent polyester and 8 percent spandex blend is incredibly comfortable and soft. It’s got moisture-wicking and quick-drying chops. And it has a UPF 30 rating. Our one nitpick is even though it claims to have odor-blocking antimicrobial properties, it’s still not the best at masking stench. But this is only a problem if you’re a bit of a dirtbag like me and like to get a few wears out of your shirt between washes. Final Verdict A solid day pack is a good starting point—and storage container—for your hiking kit. We love Deuter's Speed Lite 20 pack (view at Amazon) for its excellent balance of comfort and practicality. Regardless if you're a hiking newbie or sage, this is a fantastic pack to have on hand. Proper hiking footwear is another crucial aspect when building your hiking kit. We recommend snagging a pair of the new Altra Lone Peak 6 (view at Amazon) kicks for an overall solid trail shoe and a pair of the Swiftwick Flite XT Trail Socks (view at Amazon). And for a do-it-all layering kit, we really can't emphasize how comfortable and easy it's been to wear the Eddie Bauer Super Sevens Kit (view at Eddie Bauer). It's such an excellent item to have by the door to grab on your way out—whether it be to your local trail or watering hole. TripSavvy / Nathan Allen. Product Selection Our team that helped put this roundup together has been hiking and backpacking for decades. In selecting products for this roundup, we drew upon our vast experience of using brands and products for years. We also selected products that have just recently hit the market that we've been able to test extensively over the past year. Our underlying thread was also to include products at a reasonably accessible price point. How We Tested Most testing for this roundup happened in Southern California in and around Joshua Tree National Park, the San Bernardino National Forest, Santa Monica Mountains, Los Padres National Forest, and some local neighborhood trails. We tested products ranging from temperatures in the 40s up to the 80s. We hiked on snow, mud, dirt, and loose rock and logged hundreds of miles hiking with the products included in this roundup. TripSavvy / Nathan Allen. What to Look for in Hiking Gear Durability A hike might include dirt paths, patches of wet ground, and haphazard roots or rocks. Your gear should withstand any wear, varied terrain, or damage. Pay attention to the materials from which your equipment is made. Nylon lasts longer than standard cotton, for instance. It's also important to remember that price doesn't always correlate with quality or longevity. Size When you're going for a hike, less is more. You should consider the size and weight of everything you bring. Is your jacket too heavy? Another factor to consider with that is portability. Can your kit be tightly crammed into your backpack? To maximize comfort, minimize the clunkiness and weight of your belongings as much as possible. Moisture-Wicking Sweating on a hike is inevitable, so the moisture-wicking fabric is critical. Moisture-wicking fabric is designed to pull any sweat to the surface of your clothing so that it can evaporate and then dry quickly. The result? You don't feel as hot, and your garb isn't saturated with sweat. If your hike involves a lot of physical exertion or you anticipate high temperatures, select clothing with moisture-wicking properties. Frequently Asked Questions How should I clean my hiking gear? Different gear will require different care. You can toss most clothing into the washing machine on the gentle cycle with cool water and then air-dry. Or you can soak or spray with cool water, scrub with detergent, and air-dry. Finally, you can clean with warm water and dish soap for water bottles or hydration packs and dry with a towel or air-dry. Check the product's care instructions or the retailer's website beforehand. Where should I store my hiking gear? Before storing your gear, ensure that every item is clean and dry to prevent any damage. Next, pack your gear into labeled plastic storage bins, so it's easy to find everything when you're prepping for your next trip. You can also stack some equipment on shelves or racks. And if you have a rod in a closet or door frame, you can hang up some of your clothes or hiking packs. Regardless of how you decide to store your gear, make sure the environment is relatively humidity-free and temperature-controlled. What hiking gear is absolutely necessary? While it depends on the hike's intensity, duration, and location, you should bring a backpack, snacks, a water bottle or hydration pack, a map or GPS app, a first-aid kit, and a layers for a relaxed day. You should also wear shoes or boots made for the terrain. Why Trust TripSavvy Nathan Allen is the Outdoor Gear Editor for TripSavvy. He's been spending time in the woods and going on hikes his entire life and is fortunate enough to live steps away from an extensive trail system. For decades, Nathan Borchelt has been reviewing and writing about outdoor gear and travel. He has extensive experience and background in hiking, backpacking, trail running, and other outdoor activities. The 13 Best Camping Accessories of 2022 Was this page helpful? Thanks for letting us know! Share Pin Email Tell us why! Submit Continue to 5 of 12 below. Continue to 9 of 12 below.