Many hikers head to the trails to relax in nature and get some exercise, and if you’re looking to do the same but are overwhelmed with the amount of hiking gear, these top picks from outdoor experts will help you. Whether it’s time to upgrade your worn-out gear or you’re trying to make hiking a part of your routine this year, you’ll find so many types of hiking products that it’s hard to narrow down everything you need. Luckily you can consider a few factors to simplify your gear purchases. SELF spoke to outdoor experts on how to choose the best hiking gear to make it easy to hit the trails.
How to Choose Best Hiking Gear
First and foremost you should determine your budget. Wesley Trimble, the communications and creative director at the American Hiking Society, recommends surveying your current gear and then prioritizing the essentials, such as hiking footwear, first aid kits, hydration bladders, and more. After you’ve collected these important pieces of gear (that are often essential camping gear too), you can splurge on less critical hiking gear and accessories.
Next you should define your values. “Are you a person who values fashion and aesthetics, or is gear performance more important?” asks Trimble. Similarly: Do you value durability and long-lasting gear, or would you prefer ultralight gear that will help you cut weight but will wear out more quickly? Colleen Dawson, a Pacific Crest Trail thru-hiker and wilderness guide at Aspiro Adventure, tries to balance price and quality when buying hiking gear. She told SELF, “I mostly look for quality gear that I know will last but also won’t break the bank.” Andrew Marshall, managing editor of Backpacking Light and cofounder of Backpacking Routes adds, “Just like with cell phones, a lot of hiking gear is made to be replaced the next season when the newer, shinier model comes out.” If you’re purchasing staple pieces, like a daypack or hiking shoes, we recommend investing in high-quality products that are designed to be purchased once or twice rather than every year. Some brands, like Darn Tough and Osprey, have lifetime guarantees that speak to the longevity of its products.
Ultimately, when buying hiking gear, it’s important to consider how you’ll use each product. Will it solely be used for hiking or can it double as great backpacking gear? “Think about all of the ways you plan to use your gear, especially with your goals in mind,” Trimble recommends. “If you are just looking for an afternoon outdoor adventure at a local park, your use will be different from someone planning to take weeks off to travel around to all of the national parks in Arizona and Utah.” When you think about how you’ll use the gear, it’s easier to determine your pack size, type of hiking shoe, and which accessories to carry on your trips.
Below, we’ve gathered a gear list of everything you need for a hike, like hiking shoes and water filters, as well as a few fun extras. We’ve included hiking essentials from brands such as Osprey, Black Diamond, and Garmin that you can buy from independent retailers or popular retailers like REI, Amazon, and Backcountry. So no matter where your outdoor adventures take you, you’ll be prepared.
Hiking Safety Gear
When it comes to essential safety tips for hiking carrying a first aid kit should be top of your list. Other important gadgets and tools include a GPS that doesn’t require internet, a power bank to keep that GPS and other devices running, lights if you end up hiking too early or too late in the day, and multitools that can be used for any outdoor trip. You’ll also want to make sure you stay replenished, so packing hiking snacks for energy and hydration gear like water bottles is key.
Hiking Backpacks and Bags
The best hiking backpacks (or daypacks) should be multifunctional and designed with features to help get you from A-to-Z.
Your feet need a good pair of hiking boots or hiking sneakers. If your feet are happy, they can take you to some incredible hiking destination.
When it comes to hiking apparel, you might think that anything will do, but there are a lot of clothing essentials that have a dual purpose or are critical in keeping you comfortable during your hike. Think protection from the sun, thermal liners for warmth, and more.
Other Hiking Gear
If you’re an avid hiker, investing in a trekking pole will help you take on the toughest of trails. And if you happen to be near a stream or water source, an ultra light camping towel will keep you dry.