What should I pack for my hike? This is a common question and definitely something wise to consider, for any hike length. I am dividing these into two categories: What to pack and What to wear.
What to Pack
- First Aid
- Sun protection
- tissue/toilet paper
- Ziplock bag to carry out trash
- Hiking backpack or pack
- (Optional items include: hiking poles, navigation tools, phone charger, camera, multi-tool/pocket knife, bear spray, Walkie-Talkies, fishing pole)
What to Wear
- Layered clothing (including jacket or rain poncho)
- Sturdy shoes or boots
- Wool socks and micro-spikes (or snowshoes) in winter
- Hat (for sun or cold)
- Tip: Make sure toenails are trimmed before long or steep hikes
Water is the most important thing to bring on any hike. Even for winter hiking, water is crucial. 2 liters per person is a general rule of thumb, but it can be adjusted for longer hikes. You can carry it in a hydration pack or in water bottles. It is always better to return with extra water than to run out. These are the affordable packs we bought for our kids/teens.
Electrolyte drinks like Vitamin-Water, Propel and Gatorade are also helpful in restoring minerals, especially if you sweat. If you are hiking far or in the heat, definitely add in some electrolytes, otherwise it’s optional.
Bring high energy snacks:
Protein or granola bars, beef jerky, hard-boiled eggs, fruit leather, protein drinks, grapes, apple slices, nuts, clementines, etc.
Don’t forget a zip-lock to contain apple cores, orange peels, wrappers or other trash so you can leave no trace.
Most of the time I just bring Bandaids and pain reliever like ibuprofen, but if you are hiking far you might need more first aid.
Insect repellent is a must on some hikes and unnecessary on others. If you are hiking close to water or near sunset, the mosquitoes tend to be worse. I have a trial-size mini repellent in each of my hiking packs so I can apply it as needed.
I put SPF lotion on daily, so I don’t always put on additional sunblock, but I do if it’s a longer hike. I keep a travel-size sunscreen in my hiking pack to apply as needed. Chapstick with SPF, long sleeves, or a hat to block the sun are also great things to bring. Don’t forget sunglasses!
Headlamp or Flashlight
If there is any chance you could be out in the dark, it is important to have something to light your way. Sometimes things take longer than you anticipate and you want to see your way back.
Tissues and toilet paper
I like to have some Kleenex. In a pinch, you may also need some toilet paper. Be sure to bring a ziplock to pack out any soiled tissues or toilet paper.
Hiking Backpack or Pack
I use a few different types of hiking packs. Most often I use a small backpack. I don’t love the taste of water from the hydration packs, so sometimes I prefer to carry water bottles. Sometimes I just take a fanny pack-style like my daughter is wearing.
It is important to know where you are going. I like to download the map on AllTrails or other hiking GPS so that I can use my phone to navigate. Depending you may also want a physical map or compass. Keep in mind that using the GPS feature on your phone drains the battery more quickly, so you may want a portable charger. I use this one.
For most people a cell phone will be great, but you can choose to bring another camera for better pictures.
Hiking poles are optional, but are helpful on steep or uneven terrain, through water or snow, or to give added support. If they are unneeded, then it’s one more thing to carry, but most of them fold up nicely so you can carry them in your pack.
I have never needed to use my bear spray, but I sometimes hike in areas with potential bears or other wild animals so I have it just in case. I do not think it is necessary to carry for most hikes here in Utah.
My husband loves to fish, so if we are ever hiking to somewhere he could fish, he carries his Tenkara or smaller fishing pole
Frequently while hiking you may experience different temperatures and you will appreciate flexibility. You may warm up as you hike or it may be windier and colder on the peak. If you have layers of clothing, it is easy to adjust to your current hiking needs.
You will also want moisture-wicking clothing. In the winter this includes wool socks. A hat is also important in the cold or sun.
Is there a chance of rain? Bring a rain jacket or you can get those ponchos in tiny packets from the dollar store to keep in your bag as needed.
Hiking Shoes or Boots
Make sure you have proper footwear for your hike. I did a whole post on this here. If you are just doing an easy hike, it won’t matter as much, but you don’t want to end up with blisters or a twisted ankle from improper shoes.
If you are hiking in the winter or anywhere with potential snow or ice, micro-spikes are crucial for traction.