Hiking is one of the most-stripped back sports you can take part in – the polar opposite of, say, cycling, where you can spend all of your monthly pay packet constantly upgrading and replacing kit and still
But that’s not to say there isn’t a whole world of kit for anyone new to hiking to splash out on. We’ve filleted out the essential items you need to invest in before you leave the house and head to the hills.
And if you did just come here to get a concise checklist to tick off whilst packing for your next jaunt into the wilderness, here's the full list to cross off at your leisure before we run through some of the best options for each one:
- Waterproof jacket
- Thermal jacket
- Base layer
- Hydration pack
- Fire making kit
- First aid
- Energy snacks
- Weather planning tool
- Mapping app
- Battery pack
- Heat device
There are two main styles of boot: lighter-weight, more flexible boots for hard-packed trails, and tougher boots with higher ankle support and thick soles with deep tread for more demanding conditions such as hill climbing.
These days, boots are more like trainers in their design, and generally don’t take days of wearing in like they used to. Often they feature Gore-Tex outers to keep water out, and Vibram outsoles for superior strength, flexibility and grip.
The world of hiking boots, like the world of running shoes, is seemingly never-ending and easy to get lost in, so we've chosen a couple of our favourites for you.
Scarpa R-Evo GTX
Buy now: Scarpa (UK) / Amazon | $193.59
Lightweight yet tough boots that can handle anything the most demanding trails can throw at them, the R-Evo GTXs will see you through all kinds of hill climbing and mountain scrambling. They're super-comfortable due to the brand’s Sock-Fit technology, which means the ankle and collar constantly adapt to your ankle, in the same way a sock does.
Salomon X Ultra 3 Mid GTX
Buy now: Salomon (UK) / Salomon (US) / Amazon | $165
A mid-cut boot, so one that is lighter and more suited to easier walking trails, but at the same time can efficiently tackle more technical terrain and is so good on downhills you’ll almost be frolicking down the mountainside.
- Check out our guide to the best hiking boots for men and hiking boots for women.
Montane Minimus Jacket
Buy now: Montane (UK)/ Amazon | $129.77
Waterproofs are essential, as chances are it will rain even if it appears to be the hottest day in mid-summer. And if you’re clocking up some altitude, the weather could change at a moment’s notice, bringing with it a sharp drop in temperature alongside rain, meaning you can quickly find yourself in trouble if you don’t have the right gear.
Montane’s Minimus Jacket is a dependable choice: at 188g, it’s incredibly light, so can pack down nice and small and be stored in your rucksack. It’s made from the brand’s Pertex Shield, which is fully waterproof while remaining breathable so it won’t turn into a mobile sauna. It also features a magic map-sized pocket so you can stash your navigational essentials when the heavens open.
Patagonia Better Sweater Fleece
Buy now: Patagonia (UK) / Patagonia (US) / Amazon | $99
Depending on the weather, you’ll need a warm coat or fleece that should keep you heated for the majority of the hike. Patagonia’s Better Sweater fleeces are sustainably produced with 100% polyester fleece with a sweater-knit face, which basically means it looks like a warm, cosy jumper, which it is, except one that you can hike all day in without you getting too hot or cold.
Icebreaker Tech Lite Short Sleeve Crew
Buy now: Icebreaker (UK) / Icebreaker (US) /Amazon | $75
A base layer is another crucial part of the puzzle for a successful hike. The best ones out there help to regulate your temperature, wick sweat away from your body and resist odour. Merino wool is the material to look out for, and the higher percentage of Merino the better. Icebreaker’s baselayers are all 100% Merino, and the 200 short-sleeve crewe is warm, soft, breathable and offers great movability.
- Check out the best base layer for running and trekking
Osprey Skarab/Skimmer Backpack
Buy Skarab now: Osprey (UK) / Amazon | $99
Buy Skimmer now: Osprey (UK) / Amazon | $84.95
A good day pack will transform your day from a ‘meh’ hike that was ruined by that really uncomfortable bag that dug into your shoulder the whole time to a world-class hike where you barely noticed it being on your back.
A bag that can hold between 15 and 30 litres should do you – Osprey’s Skarab (for men) and Skimmer (for women) hold between 18 and 30 litres, come with rain covers, a vertebrae-pleasing bump-foam ventilated backpanel and plenty of pockets.
- Check out our guide to the best trekking backpacks
Osprey Hydraulics 2 Litre Reservoir
Buy now: Osprey (UK) / Amazon | $39.84
Your true friend – always there for you, never lets you down and contains two litres of sweet, sweet water. Forget bottles, proper hikers will carry a water reservoir on their back like a camel in posh hiking boots. Go for a 2-litre option, like this one from Osprey, and stash it neatly in your pack to be sipped on when effort demands it.
Fire making kit
Buy now: Gerber (US) / Amazon | $15
You might slip into a thigh-high stream. You might get caught in a thunderstorm. You might just want a warming brew. Either way, you can’t light a fire with a damp box of emergency matches. So the perfect accessory is Gerber’s Firestarter. It’s the size of a keyring, so easy to attach to your day pack and forget about until that time when you really need it. The steel produces a cloud of sparks every time, which can ignite even the most pathetic gathering of kindling you’ve managed to scrape together.
Ledlenser P2 LED Torch
Buy now: Ledlenser/ Amazon | $19.80
You can’t depend on your phone’s torch if you get lost on remote moorland as the sun is setting. Handheld or headtorch, either way, it’s worth lugging some lumens in your pack.
LED Lenser do a solid range of handhelds: the P2 is a good affordable, entry-level, keyfob-size torch you can easily carry with you on a hike.
Buy now: Silva (UK) / Amazon | $29.69
Headtorches, meanwhile, are a touch more bulky but worth it if there’s a risk that your hike might not return until sundown. Silva’s Scout series are a good bet as they are built with hikers in mind.
There’s a huge variety of choice out there – for the purposes of a day hike, you’ll only need a minimal kit that can cover minor accidents on the trail. The kind of stuff you might have to deal with is blisters, scrapes, cuts or minor burns.
Alongside a kit, we’d recommend downloading the Red Cross’s First Aid app. The app guides you through the best way to handle all kinds of emergency situations, from dealing with an allergic reaction to what to do if there is an embedded object in a wound (answer: leave it in). If you're in the US then you can also download the American Red Cross app.
Clif Nut Butter Filled Banana Chocolate Peanut Butter
Buy now: iHerb (UK) / Cliff (US) | $1.79
Make sure you pack plenty of snacks in your bag. Essentials include Clif’s Nut Butter Filled Banana Chocolate Peanut Butter for a different level of snack. Like freshly baked banana bread, it will revive you when you are feeling like you can’t take another step.
Careful monitoring of the weather is crucial to the success of your day’s hike, especially if you are tackling big climbs or expect to cross large, uninhabited, exposed areas, where a rapid change in climate conditions could potentially leave you in trouble.
If you’re hiking regularly, Weather Underground is a great free option. Not only can you see daily and hourly forecasts for your chosen destination, and data including temperature, humidity, rainfall and wind speed, but you can also view live radars of cloud cover (and incoming storms). You can also personalise it to build a ‘smart forecast’ for your chosen sport (eg hiking) that will tell you when the optimum time is to go out pounding the trails.
Maps and navigation
An absolute stone-cold necessity. For an annual (very reasonable, might we add) premium subscription of £4.99, you can get access to all the maps you could ever need, including OS Explorer and Landranger Maps in the UK and USA Topo, USGS Topo, USA Lancover and USA Slopes in the US. Download and save maps to your phone to access in offline mode when you are out of signal, plot routes and follow existing routes, locate yourself (losing yourself is easier than you may think) and there’s a useful ‘Buddy Beacon’ feature, which shares your location with family in friends so they can track you and locate you in case of emergency.
Suunto MC-2 Compass
Buy now: Suunto (UK) / Suunto (US) / Amazon | $95
Don’t just depend on your phone – it can, and will, let you down. Make sure you have a paper map and compass too for when your phone and/or visibility fails.
If you’re going to invest in one, top of your list should be the Suunto MC-2. It’s at the upper end of the budget, but for the extra cash you’ll get military-grade features that will at least make you look like you know what you’re doing even if you haven’t a clue. You’ll need a declination scale, which means you can adjust it to true north rather than magnetic north, and the MC-2 features a global needle so you can use it in both the northern and southern hemispheres for when you eventually get round to trekking those bucket-list hikes in Chile. It also has a mirror for sighting bearings and flashing, in case you need rescuing.
Hydro Flask 20 oz Coffee Flask
Buy now: Hydro Flask (UK) / Hydro Flask (US) / Amazon | $27.95
You might want a brew to power you through the long climbs ahead, so pack an insulated flask if you have room. Hydro Flask do a range of sizes, from 12oz to 20oz, in a selection of bright colours. They keep hot drinks piping for 12 hours, and cold drinks icy for 24, plus feature a handy flip lid so you can sup straight from the flask. We’d recommend the big one if you’re in a group, then you can be everyone's coffee saviour.
Voltaic V15 USB Battery Pack
Buy now: Funky Leisure (UK) / Voltaic (US) $29
Battery power is your lifeblood in the city, but part of the draw of the trails is to be out of reception and so out of reach. Not so much though when you need access to your phone’s maps, want to take an Insta-worthy snap or, most importantly, need rescuing.
Stash a power pack and all will be well. The V15 from Voltaic is designed for adventurers, so is rugged, light and is compatible with all smartphones. Pay a little extra and you can also add a USB mini light, meaning you can leave the handheld torch behind.
Leatherman Wingman Multi-tool
Buy now: Leatherman (UK) / Leatherman (US) / Amazon | $59.95
Leatherman are your go-to tool-makers here: its Wingman is the ideal affordable, entry-level essential to add to your trip if you think you might need it. Its combo knife slices through everything you need due to its straight and serrated blade. Most importantly, it features a bottle opener so you don’t have to bang the tops on the edge of the table.
12-Hour High Polish Chrome Hand Warmer
Buy now: Zippo (UK) / Zippo (US) / Amazon | $21.95
For the trips where the weather is frosty. Zippo’s handwarmer provides up to 12 hours of warmth when you’ve lost the feeling in your fingers. Once used, you’ll never go back to having cold hands again.
The North Face Bones Beanie (UK name)
Buy now: The North Face (UK) / The North Face (US) / Amazon | $28
We've tried many a hat in our hiking days, but few have come close to the Bones Beanie. A ridiculously warm piece of kit that pulls down over the ears to keep the cold away even on the toughest of days. Not only that, but it looks good enough to wear any time that it's cold.
Arc'teryx Venta Glove
Buy now: Arc'teryx (UK) / Arc'teryx (US) / Amazon | $28
There aren't many gloves out there that pack as much of a bunch as the Arc'teryx Ventas. Designed to withstand the wind and the cold whilst still being breathable and allowing for a high level of dexterity and movement is no easy feat. An essential that may be on the pricey side, but if there's one thing any hiker needs, it's a dependable pair of gloves.
Stance Sneffels Hike
Buy now: Stance (UK) / Amazon (US) | $23.95
Not only do the Sneffels look like the kind of socks you'd proudly walk around in on Christmas day, but they're made of a natural wool fusion blend, which gives a great level of cushioning. They also incorporate Stance's Feel 360 technology that means the fibres wick sweat away quickly and silver ions reduce 99% of odour-causing bacteria.