Planning a hiking trip but not sure what to bring with you? Here is my ultimate hiking packing list, including all of my personal favorite things!
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My Favorite Things: Hiking Packing List
Hiking is my absolute favorite thing to do in the world. It doesn’t matter if it’s a giant mountain, a small hill, a long series of steps, a walk through proverbial woods – if there’s an incline involved, I will hike up it. And since I’ve been hiking my entire life, I’ve gathered a collection of favorite items I always take with me on my hiking trips. Whether you’re new to hiking and are unsure what you need, or you’ve been hiking for some time and are just looking for suggestions for the best types of each item, my hiking packing list is here to help you out.
Your main shirt or base layer should be light and breathable, even if it’s cold outside. That’s because if you work up a sweat on your hike, you want your shirt to dry quickly. You also don’t want your base layer to be too heavy, because you can always wear a jacket on top but you can’t usually take off your shirt if you get hot….
My favorite hiking shirts:
Kuhl Strata Button Down: This long sleeve button-down from Kuhl looks like a flannel but is actually super light, soft, and comfortable. It’s perfect for hiking, but it can also double as a casual everyday shirt!
Half-zip pullover: I wear my half-zip pullover on 99% of my hikes. It’s light and breathable but warm enough that I often don’t need a jacket over it. This not-too-tight slim fit is very flattering and it comes in lots of great colors.
If you’re hiking in the mountains, chances are that it’s chilly enough to need a jacket as part of your hiking packing list. I love this one because it’s windproof and waterproof and fleece-lined to keep me warm, but it’s not bulky and doesn’t weigh me down when hiking up a mountain.
Weather in the mountains can be very variable, so it’s always helpful to have a lightweight rain jacket. Columbia is the GOAT when it comes to rain jackets because they make high-quality products that last forever and are reasonably priced compared to other premium brands. My ultimate hiking packing list rain jacket is a Columbia very similar to this one:
When it comes to hiking pants, you want pants that give you the flexibility to move but also protect you from the elements.
My favorite hiking pants:
- Columbia Anytime Outdoor Pants: These are not only my favorite hiking pants but my all-time favorite general travel pants. The cut is very flattering for women, they are lightweight yet warm and waterproof, and keep their shape for several days in a row. I own several pairs in multiple colors and have taken them all over the world, from Jordan to Scotland.
- Kuhl Trekr pants: These are lightweight and flexible as well as waterproof. They are heavy enough to protect against tree branches and cold weather, but they also have a cool cinch string that lets you convert them into capris.
- Eddie Bauer Trail Leggings: Leggings are not the most protective or warmest thing to wear while hiking but there’s no denying how comfortable they are. If I know it’s not going to be too cold and I won’t be doing any serious bushwhacking, I often wear leggings. But make sure to wear ones that are on the sturdier side, like these:
No hiking packing list is complete without proper footwear! You can get away with wearing sneakers on some trails, but most of the time you need something a little sturdier than that. There are many different styles of hiking boots, but what is most important is having a pair of shoes that have good traction and will protect you from accidentally twisting an ankle or slipping on uneven terrain. It’s a bonus if you can find a waterproof pair of shoes since you can often come across wet and muddy trails.
My favorite brand is Merrell, and I prefer the low-cut ankle of their Moab hiking shoe. It’s the same pair that I’m wearing in the featured photo above, at the end of Canada’s Plain of Six Glaciers hike.
Along with proper shoes, your hiking packing list should include proper socks. And I don’t mean thin, low-cut athletic socks! If you’re going to be hiking for multiple miles, you need socks that will protect you from developing blisters. I like these from Merrell (yes, I am a Merrell fan girl) because they aren’t super thick like some wool socks but thick enough to be protective and comfortable. They also offer some arch support, which is great for those of us who need that!
If you have a hiking packing list, you need something to put those items in! For day hikes, you don’t need an intense backpack, but one with a waist and chest strap help distribute the weight better and makes carrying the pack more comfortable. This one is lightweight, has space for a water bladder, the necessary straps, and won’t break the bank. This list of backpacks for hiking also has some great suggestions.
I am a fan of food. I am especially a fan of food while expending lots of calories on a long hike. My hiking packing list always includes pistachios, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches, and some kind of protein bars.
GoMacro Macrobars: These are organic, plant-based bars that have a very high protein content and taste SO GOOD. My faves are the Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip and the Double Chocolate + Peanut Butter Chips.
Clif Builder bars: I’ve never liked Clif Bars, but I do actually like their Builder Bars. They have a higher protein content than the regular bars and they have a much better flavor. These are also pretty substantial and feel like a meal. My favorite is the chocolate mint.
Durable water bottle
Water is a necessity no matter how difficult or easy the hiking is, and a high-quality water bottle needs to be on every hiking packing list.
Nalgene: Nalgene is the standard when it comes to durable water bottles. These things literally never break. They will outlast every single sticker you will ever stick on them. I still own my first Nalgene from over 15 years ago.
Camelbak Chute: I actually prefer Camelbaks over Nalgenes for one nit-picky reason: I prefer the smaller opening. I’m less likely to dump all my water all over me. I’m not usually clumsy, but I am when it comes to drinking water. And Camelbaks are almost as durable as Nalgenes.
For longer day hikes, like Montana’s Highline Trail, a water reservoir can be helpful instead of, or in addition to, a water bottle. They make drinking water easier to carry as well as drink on the go. Just make sure you have a backpack with a compartment built for carrying a reservoir.
You absolutely never know what will happen on the trail, even if it’s just a short day hike. I’ve gotten some pretty gnarly scratches from losing focus for just a moment and then sliding down a rocky slope the next. So I recommend including a very basic first aid kit in your hiking packing list, just in case
This first aid kit is small and cheap but has everything you would need in a pinch, from bandaids, gauze, alcohol pads, and tape. I also like that it includes tools like scissors, tweezers, and safety pins, which many similar first-aid kits don’t come with.
Another additional item that I have found to be extremely useful are these blister bandaids. They are the absolute best solution to unexpected blisters when you are out on the trail. Many people recommend using tape, but that usually just aggravates the blister, whereas these medicate and cushion it so that you can finish the hike without pain.
I have terrible circulation, so whenever it gets mildly cold, my hands stop functioning. Therefore, I always have a pair of hand warmers in my hiking bag. No need for anything fancy – the OG Hot Hands brand works just fine.
Hiking involves being outside, which usually means being exposed to lots of sunshine! Vitamin D is good for us, but we need to protect our skin (especially if you, like me, are the color of a piece of paper). Sunscreen is an important part of any hiking packing list. Neutrogena is a reliable brand for skincare, and this sunscreen of theirs is high 70SPF yet non-greasy and lightweight.
Hiking also involves being in the great outdoors alongside all of its natural inhabitants – including mosquitoes, ticks, and other irritating things that bite. In addition to being the color of paper, I am also a tasty morsel for bugs, so alongside my sunscreen is always a bottle of bug spray. I like this one because it’s long-lasting but goes on dry, so you don’t spend the day feeling greasy or smelling like you showered in bug spray.
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