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Escaping into the backcountry to experience the great outdoors is one of life’s simple pleasures. Whether it’s just for a few hours or even a couple of days, there’s no better feeling than immersing yourself in nature. It is however a good idea whenever you go for a hike, to be fully prepared with all the right gear. In this article I will be sharing with you my entire hiking packing list so you can be fully prepared on your next hike. I will be sharing both a day hiking packing list as well as a multi-day backpacking list which includes some extra items you’ll need.
- Things to Consider
- Hiking Packing List for Day Hikes
- Day Hike Packing List Additional Items
- Hiking Packing List for Multi-Day Backpacking Trips
Things to Consider
There are a few things to consider when embarking on a hiking trip, these considerations will determine what you will pack. First of all, you should decide on the type of trip you will be taking. Will it just be for the day? Or are you going to be hiking for multiple days? What you pack for a day hike will be different from what you pack for a multi-day hiking trip.
Another consideration you should keep in mind is the climate, season, and weather forecast for the area you’ll be hiking in. For instance, a summer hike will require different gear to a winter hike. Additionally, if there is a possibility of bad weather, you will need to pack accordingly.
Finally, consider the area you will be hiking in and the facilities on hand. Are there toilets? Will there be access to water or do you need to take some with you? These considerations will determine how much or how little you will need to pack.
Hiking Packing List for Day Hikes
If you are heading out for a hike just for the day, the good news is you won’t need to take too much along with you. It is however important that you are prepared with a few items just in case anything goes wrong. The following day hiking packing list will give you an idea of some items you may need.
To start off with, you will need a bag to carry all your belongings in. If you don’t go hiking very often it may not make sense to invest in a new hiking daypack but realistically any regular backpack will do. However, if you do frequent the trails often or are planning to do so, then it may be worth spending a bit of money to get a good, reliable daypack.
There are a number of companies that make good hiking daypacks so you may wonder which is the best? I have always found, from personal experience, that Osprey make some of the best and most durable hiking backpacks. An Osprey pack is a great investment because it will literally last years, and if it doesn’t their All Mighty Guarantee means you can get a new one.
For a day hike you should make sure you get a bag that has a capacity of 15-30 liters. Keep in mind that when buying a pack from a company like Osprey, each product is usually made to fit to your body. This is why they usually have a men’s and women’s version of each product. With that in mind, the Stratos 24 is a great daypack for men and the Sirrus 24 is a great daypack for women.
Keeping an eye on the weather forecast will help you to decide what clothing you need to take along on your hike. For nice sunny days shorts, leggings, and a top should be fine. It is however worth taking along a warm layer just in case the temperature drops suddenly.
It is also a good idea to take a rain jacket with you just in case the heavens decide to open. You can make a judgement call on what clothing you think is necessary to take with you, just don’t get caught out in the rain without a jacket!
The hiking footwear you choose for the trails will depend a lot on your own preferences. Some hikers enjoy the support that a good sturdy hiking boot provides. However, for some people, hiking boots can be a little too heavy and cumbersome. For hikers looking for a lighter option, a pair of trail running shoes may be a good alternative. Trail running shoes provide good grip and are extremely lightweight which means you can travel a lot faster.
When it comes to choosing which type of footwear, you can make the decision for yourself depending on your preferences? Do you like the idea of a pair of shoes that provide support? Or do you want a lightweight option that will allow you to walk at a faster speed?
Probably one of the most important items you will take along on any hike is water. We all need water to survive and it’s important to be carrying water when heading into the backcountry.
Either take along a water bottle or a hydration reservoir full of water. The amount of water you take will depend on many factors such as the hike duration, the intensity of the hike, together with the weather conditions. If you’re out for the whole day you’ll want to take at least 2 liters per person.
When it comes to food it’s a good idea to take some lunch and some snacks to keep you going throughout the hike. For lunch, some pre-made sandwiches go down a treat, together with some fresh fruit.
Although I do love a good lunch break, I find the best way to stay fueled during your day hike is to take some energy filled snacks. Energy bars, nuts, trail mix, and dried fruits such as mangoes are all great hiking snacks. All will keep you going till the end of your hike.
With modern day technology, most people have access to a map and compass on their phones. If you are walking trails and tracks that are well marked, your phone may be all you need to help you navigate.
However, if you plan to hike more advanced trails it may be worth investing in a compass and a map of the local area, this is a foolproof method of navigating. It doesn’t rely on a cell signal or a battery like your phone, so will work when you really need it.
If you want to take your navigation gear to the next level you could invest in a GPS watch such as the Garmin Fenix 6. This is the gold standard when it comes to hiking watches. Another watch to consider is the Garmin Instinct, it’s a little more affordable than the Fenix 6 but obviously has fewer features.
Check out 16 of the coolest and most useful hiking gadgets to enhance your time out on the trail.
There are a few emergency items you should make sure to add to your day hiking packing list. There are many items that may be beneficial but the main item you should take with you is a first aid kit. A small first aid kit will do, it doesn’t have to be overly extensive, just as long as it allows you to patch up any injuries you may sustain on the hike.
As well as a first aid kit, it’s worth carrying a lighter, matches, or fire flint with you. These are good items to have as they will allow you to create a fire in case of an emergency.
This should really go without saying but you need to make sure you are protecting yourself from the sun. This means adding some sunscreen to your hiking packing list. As well as sunscreen you may want to take a hat and some sunglasses for protection as well.
For a more in depth look at what to take with you on your day hike check out this great article.
Day Hike Packing List Additional Items
We have covered the essential items you’ll need on your day hiking packing list. There are however a few extras you may want to consider taking.
Personal Locator Beacon
A personal locator beacon or PLB for short is not a necessity for a day hike, however it could prove to be a very welcome addition. A PLB is essentially a device that allows you to contact help in an emergency situation even in the most remote of areas. Once activated, a PLB sends a radio signal alerting local search and rescue of your location so they can find and rescue you. You can think of a PLB as your backup plan if anything happens to go wrong.
It may be worth taking a PLB with you if the area you are hiking is very remote. It may also be a good idea to take a PLB if the route you will be walking is dangerous or hazardous for any reason.
Something to keep in mind if you do take a PLB along with you is it’s only to be used in an emergency situation. You may face some large fines if activated when it’s not an emergency.
Although not essential, you really should think about taking along some hand sanitizer on your hikes. Hiking can get dirty so it’s nice to have some sanitizer to keep your hands clean. This is especially important if you’re going to be eating while you’re hiking.
Insect repellent is another useful item you may want to consider taking along with you. Mosquitos and other insects can ruin your hikes but a little insect repellent can go a long way to improving the situation.
Hiking Packing List for Multi-Day Backpacking Trips
Now we have covered all the items you may want to take along on your day hikes, it’s time to look at a multi-day hiking packing list. A lot of the items I have already mentioned will be useful on your multi-day hikes but there are some additional items you will need as well.
For a multi-day hike you will need a larger backpack to carry all your gear. You will be carrying more food, water, clothing, and equipment than you would on a day hike.
For a multi-day hike a 40-50 liter bag is a good size to aim for. If you go any bigger you run the risk of over packing and carrying more weight than necessary. A 50 liter bag will be plenty, especially if you invest in some lightweight hiking gear.
For a pack that will last I would recommend Osprey. They have a good variety of packs that come in lots of different sizes, all with a rich set of features. Their packs are extremely comfortable even when full of gear, this is because they fit to your body size. Each bag usually comes in a small, medium, or large and a women’s or men’s fit.
The Atmos AG 50 for men and Aura AG 50 for women are both great multi-day hike packs. Both these packs have Osprey’s Anti-Gravity Suspension system, which makes it feel like you’re carrying less weight on your shoulders.
If you’re out on a multi-day hike you will need a shelter to sleep under. Unless you’re lucky enough to have a hut to stay in on your route, you will need to take a tent. There are so many options when it comes to tents but you should make sure that the tent you take is hiking friendly. By this I mean you want it to be as light as possible and as small as possible when packed down.
For those ultralight hikers out there, the tents made by Zpacks and Tarptent will be what you’re looking for. These tents use your hiking poles to create the structure of the tent, this essentially means you don’t need any tent poles. If however you’re looking for a more conventional style of tent, MSR has some great options.
Another vital piece of sleeping gear is a sleeping bag or quilt to keep you warm while you sleep. I’m sure most will know what a sleeping bag is, however I’m sure not everyone will know what a quilt is.
A quilt is very similar to a sleeping bag except it doesn’t have the back part of the sleeping bag. This helps save weight and space in your bag. Essentially a quilt goes over the top of you to keep you warm and your sleeping pad keeps you warm on the bottom. For it to work properly you need to use a sleeping pad with a good R-value, which is basically its insulation rating.
Which one should you choose, a sleeping bag or a quilt? This will depend on your preference as there are pros and cons to both. Check out this great article comparing both sleeping bags and quilts to help you make your decision.
The last piece of the puzzle with regard to your sleep system is a sleeping pad. This will keep you both comfortable and warm when sleeping on the outside ground. A good sleeping pad can mean the difference between a good night’s sleep and an awful one.
The most common type of sleeping pad for backpacking and multi-day hikes are air pads, these are pads that you inflate with air. Not only are air pads very comfortable, but they are also very compact when packed down which makes them very hiking friendly.
Therm-A-Rest are an extremely popular choice among hikers for sleeping pads. Their Neo Air sleeping pads are a great choice for multi-day hikers. The Neo Air pads are lightweight, pack down to a small size, and provide a comfortable night’s sleep. Check out the Neo Air Xlite in particular.
Backpacking Stove and Fuel
When you’re out in the backcountry for a few days, it’s vital to keep yourself properly fueled with food. So when it’s time to eat your dinner in the evening it feels great to be able to have a warm meal. To do this out in the backcountry you’ll need a backpacking stove and a fuel canister.
Some people enjoy making their own DIY meals on trail whereas others prefer the convenience that dehydrated or freeze-dried meals provide. Whichever method you prefer, a backpacking stove will be essential.
If you are going to be using your stove for boiling water for dehydrated and freeze-dried meals, the Jetboil Flash is a great option. It’s a lightweight all in one stove system that is capable of boiling water in 100 seconds.
If you prefer to cook your own meals, the MSR Pocket Rocket is what you’re looking for. This stove is a more flexible option than the Jetboil, this is because you can choose the type and size of pot to go on top of your stove. If you will be cooking for multiple people on your trips, this is the way to go.
You will need a few cooking utensils so that you can cook and eat your food while on the trail. This doesn’t have to be an exhaustive list, all you need are a couple of items.
First off, if you are using a stove system that doesn’t have a pot included such as the MSR Pocket Rocket, you will need to get one. Titanium pots are a popular option among many backpackers because of how lightweight they can be. Toaks have a good variety of pots all in different sizes. If you’re cooking for yourself a 700ml to 900ml pot will be plenty, if you’re cooking for more you may want a larger capacity pot.
Make sure to add some cutlery to your hiking packing list. Most backpackers take a long handle spoon with them into the backcountry. This is great for getting to the bottom of dehydrated meal packets. You may also want to take a lightweight bowl or plate along with you to eat your DIY meals from.
When on multi-day hikes or backpacking trips you don’t want to carry too much water with you as this can be very heavy. On the other hand, you don’t want to run the risk of dehydration because you don’t have enough water. However, if there are freshwater sources such as rivers, lakes, or streams on your hiking route, you can create safe drinking water using a water filter.
The Sawyer Squeeze is a popular water filter among backpackers because of its small and compact size. The filter helps remove 99.9% of bacteria, 99.9% of protozoa, and 100% of microplastics for safe clean drinking water. There’s no need to carry large amounts of water anymore because you have access to any freshwater you find on your hike.
Food and Water
When it comes to food and water for your multi-day hike, it can be so easy to overpack. Drafting up a food plan for your trip is a great idea as it will help you to visualize what is necessary to take.
Dehydrated meals and freeze-dried meals are popular food options, this is because they are lightweight, easy to make, and create very little mess. There are so many options to choose from which allow you to take a variety of meals on the trail with you. Backpacker’s Pantry, Good To-Go, Mountain House, and Radix Nutrition all have some great meal options for hikers.
Need some food inspiration for your next trip? Check out our vegan backpacking food guide!
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You don’t need to take lots of clothes along on your multi-day hike, you need just enough to keep you warm and dry. Check the weather forecast before you leave and pack accordingly. If it’s going to be raining or cold, make sure you take enough extra clothes to keep yourself warm. The list below gives a good idea of what you should have on your hiking packing list:
- Moisture wicking t-shirt or top
- Quick dry pants or shorts
- Long sleeve top
- Warm layer fleece or jacket
- Wool or synthetic socks
- Rain jacket
- Base layer top and bottom
- Gloves and warm hat
- Extra set of dry clothes
Similar to day hiking, the best options for your multi-day hike footwear are either a solid pair of hiking boots or a pair of lightweight trail running shoes. Each has its pros and cons and your choice will depend on your preference.
Hiking boots provide great support but tend to be heavy and chunky. Trail running shoes don’t provide as much support as boots but they tend to be a good lightweight option. Trail running shoes do however allow you to move faster on the trails, which can be beneficial if you want to cover large distances. Head to your local athletic shoe shop to try a few pairs on and see which ones you like.
Although not an essential item for your hiking packing list, trekking poles can be seriously useful to have. Conquering steep inclines is so much easier with a set of trekking poles, especially if your backpack is a little on the heavy side.
A good set of trekking poles should be lightweight as well as durable. For a great pair of poles look no further than Black Diamond. The Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork trekking poles are great if you’re looking for suggestions.
Personal Hygiene Products
Keeping your personal hygiene to a good standard is super important because it can get dirty on the trails. There are a few products you will want to take for certain, such as toothpaste, a toothbrush, and some hand sanitizer.
The chances are when you’re out on your backpacking trip you won’t have access to toilet facilities. To get your business done you will need to dig a cathole with a trowel. Remember to take some toilet paper as well!
Below is a list of all the hygiene items you may want to take along on the journey:
- Hand sanitizer
- Toilet paper/wipes in resealable bag
- Menstrual products
- Insect repellent
That covers everything you need to know to successfully establish your very own hiking packing list. Whether you will be embarking on a day hike or a multi-day backpacking trip, you should have all the information you need to get started. I hope you have fun out there! Hiking is one of the best ways to truly experience how amazing this world is.
Did we miss anything? If there’s anything you like to take on your adventures into the backcountry leave us a comment.