We've been doing lots of hikes all over the world, in both hot climates, like in Australia, and extremely cold climates, like Iceland. Over the years experience taught us what we need on each type of hike and in the last couple of years we missed nothing. The hiking gear list in this article is based on our own hiking equipment. Each individual has his/her personal needs, so feel free to add to the list personal requirements if you have any.
As usual, the products that we mention in this article are products that we use ourselves. The product links are affiliate links that help us pay the costs for the Travelfoss blog.
First Aid Kit
You might be tempted to not carry a first aid kit. It is very unlikely that you are going to use it, it takes space and it adds a few hundred grams to your backpack. We've done tones of hikes without a first aid kit (shame on us). Not because we didn't want to carry one, but because we were not aware that this is really a thing. It sounds stupid now that I am writing this, but we never needed one and we never heard of anyone ever having or using one.
Don't get me wrong. It's not like we knew about having a first aid kit while hiking and we didn't want to carry one. We simply never thought and never heard of it. Until one day when I wondered why did someone have sterile gauze with him in his backpack. I'm glad he had because that guy injured his head during an earthquake. And I'm happy it wasn't us on that mountain that day because we had no first aid kit. Since then we have never gone on a trail without a one. You can find the full story of the guy that hit his head, and what your first aid kit should contain in our previous article dedicated entirely to this subject.
Depending on the hiking conditions, the gear you wear and carry with you will vary. Even so, some of the items you need with you remain the same. Let's start off with the standard backpack contents for any hike:
- Water bottles: UV, insulated, or single wall
- Trekking poles
- Pocket multitool
- Spoon / fork
- Trash bag
- Quick dry towel
- First aid kit
You can use one backpack for any kind of weather, but there are few things to consider. This topic is so long and important that we have written an entire article about how to choose your hiking backpack.
In most places in the developed world, you will not have to buy bottled water. You can drink water from the tap, from public water dispensers, springs, and even rivers. For this, you need to have with you reusable bottles (not plastic ones).
Insulated or not? If it's very cold or very hot, we recommend getting an insulated water bottle. However, we choose the single wall water bottles whenever possible. The biggest difference between the 2 types of bottles that we pay attention to is their size, capacity, and weight. Since the insulated bottle has a double wall it is obvious that for 2 bottles that are the same size, the insulated one will have a smaller capacity and will weigh more than a single wall bottle. In other words, you have to carry more for less water. Even so, don't forget that you need to keep your body warm or help it lower its temperature to avoid heatstroke and dehydration. The bottles that we are using are as follows:
We are very happy with both bottles. They are high quality with good paint, and also lightweight. We also received a Sigg insulated bottle from Airbnb because of some trouble we had with their website when trying to make a booking. The Sigg bottle is bigger in size and heavier than the Hydro Flask, although it has a smaller capacity. It does seem to hold the temperature for a longer period of time though. However, the Sigg bottle had an integrated system for tea infusion that rusted in a few months which is disappointing.
UV Bottle? During some hikes, you might get water from rivers or springs. If you can't be 100% sure of the quality of the water that you drink it's better to have a way to kill some of the bacteria and microbes that might be in it. Using a bottle with UV light is the easiest and most convenient way to do this. UV bottles are also recommended if you travel in countries with underdeveloped infrastructure. We currently have a Larq bottle, we used it for almost 2 years and the paint on the cap started to exfoliate/corrode. We're going to buy another UV bottle soon and we are looking at Philips GoZero.
We are very sure-footed and in good fitness condition so most of the time we underestimate and ignore trekking poles because they can be annoying sometimes. We will go into more details about this subject soon in a different article. Long story short, they are useful especially for long-distance hikes allowing you to go faster and be less tired. They can also be annoying, so don't push yourself to use them every time.
The most important features when choosing your hiking poles are:
- Adjustable length and collapsibility. We both have trekking poles made of 3 segments so that we can easily store them on our backpacks. In addition, this allows us to easily adjust the length of the poles as we need them.
- Weight and durability. These 2 features come together because of the materials that trekking poles are made of: aluminium and carbon fiber. Aluminium is more durable but heavier than carbon fiber. For this reason, Diana, as a woman, has carbon fiber poles, while Stefan has aluminium ones.
The trekking poles that we have are around 5 years old and we were not able to find them online anymore to give you a link to them.
The multitool is a must in our opinion. We used it more times than we can count, from opening tin cans and cutting fruits to opening bottles of wine or beer at the end of a hike. It is also useful if you need to use the first aid kit to cut gauzes (unless you have a scissor in your first aid kit).
Headlamps are a must on every hike even if you don't plan to go in caves, hike by night, or overnight camping. You never know what happens on the trail and you end up hiking in the dark. Go for the rechargeable headlamps to avoid wasting money on batteries that are also harmful to nature. We also recommend them to be waterproof because you never know when the rain starts.
The food you carry with you will be different depending on the weather conditions. Even so, food is so important that we couldn't skip it when talking about common hiking gear.
Besides full meals, it is also good to have with you some caloric snacks because you will burn a lot of calories during a hike and you need the energy to get to the end. Some of the best hiking snacks are beef jerky and nuts. Both are rich sources of proteins that support your muscles. You might also want to get something sweet for a quick boost of energy or even better, a fruit. And last but not least: bananas. Bananas are well known for their importance during high-intensity sports. Their mineral content and easy-to-digest carbs will give you a boost of energy and relieve some of the muscle cramps and soreness.
Spoon, fork, knife
This is not a must in every hiking backpack, but it greatly depends on what food you take with you. In case you can't eat your food with your bare hands we recommend you get an all-in-one piece of cutlery from Light My Fire. They are so practical and we love them. Unfortunately, we forgot ours at an accommodation, but we are going to buy exactly the same type we had.
It doesn't sound like much, but not having a trash bag with you will prove annoying. You don't want to get your backpack or other things dirty from your food waste, like banana peel. A trash bag will help you collect and store your garbage in a safe way.
I used to hate sunglasses. While you can get rid of most problems and discomfort you have with sunglasses by buying the right pair, you can't fix our most puzzling problem: you will no longer see nature as it is with its true colors. So many times you want to admire the landscape perhaps the turquoise color of the sea, the emerald color of a glacier lake, or the multitude of colors that the lava in Iceland might have.
At the end of the day, we realize that not wearing sunglasses in bright light only makes you more tired and makes it impossible to see as many places as you could if you were less tired. We need to buy ourselves new hiking sunglasses that we can also use for our upcoming Antarctica trip. We'll get back to you with the product choice we make.
L.E.: We chose and purchased the Julbo Explorer 2 glasses with Reactiv High Mountain 2-4 Photocromatic, Polarized lens, also known as camel or cameleon lens.
Quick dry towels
Quick dry towels are not a must for every hike. You have to know your hike beforehand to decide if you need a towel or not. Hikes that you should take a towel are those that pass by or end on a beach, those where you have to cross a river barefooted (and if the weather is cold you will want to get dry very quickly), or those where you will bathe in thermal water like for example Reykjadalur in Iceland.
Changes of clothes. Most good hiking clothes are specially designed to dry out quickly. Even so, there are times when you wish you had a t-shirt or base layer to change the wet one when you finish the hike.
An extra layer. Even in hot weather, hikes at high altitudes may expose you to some big differences in temperature. Never forget to take with you an extra layer according to the weather conditions you are hiking in.
Physical maps are so underrated and we easily turn to the display of our phones for navigation. However, your phone may run out of battery or cellular service and leave you without a map. Not to mention all the benefits that being in nature, away from the daily devices has. Using a paper map instead of your phone will empower you to emerge even deeper into the beauty of nature. At least make sure that you have a virtual map that can be accessed offline.
Photography enthusiasts might not want to forget their camera or any other devices they use for their jaw-dropping photos. Together with them, a power bank is also good to have.
Handheld GPS hiking device
If you are dealing with trails that are known to lack cellular service and that are poorly marked, a handheld GPS device specially designed for hikes is a useful piece of device that might save your life.
First Aid Kit
I know, we talked a about it few paragraphs above, but I can't stop emphasizing its importance. Just don't forget the first aid kit!
Weather Related Hiking Gear
The contents of your hiking backpack will be influenced by the weather conditions. We also have an article about the gear you need for hiking in cold weather and we will write shortly another one about the hiking gear specific to hot weather.
Other Hiking Resources
Now that your backpack is ready, you are one step closer to hitting the trail. Make sure you are well informed about the trail you are about to start, that you have at least a virtual map downloaded on your phone.
Have fun and take care of nature!