Essential Hiking Gear for Beginners

What kind of things do you need for hiking? The basics.  Whether you’re a new hiker or a more experienced one, everyone requires the same basics.  So what are the basics, or essentials, for successful hiking?




One of the most important pieces of equipment for anybody that hikes is the correct backpack. Pick one with a back supporting panel or frame to relieve back pain and stress on your shoulders.  But there are different size backpacks for different hikes.


Day hike packs won’t be nearly as large as packs for longer trips such as for the weekend or the week.  So start off by asking yourself what kind of hiking are you going to be doing?  Do you see yourself being more of a day hiker or an overnight hike?  Will you be carrying other gear than the normal essentials?  Extra clothes, camp cookware, food, water, shelter?  All of this needs to be considered.


For a beginning hiker a good idea for what size pack you need is to follow the chart below.  We also provide links to packs that we think will packs that will be great starter backpacks.


Activity Volume (Liters) Recommended Pack
Day Hikes 15-30
1-2 Nights Hike 30-45
2-3 Nights Hike 45-55
3 or More Nights Hike 55+


Keep in mind that fit is important and so is size! It might seem like a bargain or saving money to get a pack that is 10 or more liters bigger for a small amount more, but keep in mind this will be on your back all day.  If the pack is too big items inside can constantly move around and shift causing uneven weight distribution.  Plus why carry a bigger pack than you have to.  For beginners, go with a pack that suits what you need it for and not something more just to save the few extra dollars later.  Your back will thank you!


Hiking Boots or Shoes


A good pair of hiking boots or shoes is a necessity. Being on your feet for a long period of time can do a number on your feet.  Just like hiking backpacks, hiking shoes come in a variety of shapes and sizes all to suit your hiking style.  Therefore, shop around until you find a pair that fit you perfectly. Don’t settle for ones that fit ‘ok’ as halfway up the trail, you’ll regret it!


To make it easier we’ll break down the types of hiking boots or shoes to the three main types you will see.

Hiking Shoes: These tend to have a lower cut around the ankle similar to what you would wear if you were wearing sneakers to the gym.  Hiking shoes are great for beginners!  They’re great for hikers that want to keep things light or a beginner who is doing maybe a half-day or day hike occasionally.  They provide great support to your feet and add extra support on the soles that sneakers wouldn’t normally provide.


Now before you think you can get away with just wearing sneakers think about what kind of trails you’ll be doing.  If you’re going to stepping over fallen logs or rocks and some light intensity hiking than sneakers won’t cut it!  Hiking shoes don’t just provide support, but better traction for when you’re stepping over and on top of obstacles along the path.


Day Hiking Boots: Unlike hiking shoes, day hiking boots are just as the name states.  They are boots.  The cut around the ankle is higher to better support your ankle and help you support the weight from backpacks.  The boots also tend to be bulkier than shoes, but that’s because of the support.


Day hiking boots are great for day hikes that are hours long or weekend hikes that are a couple of days.  They’ll provide the necessary support to safely hike with added weight on your back and greater durability than hiking shoes.  One of the best parts about day hiking boots is that it takes little to no time to break them in!  That means you can pretty much jump into a day hike without getting blisters from your feet rubbing in the shoes.


Backpacking Boots: Sure we’re talking about gear for beginning hikers, but every beginning hiker will slowly work their way into better hiking habits and gear.  So why not mention backpacking boots.  These boots are built for hiking and will give you all the necessary support and traction you need.


When you’re doing hiking trips that last longer than a weekend than backpacking boots will save you in the long run.  The ankle support doesn’t just meet the ankle, but surrounds them to provide amazing support.  There is also added internal support to help you carry the weight of 55+ liter backpacks without growing discomfort in your feet from your shoes.  Backpacking boots are designed to be durable, supportive, and lighter considering their size.  They make any type of hike, on or off the trail, one of comfort so you can focus on scenery around you and not just the discomfort from your shoes.


Water Bottle


You have to stay hydrated in all weather conditions. Some more popular hiking trails also have taps in the way where you’re able to fill your water bottle up.  Though most of the time you’ll have to pack enough water for your trip.  If you’re doing more than a day hike then you’ll need something to purify water to make it drinkable, but for now let’s worry about a water bottle.  The bottle you choose to hold your water is key.  It has to be durable and lightweight because water itself is already heavy.  But the most important is definitely durability!


Your water bottle is going to be jostled around in your bag, dropped off of ledges, knocked onto the ground, and so many other things.  You don’t want one that the bottle cracks easily or the lid.  Look for one made of a strong plastic or a screw top lid.  Water bottles with built in straws are great, but if you plan to use it long term throughout a lot of hikes don’t get a straw one.  Screw top water bottles allow for you to easily clean it if it were to get dirty or rinse it out if you need to.  It also makes it easier to refill.


What we highly recommend is a Nalgene.  Nalgenes are built for the great outdoors.  They have wide mouths to make refilling and drinking from it super easy and made from durable plastic.  We’ve taken them climbing and the nalgene took some falls onto rocks high and low and not a single crack!  Click on the picture of a nalgene if you’re looking into a water bottle for hikes because you won’t be disappointed by this one.


Granola Bars


Pack a few of your favorite energy bars to keep your energy levels up while you hike. While you’re hiking you’re using up a lot of energy, so to prevent feeling faint or sick on your adventure, remember to eat regularly.  No need to go into too much detail about what kind of energy bars to get because while you’re moving around you want someone to refuel.  


The only recommendation we have is a bar with not too much sugar because it can upset your stomach.  Also high amounts of carbohydrates because these are what store long term energy and you need that long term energy to keep you going!


Waterproof Coats


You don’t want to get stuck out in the rain without a waterproof coat.  Especially in countries where the weather can turn quickly and unexpectant.  The brand of coat doesn’t really matter as long as it keeps you dry.  But waterproof coats aren’t just great for keeping you dry, most have dual functionality.  The other great function is that they act as windbreakers.  Some people forget about this when they hike, but if you’re doing a hike in colder weather the wind can chill you to the bone.  So get a waterproof coat that’s also a windbreaker.


Fleece Jacket


Depending on the weather you should consider taking along a fleece jacket on your hike. Even in countries that are warmer, it can get cooler the higher up you climb.  It’s a good idea to take one with you just in case you find yourself getting cool.  They also make for a great base layer when you’re doing colder hikes because they allow for the insulation of heat without adding too much weight or bulk to your body.  They’re light and there’s many that are compact so why not pop one in your new backpack or around your waist.


Hiking Socks


Hiking socks are a must to prevent blisters and sore feet, they help cushion the foot from the boots as hiking boots tend to be tough as they need to withstand various conditions, which can hurt after a while.  One of the big things about hiking socks is that they’re not like normal everyday socks.  Just like everything else on the hiking essentials is that hiking socks are made for hiking.


Some of the many benefits of hiking socks is that they help to keep your feet warm, dry, and cushioned.  With so many hiking sock brands out there in store and online it would be hard not to find a pair to own.  As you give your socks the typical wear and tear you’ll learn what brands work best for your feet and your boots.  So don’t be afraid to try different brands until you find the pair you like most.


One highly rated brand of hiking socks is Smartwool.  Smaller brands can sometimes be forgotten when the big name brands dominate the hiking gear market.  But Smartwool carries a large assortment of socks ranging in style and functionality.  They’re high quality socks with a reasonable price tag if you’re looking to get your first pair of hiking socks.


First Aid Kit


A necessity in your backpack to cover all your needs.  Nobody wants to get hurt on a hike and nobody wants to see someone else get hurt.  The thing is that injuries are unavoidable.  People will get bumps and scrapes and other small injuries along the way.  Since injuries are unavoidable the best thing you can do as a hiker is to be prepared for them.


So here’s what we recommend should be in a hiker’s first aid kit.  This first aid kit should be kept in your backpack and be easily accessible not only to you, but others too in case of emergency.


Adhesive bandages Assorted sizes to cover small cuts, scratches, blisters, etc.
Closure strips or butterfly closures Assists in closing larger cuts, but does not cover the wound
Sterile dressing Covers larger blisters, burns, and cuts
Sterile gauze Helps to hold dressings to the skin and to provide more coverage
Medical adhesive tape Holds dressing and gauze to whatever area of the body
Tweezers Easily remove splinters, ticks, and other debris from wounds or skin
Small scissors Cut away clothing around an injury or cutting medical tape, dressings, gauze, etc.
Multi-tool Gives you access to a knife just for medical purposes, but also usually includes built in scissors and tweezers
Safety pins Multiple uses including removing splinters under the skin, fastening arm slings, and other improvised purposes
Rubberized bandage Commonly called ACE bandages, can be used to create a splint, cover dressings or gauze, and support sprains
Antiseptic towelettes Cleaning small cuts and wounds
Ibuprofen Pain relief and fever reducer
Antihistamines Reduces the reaction to bites and stings
Latex gloves Protects from blood-borne diseases, infections, and much more sanitary than unprotected hands
Hydrogen peroxide Clean wounds, sterilize first aid tools
Space blanket Good for cold weather conditions to treat hypothermia
First aid booklet Reference for what to do for injuries until you’re able to contact medical professionals


Everything on this long list of supplies isn’t exactly necessary, but it is recommended.  You are able to redesign and repurpose your own first aid kit to suit what your needs might be.  So you could always add more or take away items we suggested.  If you don’t want to think about what exactly to put into your first aid kits, there are plenty premade and packaged first aid kits.  They provide everything you might need and the little booklet about treating injuries.


**This is not professional medical advice.  This is what we recommend to have on standby to treat common first aid injuries. Contact a medical professional for further examination.


As you trek out into the wilderness make sure you’re prepared.  Have all the right gear with you to ensure your safety and well being.  Things aren’t as easily accessible when you’re in the great outdoors.  But don’t let anything stop you.  Safe travels and never stop exploring.


  1. testt

    You actually make it seem so easy with your presentation but I find this matter to be really something which I think I would never understand. It seems too complex and very broad for me. I am looking forward for your next post, I will try to get the hang of it! xrumer

    1. Post

      Hey there xrumer! We love to hear feedback from our readers so thank you for that. We also love to hear your suggestions as to what you want to see. Send us an email about what’s unclear or what we can do to help make it easier. We’re always here to help!

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