Hiking equipment is gear or equipment that one takes along on an outdoors hiking trip. While hiking is considered different from backpacking (overnight camping), the equipment is of necessity of a shorter term more practical nature for such a walk. However even for a day trip it is prudent to pack at least rudimentary solutions for eventualities that may arise including being forced to stay the night, getting lost, or accidents.
Weight and bulk limit the amount of equipment that one can carry (particularly if one follows the principle of Leave No Trace and does not discard items on the trail). Criteria for packing an item include weight, bulk (size), number of alternative uses and the chances of each of those uses becoming apparent, weighed against the importance. For example, a whistle may seem unlikely to become necessary, but can be real life saver when it does and weighs next to nothing. Other items, like a sleeping bag, can also be important but can also be very restricting, so a simpler alternative like an extra layer of clothing might be a better idea.
Hiking equipment may be considered in several categories
- Items Worn — Things that a hiker wears on the hiking trip. This may include footwear, clothing, headgear, etc.
- Carrying Items — Backpacks, waist packs, walking sticks or staffs, etc.
- Essential gear — Items that are essential for the hike safety or necessary in potential emergency situations.
- Food and drink — Food items to consume as snacks, lunch, or in emergencies.
- Optional Items — Any other items that the hiker desires to bring along including seating pads, cameras, notebooks, hammocks, and sometimes even computers.
The hiker will generally consider clothing items based on the expected weather and demands of the particular hike location. For example rain or snow would require different gear than a desert environment.
- Footwear — Many hikers wear hiking boots or shoes. These come in a variety of high top (better ankle support), or low top (more comfortable) styles. Some hikers wear various rugged outdoor sandals. Footwear should be rugged enough for the terrain envisioned (hiking boots for a rocky mountain, vs sneakers on a paved rail trail). Hikers will generally consider waterproofing the boots or shoes based on the weather (rain, snow or slush), and the nature of the trail (swampy or wet). Along with footwear most hikers should also consider socks that will help wick sweat from the hiker's feet, provide warmth, and provide buffering inside the shoe.
- Headwear — A hat can provide cooling in the summer, warmth in the snow, and protection from sun.
- Pocket knife, possibly with a tin opener and a saw.
- Multi-tool, similar to above but have pliers as well.
- Flashlight plus spare batteries and bulb
- Trail maps with sufficient detail to be meaningful
- Compass — roughly knowing which way is North can already make a huge difference. It is also helpful to know the declination from Magnetic North to True North applicable to your location.
- First aid kit
- Matches and a lighter and possibly a flint or firesteel (always work, even when wet)
- Tinder — plus knowledge how to start a fire. In emergencies, a campfire can be one of the biggest life savers (warmth and signalling) and it is not as easy to make as some might think. A fire also keeps up the spirits, which can also be a life saver.
- Candles — for light but also a useful aid to start a fire
- Water flask or canteen (bottle), plus water if needed
- Water purification — tablets and/or filter
- Food — preferably with a low water content to keep the weight down (if water is readily available on the spot)
- Plastic bags of various types and sizes to keep things dry and pack things out. Ziploc bags are very practical because they are easily closed and opened. Garbage bags can be used to line the backpack with, but also to put in one's shoes to keep the feet warm, even when the socks are already wet.
- Insect repellent
- Mat — even a small thin one can make a difference in emergencies
- Sleeping bag (and/or liner)
- Clothes — best worn in layers, so one can easily adapt to changing circumstances. So two thin sweaters make more sense than one thick one. Also, on overnight trips, keep one set of clothes dry for evenings and nights (e.g. a jogging suit) and put the dayclothes back on before one starts walking, even if they are wet.
- A warm hat or cap — even when no cold weather is expected. Per weight and volume, this is the best insulator because a lot of body heat escapes through the head ("If your feet are cold, put on a hat").
- Big handkerchief — for various purposes, such as a rough water filter, a thin scarf or a bandana to keep the sweat out of one's eyes (should be big enough for that purpose).
- Rain jacket or parka — preferably either one that fits over the backpack or accompanied by a separate pack liner
- Boots — Often heavy boots with soles with a thick profile and high heels are recommended to avoid twisted ankles after a misstep, which is one of the worst things that can happen to a solo hiker. However, heavy boots put a lot of weight where it is least desirable and are thus exhausting. A less popular alternative philosophy is to use light trainers with thin soles so one can feel the ground one walks on and avoid making missteps in the first place.
- Socks — as with boots, special attention should be given to socks (e.g., no irritating ridge above the toes). Footwear is obviously essential for long distance walking.
- Toilet paper or paper napkins — also handy as kindling
- Sun cream and sun glasses — may be essential for those who are easily sunburned. Especially on snow, water or (to a lesser degree) sand. The reflection of snow can lead to snow blindness.
- Tent and/or ground sheet — the sheet (plus a rope) can be a simple substitute for a tent.
- Bivvy bag or space blanket — a simple substitute for both a tent and a sleeping bag, mostly to keep out wind and rain.
- Hammock — especially popular in the tropics, to stay away from most insects, especially poisonous ones.
- Pillow — small or big, preferably inflatable because of bulk (possibly neck pillow). Can be improvised on with clothes or backpack.
- Mosquito net
- String — for all sorts of purposes, such as a clothes line
- Rope — various lengths and girths, for various purposes, e.g. Parachute cord. Maybe also (copper) wire.
- Fishing line and fish hooks — extremely light weight, but potentially a life saver. The fishing line is also very versatile (e.g. for repairing boots)
- Machete — may be frowned upon or even confiscated in National Parks, but can be essential when one wishes or needs to go off the beaten track, where one may encounter thick vegetation. Also very handy for construction and collecting firewood. Can also double as a spade.
- Small Axe or Hatchet
- Cooking pot or billy
- Portable camping stove and fuel — such as the popular Svea 123, but can be as simple as an Esbit cooker. Esbit blocks are also good firestarters, albeit not too environmentally friendly.
- Spoon and possibly other eating utensils
- Rain pants
- Cyanoacrylate or Super Glue — Can be used to stop bleeding and cover wounds; preventing further damage, or infection.
- Sarong, shawl or other large cloth — for various purposes, such as a (spare) towel or sleeping sheet (or sleeping bag liner)
- Scarf — can double as a headdress
- Flip flops or sandals — for the evenings or night visits to the toilet (or what ever passes for that)
- Towel — can double as a scarf or head dress (against the cold)
- Soap and shampoo — can be frowned upon in National Parks. Preferably bio-degradable. Use sparingly and away from lakes and rivers.
- Sewing kit, possibly with a scalpel
- Heliograph — a mirror with a hole in it for signalling airplanes. Requires knowledge of how to use it.
- GPS — an electronic device (preferably a rugged and waterproof model) used to display and monitor progress on trails downloaded from the internet or pre-made mapping systems, record trails on the fly, and keep track of trip times and other data. Good GPS systems have electronic compass and altimeter and either come pre-loaded or allow the user to add topographic or aerial maps to help one to keep aware of changing elevation and avoid sudden dropoffs or other hazards. Some GPSs allow Data logging.
- Walking stick
- Earplugs — some forests can be noisy, especially cicadas
- Elastic bands — various sizes and girths for various purposes
- Gaffer tape — for quick repairs
- Canteens — one canteen can hold about a liter of water
- Radio — e.g. to listen to weather reports
- Tweezers (if not already in pocket knife) — for removing thorns and such.
- Spade — for various purposes, e.g. to dig a cathole.
- Snacks — preferably of the healthy kind, as emergency 'power food'.
- Beta light — handy for reading maps and possibly to catch fish at night
- Black Shoe Polish — Can be used for marking and camouflage or as a fuel for fire, also giving off a smell that can repel animals
- Binoculars — not only for birders
- Camera plus spare batteries and film/memory card
- Gaiters — essential for those planning to cross shallow bodies of water or walk through tussock.
- Ice axe
- Hiking rope
- Snow shoes