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The 17 Best Hiking Gear Essentials for Hitting the Trails

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When getting ready to hit the trails this summer, you may feel daunted by all the gear you’ll undoubtedly need to have a successful and enjoyable outing. Not only that, but each category of gear requires hours of research on figuring out which products are the cream of the crop. Luckily, we’ve done the legwork for you and have compiled a guide that highlights the best hiking gear essentials for exploring the great outdoors.

Best Hiking Gear Essentials

What To Look For In Hiking Gear

While it’s easy to opt for the coolest and most innovative products available, those items must serve a serious utilitarian purpose that elevates their status as mere gadgets. Novelties are fun when camping, but hiking requires you to limit your load while also maximizing necessity. Hiking is a fun endeavor but oftentimes novel items detract from the point of the activity in the first place. Any hiking essentials should be function-first products, whether they’re aiding your longevity, comfort, survival, or safety.

How We Chose Our Products

As stated above, we love products that can balance form and function, as you can see across our site. However, when it comes to hiking, we prefer to lean more towards function and have picked our favorite items in each respective category that have enhanced our hiking experience.

REPEL Plant-Based Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent

Repel Bug Spray
Why it made the cut
  • This 4-ounce bottle of insect repellant can keep you protected for up to 6 hours and is deet-free.

Best Bug Repellant: One of the most frustrating things about hiking can be those pesky insects fluttering around your face. Well, you can fight them off without feeling guilty using aerosol and/or harmful chemicals with this lemon-eucalyptus oil-based repellent. Lasting for up to 6 hours of protection, this deet-free spray is not sticky or greasy, not harmful to the environment, and smells quite good.

Key Ingredients: Lemon, eucalyptus oil
Duration: ~6 hours

All Good SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen Lotion

All Good SPF 30
Why it made the cut
  • It’s always important to protect your skin from UV rays and this SPF-30 option is lightweight and reef-safe.

Best Hiking Sunscreen: All it takes to get a severe sunburn is 15 minutes in direct sunlight, which can (at the least) cause discomfort and (at the worst) lead to skin cancer. Keep your epidermis protected without harming the environment with All Good’s SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen Lotion. It’s effective, reef-safe, and you’ll be surprised just how far you can stretch this 3oz tube.

Volume: 3oz
SPF: 30

Clif Bar Variety Pack

Clif Bar
Why it made the cut
  • These delicious Clif Bars come in a variety of flavors and provide you with enough energy and protein to keep you going.

Best Hiking Food: For day hikes, you probably don’t need to bring a full meal up the trail with you. But you may find yourself needing a snack at some point. Clif Bars, which are compact enough to stash in your pocket, have been favored by outdoor explorers of all types for years for their flavor and nutrient richness. This variety pack will ensure you don’t get tired of any one kind, but you’ll still be getting the benefit of up to 11g of protein to keep your energy levels high.

Protein: 11g
Carbs: 40g to 43g
Weight Per Bar: 2.4oz

LifeStraw Peak Series Water Filter

LifeStraw Peak Series
Why it made the cut
  • At just 2.3oz this filtration straw eliminates nearly 100% of bacteria, parasites, and microplastics from any water source.

Best Water Filtration Device: LifeStraw’s latest survival water filter model, the Peak Series Straw is a stellar piece of kit that can eliminate some 99.999999% of bacteria, parasites, and microplastics from a whopping 1,000 gallons before needing its 0.2-micron filter replaced. Weighing just 2.3oz, this new LifeStraw is not only more effective but is also markedly more durable, having been crafted from a premium array of materials. A removable threaded bottom cap also allows the Peak Series straw to be connected to gravity hoses or water bottles.

Weight: 2.3oz
# of Gallons: ~1,000

Hydro Flask Trail Series Water Bottle

Why it made the cut
  • Keeping your water cold for up to 24 hours, this lightweight stainless steel water bottle is vacuum-insulated.

Best Hiking Water Bottle: Hydro Flask, over the last few years, has really set the standard with their ultra-tough vacuum-insulated water bottles. Now, they’ve upped the ante even further with their brand-new Trail Series — a collection that’s just as insulated and capacious, but 25% lighter than ever. Keeping your liquid cold for up to 24 hours, the 24-ounce flask is also compatible with an array of Hydro Flask’s lid options.

Capacity: 24oz
Cold Retention: 24 hours

Swiftwick Aspire 7

Why it made the cut
  • These socks give are extremely comfy on the trail and give you some extra arch support and help prevent blisters.

Best Hiking Socks: Produced in four sizes and seven different color options, Swiftwick’s Aspire 7 was technically engineered as a pair of purpose-built cycling socks. However, its moisture-wicking, quick-drying spandex-infused nylon-Olefin blend, minimum compression fit, fatigue-mitigating arch support, and ability to prevent blisters collectively make it a great choice for hiking trails. Made in America, these plush socks also sport channeled uppers, a seamless toe-box, a ventilated mesh footbed, a Y-shaped heel, and midfoot arch-band support.

Cut: Crew
Material: Spandex-infused nylon-Olefin blend

MyMedic Hiker Medic

MyMedic Hiker Pack
Why it made the cut
  • At just 10oz, this first aid kit features 39 essentials for when emergency strikes.

Best First Aid Kit: Weighing only 10oz and coming in an ultra-compact package, MyMedic’s Hiker Medic kit is an American-made first aid kit that was built out by experts specifically to address the needs of hikers and backpackers. As such, the kit features ten different bandages, water disinfection tablets, alcohol prep pads, two packs of antibiotic ointment, a set of SuperSkin blister tape, two packs of ibuprofen, two packs of burn gel, a thermal insulation Space Blanket, an emergency whistle, two packs of KOKOS drink mix, two insect sting and bite relief packs, two packs of lip balm, two Diphen packs, and 25’ of paracord.

Weight: 0.6lbs
# of Pieces: 39

Patagonia Quandary Shorts

Patagonia Quandary Shorts
Why it made the cut
  • These lightweight and stretchy shorts are super durable and give you full range of motion.

Best Hiking Shorts: A fantastic pair of warm-weather hiking shorts, Patagonia’s Quandary model packs just about every feature and amenity one could hope for from a set of trail shorts. Sporting a relaxed fit with a 10” inseam, the Quandary Shorts are made from a lightweight, stretch-woven, spandex-infused nylon blend that’s derived from recycled content and equipped with a durable water-repellent finish and 50+ UPF sun protection. On top of a secure zippered pocket, these shorts also boast a curved waistband and a gusseted crotch that allows for an unrestricted range of motion.

Inseam: 10″
Material: Spandex-infused nylon blend

Proof 72-Hour Merino Tee

Proof 72 Hour Merino Tee
Why it made the cut
  • With 18 colors to choose from, this t-shirt from Proof can last for 3+ days without needing to be washed.

Best Hiking Shirt: Produced in a whopping 18 different color options, Proof’s 72-Hour Merino Tee may look like your average shirt, however, this tee is cut from an advanced construction comprised of a 16.5-micron merino wool and nylon blend with absolutely remarkable moisture-wicking, quick-drying, temperature regulating, and antimicrobial properties. Not only does this material make for a supremely comfortable garment, but it was also designed to be worn for up to three days at a time between washes — hence the genuinely apt “72-Hour” name.

Material: 16.5-micron merino wool and nylon blend
Color Options: 18

Fenix HM65R-T Headlamp

Why it made the cut
  • Impact-resistant to 6.6ft, this durable and lightweight headlamp shoots 1,300 lumens up to 558ft.

Best Hiking Headlamp: A new and improved version of Fenix’s best-selling HM65R Headlamp, the T-spec is a rugged and robust headlight that’s constructed around a hardwearing magnesium housing. Impact-resistant to 6.6’, this LED headlamp boasts an independently controlled spotlight and a floodlight that are backed by Luminus SST40 white and Cree XP-G2 S3 neutral white LED emitters that are collectively good for a maximum output of 1,300 lumens. Other details include a battery level indicator, a constant current circuit, reverse polarity protection, a USB Type-C rechargeable 3,400mAh battery, and Fenix’s patented rotary press-pull clasp headband which can easily be adjusted using just one hand.

Weight: 3.21oz
Max Output: 1,300 lumens
Max Range: 558ft

Snow Peak X-Pac Nylon Waist Bag

Why it made the cut
  • Made from a lightweight, durable X-Pac shell, this 3.2-ounce hip pack is weather-proof and deceptively spacious.

Best Hiking Waist Pack: Originally developed for sails on racing yachts, X-Pac sailcloth is a remarkable next-gen composite that’s insanely rugged and resistant to tears and completely impervious to the elements while weighing practically nothing. These properties make it an excellent choice for use in outdoor gear such as Snow Peak’s X-Pac Nylon Waist Bag. Built around an X-Pac shell with a polyester lining, this 3.2oz hip pack features a buckle-top closure, internal organizer pockets, and a long adjustable strap that allows it to be worn on the waist like a fanny pack or across the body like a sling bag.

Waterproof?: Yes
Shell Material: X-Pac nylon

Matador Beast18 Ultralight

Why it made the cut
  • Made from 210D Robic nylon, this super durable backpack is lightweight, breathable, packable, and features a hydration bladder.

Best Hiking Backpack: Made from a durable UTS-coated 210D Robic nylon that’s wrapped around a flexible frame suspension with an innovative spring steel chassis, Matador’s Beast18 Ultralight is an 18-liter backpack that was designed specifically for use on the trails. Its main clamshell-style compartment has been outfitted with an asymmetrical zipper closure and a bevy of internal pockets and organizers, as well as a sleeve to accommodate a hydration bladder of up to three liters. Outfitted with a padded back panel and breathable mesh shoulder straps, this entire bag is also packable and can be broken down and stored in a tiny included stuff sack.

Capacity: 18L
Shell Material: UTS-coated 210D Robic nylon

Leatherman Skeletool RX Multi-Tool

Leatherman Skeletool RX Multi Tool
Why it made the cut
  • Leatherman’s multi-tools are the best in the world and this 4-inch unit has 7 essential tools for the outdoors.

Best Hiking Multi-Tool: Specifically designed for speedy use by medical first responders, the Leatherman Skeletool RX is the ideal multi-tool for short jaunts. Not only is it lightweight, but it contains seven built-in tools — including pliers, wire cutters, a knife blade, saw, and more — made for emergency situations. Not to mention it has an integrated carabiner clip for easier carry.

Closed Length: 4″
# of Tools: 7
Weight: 5oz

Adidas Terrex Free Hiker 2.0 Boot

adidas Terrex Free Hiker 2
Why it made the cut
  • Lightweight and versatile, these adidas hikers have the mobility of low-tops but the support of boots.

Best Hiking Boots: If nothing else, you should own a good pair of hiking shoes or boots. And you definitely can’t go wrong with the latest version of the Adidas Terrex Free Hikers. These sneakerboots are handsome, durable, lightweight, and they even have both high- and low-top versions. Better still, if you hike somewhere with frequent inclement weather, the brand even offers GORE-TEX editions that are waterproof.

Uppers Material: PRIMEKNIT
Outsole Material: Continental rubber
Weight: 1.82lbs

Benchmade 15017-1 Hidden Canyon Hunter

Why it made the cut
  • Compact and lightweight, this Benchmade fixed blade is as good as a blade twice its size.

Best Hiking Fixed Blade: Benchmade’s 15017-1 Hidden Canyon Hunter is a 6.42” fixed blade knife with a full-tang CPM-S90V drop point blade that’s equipped with handles made from a combination of Richlite and orange G-10. Despite its somewhat diminutive dimensions, the Hidden Canyon Hunter punches well above its weight, offering the utility and performance of blades twice its size in a compact and well-calculated package. This knife also comes with an included custom Kydex sheath that weighs less than an ounce.

Blade Material: CPM-S90V steel
Total Length: 6.42″

Julbo Explorer 2.0 Glasses

Why it made the cut
  • With lenses made from the same material as helicopter windshields, these adventure shades come equipped with side shields and adjustable temples.

Best Hiking Sunglasses: Another hardwearing item that’s backed by a lifetime warranty, the Julbo Explorer 2.0 Glasses were designed specifically for adventure, and as such were built to be as durable as possible. The high-end hiking glasses are constructed around a polycarbonate frame that houses a set of UV-protected ZEBRA Lenses that are crafted from ultra-shatterproof NXT — a construction that’s typically used to craft the windshields of helicopters. Sold with an included neck cord, these glasses also feature adjustable temples and removable side shields.

Frame Material: Polycarbonate
Lens Material: Shatterproof NXT

Garmin fenix 7 Solar Multisport GPS Watch

Garmin fenix 7 Solar Multisport GPS Watch
Why it made the cut
  • With an unbelievable amount of sports and outdoors apps, this top-shelf watch from Garmin also features solar charging.

Best Hiking Smartwatch: Unequivocally one of the world’s most advanced outdoor-specific smartwatches, the Garmin fēnix 7 offers a host of functionality right from your wrist including GPS capabilities, health and fitness tracking, weather reports, music storage, smart notifications, Garmin Pay contactless payment, and texting, just to name a few. The watch is constructed around a 47mm fiber-reinforced polymer case that packs a 1.3-inch display set under sapphire glass and a bezel made from either stainless steel or titanium. Also armed with a three-axis compass, gyroscope, barometric altimeter, and multi-satellite GPS, this watch boasts a battery that offers up to 22 days of life in smartwatch mode when solar charging or as much as 73 hours of life using GPS.

Display Size: 1.3″
Battery Life: 18 to 73 hours

The Best Hiking Shoes to Wear on the Trails

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If you’re looking to explore the space of hiking footwear a little bit more, then check out our guide to the best hiking shoes to wear on the trail.