The Ultimate Hiking Checklist: Essential Gear for Your Next Trip

Hikers at top of mountain

An Essential Guide of What to Put on Your Hiking Checklist

Are you wondering what to pack for your hiking trip? Whether it’s a short excursion or a multi-day trip, trying to decide what to put on your hiking checklist can be a major headache.

You can strike a balance between packing efficiently and ensuring you have all the essentials – it just requires a bit of careful planning.

Our comprehensive hiking checklist covers everything from necessary equipment to safety items and clothing to ensure you don’t forget any key items. There’s nothing worse than arriving at your destination only to realize you’ve forgotten a crucial piece of gear – especially if you’re in the middle of nowhere.

People hiking on trail

10 Hiking Essentials

Let’s start with the most important must-have hiking items. Whether you’re a beginner hiker planning to head out for a few hours or an expert planning to head out for a few days, these are the hiking essentials you should take on every trip:

  1. Navigation (GPS, map and compass)

  2. Extra clothing

  3. Flashlight or headlamp

  4. First aid kit

  5. Multi-tool

  6. Sun protection

  7. Fire starter

  8. Extra food

  9. Water and purification filter or tablets

  10. Emergency shelter

Essentials for your hiking checklist

What to Pack for a Hiking Trip

Every hiker has different needs and preferences, but this list is a great starting point for the main gear you need, along with some optional creature comforts. It will vary depending on several factors, including the time of year, climate and length of your trip – so be sure to adjust accordingly.


Majority of your hiking attire will be determined by your destination of choice and the weather you’re likely to encounter.

For warm weather hikes, you can get away with packing fewer clothes and spare items. If you’re hiking in the winter or at higher altitudes, packing extra clothing is a necessity.

The universal rule to keep in mind? Layers are key. Ditch the bulky coats or jackets and pack warm, lightweight layers that can be added or removed as needed.

You might be tempted to pack your favourite cotton sweater, but that’s a bad idea! Cotton fabric retains moisture and insulates poorly, so be sure to avoid any clothing made of cotton or bamboo and rayon.

The best hiking clothes are made from synthetic materials that keep you dry such as merino wool, thermal, fleece and polyester. When choosing clothes, make sure it’s breathable, moisture-wicking and reasonably quick to dry.

  • Base layer (wicking long underwear)

  • Insulating mid layer (polar fleece or thermals)

  • Outer layer (lightweight waterproof jacket)

  • Hiking pants

  • T-shirt

  • Wool socks

  • Underwear

  • Waterproof pants

  • Sun hat

  • Gloves and insulating hat

  • Gaiters

Clothing to put on your hiking checklist


Hiking shoes may be the single most important item you bring with you, so don’t skimp on these! Be sure to invest in a sturdy, comfortable pair of shoes.

Consider the type of terrain you’ll be hiking and if you need a mid or high-cut style for extra ankle support. Do some research to find the best walking boots for your needs, and remember to break them in.

The two main types of footwear that you’ll need for your trip are:

  • Hiking shoes

  • Campsite sandals

Footwear you'll need for hiking

Camping Gear and Cookware

Having the right camping gear and cooking equipment will make your trip easier and more enjoyable. Save space and weight with things like cookware sets, collapsible bowls and ultra-light sleeping bags.

Here are some of the essential items you’ll need for your adventure:

  • Tent

  • Sleeping bag

  • Pillow

  • Air mattress/sleeping pad

  • Camp stove and fuel

  • Lighter or waterproof matches and fire starter

  • Pots

  • Utensils, dishes and cups

  • Animal-proof food storage and rope/bungee cords

  • Scrubber sponge and cleaning supplies

  • Garbage bags

  • Ziploc bags

Camping gear you'll need after your hike

Food and Water

Packing food can be a bit tricky: you don’t want to overdo it, but you definitely don’t want to pack too little, either.

The easiest way to ensure you’re bringing the right amount? Plan your meals for each day and focus on filling, nutrient-dense foods to replenish your calories and energy levels.

If you want a mix of hot and cold meals, aim to pack one cooked breakfast, one cold lunch and one cooked dinner for each day on the trail.

Once you have your meals planned out, it’s time to add some snacks. Nuts and dried fruit, trail mix and beef jerky are a few ideas, but there are plenty of unique and tasty snack options to consider.

Try adding a good mix of these items for your next trip:

  • Freeze dried/dehydrated meals

  • Dry foods (quick oats, pasta, soup mixes)

  • Pouches of tuna or chicken

  • Snacks

  • Spices

  • Coffee, tea and powdered drink mixes

  • Water reservoir

  • Water filter or purification tablets

 Person cooking over campfire

First Aid Supplies and Safety Items

No matter what you’ll be doing on your hiking excursion, it’s always a good idea to bring a first aid kit – especially when something as minor as a blister can become infected if left untreated.

You can assemble your own kit tailored to your specific needs or buy a prepacked kit – just be sure it contains all the necessities.

Here are the supply and safety items you will need:

  • First aid kit

  • Hiking emergency survival kit (whistle, pocket knife, duct tape, headlamp, water purification tablets, fire-starting tools, space blanket)

  • Repair kit

  • Bear spray

Person hiking with first aid kit strapped to backpack

Personal Items

These comfort items and essentials will come in handy out on the trails:

  • Sunglasses

  • Quick-dry towel

  • Toiletry kit

  • Biodegradable toilet paper and trowel

  • Hand sanitizer or biodegradable soap

  • Sunscreen

  • Insect repellent

Hiker overlooking mountain with dog

Accessories and Miscellaneous

If you have space, these items can be added as necessary:

  • Spare batteries

  • Solar charger

  • Waterproof pack cover

  • Trekking poles

  • Daypack

  • Dry bag

  • Swimsuit

  • Air mattress pump

  • Laundry bag

  • Camp shower or other outdoor gadgets

Collection of hiking gear for your hiking checklist

How to Pack for a Hiking Trip

You’re probably thinking, “How am I supposed to fit all that gear into my backpack?!” Don’t worry – these simple tips will help you pack like a pro.

First, lay out all your gear on the floor so you can organize your items and group them together by weight. Heavier equipment, like cookware and tents, can be split between two people to reduce your pack load.

The trick to packing efficiently is to remember your ABC’s: accessibility, balance and compression.

With this in mind, start packing your backpack from the bottom and work your way up. Keep bulky items and gear you won’t need during the day (like sleeping bags or camp shoes) at the bottom.

Food, cookware and other heavy items should sit in the middle of your bag to create a stable center of gravity.

Things like snacks, extra clothing and essentials can be stored near the top for quick and easy access.

How to Choose the Right Backpack

A backpack can make or break your trip. From the pack size to materials and features, so many factors can affect your comfort. To find the best backpack for you, keep the following in mind:

  • Capacity: the size you need will vary based on the length of your trip and how much gear you plan to carry.

  • Fit: your torso length and hip size matter most when trying to find the perfect fit for your shape.

  • Activity: what types of activities will you be doing? Be sure to choose a pack that can accommodate extra gear if you’re planning to go climbing or fishing.

  • Features: the type of frame and pack access are two important features that can impact your comfort and usage.

Next, you’ll need to figure out what size pack you need. Not sure where to start? Here’s a quick overview to help narrow down your options:

Day Hike – 30 litres or less

Packs in this size range will allow you to carry a handful of essentials, a few snacks and extra layers.

Weekend Trip – 30 – 50 litres

Ideal for one, two or three-night excursions, these backpacks are big enough to carry overnight essentials like a sleeping bag, a small tent, basic cookware, a food bag and extra clothing.

Multi-day Hike – 50 – 80 litres

These packs are designed to accommodate larger tents, cooking fuel and most core gear, along with any extras you might want to make your trip more enjoyable. If you’re planning a winter trek or if you’re backpacking with children, a pack on the larger side (at least 75 litres) will be your best bet.

 Choosing the right backpack for your hike

Hiking Safety Tips

Last but not least, you’ll want to brush up on a few hiking safety tips before venturing out. Without proper planning, even a short hike could turn into a potentially dangerous situation.

  • Research the area before you go. Every hiking trail will have its own set of unique challenges and variables, so be sure familiarize yourself with the region prior to your trip. Check government or official park websites for trail conditions and terrain, local wildlife, poisonous plants and hiking alerts.

  • Check the weather forecast. Always check the most up-to-date forecast so you can plan and prepare accordingly.

  • Tell someone about your plans. Remember to let friends or family members know where you’re going, what trail you’re hiking and when you plan to return.

  • Bring a map. With the possibility of limited service and battery life, you should never rely solely on GPS.

  • Hike during the day. Plan to hike in the day, and try to stick to a predetermined time frame to ensure you reach your intended destination before the sun sets.

  • Carry and drink plenty of water. You can lose fluids quickly, so ensure you drink enough water (roughly one litre every two hours) and don’t rely on natural water sources, which can harbour harmful bacteria.

  • Never hike by yourself. Whenever possible, hike with a friend or in a group. If something goes wrong, your hiking partner(s) can help get you to safety.

  • Stay alert and use your best judgment. Keep an eye out for signs and markers along the trail, stick to established trails and know your limits.

 Group of hikers

Hike the Perfect Destinations with

Ready to hit the trails? Now that you’ve got your packing list covered, it’s time to choose your next hiking destination.

Explore thousands of parks across North America on Book Your Site and start planning your next adventure today.

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This entry was posted in Gear, Hiking, Outdoors.