What should be a fun hike can turn into a nightmare if you don't pack the right items. While it's important to be prepared, you don't want to pack everything but the kitchen sink in your quest to bring the right gear, so work out what you need and leave behind what you don't.
No packing list suits every person and every hike, so pay attention to weather conditions and the route you're hiking when picking what to pack.
What you'll need in your daypack for your hike depends on the length of the trail, where you're heading, and the conditions. For instance, you'll need to pack more food and water for a full day hike than you would for a 2-3 hour hike. When you're heading on a well-hiked trail where someone is likely to pass by sooner rather than later if you get in a bind, you won't need to be as well-prepared as if you're going deep into the wilderness and might not see another soul for days.
What you need on a hike fits into three main categories: food and water supplies, health and emergency supplies, and clothing and accessories. The first category includes any food you require for the day, water bottles, and potentially a water purifying system if you can't carry as much water as you'll need.
Health and emergency supplies encompass anything you need to stay safe or could require in an emergency, including a first aid kit and emergency communication devices. Then you'll want to bring any clothing you might need for the current conditions, such as an extra layer for cold days, a waterproof jacket, or a hat to keep the sun off your face.
The straw lid makes this water bottle ideal for drinking on the go. It comes in 20-, 32- and 40-ounce sizes to cater for hikes long and short. Sold by Amazon
Made with a careful balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates, these bars provide sustained energy for moderate activity. They're relatively calorie-dense, so you can easily pack enough to keep you going for your hike without weighing yourself down or adding too much bulk to your pack. Sold by Amazon
The LifeStraw makes microbiologically-contaminated water safe to drink, making it perfect to take on hikes as an emergency backup in case you run out of water. It's compact, too, so it's easy to fit into your day pack. Sold by Amazon
While it's overkill for a casual hike, this satellite communicator is a must-pack item for anyone who hikes challenging or remote trails. You can communicate with others and send out an SOS in places without cell service. Sold by Amazon
Getting wet feet or having footwear that rubs can put a damper on the most enjoyable of hikes. As such, it's a good idea to pack a spare pair of socks to change into or to act as an extra buffer to prevent blisters. Sold by Amazon
A. It's not just what you put in your hiking backpack that's important, but how you pack it. Generally speaking, bulkier items should be packed toward the bottom and low-bulk items toward the top, as this keeps the load closer to your center of gravity. However, you can make an exception for heavy or bulky items you need easy access to, such as your water bottle, which should be packed near the top of your bag. Try your backpack on before you leave to make sure it feels well-balanced and adjust it if not.
A. Wear clothing that's comfortable for the weather conditions, whether that's shorts and a tank top or two pairs of pants and a well-insulated jacket. That said, bear in mind that conditions can change during the day and you may heat up while hiking, so it's a good idea to have at least a couple of lightweight layers you can put on or take off as required.
Comfortable shoes with good grip are vital. Hiking boots or hiking shoes are ideal, but a solid pair of sneakers or training shoes with deep treads will do the trick if you don't hike regularly enough to buy dedicated footwear.
Also, pay attention to any hazards that might affect your clothing choices. For instance, if you're hiking in an area where ticks are rife, wear long pants and a long-sleeved top, even on hot days.
Sign up here to receive the BestReviews weekly newsletter for useful advice on new products and noteworthy deals.
Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.
BestReviews spends thousands of hours researching, analyzing and testing products to recommend the best picks for most consumers.