What You Need When Going Hiking

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Not sure what to pack for your next excursion in the great outdoors? Check out our list of essentials you need when going hiking.

What Do You Really Need When Going Hiking?

You’ve planned an outdoor excursion with family or friends, but now the time has come to pack. Do you know what you really need when going hiking? There is always the dilemma of what and how much stuff you should take on your hiking trip. On the one hand, you can pack light and avoid weighing yourself down on the trail. But that might make you leave out an item that you really need in a pinch!

Every person and every hiking trip is different. That’s why you should double and triple check to see if all these items fit with your nature outing. That being said, these things are pretty much the bare bones basics. Follow our list below and you’ll have all the essential hiking gear to keep you safe and comfortable for your adventure!

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Wear a Comfy Outfit

Wearing a comfortable outfit can make take a hiking trip from good to awesome. Cushy socks in a quick-drying fabric ensure your feet won’t take you out of the game too early. Loose and stretchy clothes in moisture-wicking materials allow you to move freely and ensure you won’t feel sweaty and gross no matter how long your adventure lasts.

To get designer activewear that will keep you comfy all day long, head to TJ Maxx. They have a huge selection of brands like Reebok, Nike, Adidas, and more for a steal! You will find a high-quality, fashionable hiking outfit that will survive even the most intense hiking adventure.

No matter what the time of year, dress in layers (or at least pack some extra cold-weather clothes in your bag). The tops of mountains and the interiors of caves are chilly all year round! Start with a lightweight tank or t-shirt in a moisture-wicking fabric to keep you cool and comfy. Then add a fleece sweatshirt or a long-sleeved t-shirt on top if your arms get cold so you can enjoy your hike without shivering.

Even if the weatherman is calling for a perfectly sunny day, remember to pack some rain gear (like this cute jacket at Moosejaw) just in case. Ponchos are great because they fold up super small to fit into your backpack. On the other hand, a waterproof, breathable jacket works even better at keeping you safe from the elements. You won’t get all sweaty and gross but you won’t be soaked with rainwater, either.

Invest In Good Boots

Girl's feet standing on mossy rock
Credit: Pexels

When you’re trekking up a mountain, nothing is worse than having sore feet. Whether they are tired from lack of support, rubbed raw, or riddled with blisters, foot problems will definitely cut your hike short. That’s why wearing a pair of high-quality, well-fitting boots is key for a hiking trip!

Unlike sneakers, proper hiking boots keep both your feet and your ankles supported as you explore uneven terrain. They also have a sturdier tread on the bottom so you don’t slip on rocks or loose ground. A higher top, especially when worn with thick socks, can even protect you from ticks and other insects during the warmer months.

Check out this sturdy waterproof pair, plus tons of other styles at amazing prices at TJ Maxx!

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Want to learn more about how to choose the best hiking boots for you? Check out the helpful video below.

Stock Up On Energy-Boosting Snacks

Hiking can take a lot out of you in no time at all. That’s why packing plenty of nutritious, energy-boosting snacks is key to a hiking trip of any length. Whether you choose to buy ready-made snacks or prepare your own at home, make sure you pack more than you think you’ll need. Running out of food during an emergency makes a bad situation even worse!

Sources of complex carbs like whole-grain crackers, pretzels, and sweet potato chips are perfect for hiking. They keep your body fueled and even help replace the electrolytes you lost during your sweaty trek. Don’t forget the protein! Nuts, seeds, puffed quinoa bars, and beef jerky are all packed with protein to help your muscles recover after a day of physical activity and give you the energy you need to finish your hike.

Dried fruit is another yummy way to get a quick burst of energy. It won’t get damaged in your bag like fresh fruit but it’s still packed with fiber and calories to keep you going for hours. My favorites are pineapple, raisins, and apricots but health food stores have dehydrated versions of nearly every fruit out there. Try this yummy mix of nuts, fruit, and chocolate from Moosejaw!

Fight Thirst With Lots of Water

Of all the things you need when going hiking, water is at the tippy-top of the list. As a general rule,  try to pack between 2 and 4 liters of water per person for a summertime hike. That’s around 68 to 135 fluid ounces. If you’re a heavy sweater or it is crazy hot outside, bring even more to be safe. Though carrying all that liquid can feel heavy on your back, you’ll be thankful you have it after sweating for hours.

Metal water bottles are great for hiking because they are sturdy, but they can really weigh you down. To lighten the load in your backpack, try a BPA-free plastic bottle. These are light-weight but won’t seep nasty chemicals into your drink. This bottle from Moosejaw comes in tons of colors, won’t stain or get smelly, and can withstand crazy temperatures.

Another great option is an easy-to-use water reservoir with a drinking tube. These cool contraptions are something you definitely need when going hiking for a long distance. They won’t leak or take up tons of room in your bag like bottles. Plus they let you drink hands-free! That means never having to stop and dig your water out of your pack . . . just keep adventuring! Try this perfectly-sized water reservoir from Moosejaw!

In case you run out of clean water, you can also pack water purification tablets. That way you can drink whatever water is around you. This is perfect for those more adventurous hikers who like to explore places off the typical trails. Even if you get lost, you won’t have to go thirsty! You can find these little miracles at Moosejaw.

Credit: Manosainz via Pixabay

Don’t Forget The First-Aid Kit!

Boo-boos happen, especially if you’re kind of a klutz like me. You could be having a perfectly lovely hike and end up twisting an ankle, suffering from a bee sting, or scraping your knees. That’s why I always have first-aid supplies wherever I go, but especially on outdoor excursions. While you don’t have to pack the entire huge box like they had at Girl Scout Camp, here are some essentials you definitely need when going hiking.

  • Bandages (both stick-on and the wrap-around kind) and gauze
  • Sticky tape that can be used on skin
  • Tiny scissors
  • Pain relievers
  • Sterilizing wipes or ointment
  • Tweezers (for those pesky bee stingers and splinters)
  • An Epi-Pen if you have severe allergies
  • Cream or spray to relieve the itch and pain of insect stings and bites
  • Disposable gloves
  • Hydrocortisone cream

You might be saying “Oh, I’m too cool for a first-aid kit.” Or maybe “I’m going to a park with rangers, so they can help me.” While that may be true, it’s not the fastest way to get first aid. If you fall and gash your knee wide open or get a sudden crazy rash, you might not make it to the ranger station before things get serious. Always play it safe and have your own stash of medical supplies. You’ll definitely be happier, healthier, and more at ease!

Be Prepared With Emergency Helpers

I’ll let you in on a little secret.

Accidents happen! It’s just a fact of life, no matter how well you plan and prepare. But obviously, no one wants to get trapped in the woods in an emergency. Luckily, packing smart can help you get through any number of mishaps!

A flashlight with extra batteries ensures you won’t get caught in the dark and can navigate even the spookiest of caves. Flint and steel or matches ensure you can stay warm during the night and keep unwelcome forest visitors away from your campsite. Sunscreen and SPF lip balm protect your skin from painful burns, which can also lead to faster dehydration (not good!).

Packing a knife or multi-tool can help solve all kinds of emergencies from getting your boot lace caught in a bush to peeling potatoes for breakfast. Bring a whistle in case you get lost or separated from your hiking buddies. A tarp ensures that your tent won’t get soaked if nature decides to downpour overnight. And don’t forget quick-dry towels to get warm and dry again after a sudden rain storm!

Need a one-stop shop for all the gear you need when going hiking? Check out Moosejaw to find everything on this list and more!

Stay On Course With Maps and a Compass

Two women reading maps
Credit: kristieamadio

As someone with absolutely no sense of direction, I can’t stress the importance of maps enough. A hiker’s worst nightmare is getting lost in the middle of nowhere with no way to call for help and limited supplies. Be prepared by packing maps and a compass on your next trek. This is a fun way to test your navigational skills and unplug! Having both is key because even if you are stumped by the map, you will at least know what direction you’re going thanks to the compass. Grab this awesome compass (which includes a ruler to help read the map) at Moosejaw!

If you plan to hike in a more deserted area, you can even use a GPS (including the one built into your phone). Adventure seekers who like to explore the lesser-known parts of nature can really benefit by having a GPS as a backup plan. Going off the beaten path can be fun, but make sure you’re prepared to get back on track before nightfall.

Remember That Every Trip Is Unique

Here’s the thing.

Though the items above pretty much apply to every nature excursion, what you really need when going hiking depends on the unique specifications of your hike. Are you going in winter or summer? This will help determine if you need to dress in cozy layers or invest in some sweat-wicking clothes. Are you hiking rocky mountains or sandy desert? You should choose your boots based on the type of terrain you’ll be trekking on.

Figuring out the details of your trip can also influence how much and what types of things to pack. For example, if you’re sticking to a well-marked trail for a quick afternoon walk with your dog, you probably don’t need a fancy GPS tracker. On the other hand, if you’re really roughing it, you probably want to pack more emergency items. It’s better to be prepared for the worst than not have something when you need it!


If you’re a weirdo like me, packing is one of the most fun parts of any trip. Organizing really helps solidify the fun in my head! But if you’re not so into the planning part of your hiking trip, this list is key. Just bookmark this post for later so you never have to wonder what you need when going hiking.

Now that you have a packing list of everything you need when going hiking, it’s time to get going! Follow our tips and you’re sure to have the awe-inspiring experience only nature can provide. When you don’t have to worry about forgetting anything or being uncomfortable, your hiking trip will be even more amazing!

Did we miss anything? What essentials do you always need when going hiking? Let us know in the comments below!


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