The Ultimate Hiking Checklist – Everything You Need to Pack

By Andy Stone | Hiking

Sep 07
The Ultimate Hiking Checklist

Before we dive into the ultimate hiking checklist items, we want to congratulate you for taking on an activity that is not only fun, but good fo you. Hiking is an activity which is fantastic for your body, mind, and soul. When you hike outdoors, there are a lot of advantages like you get to enjoy breathtaking views, breathe in the fresh air and enjoy the smells and sounds of nature.

Hiking helps you to relax and take a break from your daily work and stress. In addition to the mental peace and rejuvenation that hiking gives to you, you also get a lot of health benefits from hiking.

Hiking is a cardio workout which is very powerful and it can help you lower the risk of heart disease. It can also help you to improve your blood sugar levels and your blood pressure. You improve your bone density as when you walk, your body weight is carried by your bones.

When you hike, you also increase the strength of various parts of your body. Your glutes become strong. You increase the strength of your quadriceps and hamstrings. The muscles in your lower legs and hips get stronger. Hiking helps you to improve your balance and to control your weight.

Along with physical benefits, hiking also helps you to boost your mood. "Research shows that hiking has a positive impact on combating the symptoms of stress and anxiety," says Gregory A. Miller, PhD, who is the president of the American Hiking Society said that research has shown that when you hike there is a positive impact on your body and the symptoms of anxiety and stress are reduced.

When you are hiking, always remember to start slowly. A local hike is the best for beginners. Once you get more confidence and your body gets used to hiking, you can then start going on longer hikes.

When you go on a long hike especially a day-long hike, you need to be sure that you have all the required things with you. We have compiled an exhaustive checklist so that you don’t forget anything. You may or may not need all the items that are there on the checklist, however, it is best that you go through it and identify for yourself which makes the most sense for you to carry.

1. Hiking checklist for navigation 

When you are hiking, it is very important that you know where you are so that you don’t get lost. In the wilderness, hills look the same, especially if you are not used to an outdoor life. You need to have the below two items along with you to make sure that you get back safely.

Map: It is best to take prints of the map of the area that you are going and not depend on the Google Maps app on your mobile phone. When you go hiking, you may be in areas which don’t have internet connectivity and you don’t want to be stuck in the hills without a map. Make sure that you wrap the map in water-proof material like plastic so that your map is not destroyed. Also, make sure that you identify landmarks on your map so that you know where you are when you are hiking.

Compass: Always makes sure that you have a compass with you. In case the map gets lost or destroyed for any reason, the compass will be able to guide you in the direction that you want to go. You get weather-resistant, unbreakable compasses at a reasonable price on Amazon. 

For a visual checklist that you can easily download, check out our hiking checklist infographic.

2. Hiking checklist for protection from the sun 

When you are hiking, it is important to make sure that you have taken appropriate measures to protect yourself from the glare of the sun. During a hike, your body is exposed to the sun for a long period of time.

Sunscreen: You should carry along with you sunscreen so that you can apply it on parts of your body that are exposed to the sun. While hiking, you may feel hot and wear short-sleeved shirts and shorts. Make sure that your arms up to the sleeves and your legs up to your shorts are covered with sunscreen.

SPF-rated lip balm: Since your lips are exposed to the sun, wind or cold when you go hiking, it is best that you keep an SPF-rated lip balm with you and you keep applying it to your lips when you feel that they are dry.

Sunglasses: Carrying sunglasses not only help you to avoid the glare of the sun and protect your eyes, it also helps you to look cool. Make sure that you carry a strong cover for your sunglasses so that it protects your sunglasses if it slips and falls.

3. Hiking checklist for illumination

Headlamp or flashlight: Even though your plan may be to go hiking in the daytime, with weather you never know. Suddenly the rain or snow starts and visibility reduces. It is best to carry a flashlight or a headlamp with you when you go on your hike. Also, make sure that you carry extra batteries with you so you don’t have to worry if the batteries die out.

4. Hiking checklist for nutrition and hydration 

Food: When you go on a hike, you are going to tire easily. In addition to that, the exertion of the hike is going to make you hungry. Make sure that you have taken enough food to last you for the day. We also recommend that you take more food in case there is an emergency. Carry along with you energy bars and other food items that give instant energy.

Water: Make sure that you have carried along with you enough water. When you are hiking, drink water sparingly or you will get tired fast. One trick so that you get satiated and still have less water is to take a mouthful of water and hold it in your mouth while you hike. That way, you drink the water slowly and you don’t feel thirsty.

Water bottles: When you are hiking, always make sure that you carry extra water bottles. Check the bottles for leaks before you leave on the hike.

Water purifying tablets: There is a lot of water purifying tablets in the market. Though most of the water that you will get on your hike should be clean and pristine, it is best to use water filtering tablets when you fill up your bottles with water from a spring or a river. These tablets help to collate the sediments that may be in the water and make it settle at the bottom leaving pure, drinkable water on the top for you.

5. Hiking checklist for clothing 

One of the best things to keep in mind when it comes to clothes for a hike is to be prepared. Check the weather forecast and always prepare for the weather conditions to get wetter, colder and windier than when the weather is forecasting. Prepare each layer of clothes as per the weather forecast.

Long-sleeved shirt/top or a wicking t-shirt: When you wear a long-sleeved shirt or a top, you get protection from the sun right up to your wrists. Also, if the temperature is low, you get protection for your arms.

Long-underwear bottoms and wicking underwear: Make sure that you wear long-underwear bottoms so that your lower body is protected from the cold. This is applicable for men and women.

Socks: Always wear socks when you are hiking. This helps in many ways. You get a better grip on your shoes, your feet don’t smell later, your feet are warm if it gets cold and it gives you protection from scrubs.

Quick-drying shorts or pants: Wear pants or shorts that dry quickly and don’t hold water. This way, even if you get wet, when the rain or snow stops, your pants or shorts will try on your body with the body heat that will be made due to the strain of hiking.

UPF-rated shirt: A UPF-rated shirt reduces the negative rays of the sun. When you are hiking, your body is exposed to the sun for a long period of time. It makes sense to have a UPF-rated shirt so that your body won’t be affected by the sun.

Rain or sun hat: Depending on the season and the weather when you go on your hike, it is advisable to carry a sun or a rain hat. This protects your head from the heat or rain. You should also carry along an insulating hat or an insulating headband to keep your head warm in the cold.

Additional items of clothing that you can carry as per your preference are:

  • Insulating jacket and pants
  • Bandana
  • Rain jacket and pants
  • Mosquito net clothing
  • Hiking boots or shoes
  • Footwear
  • Gaiters

6. Hiking checklist for toiletries and hygiene 

Even though you will be hiking only for a day, make sure that you have carried all the required toiletries. Some of the common toiletries that you should carry when you are on a hike are:

Toilet paper: When you are hiking, there won’t be any toilets around if you want to relieve yourself, so it makes sense to carry extra toilet paper.

Menstrual products (for women): It is always best to have an extra menstrual item in your bag when you go hiking so that you are not caught in an unpleasant situation.

Waste bags: When we hike through nature, it is best to collect any waste that way create and then dispose of it when we are home. This ensures that nature is still pristine and clean the way it was. Having a waste bag helps us to collect the waste and fill it in the bag to discard at home properly.

Hand sanitizer: When you are hiking, your hands are going to be filled with dirt and mud. When you start eating and finish eating, it makes sense to use your hand sanitizer so that your hands are clean.

Electronics: You can carry along electronics when you are hiking but it makes more sense to just enjoy nature. You can carry music along with you so that you enjoy the hike. Make sure that if you are carrying electronics, you need to keep them in waterproof containers so that they don’t get damaged due to snow or rain.

Cell phone and waterproof case: Carrying your smartphone with you on a hike is a good idea. On one hand, you want to stay away from distractions, however, in case of an emergency; a smartphone will help a lot. With your cell phone, you can connect to people, you can use the flashlight on the cell phone, you can check GPS, etc. Make sure that you have the waterproof case of your cell phone so that it doesn’t get damaged due to rain.

Camera and accessories:

7. Hiking checklist for miscellaneous item 

Daypack: When you have a daypack, you can fill it with all the required things that you want for the trek. It is easy to carry on your back so that your hands are free to grip on to your hiking pole or shrubs to help you climb during your trek.  

Energy beverages: When we go trekking, we expend a lot of energy. Trekking is exhausting and to make sure that our energy levels are high, it makes sense that we carry energy beverages with us.

Lunch utensils: When we stop for lunch, we need a utensil to eat our lunch from. You get bio-degradable lunch utensils at the supermarket or online which are perfect for a trek. They are light, can be disposed easily and are bio-degradable so you don’t need to carry them back. You can just make a hole in the ground and bury it after use; it will degrade within a few months.

Drinking cup: Carry a drinking cup along if you are not used to directly drink from your energy drink can or from your water bottle.

Quick-dry towel: A towel that dries quickly helps as you can use it if you get wet in the snow or the rain. It also helps when you want to wipe your hands after you wash or sanitize it.

Insect repellent: When you are out in nature on a trek, you will be exposed to a lot of insects. This can make your trek a nightmare. Some people even get allergies from insects. It makes sense to carry along an insect repellent so that you don’t have to worry about insects.

Whistle: When you are hiking, a whistle is an important emergency device that you should carry. If you are stranded somewhere are people have come searching for your or if there are other hikers nearby who can help, the sound of the whistle can guide them to you.

First-aid kit: This is the most important emergency item that you should have on your checklist. You should make sure that you have a complete first-aid kit and before g

Binoculars: When you are out in nature, having a binocular helps a lot as you can see into distances. You can appreciate the various aspects of nature and can zoom in on birds flying far away or an elusive fox hiding in the undergrowth.

Trekking poles: A trekking pole helps a lot when you are on a trek. It gives your body support and takes some pressure off your legs when you walk. You can buy collapsible trekking poles so that they are easy to carry and transport to the trek and back.

Guidebooks: Many places where you go hiking will give you a guidebook or a route description book. This will help you understand the weather and the terrain over which you will be hiking. You also get interpretive field guides which give you a description of the flora and the fauna of the area so that you can appreciate it better when you see the various trees, birds, insects, and animals.

Outdoor Journal: they say the bathroom is the best place to get ideas. When you are hiking, since your mind is free from your daily worries, you come across great ideas. Always keep an outdoor journal with you on your hike with a pen or a pencil so that you can jot down your thoughts. You can even keep the journal to record your progress through the hike and compare it with past hikes.

Post-hike water, towel, snacks, clothing change:

8. Hiking checklist for emergencies 

A lighter or matches: When you go hiking, especially in regions with low temperatures, the high you go, the colder it gets. Though you may not need a fire, it is always good to keep a lighter or matches with you.

Waterproof container to hold the lighter or matches: When you hike, especially through snow or fog, there are chances that the lighter or matches may get wet and may stop working. To make sure that this doesn’t happen, carry the matches or lighter in a waterproof container.

Fire starting material: The wood on the mountain that you are hiking on, may be wet and it may take a while for it to catch fire. To make sure that you don’t freeze in the meanwhile, carry material with you that easily catch fire. You can burn the material and then let the larger flame ignite the wood that you have collected.

Knife or multi-tool: When you are outdoors it is always good to have a multi-purpose knife or tool along with you. You are never sure when you may need to unhook something or cut something when you are out in the wilderness on a hike.

When you are on the hike, you can actually connect with nature. What’s a better way to capture those moments than with your camera? If you are a photography enthusiast, make sure that you carry along your camera and its accessories. If there are stations or a restaurant from where you start your hike, we recommend keeping a bottle of water, some snacks and a change of clothing along with an extra towel there. It will help you clean up and freshen up after your hike. You can also keep it in your car so that you can use it once you are back from the hike.

Repair supplies: You will be carrying a lot of things along with you. You need to check each item on your checklist and consider how it will affect your hike if that item broke. You can then carry repair kits for those items that are essential.

Emergency shelter: You may suddenly need shelter if the weather changes when you are on your hike. It is best to have a tent, tarp or a reflective blanket along with you when you go on a hike. This is especially necessary if you will be hiking in areas where sudden snowstorms come.

Two-way radios: A two-way radio helps a lot if you are stranded somewhere during the hike in rough weather. When the weather is rough, the cell phone network goes down and you may get stranded. A two-way radio will help a rescue team locate you. You can also consider more expensive options like a satellite messenger or a personal locator beacon.

GPS: Even though you may know the route you plan to hike, it is always good to have a GPS system along with you which will guide you in case you get lost.

Two itineraries: When you go on a hike, make sure that you keep two copies of your itinerary. Keep one copy with a friend who will check for you in case you don’t come back by a specific time and keep another copy below the seat of your car. This way, in case of an accident or an emergency, it will be easy to locate you.


Going on a trek is a very relaxing and rejuvenating experience. Not only do you get to connect with nature, you also get time to connect with the person within. When you are on a trek, you relax and you let go of the stress of daily life. Using the ultimate checklist for hiking that we have created above, you can enjoy your hike along with taking precautions that you are safe in case of an emergency or changing weather conditions. 

Happy Hiking!!

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