It’s a tough one: everything you want to take with you on a hiking trip, you have to carry yourself. If you are like us, you like to keep your backpack as light as possible, but also be sure you have everything you need when you’re in the great outdoors. What do you really need to bring with you on a hiking trip? And what stuff is better to be left at home? Of course, this is very dependent on the type of hike you’re planning to do. But to get you going, we’ve assembled a very complete hiking checklist for your next adventure!
First things first: the basics!
Before you can even start to think about packing, you’ll need a backpack. What kind of backpack you need and how big it needs to be, depends entirely on a number of things:
- What kind of hike are you going to do?
- How long is your trip?
- What are the conditions of the place you are going to hike?
Do not underestimate the importance of a comfortable backpack! If you’re looking to buy a backpack, make sure to do so in a store that really knows their gear. It might be tempting to buy a backpack online, but actual human advise is going to get you a long way here!
Besides a good backpack, you’ll need some suitable hiking shoes. What this means is different for everyone and really depends on your own preference. The terrain where you are going to hike is also an important factor in deciding what type of shoe you need. The best way to find your perfect shoe is simply to go to an outdoor store with a wide range of hiking boots available and just try them out! Often, you immediately feel comfortable or not when trying them on, which can be helpful to dismiss certain shoes right away. I recently bought new hiking boots and we were literally in the store for hours while I tried on dozens of shoes. So buying the right shoes really can take some time. Often you immediately feel comfortable or not when you put on, which is already a telling signal.
What kind of clothes to bring?
Are you planning a day trip? Check the weather forecast just before you go and you’ll know what to wear and what to take with you (better safe than sorry!). If you’re planning a multiple day hike, the best thing you can do is take something extra, just in case. If your trip involves walking in mountainous terrain, you’ll have to take all weather types into account: warm, cold, wet and dry. The weather in the mountains is known for its unpredictability and the conditions can change quickly and unexpectedly. In that case, you want to be able to respond quickly to this. Changing into an entirely different outfit in the middle of the track when the rain pours down is neither practical nor comfortable. So try to work with layers. For example, a t-shirt or thermal shirt, a vest that you can easily take out of your backpack if you need it and a raincoat to cover it up when that rain is coming down.
There’s no such thing as bad weather, only bad clothing
One piece of clothing to think about, are your socks. They can either make or break your trip. Socks have multiple functions: wicking sweat, catching small imperfections in the fit of your shoe, cushioning and keeping your feet warm when it is cold. When one of the first three functions does not work well, chances are that you will have blisters on your feet in no time … And anyone who has ever suffered blisters during a hike knows that those will be very uncomfortable when you have to walk for a few more miles.
Always take enough socks with you on a trip, make sure you can wear clean socks every day. Clean socks breathe and take care of the sweat. Socks that you have walked on for a day do not breathe properly anymore and don’t take care of the sweat properly, leaving your feet clammy with a high risk of blisters. I always have at least three pairs with me. I wear one and have two spare ones in my backpack. If your socks get wet for whatever reason, you always have an extra set to change into as quickly as possible. If it is possible I rinse my socks at the end of the day and hang them out to dry in the vestibule of our tent during the night. If that doesn’t work, I hang them on the outside of my backpack while walking. This way I can hike for weeks, while only carrying three pairs.
There’s no such thing as bad weather!
Food and water: your fuel!
Food is very important, especially during heavy or long hikes. It isn’t so much about how much you eat at a time, but more to make sure you’re constantly providing your body with energy. If you eat large quantities during a break, your body has a lot to digest in one go. You walk with a full belly and a part of your energy goes into the processing of your food, while your legs would also like some of that energy! Do you really want to eat a few sandwiches? Take the time for it (if possible) and/or try to do this on a part where the track is easy (or easier). We always take some bags of nuts and carry them in our pockets. In that way, we can snack little bits of them while hiking. Although food is important on every trip, it really becomes vital during the longer or harder trekkings.
The same thing goes for water. Drinking water is very important! Especially when it’s warm and you sweat a lot, your body’s moisture management will need constant replenished. A good indicator if you’re drinking sufficiently is the color and smell of your urine. Is it dark and does it smell strong? Or don’t you have to pee at all? Then it is wise to drink more. It can deplete you and possibly cause physical complaints such as headaches. Having a water bladder in your backpack can help with this. You just have to put the tube in your mouth to drink, instead of having to take a bottle from your bag, open it, drink it, close it and put it back in your bag. If you walk in the mountains, it is very important to drink well. As a rule of thumb, you have to drink one liter of extra per 1,000 meters. Drinking well is important to prevent or limit altitude sickness.
How do you prevent yourself from getting lost?
Really getting lost is not cool, no doubt about it. Always make sure you have a map of the area with you or a booklet with your walking route and additional information. If you know how to deal with it, it is also useful to carry a compass. With this, you can always trace where you are on the map based on what you see in your environment. If you are a fanatic hiker, it might be worth looking into a GPS. You can plan your entire trip as delicately as you’d like, so you can always see where your track is, if you momentarily lose track of it.
Preventing is still better than cure
Last but not least… Make sure you’re always prepared for some setbacks. Always, always, always bring a first aid kit with you. Especially when you’re visiting a remote area, you’ll want a kit that helps you treat both big and small injuries. Also, make sure you always have clean water with you to rinse any wounds. If you still need help, a charged phone might come in handy. So make sure you save important emergency numbers in it before you leave. The same thing applies to the telephone numbers of any mountain huts. If you’ve made a reservation, but don’t show up without letting them know, they’ll send out a search and rescue team. So always let them know if you decide not to continue to a particular hut.
We always have some cash stuffed in various places, in addition to whatever is in our wallets. If for any reason we are left without a wallet, we always have something in our camera bag or in a pocket of our backpack! Another (essential) recommendation is a roll of duct tape and a needle and thread set. Broken clothes, shoes, bag or whatever … with this you can almost always (temporarily) fix it!
Our ultimate hiking checklist!
Are you looking for a handy hiking checklist so you’re sure you’ll have everything you need for your next trip? Download the PDF of our packing list for free, print it out and start preparing 🙂
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