Knowing the top 15 travel hiking essentials to pack in your bag will help you to remember to bring what you need in order to have a safe and fun hike. These are good to consider, regardless of where you are hiking. When traveling, especially in a foreign location, it is especially important to be prepared.
Prior to Your Hike
It is always a good idea to have a hiking plan. Share your plan with someone that is not going with you. This provides information in case you do not return in the expected timeframe. Your contact should know the area in which you are hiking, your expected return time, and the trails you plan on traversing.
As a hiker, you should have an idea of the distance you plan on traveling in order to pack adequate supplies. Always familiarize yourself with the area and understand the expected temperatures, weather, elevation, and terrain. This is key to knowing the top 15 travel hiking essentials to pack for your destination.
Understanding Supplies – Top 15 Travel Hiking Essentials to Pack
The top 15 travel hiking essentials to pack is meant to be a guideline for the minimal items you should have with you when you set off on a hike. Sometimes people intend on a short hike, but become lost. In this case, your time on the trail and exposure to elements can become much longer than expected.
Occasionally hikers may think that a trail is easy or moderate, but due to inclement weather or variations in the definition of “moderate,” a hike may be more difficult or longer than expected. This is why it is so very important to be prepared.
Before we get to the top 15 travel hiking essentials to pack, there are a few important tips regarding packing and preparation for hiking I’d like to share.
It is very important to wear comfortable active wear that is weather and climate appropriate. You can easily lose your footing, so hiking boots are highly recommended. Choose stable and waterproof footwear with a good tread in order to be the most prepared.
Good fitting hiking boots should provide ample ankle support. They should be snug enough that your heels do not lift up when you walk, which often causes blisters, but your toes should have room in the front. Especially when on a steep descent, you do not want your toes crammed against the front of a boot.
PRO TIP: It is good to get hiking boots fitted by a professional, but if you do buy them online as many people do, a good rule of thumb is to buy a half size to a full size larger than your normal shoe size.
It is also necessary to allow for various thickness of hiking socks, depending on variables, such as weather.
I find that it is very important to wear good quality hiking socks. For me, this means that they stay in place, do not bunch, add cushion, and keep moisture away from my feet. This is very important in avoiding blisters, keeping your feet dry, and ultimately being able to hike further. Hiking and uncomfortable feet do not go together!
Depending on variables such as hot or cold weather, the terrain you are hiking, and if you will be in water, you will need to select your socks accordingly.
It is recommended to dress in layers. In addition to protecting you from the cold, long sleeves and long pants often protect you from insects and sun as well.
The day may start off cool, but get warmer as it gets later. Depending on your elevation or location, parts of the trail may be warmer, colder, windier, or more exposed to sun or rain. Layers help you to be prepared for both the expected and unexpected.
I find that wicking clothing that is meant for cooling or warming works fantastic. This type of clothing is generally very thin and whisks moisture away, leaving you dry. It is also easy to hand wash and dries very rapidly.
I really love these long sleeve SPF moisture wicking shirts. I feel I can wear them in all weather and they protect me from both bugs and elements.
Back Packs – Top 15 Travel Hiking Essentials to Pack
In order to have the top 15 travel hiking essentials to pack, with you, you will need something to carry them in. Generally, a backpack is necessary for hands free hiking as well as weight disbursement and overall enjoyment of your time on the trail.
No one wants to hike carrying a bag in their hands or over their shoulder. It can even be dangerous in narrow crossings. Your back pack should never be uncomfortable or feel “too heavy” before beginning your hike. It will only get worse.
What Back Pack Should I Buy?
Whether you choose a day pack or a longer term back pack, the bag should have certain qualities. It should be made of durable, water proof material, that can handle substantial weight and will not easily rip or tear. It is best to have a back pack that is adjustable and can be fitted to you.
A good pack should distribute weight evenly and prevent weight from pulling on your back and neck. I personally like some small compartments and handles. They can be used to place items you need to reach more frequently like water, bug spray, or your camera. I like handles so that I can tie or attach things to the outside of my bag as needed. You may have a wet towel or bathing suit for example that you’d prefer on the outside of your bag.
Hiking back packs should have easily adjustable straps. It is helpful to have a waist strap that helps to further divert the weight from your back and distribute it evenly. Cushioning and netting for sweat are also nice features. Many people like packs that have a hydration pack built in.
See Jenny In Wanderland post on How To Choose The Best Travel Back Pack.
In contrast to what I have said above, I also very much enjoy this (below) small backpack that I carry on some of my relatively shorter hikes. It folds up into itself in its front pocket, becoming super small, and you can clip it to the outside of another bag.
It is extremely lightweight yet heavy denier, so it holds an incredible amount of weight and has never teared. The large compartment has room for all I could need. There are netted side pockets, sufficient to hold a water bottle, and small pockets great for stuff I am constantly reaching for during my hike. The straps are not fancy, but they are padded and adjustable. It’s really a great little pack and so affordable.
The Top 15 Travel Hiking Essentials to Pack
Food and Water
- 1. Water – The general rule for how much water to bring when hiking is as follows: Adults: 2 cups (about 1/2 liter) of water for every 1 hour of hiking, but depending on the climate and terrain, you may need more. One of the best ways to carry water while hiking is to use a collapsible bladder-type bag because of their flexibility and low weight. Bring sterilizing tablets to make “found” water safe to drink in case of emergency. Collect freshwater from areas where it is flowing strongly and then use the tablets.
- 2. Snacks – When hiking, it is always nice to have snacks, but in an emergency, it can be essential. I tend to pack food that is individually wrapped, will not easily spoil or melt, does not require cooking or refrigeration, and that offers filling energy. Good examples are plant based protein bars, peanut butter crackers, trail mix including dried fruits and nuts, vegan jerky, and fruit.
- 3. Compass – It is very easy to get lost, especially in a heavily wooded area, or when trails are covered by snow. Please note that a good compass is essential – cheap ones often do not work. Also, many compasses only work in either the Northern or Southern hemisphere, not in both.
- 4. Map – A map of your planned hike should also include the surrounding area in case you get lost, or have to detour.
- 5. Flashlight or Headlamp – I generally prefer a headlamp because it can be used handsfree and it is very lightweight and small. Many headlamps have multiple settings that usually include both a bright and dim light, a strobe, and a red light. Each setting has a specific purpose and can be helpful depending on your situation. However, flashlights are useful to place on the ground, like a lamp.
- 6. Walking Stick – hiking poles or a stick can be very helpful to keep your balance when terrain becomes steep, wet, or rough. There are some very lightweight poles that can collapse and fit in, or clip onto, your bag. It is important that they are adjustable and can support your height and weight.
- 7. GPS Device – A GPS global phone that uses satellite as a signal (verses cellular service) can be very useful in an emergency when there is no cellular service. Global phones work most anywhere and can be used to view a map or call for help.
- 8. Cell Phone – Bring a mobile phone. It may or may not work while hiking, but it is a good idea to have one – Plus it can double as a camera and a backup compass.
- 9. Emergency Contact List – You should have a list of numbers written out, in case your phone does not work and you need to use someone else’s or in the event someone needs to call someone for you. The list should include your medical insurance, the office of your local accommodation, the country’s quick dial emergency number, and a personal emergency contact.
- 10. Waterproof jacket – Not only will this help protect you in instances of wet weather or spray, but also from wind. Waterproof jackets can be very lightweight, but still offer warmth and are generally good for layering.
- 11. Extra Socks – In the event your hiking socks do get wet or uncomfortable, it is a good idea to have an additional pair as a backup.
- 12. Permethrin treated clothing – Treat your clothing with permethrin. I have used this during most of my travels. It helps to prevent unwanted insects such as ticks and mosquitos. As a side note, it is also great to spray on luggage to prevent travel related bugs from attaching to your bags. I always spray my hiking backpack and hat.
- 13. Sunscreen – No matter how overcast and how chilly, the sun can be surprisingly strong. Always protect yourself with sunscreen. The minimum recommendation is SPF 15 or greater. Remember to choose a reef safe brand!
- 14. Insect Repellent – It is important to protect yourself from bites and stings. Insect repellent containing DEET is highly recommended when hiking. I have found Ben’s to be very effective. The 30% works for me, unless I am somewhere extremely buggy, like the Amazon, in which case I tend to use 100%. I always wash it off at day’s end unless I am sleeping in an unprotected place.
- 15. First Aid Kit including blister bandaids (just in case!) Always have basic first aid available. Safety is a necessity. There are some basic, lightweight travel kits or extremely extensive ones depending on your comfort level.
Additional Tips – Top 15 Travel Hiking Essentials to Pack
In addition to the above mentioned top 15 travel hiking essentials to pack, consider wearing a hat. Ticks can be bad and a hat, sprayed in permethrin offers a good level of protection. Still, check your head and body regularly for ticks.
In the Winter or at altitudes that become cold, you can throw an emergency blanket into your bag. They are thin, small and lightweight, but perfect in an emergency. It is a good idea to have matches or a lighter too.
I like to carry a poncho because if it does rain, it will fit over my back pack and me. It can also be used to sit on in wet conditions. Another luxury item is a bug net for your head. Don’t laugh! Instead read Jenny In Wanderland article on Face Nets for Bugs.