12 Must-Have Pieces of Hiking Gear

Hit the trail no matter the weather with these hiking essentials

Mandy Ferreira
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Breathable Day Pack

This 18 liter backpack is large enough to fit a few liters of water, a meal or two, and anything else you might need for a day on the trails. The back panel is designed for optimal ventilation so you don’t end up uncomfortably drenched. An integrated rain cover, trekking pole attachment, and removable hip belt make this one of the most well-equipped daypacks. Slip in your hydration reservoir and you’re ready to go.

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Do-It-All Hiking Boots

A good pair of hiking boots is worth every penny and will last you decades if you treat them right. This pair from LOWA is perfect for everything from a quick single-digit outing to a multi-week trek. The award winning boot is sustainably made in Europe with leather and Gore-Tex for a comfortable fit and unbeatable weather protection.

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Unbreakable Socks

Socks can make or break a hike. Forget all about bunching, blisters, slipping, and wet feet with these quick-drying socks from Darn Tough. The Micro Crew is made in the US with merino wool and nylon to ensure they breathe easily and discourage odor even on the hottest days. The added cushion makes your boots fit snugly in all the right places and takes the pressure off the ball of your foot. Oh, and did we mention they are guaranteed to last for life no matter how hard you wear them?

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Protective Pants

It doesn’t matter if you’re going off-trail or just cruising the campsite; these pants from REI will help regulate your temperature, protect against abrasions, and keep debris out. In addition to wicking moisture, the pants can be rolled up and secured at a capri length so you can change it up on the go. UPF 50+ sun protection and three secured zipper pockets make these pants great in the backcountry or the city.
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Whether you’re trying to catch the sunrise or sunset from the summit or get caught out a little later than expected, a headlamp is the most comfortable way to follow the path in the dark. The ReVolt is waterproof and rechargeable with a whopping 300 lumens at full power. It has multiple light modes including a bright spotlight, red light for effectively finding your way into your tent at night, and a strobe light to ensure you’re seen on the road.

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Leave-No-Trace Snacks

You don’t have to worry about packing out your trash with these reusable silicone bags. Take sandwiches, fruit, salads, and even hummus without worrying about leaking or toting heavy containers. When you’re done, just toss them in the dishwasher so they’re ready for the next day’s adventures. Pro tip: The half-gallon bag is ideal for packing up the family’s sandwiches in one go, and you can use it in the sous vide to whip up a post-hike meal.

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First-Aid Kit

Give yourself peace of mind with this small first-aid kit. The kit comes with the essentials for a day outside so you can take on sudden allergic reactions, cuts and scrapes, burns, bites, and blisters without missing a step.

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Collapsible Hiking Poles

  • REI Co-op Traverse Power Lock Cork Trekking Poles in Women’s and Unisex, $99.95
Sure, you can splurge on carbon fiber hiking poles that weigh mere ounces, but these collapsible aluminum poles take on tough terrain without the hefty price tag. Contoured cork grips absorb shock and make it easy to keep your hold. Adjust the length on the go to fit the slope or slide them up and stow them away.
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Wicking Base Layer

  • Smartwool Merino 150 Base Layer Pattern Short Sleeve in Men’s and Women’s, $75

Wool is the perfect material for a solid base layer since it will help keep you warm in the predawn hours, cool on the midday ascent, and dry all day. The raglan sleeves on the Merino 150 keep shoulders seam-free so you don’t have to worry about rubbing under a pack. It’s the ideal base layer in winter, main layer when the temps rise, and gym tee all year round.

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Fleece Midlayer

This fitted fleece hoody has plenty of room for layering up without letting in the breeze or bunching under your pack. Made with Polartec® Power Stretch®, the fabric stretches with you for complete freedom. Slip on the scuba-inspired hood to lock in the heat and keep your neck toasty too.

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Warm Vest

Cold mornings or unexpected temperature drops at the summit are no problem with this responsibly-made, lightweight padded vest. Made with synthetic insulation, the vest packs away easily and stays warm even when it gets damp. The two-way zipper means you can dial in the heat without fussing with pack straps.

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Packable Rain Coat

Don’t let a little water stop you from getting outside. This breathable waterproof jacket is made with three layers of polyester and topped with a durable water-repellent finish to keep you dry all day. It comes with a lightweight compression stuff sack so you don’t have to weigh the forecast against space in your pack. Even better, the entire jacket can be recycled at the end of its life when it’s beyond repair.