Hiking Gear List for Beginners

Hiking Gear List for Beginners

Hiking is one of our favorite things in the world: it’s a chance to get outside your comfort zone, break away from the daily grind, and experience the world in a way you can only see with a little bit of effort. But it was certainly something we learned to love over time. If you’re just starting to hike, we know that it can feel overwhelming — it was that way for us! And, man, did we wish we had a hiking gear list to guide us as beginners.

It’s funny, really. On one hand, hiking is one of the simplest activities you can do. You lace up your shoes, grab a bottle of water, and head out on the trail. On the other hand, there’s a lot to worry about when you venture away from civilization. Will we be safe? What if we get lost? What if I get attacked by a wild animal? (Ok, maybe that last one is just me. I am 100% one to worry!) Having the right gear helped me personally alleviate my fears and made our hikes frankly less painful and, as a result, more enjoyable. So, to help others get started on their hiking journey, we’ve created this day hiking gear list for beginners — the one we wish we had had when we were just getting into hiking!

Love the view above? You have to hike in order to see it!

Day Hiking Gear List for Beginners

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In this hiking gear list suited for beginners, we cover the gear that we have found to be the most helpful and what we have personally invested in and found to be worth every penny.

1. Hiking boots

Hiking BootsFor anyone looking to start hiking, a sturdy pair of hiking boots is an absolute must. Unlike tennis shoes, hiking boots have the traction, ankle support, and durability needed for traversing different kinds of terrain. This is especially important (and frankly, safer) when you’re constantly stepping over rocks and tree roots or carrying a pack over long distances as you’re prone to doing while hiking.

There are a few variations of hiking boots, from trail runners and low-cut shoes to mid-cut and higher-cut boots intended for carrying heavier loads (i.e., backpacking). Most beginners will be perfectly happy with low-cut to mid-cut boots, meant primarily for day hiking. We also like to look for (waterproof) boots with Gortex. Even if you don’t intend to hike in rain or across rivers, you’ll never know when you might come across muddy trails or streamlets where it’s nice to not have to worry where you’re stepping.

Our pick for women: Columbia Women’s Newton Ridge Plus Waterproof Hiking Boot

Our pick for men:Merrell Moab 2 Mid Waterproof Men’s BootsBoots for Men

Favorite brands: Merrell, Northface

2. Day pack

Day PackInvesting in a solid day pack may seem like an obvious day hiking essential, but you’ll be surprised by how long we stubbornly hiked with a drawstring bag. (Read: Don’t do it. It’s really not worth the strain on your back.) As you get started with hiking, you’ll want a day pack to carry your water and the 10 essentials, which you should have on you at all times. 

When buying a day pack, we look for a pack with hip straps (for load bearing), a water pouch, and lots of pockets and extra compartments for easy reach. You’ll like not having to dig into the bottom of your pack every time you need to reach for your phone or protein bar.

Our pick:  CamelBak L.U.X.E. LR Crux Lumbar Reservoir Hydration Pack

Favorite brand: CamelbakCamelBak L.U.X.E. LR Crux Lumbar Reservoir Hydration Pack

3. Trekking poles / Hiking poles

Trekking PolesIf you had to invest in just a few things for hiking, this would absolutely make the top 3 on hiking gear list. Trekking poles have so many uses on the trail, but most importantly they help you keep your balance and reduce the force on your knees, which you’ll especially appreciate on downhill treks. Beyond that, they can be used to check water/snow depth, protect yourself from wild animals, and even act as a temporary splint. In short, not only will they help make your hikes much more enjoyable, they can also offer additional safety and peace of mind.

Our pick: Black Diamond Carbon Z Z-PolesBlack Diamond Carbon Z Z-Poles (We recommend carbon fiber since it is extremely lightweight compared to other building materials, although it will cost you a pretty penny.)

Also recommended (more affordable, entry-level option):  TrailBuddy Lightweight Trekking PolesTrailBuddy Lightweight Trekking Poles

4. Energy bars and snacks

Energy BarEnergy bars are great trail food since they’re light and provide a lot of calories packed into a small punch (you’ll need them since you’ll be burning even more!). So, of course, these make our hiking gear list for beginners! Our favorites include RX bars which happen to be high in protein AND gluten-free. We usually grab a couple of these and have them on us at all times during our day hikes.

Our pick: RXBAR, Chocolate Sea Salt, Protein Bar (Pack of 12)

RXBAR, Chocolate Sea Salt, Protein Bar (Pack of 12)

5. GPS watch

GPS WatchCertainly a splurge but fun to have as you get more into hiking, a GPS watch can help you track your mileage, elevation, and heart rate. As you hike more, you’ll be able to track your progress. We’ve also found a GPS watch incredibly handy when it comes to hiking in backcountry. We’ve found ourselves turned around on trails before, and having a GPS watch tracking our hike helped us to trace back our steps by showing a map of where we had hiked. 

Our pick:  Garmin Fenix 5 SapphireGarmin Fenix 5 Sapphire

Also great: SUUNTO Traverse AlphaGarmin Fenix 5 Sapphire

6. Hand sanitizer

Hand SanitizerWe joke that hand sanitizer is like liquid gold, especially after hiking, sweating, and scrambling up rocks. We always keep a small bottle in each our packs, and use it prior to eating on the trail. Pack a travel size bottle to keep what you carry lightweight.

Our pick: Eco Finest Hand Sanitizer Gel, 5-pack 2 oz Travel SizeEco Finest Hand Sanitizer Gel, 5-pack 2 oz Travel Size

7. Sunscreen

SunscreenSunscreen is another hiking essential to have in your pack, especially if you’re hiking on a sunny day. Use at least 30+ SPF, and reapply frequently as you hike.

Our pick: Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Sunscreen Lotion with Broad Spectrum SPF 100+, 3 fl. ozNeutrogena Ultra Sheer Sunscreen Lotion with Broad Spectrum SPF 100+, 3 fl. oz

8. Water bottle or hydration pack

Hydration PackWhen hiking, it’s incredibly important that you bring enough water with you on the trail — and it can be incredibly dangerous, even life-threatening, if you don’t. A general rule of thumb is to have at least 0.5L per hour of moderate activity in moderate temperature. If you are on a strenuous hike or find yourself hiking in hot temperatures, you may need even more. As a result, it’s important that you invest in a decent water bottle or hydration pack (what we prefer) to make sure you stay hydrated and, as a bonus, keep your water cool.

When looking for a water bottle, we look for one that is both lightweight and insulated. When it comes to hydration packs, we cannot recommend Camelbak enough. We’ve tried a number of different brands over the year, and albeit on the pricier side, Camelbaks are definitely worth the investment. There is nothing more frustrating than 1) trying to fill your hydration pack and spending 30 minutes trying to open/close it or 2) finding out that water has leaked out all over your day pack. (Both have happened to us!)

Our pick for hydration pack: CamelBak Crux 100 oz Hydration Pack ReservoirCamelBak Crux 100 oz Hydration Pack Reservoir

Favorite brands for hydration packs: Camelbak

Our pick for water bottles: YETI Rambler 26 oz BottleYETI Rambler 26 oz Bottle<

Favorite brands for water bottles: Swell, Yeti, Miir

9. Trash bag (or rain pack cover)

Trash BagsAlthough typically not an issue, carrying a simple trash bag in your pack can be a smart idea since it can be used in a number of different ways. (You’ll notice that, when it comes to hiking and camping gear, versatility is super important.) If needed, it can turn into a rain pack cover or poncho, or simply let you pack your trash out. Remember, always practice Leave No Trace when hiking. For a fancier option, you can always invest in a rain pack cover but I find that a trash bag will work just fine. Unless you’re doing a lot of anticipated hiking in the rain, a rain pack cover is generally not necessary.

Our pick:  Hefty Strong Multipurpose Extra Large Trash Bags, 48 CountRain Pack

Our pick for rain pack covers: Osprey UltraLight Raincover>Osprey UltraLight Raincover” width=”1″ height=”1″ border=”0″></p>
<h2 class=Ready to hit the trail? Put your hiking gear into action.

Read our posts on our favorite hiking trails, national park trips, and more. We’ll also continue to build out our Hiking 101 series, so stay tuned!

Getting Started Hiking - Gear List for Beginners

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