What Every Hiker Needs in Their Backpack

Ray Leonzi

Whether you’re getting out on a weekend day hike, exploring a scenic view with a waterfall or taking an extending backpacking trip, there are some essentials all hikers should bring with them. Hiking is different than camping where you are typically much more prepared and have all of the necessary gear, tools and clothing you could possibly need. When packing for your hiking trip focus on items that are lightweight and great for emergency preparedness. If you prepare for the worst and take simple precautions, you’ll have a safe and enjoyable outing. Here's a list of top hiking essentials you should never forget:




It goes without saying that you need water on a hike. However, make sure you bring enough for the duration of your trip and that everyone in your party has enough. There’s nothing worse than being thirsty at the end of a two day hike and deciding who gets the last drop. If possible, bring a LifeStraw or similar type water filter as backup just in case.



Food for hikers typically consists of trail mix and energy bars. These snacks keep your body going all day long on the trail. Bring some freeze dried food, which is light and can sustain your group if you get lost or have to wait out bad weather.



Fire is one of our most basic needs. You might think there is no way you’ll need it until you get lost on a hike and the sun goes down. Camping alone on the side of a mountain is less worrisome if you have matches and Coffee Wick Fire Starters to keep you warm.


First Aid Kit

Cuts, scrapes and blisters are the most likely injuries on a hike, but you should be more prepared just in case. A small first aid kit should provide you with the bulk of supplies you may need. Alternatively, you can create your own kit with band aids, aspirin, gauze, moleskin (for blisters), ointments and other medicine.



Definitely a must have for every hiker. Sometimes a hike can take longer than expected and you don’t want to be stuck in the dark before you get back to the trailhead. Headlamps are a nice addition that are easy to use and keep your hands free to read a map or help others in your party.


Map and Compass

Trails aren’t like highways, sometimes it can be difficult to stay on the trail. A topographical map from the USGS is the best, but a trail map or even a local area map will help you find your way back to civilization. In addition, you should always have a compass with you to help find the direction you are going. Try using a map and compass at home, so you know how to use it if necessary.



You should always have a pocket knife or multi-use tool with you when you go into the wilderness. Perhaps the most important hiking item, as there are hundreds of uses for a knife. From getting a splinter out to fashioning an emergency shelter, knives are indispensable tools that can make the difference in an emergency.



The sound of a whistle travels much further than the sound of your voice. Whistles can be used for emergencies, as a signal to other members of a group or to scare off wild animals.


Rain Jacket/Poncho

Particularly at higher elevations, the weather can change in an instant. At the very least you should pack a poncho which can keep you dry and be used as an emergency shelter. You may want to throw in a space blanket to use as a makeshift sleeping bag and keep you toasty warm.


Hand Sanitizer

Keep it clean on the trail with hand sanitizer after eating or going to the bathroom. It’s lightweight and saves your water for drinking.


Make sure to pack these items on your next hiking trip and you can rest assured that you’ll be ready for anything.




Add a comment

* Comments must be approved before being displayed.