hiking checklist

The Ultimate Hiking Checklist You Shouldn’t Go Without

Hiking shot up in popularity in 2020 amid movement restrictions. The number of hikes boomed to 171.4% since 2019, with solo hikers increasing by 134.7%.

Part of its popularity is due to its health benefits. For one, it’s a form of physical exercise. It also improves mental health, and it’s perfect as a social activity.

However, the uptick in beginners can be concerning. Some people go into it without learning the risks of hiking.

Anything can happen when you’re on the trail, even if it’s easy. Make sure you’re ready for your hike and emergencies by bringing the essentials. Check out our hiking checklist below for everything you need.

The Ten Essentials

If you’re a beginner, learn about the Ten Essentials before going on trips. It’s a hiking checklist made in the 1930s. An outdoor group called The Mountaineers formalized the list in 1974.

1. Navigation

Some trails are pristine and well-marked, but it isn’t true everywhere. Even if it is, you might still lose your way due to accidents or plain carelessness.

For this reason, it’s best to prepare by having some form of navigation. The old-school map and compass combo is your best bet.

A GPS device is handy, but you have to learn how to use it. Your phone’s built-in function is insufficient for adventures.

2. Headlamp and Flashlight

If you’re planning to stay out past sunset, consider bringing a headlamp or flashlight with you. A dazzling view can make any hiker lose track of time, or inclement weather might lessen your visibility.

Again, your phone isn’t enough. It doesn’t last as long as a flashlight. A headlamp is better as it frees up both your hands when you need to scramble over rocky terrain.

For something longer-lasting, bring a solar-powered lantern. It’s collapsible and requires no batteries to operate.

3. Sun Protection

The sun is both a friend and an enemy. Overexposure can lead to skin cancer, and in hiking, you’re getting a lot of exposure.

Slather on some sunscreen with at least 30 SPF before your trip. Make sure to bring the bottle so you can reapply along the way. Wear protective clothing and a wide-brimmed hat to keep you cool.

While you’re at it, protect your eyes, too. Consider bringing a pair of sunglasses and wearing them when appropriate.

4. First Aid

A first aid kit is a must in every adventurer’s list. You hope you don’t have to use it, but it’s good to have when you need it.

You can always buy a ready-to-go kit, but make sure it has all you need for your trip. A small pack will do for a beginner hike. Bring an extensive one for a multi-day adventure.

Always include insect repellent. Mosquitoes can ruin a trip at best, while bugs may carry diseases at worst.

5. Knife or Multi-Tool

A Swiss army knife is your best friend on hikes. You can use it to cut gauze, kindling, or even open snack packaging.

Bring a gear repair kit, as well, including duct tape, zip ties, and such. These are necessary for quick repairs on the trip.

6. Fire

Bring tools for making fire, even if you’re not planning a campfire. You can’t start a bonfire everywhere you go since it’s illegal in many places. However, it’s better to be ready when the need arises.

Trying to keep warm at night while you’re lost is one of the biggest challenges. It becomes more of an issue if you only intended for a day trip.

Rain and freezing temperatures can make your hike dangerous, as well. Fire can save your life, but make sure to learn how to start it properly.

7. Shelter

You don’t always need a full tent. You’re not going to use it on a five-hour hike, and it’s too bulky for an emergency shelter.

Keep is a small tarp or an emergency space blanket at the bottom of your bag. A bivy sack is lightweight and small enough.

The idea is you should have something to protect you against the weather, the ground, and the elements. It’s a must if you have to spend the night out in nature.

8. Extra Food

Always bring more than what you think you need. Have you planned two meals and a snack for your day trip? Double the amount, or at the least, throw in some extra sandwiches and granola bars.

A hike can get you hungrier than you thought. Emergencies can happen where you might not have access to food, as well.

9. Extra Water

Our body needs water more than food. You can still go for weeks without food. Yet, you can only last about three days without water.

Carrying extra water can be heavy, but it’s worth not having to experience the pain of dehydration.

10. Extra Clothes

At the least, bring something for a change in weather, like a waterproof jacket or extra fleece. You won’t notice a pair of fresh socks in your bag, but they help a ton when your feet become wet and cold.

If you can, add a fresh shirt and a pair of underwear, as well. Place them in a waterproof bag to keep them dry even if it rains.

Gear & Gadgets

Those are the ten essentials. However, you can always bring more to make your hike safer and more comfortable. Here are some things you might need:

  • Toilet paper or wipes
  • Trash bags
  • Hiking poles
  • Gloves
  • Camping stove & utensils
  • Kindle/book
  • Backpacking chair
  • Towel

You can bring compact binoculars, as well. They’re great for spotting wildlife and enjoying nature, which is why we hike in the first place.

A camera isn’t necessary, but it’s a must for many hikers. Many use their phones’ advanced capabilities instead.

Never forget your smartphone. It’s not enough as a GPS and flashlight, but it can come in handy.

You might be able to get help if you manage to get a signal. Bring a solar power bank to go with it.

Do you have pets you want to bring with you? Create a checklist of their needs, too.

Proper Clothing & Footwear

What should you wear on a hiking trip? That depends on the length of your hike and the weather conditions. When choosing your clothing, focus on practicality and comfort. A wicking short-sleeve T-shirt is enough most of the time.

Choose long sleeves when it’s cool out or when there’s too much sunlight. Any lightweight and comfortable pants should do. However, you might want to invest in high-quality hiking pants. They dry quickly, making them great in almost all types of weather.

For the ladies, sports bras are a must-have. Expect to encounter rocky terrains or even rickety rides to the jump-off point.

What if it’s hot in the morning and cold at night? The secret is to dress in layers. Put on more clothes when you’re cold and take off some when it’s hot.

Safety Checklist

Aside from those included in the ten essentials, you should bring other tools for your safety. Review the risks you’ll likely encounter in your specific trail of choice. You should bring a bear spray in bear country, for example. Bells and whistles are must-haves, as well.

On that note, bring a whistle with you everywhere you go. It only doesn’t help against bears, but it can also save you when you get lost. Whistling can make you easier to locate. While shouting has the same effect, your voice has its limits.

Safety To-Do

What about a checklist of what you should do? Here are some quick hiking tips about safety.

First, build a solid hiking plan. Check the weather conditions, potential obstacles you might face, and known risks. Read up on weather forecasts, as well, so you can prepare accordingly.

Share your plans with other people. Include important details, like the date, time, and location of your trip. Write down the estimated date and time of your return, as well.

Other helpful information to include is the make and model of your car. Note down any medical conditions, as well. It ensures everyone will know whether to send help as soon as possible.

Share these details with someone you trust. Give clear instructions on what they should do if you don’t check-in or return.

Copy and leave it behind in your car, too. It is the first place the rangers will check if you don’t return as expected.

Keep This Hiking Checklist for All Your Trips

Every time you go on a trip, refer to this hiking checklist. You don’t want to forget anything when your safety is on the line. Even with beginner hikes, life-threatening emergencies can happen.

Stay prepared and ready for your best hike. Contact us today if you need hiking supplies.