A day hike or long walk is a great way to get out and explore, and according to the Ramblers Association, walking is by far Britain’s most popular outdoor recreation activity. Whatever your age, a hiking adventure in the great outdoors is the perfect way to unplug from the pressures of modern life, catch up with friends and family and reconnect with nature.
What to Wear & What to Take on a Hike
Whether you are planning to stick close to home or find somewhere new, there's an abundance of mini hiking adventures to be had. All that's left to do before you head out the door is pack your hiking bag with the right kit. But what are the hiking essentials you shouldn’t leave the house without?
The longer your walk or more varied the weather conditions and terrain, the more water, food, and clothing layers you will need to take. To help you to enjoy your next hike, we have compiled a hiking equipment list of the essential hiking gear you mustn't forget. So, grab your backpack, pick up those walking poles and get ready to hit the trails.
Day Hiking Essentials List
- Nutrition - Water Bottle & Snacks
- Comfortable Hiking Backpack
- First Aid Kit
- Sun Cream
- Trekking Pole
Whatever day hike you're planning, it's important to consider the weather, length of walk and the terrain you'll be tackling which will help you to pack your bag with the essentials. If you are planning to stop overnight and camp, consult our camping checklist for any additional items, however the camping equipment basics to add your hiking essential list include:
- Sleeping bag
- Sleeping mat
What to Wear Hiking
Aside from covering off what to take hiking, you’ll need to think about what to wear hiking, considering your safety, comfort level and the versatility of your hiking apparel.
- Hiking boots or walking shoes
- Breathable layers
- Waterproof jacket
- Walking socks
- Comfortable underwear
- Hats and Headwear
Great, so now you have your hiking equipment list and know what to wear hiking. However, we have expanded this list below and put together some of our favourite hiking essentials and tips to make walking more enjoyable. If you don’t have the time to dig deeper into our trekking treasure trove, then all the hiking essentials are nicely summed up here:
The Wiggle Hiking Checklist
Time to get packing for your next adventure using our hiking checklist.
Hiking Hydration & Nutrition
Staying fuelled and hydrated is key to having the energy to keep going. Without enough sustenance, you may start to feel lightheaded or dizzy and not want to or be able to continue. Plus is there anything better than packing a picnic, sitting down, and soaking up your surroundings?
Remember to stay hydrated. Even in cooler weather, you'll be losing moisture through perspiration. Aim for one litre every five miles. Fruit, nuts, and energy bars will keep your energy levels topped up. Make sure you carry enough fuel to last the day - out on the trail, shops are generally few and far between.
GPS Navigation & Maps
Many hikes and well-known walks are sign-posted but it is still a good idea to plan your route. You can download activity routes onto many GPS watches or your phone to keep you on the right path. These devices are also great to track your activity too. An Ordnance Survey map for detailed insights and local routes may also prove useful.
Hiking Backpacks, Rucksacks & Hydration Packs
A hiking backpack might seem like an obvious item to have on your hiking equipment list, as it is where you going to store your water, snacks, layers that you take off throughout the day and other essentials. However, have you considered which backpack to actually take with you? Is it comfortable on your shoulders, does it sit against your back without rubbing, is there plenty of room and pockets or would a hydration pack be a better option?
We have found that 20-35l bag is the optimum size for a day hike as you will easily be able to fit in all the above. We also recommend getting a bag that has adjustable shoulder and chest straps because this will help the bag fit against your body and therefore is less likely to rub.
You may find that a hydration pack might suit you better as you can drink water on the go thanks to the bladder and hose design, and the pack still has enough room for your other essentials. If you are also interested in trail running these types of bags are very versatile.
Hiking Head Torch
If you are out after dark, a head torch is essential to light the path ahead, hands-free. Remove the batteries while it's in your bag so that it doesn't come on accidentally. This way, you'll have plenty of power left for when it gets dark.
I know what you're thinking 'I'm going on a DAY hike, why do I need a torch'. You may never actually use a torch, but it's better to be safe than sorry. If you take a wrong turn or you're hiking in the autumn and winter months, before you know it the darkness can arrive. A torch will allow you to navigate the way home and be seen by others. Having a torch with you 'just in case' could save the day.
First Aid Kit & Sun Cream
Plasters, antiseptic wipes, and medical tape are just a few basics from a first aid kit that could come in handy on your walk. Whether for cuts and grazes from branches or you get a blister, having a few supplies will enable you to keep going and enjoy your walk.
We'd also recommend taking sun cream and insect repellent for extra protection. Even in the dappled light under the trees, you need to protect your skin from harmful rays. Look for sport-specific products that are sweat-resistant and stay put even when wet.
Once you get a pair of trekking poles, you'll wonder how you ever got by without them! They provide great support, particularly on steep hills, so your legs won't get as tired. They'll also give you a bit of stability which means you're less likely to take a tumble.
Hiking Essentials: What to Wear When Hiking
Outdoor and adventure clothing is specifically designed to work in adverse conditions protecting walkers in the cold and wet, as well as being breathable and moisture wicking in the heat. The unpredictable British weather means that versatile hiking gear is a must, but comfort should be high on your priority list too.
Hiking Boots & Walking Shoes
No matter the time of year, you're going to need some grippy, durable shoes so you can be confidently walk on uneven or slippery ground. A good pair of walking shoes is essential to keep you comfortable on those long days out. Look for grippy soles and ankle support which will help you to avoid injury.
Hiking boots or trail shoes are made from hard-wearing materials and have features that your regular trainers don't, such as deep lugs (grippers) on the sole. Often hiking boots or trail shoes are also waterproof - so are especially great to wear during the autumn and winter (or in the UK - any time of year!)
Wondering what are the best hiking boots? Don’t worry we’ve done the leg work…
It's best to wear multiple layers when hiking as each layer traps heat. This will help to keep you warm when it's cold and if you start to get too hot, you can easily take a layer off and pack it away. For day hikes, it's worth considering materials like merino wool which is temperature regulating, wicks sweat away quickly and stays fresher for longer. Thin layers are easy to pack away in bags too. No matter what the forecast is saying when you set off, we recommend taking layers with you.
Waterproof Hiking Jacket
You can never be too sure about the weather on a hike as conditions can change pretty quickly.
If you get caught in the rain without protection, it can be hard to warm back up and dry off - potentially putting a dampener on your plans or halting your walk. Many outdoor jackets can be easily rolled up and packed away in a bag if the sun makes an appearance. And for the days it doesn't, you'll be thankful you're staying dry. You'll also be grateful for the extra layer at higher altitudes or in open spaces where the temperature can quickly change.
Hiking Socks & Underwear
A well-fitting pair of socks will provide cushioning and support and help to prevent blisters. Merino blends are popular because they are anti-bacterial and breathable so your feet will feel fresh all day.
Underwear is often not given much thought, but any hiker will tell you, comfort is king! Any material that wicks moisture away from your body is going to be your friend, preventing chaffing and damp. Look for underwear constructed with polyester, nylon or merino wool. Sports bras are also a great piece of hiking underwear providing full comfort and support.
Hiking Hats & Headwear
Much like underwear hats are often an afterthought when you think about what to take hiking. However, a durable, practical hat is worth its weight in gold whether its cold and damp, or hot and sunny.
What To Wear When Hiking in Summer - Warm Day Hike Essentials
Short sleeve hiking tops or t shirts
Lightweight long sleeve tops
Lighter hiking shoes or hiking sandals
Aside from thinking about what to wear, keeping hydrated on warm summer days is crucial, while insect repellent may help protect you from any unwanted friends.
What To Wear Hiking in Winter - Cold Day Hike Essentials
Hiking base layers
Windproof and waterproof outer layer
Waterproof hiking boots
The testing winter conditions, and fast fading light are considerations for hiking during winter. Taking a hot drink in a flask might be another addition you want to consider adding to the bag.
Have Fun Hiking
With our extensive hiking essentials list, you should be well prepared for your next outdoor adventure. Why not print off our list when packing your hiking bag to make sure you have everything you need packed? Happy hiking!