Best Hiking Gear: durable and high-quality recommendations
Are you looking for durable, high-quality hiking gear for your next adventure? Then you’ve come to the right place! In this article, we outline the best hiking gear, including 10 hiking essentials that everyone should bring and specific hiking gear recommendations for women, men, and the winter.
We are both avid hikers who have completed tons of day- and multi-day hikes around the world, from hiking in the wild Canadian Rockies to the high altitudes of the Andes. And we understand the challenges of finding hiking gear that suits your needs and budget. Our personal recommendations in this article have been tried and tested, and do not include any paid or sponsored ads.
Table of content:
Top 10 hiking gear essentials
Best hiking gear for women
Best hiking gear for men
Hiking gear for the winter
Before you go through each item, make sure to download our free camping checklist.
10 hiking gear essentials that you SHOULD bring
Whether you like to bring a physical map, compass, a GPS unit, or use offline maps on your smartphone, navigation is the most essential thing to bring on your hike! You don’t want to get lost in the wild. We use the FREE offline app maps.me, which has most hiking trails pointed on the app.
When hiking, you are constantly exposed to the sun. And especially at high altitudes, the sun can be brutal for your skin. So sun protection in any way is essential to bring along. Pack up your sunglasses, sunscreen, and cap!
Made by: World Wild Hearts
First aid kit
Often forgotten by hikers, a first aid kit is an absolute must on ANY hike. Kit essentials include foot care (such as blister plasters and wound healing cream) as well as painkillers, hand sanitizer, and insect repellent. Mosquitoes are vicious during summer! Only if you are hiking above 2,200 meters (7,200ft) you don’t have to worry about any of these cruel insects.
Made by: Compeed
A knife does not only help protect from any wild animal you may encounter on your journey, but also for gear repair, splitting wood, and making kindling. We always carry it, just in case!
Hiking in the mountains means being prepared for any kind of weather. Your rain jacket should be the first item to pack in your bag, even if it looks like it will be a blue-bird day. We recommend a lightweight rain jacket that protects you both from cold winds and rain.
Made by: Vaude
High-protein food and snacks
To stay energized, bring enough healthy and nutritious foods. We always make sure to pack SunRype fruit bars or other granola bars, nuts, bananas, a sandwich, and other fruits. And if you are planning a multi-day trek, dehydrated meals will be your go-to! They don’t take a lot of space, are nutritious, and lightweight!
Extra water or water purifier/tablets
It is important to stay hydrated throughout the hike. Especially when doing a long hike, you may want to carry enough water with you. If you don’t want to haul multiple bottles of water, bring a water purifier or purification tablets. These will allow you to fill your water bottles in the lakes along the trails while making sure you won’t get sick. We recommend a lightweight water bottle if you are planning on multiple hikes, or the tablets if you’re not a frequent hiker. If you can't rely on water sources along the hike, we'd recommend carrying a 3L camelbak. It is heavier, but will save you from dehydrating!
Made by: LifeStraw
It took us years before we finally invested in hiking poles, and now we can’t live without them! Hiking poles are essential when hiking on rugged, difficult terrain as they improve balance and stability. But besides that, they also help you maintain a proper posture and take off some pressure on your lower back, hips, and knees. It has improved our hiking experience a lot and made us more comfortable going down slippery slopes. Black Diamond Equipment has a range of high-quality, lightweight, and affordable hiking poles!
Made by: Black Diamond
We love the Osprey backpacks when it comes to hiking. They are lightweight, durable, smartly designed, and comfortable. We have different sizes for different hiking occasions. The Osprey Hiking Daypack is our go-to when we go for day hikes, whereas the Osprey Archeon 65 Backpack is perfect for multi-day trips in the mountains!
Mady by: Osprey
Best hiking gear for women
Now that we’ve highlighted the hiking essentials to bring in your backpack, we will move on to the hiking gear to wear for women. For each hiking clothing item, we outline what is key to look for and we give our personal suggestions. Actually, we don’t have tons of hiking clothing in our closets. Instead, we just invest in a few durable and quality pieces that improve our comfort while hiking. But don't forget to always bring more clothes than you think you'll need when hiking!
The most important item to bring on your hike is comfortable hiking shoes! Having the right shoes will be the major contributor to your overall hiking experience. We prefer shoes that cover your ankles as they protect you against sprains along the rocky trails. I used to have a pair of Lowa Renegade hiking shoes, which are both durable and comfortable! But now I upgraded to a pair of Zamberlan boots, which are perfect for multi-day backcountry backpacking in rugged, steep terrain. Although more expensive, I love them even more!
Made by: Zamberlan
As for any other sport, comfort is key when choosing a pair of underwear. Some quick tips for choosing hiking underwear are:
Opt for moisture-wicking underwear
Choose a style that works for you. Whether you prefer briefs, bikinis, or thongs. Personal taste differs!
Look for features that improve comfort, like tagless waistbands and flat seams.
I prefer bikini-style underwear for hiking, and this Puma sport stretch bikini is my favorite choice as it's comfy with a great stretch.
Made by: Puma
Similar to underwear, the perfect hiking shirt depends on personal taste. Generally, wicking shirts are more comfortable as they handle wetness and sweat better than traditional materials. Almost every sport and outdoors brand has wicking shirts, including major players like the North Face. However, I often hike in an everyday shirt and enjoy that too!
Pro tip: If you’re worried about the sun or bugs, it might be best to wear a long-sleeve shirt!
Quick-drying pants or shorts
Many women hike in yoga or jogger pants, which is totally fine for shorter day hikes. However, if you are planning a multi-day trek or one in colder and wetter areas, I’d definitely recommend proper hiking pants. I have a pair of prAna pants, which are breathable, quick-drying, and comfortable. They have pockets on both the front and back, which is a key factor for me when choosing pants.
Made by: prAna
For hikes at a higher elevation or to the summit, I’d recommend bringing a lightweight fleece jacket. Especially on rest breaks and when spending time at the summit, a fleece promises to keep you warm! Opt for a lightweight one if you want to keep your backpack light. I have a few fleece jackets as I always get cold when standing still for a while. And even though fleece jackets never look fashionable, they are very soft and comfy!
Made by: Colombia
Finally, it is important to bring the right pair of socks on your hikes! Hiking socks must be comfortable so that they protect you from getting blisters. Opt for crew socks or knee-high socks if you have hiking shoes that cover your ankles. The right height of socks is key to avoid abrasion with your footwear. If you are hiking in colder temperatures, it is best to invest in a pair that is made of merino wool with medium to thick cushioning. Cushioning is what keeps you warm, but finding the right balance of cushion-to-warmth is essential. Ticker socks may cause your feet to sweat if you’re hiking in warmer places. However, if you’re like me, then your feet are the first ones to get cold! I even sometimes wear ski socks for my hikes. This pair of Smartwool socks will guaranteed keep you warm!
Made by: Smartwool
Best hiking gear for men
With the hiking gear for women discussed, we’ll now give suggestions for hiking gear for men. Again, we share what features you should be looking for when purchasing hiking gear as well as our personal recommendations are given.
Zamberlan also has a wide variety of hiking boots for men. And although they are pricier than the average hiking shoe, I do think it is a great long-term investment. Especially if you are planning on frequent hikes in steep (and slippery) terrain, this pair of boots will not let you down.
Mady by: Zamberlan
For the ultimate comfort during hiking, I recommend boxer briefs with sweat-wicking and locked-in support. I have a pair of Nike boxer briefs as they also use a Dri-FIT technology, which comes in handy when weather conditions are rainy. Though, all major sport and outdoor brands have similar types of sports underwear to choose from!
Similar to women’s hiking shirts, a men’s one is essentially sweat-wicking, dries fast, and has an anti-odor technology. This Under Armour shirt fits all these criteria and comes at an affordable price!
Made by: Under Armour
Hiking pants or shorts
The best hiking pants are made from lightweight nylon as that ensures breathability and protection from wet and windy weather. But besides that, comfort, freedom of movement, and durability are also important elements when choosing the right pair of pants. The Columbia Silver Ridge pants are made from 100% nylon and great for summer hiking and backpacking. They are a hiker’s favorite thanks to their affordability, quick-drying fabrics, and breathability. But besides that, they also come with great features such as deep pockets and zip-off legs, so the pants easily become shorts!
Made by: Columbia
A lightweight fleece provides ultimate warmth when taking breaks on your hike or in the colder evenings. I enjoy this fleece from Columbia as it is affordable, lightweight, warm, and with a comfortable cut. It’s a true outdoor staple during colder seasons! And even if it’s not so cold, it is still an essential item to bring in your backpack as weather conditions in the mountains can change in an eye blink.
For an optimal level of warmth and comfort, choose merino woolen socks. Merino wool acts as a body temperature regulator and thus keeps you warm when it’s cold and cools you off when it’s hot. This pair of DG Hill socks are made of 80% merino wool. Hence, they are perfect versatile socks for the outdoors and for any season! Besides, this pair of crew socks are high enough that it protects you from abrasion with your footwear.
Made by: DG Hill
Hiking gear for the winter
We just tackled the best hiking gear for women and men, which are essential for any hiking trip. However, there is the additional gear you should consider bringing in severe weather conditions. Snow, ice, and mud create additional challenges on hiking trails. So it is crucial that you are prepared to keep yourself (and others) safe. In this section we discuss hiking gear that will keep you extra warm and safe!
Snow crampons or ice cleats
In case there is snow along the hiking trail, we recommend bringing ice cleats. And in case you’d wonder, it doesn’t have to be winter for icy conditions! When hiking deep into the mountains, trails may be covered in snow until as late as June or July. Ice cleats are a contraption, attached to footwear, with small spikes underneath. These spikes avoid sliding on slippery surfaces. These Cimkiz-plus cleats will keep you safe and injury-free. Its adjustable strap makes it easy to put them on and off, while its lightweight allows you to carry them in your backpack when you don’t need them. They fit both men's and women's boots.
Made by: EnergeticSky
Long, thermal underwear
When hiking during winter, it is important to regulate your body heat. A great clothing item that does that is long, thermal underwear. It is the first layer you wear, and it is meant to lock in your body heat and keep yourself warm when the temperature drops. We have a set of Smartwool merino baselayers bottoms and tops, and use it all the time. Not only is it essential to wear for skiing or hiking trips, but it is also ideal for camping trips! I usually sleep in my Smartwool merino baselayers!
While standard hiking pants are great for summer hikes, they might underperform in cold weather. Fleece-lined pants are the essential pants for the winter seasons. These Eddie Bauer pants (women) are our personal favorite as they provide extra warmth without losing mobility when going snowshoeing or hiking in winter.
Made by: Eddie Bauer
Gloves or mittens
One of the most important hiking gear for winter are gloves or mittens! Not only do they keep your hands warm, but they also come in handy in various hiking situations. You never know when you'll encounter a steep section that requires your hands. When using your hands on the trail, gloves will ensure increased safety and protection from injury. The ideal winter hiking gloves are waterproof, offer superior grip, and wicks away sweat. These The North Face Apex + E-Tip gloves provide all that. But if you prefer mittens (like I do!), then there are many great options as well.
Made by: The North Face
Another hiking must-have for the winter is a warm hat or beanie as it significantly reduces body heat loss. Even though many hats are made of cotton, the ideal hiking hat is actually made of quick-drying, moisture-wicking, and breathable materials. Beanies made from merino wool are a hiker's favorite because they are moisture-wicking, quick-drying, and repel odor. But besides that, they also keep you extra warm!
Gaiters are ideal for muddy, rainy, and snowy conditions. But besides protecting you from getting wet while hiking, they also offer basic protection against rocks and grit. Ideally, gaiters are lightweight, breathable, and waterproof, just like these Outdoor Research ones. Take gaiters on your short day hike or multi-day backpacking trip if the weather conditions are unpredictable!
Made by: Outdoor Research
Warm insulated jacket
Probably the most important winter hiking gear of all is a warm insulated jacket. Insulated jackets are the perfect cold-weather jacket, and come in different types. Choose an insulated (hard)shell jacket to protect you from wind and rain. They are primarily designed to keep you dry and thus great to wear on top of your winter clothing. Opt for a down jacket for very cold winter weather hiking. A down jacket has been insulated with soft and warm under feathers from geese or duck. As such, they are specially designed to trap warm air and retain heat. This Marmot's women down puffer jacket is a great choice for hikers, snowshoers, and skiers.
Made by: Marmot
That’s it for our best hiking gear recommendations! If you want more hiking inspiration, check out our page on travel gear with 40+ ideas including: filled with travel essentials, adventure gear, camera gear, travel electronics, and more. Or check out our camping gear packing list.
Also, make sure to check out our free camping checklist so you’ve got everything you need for your next multi-day hiking/camping adventure. Enjoy the great outdoors!
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