Hiking Essentials

Whether you’re hiking familiar trails or exploring new horizons, you need the right equipment. This article on hiking essentials covers everything from backpacks to waterproof matches.

Hiking 101

Hitting the trail can boost your mood, fitness and energy level, but you’ll want to pack all the essentials to ensure a safe, enjoyable adventure. To start, you should wear comfortable hiking boots and layered, breathable clothing for maximum comfort. In case of wet weather or an unexpected overnight stay, you should also bring rain gear and a blanket. Other necessities include a backpack, sun protection, water bottle, flashlight, knife, multi-tool and first-aid kit. There nothing like spending time in the great outdoors, especially when you're prepared for whatever lies in your path.

Types of Hiking Equipment



Before setting out, it’s best to buy a map of the trail you intend to explore to determine how long your hike will take and what to bring with you. You should also pick up a magnetic compass and learn how to navigate with a compass and map. Another option is a handheld GPS navigator or a satellite-based communication device. You could also use a smartphone to download a topographical map of the hiking trail. Keep in mind that electronic devices require battery power and good reception, so the map and compass are always a good backup.

Clothes and Boots

What you wear will depend on the terrain, temperature and time of day, but be prepared for any kind of weather. Your best bet is to layer breathable fabrics to keep you warm while preventing overheating, which can cause dehydration, hypothermia or heat exhaustion. Start with underclothing next to your skin to wick away sweat, followed by cotton clothing and an insulated jacket. Bring additional hiking & camping apparel such as rain gear, hats, gloves, socks and thermal emergency blankets. Comfortable footwear is a must, so look for well-fitted, waterproof hiking shoes or boots that will go the distance.

Backpacks and Knapsacks

When choosing backpacks or knapsacks for you and your family, consider type, fit, capacity, comfort and features. For single-day hikes when you're packing a light load, a frameless, soft-backed knapsack is best. For longer hikes and heavier loads, frame packs made of aluminum or plastic are ideal because they position the contents close to your spine. This offloads the weight onto your hips and makes it easier on your back. When packing, place heavier objects low and close to your spine. This simple trick will help balance the load, and keep you steady on your feet on the most demanding trails. You should also look for backpacks that have external pockets to stash things like snacks and sunscreen for easy access throughout the day. 

Sun Protection

Wide-brimmed hats, lip balm, sunglasses and sunscreen will help prevent sunburn. You should apply sunscreen regularly to all exposed areas, including the neck, ears and face — more frequently if you’re skin is wet from sweat or rain. Be sure to use a fragrance-free sunscreen to avoid attracting bugs in woodsy areas. Anyone particularly sensitive to the sun’s rays should consider UV-protective clothing, long-sleeved shirts and long pants. These will also help guard against bug bites, ticks and poison ivy.


A good-quality flashlight or headlamp with extra batteries and bulbs is essential for trekking in deep woods and after dark, and could be a lifesaver if injury or inclement weather turns your day hike into an overnight stay. LED headlamps have the advantage of providing bright, long-lasting light while keeping your hands free. Lightweight glow sticks can also come in handy as an emergency backup, providing several hours of power to illuminate the trail. Battery-operated candles and votives are a hiking-friendly option to light up an impromptu camp area. 

First Aid

It’s important to pack a well-stocked first aid kit to deal with any accidents or emergencies. Your first aid kit should contain all the basics: gauze pads, bandages, tweezers, scissors, adhesive tape and scissors plus antiseptic wipes and antibacterial ointment for blisters, bites, cuts and scrapes. You should also bring any specific medications or antihistamines you may need to take during your hike. Whether you’re on a short day hike or a longer trek into unfamiliar territory, knowing you're prepared will allow you to feel more relaxed and in control.

Communication Tools

It’s a smart idea to bring a fully charged cellphone for emergency situations, but keep it turned off and stored away in a waterproof case. If you have a smartphone, learn how to use the GPS for relay to rescue teams in the event of emergency. You should also pack some old-school signaling tools like flares and whistles in case your battery dies or reception is poor.

Hiking Tools

A good utility knife with a quality blade can be an indispensable tool for preparing food, administering first aid or cutting branches to build a shelter or fire. A camping multi-tool with scissors for cutting first-aid gauze, tweezers for pulling thorns and eating utensils is also recommended. Quick repair items like safety pins and duct tape can also be useful for patching up torn clothing or broken backpacking gear.

Survival Kit

Hiking can be unpredictable, so it's best to pack a survival kit with items such as a knife, snare wire and fire starters like waterproof matches, flint strikers or magnesium fire starter. In high-altitude areas, snowy conditions or zones where firewood is nonexistent, consider carrying a lightweight, portable camping stove for emergency heat. 

Nutrition & Hydration

You’ll want to carry enough food to keep you energized for the whole hike. Keep in mind that you’ll be burning extra calories so you'll have a healthy appetite. Pack non-perishable foods like granola, jerky, trail mix, nuts, dried fruit and high-energy bars for a good balance of carbs, protein and fat. Be sure to eat regularly (vs. only when hungry) to keep your energy up. Drink at least two litres of water before you start your hike, and carry at least two litres with you in one or more water bottles. You should bring even more if hiking in very hot weather, dry environments or high altitudes. Drink up regularly along your route to avoid dehydration, which can quickly lead to weakness, dizziness and fainting. It’s also a good idea to bring a portable water filter or water purification tablets to allow you to drink from lakes or streams in an emergency.

Hiking Safety Tips:

• Always tell someone where you’re going and when you’re expected back
• Always travel in pairs or groups, with at least one experienced hiker in the mix if possible
• Carry a whistle for signaling and use a distress call (three short blasts in timed intervals of one to five minutes and in different directions) if you’re in need of rescue
• To avoid ticks, wear light clothing, hiking socks and shoes; use DEET repellent and check your body thoroughly at the end of the day
This article is intended as general information. Always be sure to read and follow the label(s)/instruction(s) that accompany your product(s). Walmart will not be responsible for any injury or damage caused by this activity.



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