Best Hiking Gear 2023
Don’t waste your money on hiking gear that’s no good; I’ve already done that for you! I only recommend hiking gear that I've used over hundreds of miles. I don't do any paid or sponsored reviews, and I don't waste your time with gear that doesn't make the cut. This is only the good stuff.
Last updated February 2023.
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Primary Winter 2023 Hiking Gear
There's more detail below, but for a quick glance at what I'm using all the time now and why, here it is.
- Altra Lone Peak 6 Shoes ( REI | Amazon ) - These are the most comfortable trail shoes that I keep coming back to after trying out many other options. I wear them with a heavier sock when it gets cold out.
- Garmin Mini 2 Satellite Communicator ( Amazon | REI ) - The Mini 2 lets me share my location and status with family using a text message. If I get into trouble, I can text back and forth with SOS/911.
- Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles ( REI | Amazon ) - Trekking poles are a godsend on slippery and steep slopes, and stream crossings. The Trail Ergo are light, and the cork works well with sweaty hands,
- Gaia GPS App ( HikingGuy Premium Discount ) - Gaia GPS is a great way to get my hike track (a GPX) off the internet and synced to my phone. I use a premium membership to save maps offline. I also use it to plan my hikes before hitting the trail.
- Garmin Epix Gen 2 ( REI | Amazon ) - These watches are pricey but something to use 24/7. I use this for sleep tracking, workouts, heart rate, and for tracking my hike. It has preloaded hiking maps that help me navigate my hike.
- Gregory Zulu 30 ( REI | Amazon ) - Now that it's getting cooler this 30l pack is big enough for all my layers, and the trampoline back still keeps my back dry when I sweat. It's rugged and handles anything and everything that I throw at it.
Use your gear at home first on a simple walk and get used to it before you take it out on the trail. Unboxing and setting up at the trailhead is usually a recipe for bad times.
Smartphones are not backcountry instruments, but almost everyone has one today. And they all have GPS on board. So I recommend getting a good GPS hiking app like Gaia GPS that supports offline maps. Just make sure to put your phone in airplane mode so the battery doesn't drain. Gaia GPS not only has smartphone and tablet apps, but also an online planning tool. You can drag the GPX hike tracks from my (or any) guides into the online map and they will sync to your phone. You can also check for wildfires, weather, snow, and choose from dozens of map types with a premium membership.
Download Gaia GPS - HikingGuy Premium Discount
How to Use Gaia GPS
My Favorite Map Layers
How to Read a Topo Map
Another option for a dedicated GPS is to have a mapping smartwatch. They're not cheap, but they include topographic maps, an accurate GPS, altimeter, and compass. The watch is also a fitness tracker, sleep tracker, can load other apps, etc. It's like an Apple Watch but built for outdoors enthusiasts and athletes (and has buttons instead of a touchscreen - much better for the outdoors). The new Garmin Fenix 7 came out, but I prefer the better screen on the new Epix (Gen2), and the multi-band GPS can't be beat. If you want something similar without the maps, try the Garmin Instinct 2.
Epix Prices: REI | Amazon
Garmin Instinct 2 Prices: REI | Amazon
Epix & Fenix 7 Review
Garmin InReach Mini 2
I'm a firm believer in carrying a satellite communications device which works where cell phones don't. I use a Garmin InReach Mini 2 which lets me send text messages back and forth to my family to let them know that I'm okay or if my plans change when I'm out in the backcountry. It also has an SOS function so that you can reach first-responders in an emergency. The devices also offer weather reports, GPS, and navigation functionality (what's the difference between a GPS and satellite communicator?). For a few hundred bucks they could save your life, so for me it's a no brainer to have something like a Garmin InReach. If you use a smartphone to navigate and want a more affordable option that integrates with your phone easily, check out the ZOLEO.
Latest Prices: Amazon | REI
My Mini 2 Review Here
ZOLEO Review Here
Garmin GPSMAP 66
Why get a dedicated GPS unit? The interface might not be as slick as a new smartphone, but a GPS like this is built for the outdoors, works in heavy rain, and with gloves on. You can also get more granular control over your track recording and navigation. The GPSMAP 66i includes inReach satellite communications. If you don't need inReach and just want a solid purpose-built GPS, I'd go for the highly-accurate GPSMAP 66sr.
GPSMAP 66i Prices: REI | Amazon
GPSMAP 66i Review
GPSMAP 66sr Prices: REI | Amazon
GPSMAP 66sr Review
How to Use Your Garmin
As good as electronic navigation is these days, it's all dependent on having power and your device not breaking. As a backup, you should always carry a paper map. Paper is also handy when you want to make some decisions in a larger format—spreading out a paper map and understanding the landscape as a whole blows away scrolling a screen any day. Put it in a ZipLoc bag to keep it safe. These are the maps that I like.
National Geographic Trail Maps: REI | Amazon
Tom Harrison Cartography: REI | Amazon
Suunto M-3 D Leader Compass: REI | Amazon
Gregory Zulu 30 & Jade 28
After testing quite a few backpacks, the Gregory Zulu 30 (and Jade 28 for women) is, for most hikers, the best all-season day pack. First off, it's very comfortable, and the mesh "trampoline" back keeps your back dry. Its 30L capacity is enough for all the essentials and plenty of layers for winter hiking. External pockets make it easy to grab gear. It's hard to find something wrong with the pack; if anything, it could be a bit lighter, but overall, it's not heavy. And its price-point makes it not only affordable but generally a great value.
Women's Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
Men's Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
My Review Here
Osprey Hikelite 18
On shorter hikes and ones in the summer, I opt for a smaller and lighter pack. With a smaller load, I don't need hip belts to distribute the weight, and I can take them off this pack. It carries a bladder inside and can also have bottles on the side pockets. The 18 version is big enough for my essentials and some layers without extra space flopping around. I love the trampoline back, which lifts the pack off my back and keeps it dry. At 1.5 lbs, it's the lightest small day pack I've found with a trampoline back.
Amazon | Osprey
My Review Here
Altra Lone Peak 6
For most people, the Altra Lone Peak is a solid choice that will leave your feet feeling great at the end of any hike. The feel is cushy and light, and if it had a car equivalent, this would be a Cadillac or Mercedes Sedan. The grip is great and they're reasonably durable for this type of trail runner, which I think is better in most conditions than a hiking boot, and here's why. The downside of this shoe is that it won't last as long as something like a hiking shoe. I've been using mine for many miles and my feet always feel great. I have a video on the details of the Altra Lone Peak 6 here.
Women's Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
Men's Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
Topo Athletic Terraventure 3
If you want all the features of a shoe like the Altra Lone Peak, but with some more durability (at the expense of a little comfort), the Terraventure is perfect. To understand how these perform and what the differences are, watch my video on them here.
Latest Price on Women's Shoe - REI | Amazon
Latest Price on Men's Shoe - REI | Amazon
HOKA Stinson ATR 6
When you need something really cushy and forgiving, these HOKAs are a great option. They're also good if you need to hike long distances and your feet are not used to putting in that kind of distance. They do have some drawbacks, and I recommend checking out my 300 mile review and why I wore them. I've found these HOKAs are the best of all the HOKA options for hiking.
Latest Price on Women's Shoe - REI | Amazon
Latest Price on Men's Shoe - REI | Amazon
HOKA Speedgoat Mid 2 GTX Hiking Boots
I don't wear these a lot, but when the conditions are right, they're great. I find that these mid-cuff and water-resistant shoes are great for cold days in the snow. The GORE-TEX keeps the moisture out, my feet stay comfy and dry, and they're extremely comfortable.
Latest Price on Women's Shoe - REI
Latest Price on Men's Shoe - REI
General Hiking Gear
Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork Trekking Poles
I've gone back and forth on trekking poles, but I think for most people they are a good investment. They help you dig in on the uphills, provide stability on loose downhills, act as a brace when crossing streams, and can probably poke away aggressive wildlife in a pinch. The Trail Ergo Cork poles are a good balance of light weight, durability, affordability, and ease of use. If you want something ultralight and a little more pricey, I've had great luck with the Black Diamond Z Poles too.
Trail Ergo Poles: REI | Amazon
Z-Poles: REI | Amazon
- Petzl Actik Core Headlamp ( REI | Amazon )
The Actik Core a very bright, yet lightweight, headlamp that is rechargeable but also can take AAA batteries. I always carry a headlamp (and some extra AAAs) in case I get stuck out after dark.
- America the Beautiful Pass (aka the National Parks Pass) ( REI )
It gets you free admission everywhere you need a pass in the USA outside of state and local parks (National Forest Service, National Park Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management and Bureau of Reclamation). Also works instead of an Adventure Pass. Worth its weight in gold. Buy through REI and they'll donate 10% of sales to the National Park Foundation.
- Sawyer Squeeze Water Filter System ( REI | Amazon )
Katadyn BeFree Collapsible Water Filter Bottle ( REI | Amazon )
Even if I carry clean water with me in my backpack, I'll have some kind of filtration system as well in case that I need more water. If I have clear streams available, I'll use the Katadyn BeFree. If the water is more sketchy or variable, I'll take the Sawyer Squeeze, which attaches nicely to a SmartWater bottle that you can get in any convenience store. They're both light and effective, and just work. Some people report the BeFree ripping, but I haven't had that problem after hundreds of hours of hiking with it.
- Gregory 3D Hydro 3L Reservoir ( REI | Amazon )
When I don't have to filter water I use clean water in a hydration bladder. I like the Gregory because it's easy to fill, close, and has a quick release so you can take it out of the pack and refill without having to snake the hose out. Just don't bite too hard or chew on the valve, which can break it (it's a cheap replacement if you do). I've got some tips for your hydration bladder in this video.
- Ultralight Trowel ( REI | Amazon )
I carry this lightweight and effective trowel in case of "an emergency." It stays in a Zip-Loc bag along with a small roll of single-ply toilet paper and hand sanitizer. It's light and makes life easier when you need it. Some people also carry a bidet that fits on your water bottle.
- Counter Assault Bear Deterrent Spray ( REI | Amazon )
Most of the time you don't need bear spray, but in some places it's prudent or necessary. It's also good on mountain lions and people. If you have anxiety about creatures in the wild, I'd suggest reading my guide to bears and my guide to mountain lions. The more you understand, the better off you'll be.
- Mini USB Battery Charger ( Amazon )
The nice thing about carrying USB devices like my phone, GPS, camera, and headlamp, is that I just need one battery pack to charge them. New technology has made these smaller and lighter than ever. I use this model as a backup for day hikes and on overnight backpacking trips. Grab a short cable to charge what you need.
- Insect Head Net ( Amazon )
These head nets look really silly, but they are a lifesaver and have saved me from insanity many times. There's nothing as maddening as climbing a mountain, sweating, and swatting gnats out of your face. I carry this with me all the time just in case.
- Individual Packs of Picaridin Insect Repellent ( Amazon )
I carry a few of these little lotion packets with me in my backpack and use them if I encounter insects. It's easier than putting on repellent before every hike. I just use it when I need it. I also have had great luck with Ben's insect repellants.
- Osprey Pack Liners ( Amazon )
I never had great luck with pack covers, but pack liners work great at keeping everything dry when it gets wet outside. And having your gear inside the liner makes it easy to switch packs if you change it up once and while. If you don't want to invest in a liner, use a trash or contractor bag.
- Nutritionally Dense & Healthy Snacks
Generally I'll bring a bag of salted nuts, which take care of cramping and nutrition at the same time. I also like Probars, which are sweeter than nuts but still full of healthy calories. And I'll carry a few Muir Energy Gels, which are the healthy and tasty equivalent of your standard (nutritionally horrible) gels.
- Electrolyte Chews ( REI )
I keep a few of these with me in the summer, and if I'm sweating a lot, I'll pop one in my mouth. It helps me avoid cramps or any kind of weird bonks from the heat.
- REI Membership ( REI )
For $30 you get up to 10% on everything for life. It's a no-brainer.
Survival / Emergency Gear
I carry a few items in the bottom of my pack in case of an emergency. The idea is that you can make yourself comfortable in case you need to stay out after dark and wait for rescue. Or if you need to signal a rescue without your InReach device.
- Emergency Bivvy ( REI )
This is a lightweight sleeping sack that can help protect me from the elements and keep me warm. If you want extra warmth, simply stuff it with leaves or pine needles.
- SOL Fire Lite Fuel-Free Lighter ( REI | Amazon )
This lighter is amazing. It's a USB charging, weatherproof, no-fuel lighter that burns very hot. There's also an emergency flashlight and cord that you can use to start a fire. And it weighs less than 2oz. I'll also carry a cheap Bic lighter as a backup.
- Zpacks Titanium Micro-Blade Knife ( Zpacks )
I used to carry a small Swiss Army knife, but I never actually used things like the corkscrew out on the trail. Now I carry this mini blade that weighs about as much as a potato chip.
- Satellite Communicator ( All Reviews Here )
A satellite communicator lets you text in the backcountry, where you have no cell phone signal. There is a subscription fee, like a cell phone, but if there is an accident, you have access to search and rescue. These things are worth every cent to me and I highly recommend carrying one. At the top of the guide I have some communicator recommendations. I consider it a key piece in my emergency arsenal.
Most sternum straps on backpacks include a whistle these days, which you should be blowing if you think a rescue is close. Otherwise just grab a cheap one from the dollar store and keep it in a hip belt.
- Basic Medical Kit
I have a small roll of Leukotape for cuts or blisters. And then I combo that with a gauze pad, small Neosporin packets, and small alcohol wipe packages. Consider taking a NOLS Wilderness First Aid course.
- Suunto M-3 D Leader Compass ( REI | Amazon )
Although I know how to navigate with a compass, I don't often do it these days because between my phone and GPS unit, there's not a big need. But I have a solid compass in my pack in case I need to go there. This Suunto is light and good quality. Not something I'd use if navigating all the time by compass, but great if I need it in a pinch.
- Petzl e+LITE Emergency Headlamp ( Amazon )
Light is really important, so I carry a backup headlamp. This Petzl model is super-light, small, and has a whistle.
I don't like to have a lot of crap in my closet, so I just invest in a few key pieces of hiking clothing. In general I like clothing from REI and Kuhl. They fit well, are built for hikers, and wick/dry quickly.
This is what I use on the trail:
- KUHL Renegade Convertible Pants ( REI )
Columbia Silver Ridge Convertible Pants ( REI | Amazon )
I mostly use my pants as shorts, and I have the option for full pants if it's cooler or I if want to protect my legs from brush.
- Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Hoodie ( REI )
KUHL Engineered Hoodie ( REI )
I switched to hoodies as my all-around layer and am really happy with all they have to offer. I can use it on cool mornings, hot days, or under a rain jacket. If you're going to carry a layer, you mind as well have a hood for some extra warmth or sun protection if you need it.
- REI Co-op Sahara T-Shirt ( REI )
I go with a lightweight shirt as a base layer that wicks moisture and stays cool. If I need to be warmer, I'll pile some layers on top.
- Black Diamond StormLine Stretch Rain Shell ( REI | Amazon )
REI Co-op XeroDry GTX Pants ( REI )
A shell jacket and pants go in my pack just in case. Obviously they are great for rain, but they're also great to have in a pinch if it gets cool out, especially when combined with layers. The Black Diamond shell is good, but if price is no object, the Arc'teryx Beta AR Jacket ( REI ) is the move.
- Patagonia Nano Puff Jacket ( REI )
A very lightweight puffer jacket that you can stuff in your pack and have for cool nights or cold summits. This Patagonia model has some room in the armpits so that you can move around with a pack on.
- Smartwool NTS Merino 150 Beanie ( REI | Amazon )
I keep this light beanie in my pack and use to keep warm when temperatures drop.
- adidas Superlite Performance Visor ( Amazon )
For me the visor keeps the sweat out of my eyes, gives me shade to see, and lets the heat escape. When it gets cold, I'll just throw the beanie on top of this.
- Oakley Sunglasses ( REI )
I only sometimes wear sunglasses because I enjoy the natural colors of the outdoors. But when I'm hiking in harsh conditions like the desert or snow, I can get photokeratitis (snow blindness), and it's no fun trying to navigate or use the inReach when your vision isn't 100%. I like the Oakleys because they're light, shatterproof, and leave my eyes feeling great.
- Sunday Afternoons Ultra Adventure Storm Hat ( REI | Amazon )
I use this for shade on really hot hikes and also in heavy rain. I recently used it during non-stop rainy days in Olympic National Park and it made my life much nicer. Versatile, light, packs flat, and completely worth it.
- ExOfficio Give-N-Go 2.0 Boxer Briefs ( REI | Amazon )
These underwear are light, quick-drying, and don't ride up as you walk. They just work well.
- Darn Tough Hiking Socks ( REI | Amazon )
Darn Tough has a great reputation for a reason. They dry fast, don't cause blisters, and have a lifetime guarantee. They work great for me and it's a no-brainer.
- NRS HydroSkin Wet Socks ( REI | Amazon )
Wet socks are good for keeping feet warm in wet weather, and are also great to wear on cool nights when you're camping. Check out this video if you're planning on hiking in the rain.
Winter Hiking Gear
- Kahtoola MICROspikes ( REI | Amazon )
When there's a chance of snow or ice, I'll take these micro-spikes. I keep them in a little stuff sack so that if they come off, they don't get everything dirty.
- REI Co-op Activator 3.0 Pants ( REI )
These are great for cold weather days. They're durable, warm, and stretchy.
- REI Co-op Midweight Base Layer Half-Zip Top ( REI )
REI Co-op Midweight Base Layer Bottoms ( REI )
Darn Tough Mountaineering Socks ( REI )
When it's cold I just take these heavier layers and combine them with my normal hiking gear. There's no need to buy special winter gear unless you plan on spending a lot of time snowshoeing or winter hiking. Combining layers with good shells will usually do the trick.
- REI Co-op Minimalist GTX Mittens 2.0 ( REI )
Black Diamond WindWeight Convertible Mittens ( REI )
I'm a convert to mittens over gloves. If it's rainy or cool, I'll just go with the shell mittens. And then if it's going to be colder, I'll wear the fleece mittens underneath. Or cold and dry, I'll just go with the fleece.
I don't do very long thru-hiking; my longest trips are usually 4-5 days. Generally I like to keep things light without buying specialized (and expensive) ultralight gear. Here's what works well for me.
- Osprey Exos / EJa 58 Pack
This is a popular backpack with thru-hikers for a good reason: it's light, durable, and roomy. This pack only weighs a fraction more than my daypack (under 3lbs) and carries 58 liters, enough for a long trip. I appreciate the fact that it's a little roomier for my 3-5 day backpacking trips and easily fits a bear canister. I don't have to jam everything in there like a puzzle. And the back is well-ventilated so it doesn't become a soaked mess.
Osprey Exos 58: REI | Amazon
Osprey Eja 58: REI | Amazon
- Hyperlite 3400 Southwest ( REI | Hyperlite )
When the conditions are sloppy or wet and I'm not so worried about keeping my back vented (aka rainy or cold situations), I go with the 3400 Southwest, which is a 55l pack. Hyperlite has a stellar reputation in the ultralight world, and this pack is not only light, but also very tough. I get the black model, which is a little thicker and doesn't show dirt. I would use this all the time, but the back is not vented, and when I do hot hikes in the summer, the Osprey venting is much nicer.
- Big Agnes Copper Spur HV UL2 Tent ( Amazon | REI )
This is another top pick of PCT hikers, which is where I learned about it. And now I just love it. It's easy to set up, roomy, light, and durable. If you take the tent components out of the bag and put them in my backpack individually, and it packs down to nothing.
- Kammok Mantis Ultralight All-in-One Hammock Tent ( REI )
When I'm backpacking in an area with trees I'll usually use a hammock, and this one is the best. Everything is light and fits together in a single bag. It even has a bug net built-in (which is removable).
- Sea to Summit Ember Ultralight 25F Down Quilt ( REI )
NEMO Disco 15 Sleeping Bag ( REI )
I love both of these sleep systems, and I switch between them when I head out camping. I'll usually bring the quilt when it's a little warmer and if I want to be able to use it more like a blanket. When I know that I just want to be warm, the sleeping bag keeps more heat in but is a little more constrictive. Both are very light and pack down small.
- Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xtherm Sleeping Pad ( REI | Amazon )
This inflatable pad is slightly more expensive than most but it's worth it. It's very comfortable and about as light as you can get.
- NEMO Fillo Elite Luxury Pillow ( REI | Amazon )
I used to be a tough guy and just put clothes in a stuff sack for a pillow, but I've mellowed out in my old age. This pillow is worth the few extra ounces. My quality of sleep is much better.
- Sea To Summit Thermolite Reactor Extreme Bag Liner ( REI | Amazon )
A liner is another piece of gear that I have adopted lately. It means I don't have to wash my quilt and adds extra warmth. In the summer I just use this without anything else and it's great.
- Jetboil Flash Cooking System ( REI | Amazon )
I've been using a Jetboil since 2006, and it's great. It's simple, heats water quickly, and just works. I tried a MiniMo version for a while, but went back to the full-size Flash model because it's easy to store the fuel canister and parts inside the cup without any tricky moves.
- Sea to Summit Alpha Light Spork - Long ( REI | Amazon)
I keep it simple. I boil water then dump it in the freeze-dried food bag, let soak, and then eat out of there with this long spork.
- Bear Vault BV425 ( BearVault | REI | Amazon )
Ursack Allmitey ( REI )
Z-Packs Bear Hang Kit ( ZPacks )
If you're not familiar with protecting your food in the backcountry or which option to use, I recommend reading my guide to bear safety while camping, it may be helpful. If you want to know how much food fits in a bear canister or Ursack, watch this video and this video.
- Cheap-o Lightweight Flip Flops
Don't forget to pack comfy sandals for when your hike is over. Beats walking on sticks and rocks barefoot in the middle of the night when you have to pee. I just get cheap ones with the foam bottoms, which pack flat and weigh next to nothing. You can usually find them in a drugstore or dollar store.
Post Hike Recovery
- Kane Revive Active Recovery Shoes ( Kane ) - I recently started wearing the Kane Revive to my hikes and after the hike, and I love them. I'm not sure about the active recovery properties, but they're comfy, let my foot breathe, and fit securely enough to drive in (unlike flip-flops). I have runner friends who swear by these and so far so good for me too.
- Trigger Point Performance GRID X Foam Roller ( REI | Amazon )
It looks hokey but rolling your back and legs on this thing does wonders.
- Pro-Tec Athletics Spiky Ball Massage Ball ( REI | Amazon )
It's basically a dog toy but just spending a minute or two rolling your feet on this little ball makes them feel great.
- NUUN Active Tabs Hydration Tablets ( REI | Amazon )
Pop one in a big water bottle to make sure all your electrolytes and minerals are topped up. There's no sugar or crap, just the stuff you need.
- GCI Kickback Rocker ( REI | Amazon | GCI )
This is a really comfortable and durable chair that I keep with me for relaxing after a hike. I also use it around the house. For the price it's a really good value.