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 March 2023.
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Primary Spring 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.
- Topo Athletic Terraventure 3 Shoes ( REI | Amazon ) - After using the Altra Lone Peaks for a long time, I can't recommend the new model (7). I've switched to the Terraventure, which is almost the same but slightly less soft, has a much better grip, and is more durable.
- Osprey Stratos and Sirrus 24 Daypack ( Amazon | Sirrus REI | Stratos REI ) - This pack is an excellent balance of comfort, space, and durability that will work great for almost every hiker. I've tried them all, and the Stratos is where I landed.
- 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 ) - I don't use trekking poles all the time, but they 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.
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 a recipe for bad times.
Topo Athletic Terraventure 3
I hiked in the Altra Lone Peak shoes for many years, but the new model took away some of the features that made it great. So I've moved onto the Terraventure, which, after many miles, is a much better choice and the perfect hiking shoe. It's durable, offers more protection than the Lone Peak, and, most importantly, has an incredible grip. It's well-vented and keeps your feet dry. The Terraventure has a balanced feel of trail and protection. If you want lots of cushioning, check out the HOKA below.
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 mileage. They 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
Osprey Stratos and Sirrus 24 Daypack
I test a lot of daypacks, and overall, the Stratos (men) and Sirrus (women) are the best all-around bet for day hiking. The pack is big enough to hold everything for 3-season day hikes and has many convenient pockets. But more importantly, it's the most comfortable I've tried. There's a lot of padding, it's very adjustable, and the trampoline back allows sweat to evaporate quickly (as opposed to soaking your pants). I'm also testing the new version of the Gregory Zulu 30, which was my prior pick and is redesigned. So stay tuned for a report on that.
Women's Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
Men's Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
Osprey Talon & Tempest 6 Waist Pack
When I'm doing a short hike, a backpack is an overkill. I love the feeling of having nothing on my back. With this waist pack I can carry essentials like a headlamp, inReach, and two small water bottles (cycling water bottles work great). This size seemed to be the perfect balance of space for short hikes (and bigger waist packs tended to slip down). FYI, it's not cool to call these "fanny packs" anymore as much as I want to.
Women's Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
Men's Latest Prices: REI | Amazon
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.
- 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.
Another great for a dedicated GPS is 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 hiking). 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
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
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
I'm testing the new GPSMAP 67i now.
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
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 stuff 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 ( 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 )
Outdoor Research Swift 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 ( 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.
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
- 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.
- NEMO Quasar 3D Insulated Air Sleeping Pad ( REI | Amazon )
I've found this sleeping pad to be very comfortable, especially when rolling onto my sides. It's good at insulating from the ground, packs small, and is reasonably light.
- Sea to Summit Aeros Premium 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.
- Basic Lightweight Flip Flops ( Amazon )
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.
Post Hike Recovery
- Crocs ( Amazon )
Yea, go ahead and make fun of me. I wear Crocs. They're super soft and comfortable after a long day of hiking. I use the back strap so they don't slip off while driving. Whatever you do after a hike, air your feet and give them a break from your hiking shoes.
- 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.
- Sony FX-3 ( Amazon)
- Sony FE 14mm F1.8 GM ( Amazon )
- Sony ECM-B1M Shotgun Mic ( Amazon )
- DJI Wireless Mic ( Amazon )
- Peak Design Travel Tripod ( Amazon )
- iPhone 14 Pro Max ( Amazon )
- Peak Design Everyday Backpack V2 30L ( Amazon )
- Shure MV7 ( Amazon )
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.