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“What hiking gear do I need?” is one of the questions I get asked the most. The good news is that you can hike without any special hiking gear, but having some key pieces of gear definitely helps.
If you’re starting hiking and don’t want to invest in gear, I would go with:
- Workout clothing, including comfortable sneakers
- A backpack filled with layers, a big (liter) water bottle or more, and snacks
- A printed map and/or trail guide, and if you have a smartphone, an offline maps app like GaiaGPS
If you’re enjoying hiking and want to get some key starter hiking gear, I recommend adding:
- Comfortable hiking boots
- A hydration daypack
- An emergency GPS beacon
This page has a ton of reviews for great gear that I’ve tested and use. I don’t do reviews on gear that doesn’t make the cut, so everything you see here is essentially recommended by me. You can also see a specific list of everything I use here. Just remember, you don’t need to spend a ton of money to enjoy the outdoors.
I get all my gear at REI, and here’s why.
Looking for a hiking gift? Check out my 2018 gifts for hikers guide.
All Hiking Gear
The Garmin inReach Mini packs some powerful features into s small and reasonably priced package. You can send and receive your GPS location to anyone with a text or email (or another inReach Mini) in the backcountry where your cell phone doesn’t work. You can also receive messages, allowing you to communicate with family, friends, and emergency services. Additional features on the inReach Mini allow you to get weather reports, track your trip and share with friends, and perform navigation. There are some limitations, and I’ll cover that later, but all-in-all, the inReach Mini is a solid device that I use and recommend.
The REI Trail 40 is my go-to backpack for day hikes and weekend overnights. Finding the right daypack was tough; there were a lot of options to check out. In the end, the REI Trail 40’s many positives outweighed a few minor downsides. The REI Trail 40 is as light as packs half its size, has plenty of room to store gear and is well thought out with tons of practical features for anyone hitting the trail. Oh, and it works great as a carry-on bag for travel too. Here’s why I love the REI Trail 40 after months of testing.
I’ve been testing the Garmin Fenix 5x for over 6 months now, and it’s a great watch, but it might not be worth the money for some folks. Having a topo and trail map on your wrist is incredible. And the Fenix 5x is also a very powerful tool for anyone who loves the outdoors and/or fitness, with hundreds of features. But it comes at a price, a high price that is. This review shows you all the ins-and-outs of the watch, how to use it, and how to decide whether it’s right for you.
The Garmin InReach Explorer (formerly Delorme InReach) is a must-have in your pack. Outside of owning a satellite phone, it’s one of the only ways to have two-way communications with friends, family, and emergency services outside of cell service. Its navigation functions have some flaws, but don’t get the InReach for that; it’s worth the cost just for the messaging and weather features. For a few hundred bucks, the Garmin InReach could save your life. It’s a no-brainer.
The good news is that if you own a Garmin GPS device, there’s a way to get free Garmin GPS maps. And in most cases, the free maps are much better than the expensive Garmin maps. I’m a big fan of Garmin GPS devices, but I always found it disappointing that they charged extra for maps. Garmin doesn’t publicize it, but most of their GPS units are setup to take any maps in the correct format. Here’s how to get and install these free hiking maps in an easy, step-by-step process.
The Garmin eTrex 20x is your best bet for an inexpensive, dedicated, outdoor ready hiking GPS. There are more expensive models, and smartphone alternatives, but for a lot of hikers, the eTrex 20x will give you the best bang for the buck. Here’s why I recommend it.
The ten essentials are the ten pieces of gear that every hiker should bring out when them on the trail, whether on a short hike or multi-month through hike. The ten essentials were invented in the 1930s to help people enjoy the outdoors safely. It was an era before helicopter evacuations and satellite beacons; the ten essentials were designed to help folks stay alive outside. Today the ten essentials still hold true at their core, but can be improved upon with the help of new gear and technology. Here’s my take on the hiking essentials; this is what I take on every hike and what you should too.
Note: There’s a newer model, the Fenix 5, and the review is here.
After using these for over 2 years, I can easily say that the La Sportiva Synthesis is the best hiking shoe or hiking boot that I’ve owned. This hiking shoe is lightweight, rugged, and has a great trail feel. I use it for everything now. Here’s why it’s so great.
Some other daypacks might have more bells and whistles, but the Camelbak Mule NV comes out ahead. This great hiking daypack is my goto pack for everything outdoors. Some of my buddies have other daypacks, but everyone ends up complimenting me on this great hiking daypack.
Is REI Membership worth It? It will save you 10%+ on your purchases and also has a lot of other benefits that not everyone knows about. Here’s how an REI Membership can work for you…
The Asolo Fugitive GTX hiking boot is one of the toughest and most comfortable. I’ve used them in all conditions, from desert, to mud, to snow, and they are bomb-proof. Here’s why you should get a pair.
The ACR ResQLink is the most important piece of gear you should own. The ACR ResQLink allows you, at the push of a button, to be rescued from anywhere in the world. If you don’t have it in your pack, you need to get it.