hiking gear checklist

My Best Hiking Gear List

In This Guide
  • Must-have gear
  • Navigation
  • Clothing
  • Camping
  • General gear
  • Planning Tools

Don’t waste your time getting hiking gear that’s not great. I spend a lot of my time on the trail testing and reviewing hiking gear in real-world scenarios, and only recommend gear that I actually use and that has passed muster*. I just skip posting or talking about anything that isn’t worth your time or money.

I take a high-tech and low-tech approach, giving you the convenience of hiking with technology while offering low-tech backups in case the fancy gear fails. Everything you see in this hiking gear list is what I use on every hike that I do. I update this page regularly when I test and use new hiking gear (subscribe to my quarterly email to get updates on gear).

This list features all the hiking gear that is worth your time, skipping the junk that you don’t need.

* Gear companies often offer me compensation in exchange for a review, and I don’t do it. I also don’t work for REI, but I highly recommend them and many of their products because they’re great.  For most gear on this site, I link to REI, and if you click on the link and purchase the item, I receive a very small affiliate commission. Think of it as an easy way to support the blog and free hiking guides. Regardless, I only recommend products or services I use personally and believe will add value to my readers.

And don’t forget, 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.

Must Have Gear

Let’s cover some essential hiking gear before we get into the details of everything in my pack. These are the pieces of hiking gear that I think are worth every ounce and dollar.

Backpack Hiking Boots On Mt Whitney
On the summit of Mt Whitney with my backpack and hiking boots.

After a long stint with my favorite backpack, I think I’ve found a new one. I’ve been using the Camelback Fourteener for the last couple of years and it’s been been perfect on day hikes of all distances (including Mt Whitney and Cactus to Clouds). It’s light, has plenty of room for snacks, extra layers, hiking gear, and comes with a 3-liter water bladder (and I can carry an extra 3L in it too for a total of 6L). I also like the raised sweat pads on the back that keep your back dry. It’s the perfect blend of high-tech, durability, and simplicity. I’ve got hundreds of hours on it and still love it. But Camelback updated the design for 2018 and it’s not quite as good. Fortunately you can still get the 2017 model on Amazon. The 2017 version is still a great pack, check out the reviews. It get’s the “Amazon’s Choice” award too.

CamelBak Fourteener Reviews and Prices

The pack that I’ve been testing out recently and loving is the REI Trail 40. It’s a little bigger than the Fourteener, but weights the same and has double the capacity, making it great for day hikes and short overnights. It doesn’t feel much bigger, and has a ton of very thoughtful options for hikers. I’m still in the process of reviewing it, but I’m pretty confident in recommending it at this point.

Women’s REI Trail 40 Reviews & Prices

Men’s REI Trail 40 Reviews & Prices

And if you want something ultralight and you won’t be doing any backcountry hikes, the Camelback Ultra 10 is great. I use it for long trail runs and short hikes in places like Runyon Canyon.

la sportive synthesis hiking boots
The La Sportiva Synthesis – my goto hiking footwear. It’s a beefed up trail running shoe: comfortable, light, and tough.

These are my favorite hiking boots of all time.  The La Sportiva Synthesis (for women and men) are waterproof, super-light, have incredible grip, and won a Backpacker Magazine Editor’s Choice Award (my review here). I’ve gone through a lot of boots, and these are my favorite. They feel like comfortable sneakers with the protection of hiking boots.

La Sportiva Hiking Boot Review & Prices

Garmin inreach review

If you ever hike out of cellphone range, you need this. The Garmin InReach allows you to send and receive text messages where cell phones don’t work using satellite technology. You can tell your family you’re okay, that you’re running late, or signal for a full blow emergency to search and rescue. It also has weather, maps, and some navigation tools. It’s worth every cent, and you can read my in-depth review here or go right to REI and read the reviews and specs.

Garmin InReach Prices & Reviews

Fenix 5x Hiking Review

I use this Fenix 5x GPS mapping watch every day.  The Garmin Fenix 5x is a GPS with topo maps that you wear on your wrist. I use it to track my hikes and also load GPX tracks onto it that I want to follow.  I don’t do a lot of on the fly planning using the maps on the watch, but I can if I need to. Outside of hiking, I use the Fenix t to track my heart rate, my sleep, all my other workouts, and it integrates with my smartphone. I have an id-depth review if you want to learn more.

Garmin Fenix 5x Prices & Reviews

Hiking Clothing

cris hazzard wears hiking clothing

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, Columbia, and Kuhl. They fit well, are built for hikers, and wick/dry quickly.

This is what I have in my closet:

Navigation Gear

hiking essential navigation
Using a GPS is easy, but know what to do when your battery dies.

Any good planner will tell you that backups and redundancy are important, and that holds true for your hiking navigation too. I recommend bringing multiple sources of navigation for your hike in case one fails or is incorrect.

Here’s what I bring:

General Hiking Gear

Camping Gear

camping gear

I don’t do really long trips, with my longest being a week. Here’s what works well for me.

Emergency Survival Kit

Here’s what I carry as my emergency hiking essentials. Most of this gear sits at the bottom of my pack, there in case of an emergency.

Planning Tools and Software

Here’s what I use when planning hikes.

Gear To Produce Hiking Guides

This is what I use to produce the content on the website.

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