hiking gear checklist

My Best Hiking Gear List

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 free gear and/or money for a review, and I don’t do it. I think that’s a slippery slope and I’d rather just use my own money to be able to look at hiking gear objectively. I also don’t work for REI, but I highly recommend them.  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.

In This Guide

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.

camelback fourteener 24

The best hydration daypack out there. The CamelBak Fourteener has 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.

CamelBak Fourteener Reviews and Prices

recommended hiking boot

My favorite hiking boot 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

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

garmin fenix 5x

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 a review on the Fenix 3HR model and am working on a long term review of the Fenix 5x now (coming soon, subscribe for an update). If you read the Fenix 3HR review, it will give you a good idea of what the the Fenix 5x can do, but it doesn’t have maps (but you can follow routes).

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:

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

Garmin inreach review

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.