A hiker stands on the ledge above a cliff in Tasmania.

What To Bring On A Hike: Expert Advice for Day Trips and Extended Treks

Knowing what to bring on a hike can be hard when you’re just starting out. It can all seem foreign, confusing, and overwhelming. That’s what this guide is for. To simplify what you need, help steer you in the right direction for top gear, and give you tips for hiking safety and finding awesome hikes.

Let’s dive in, shall we?

The Things to Bring On A Hike

Mid-sized Hiking Pack

When it comes to what to bring on a hike, your backpack is one of the most essential pieces of gear. You want to make sure it is comfortable and can carry the rest of your hiking gear.

Now, for size, what’s a good way to choose what to bring on a hike?

Trail Running: If you plan to trail run, opt for a running vest that can hold water, maybe some snacks, and a light jacket. I have this one and find it to be awesome. It has a little more space, but I got it for doing something like the Grand Canyon, where I might need to store an extra layer and food.

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Short Day Hikes: If you are only planning to do short hikes, aim for a hiking backpack in the 15-20L area. These will hold your essentials and not weigh you down.

Longer Day Hikes: If you have your eyes set on 6 to 15-mile days, look for a backpack over 26L but probably close to the 32L range. This will give you plenty of room for food, snacks, extra hiking gear, and extra layers.

Hat and Sunglasses

I’m all about sun safety and protecting my face and eyes. A wide-brimmed hat and sunglasses are two crucial pieces of day hiking gear! If it covers your face, whatever you decide to bring on a hike will work!

Loose, Moisture Wicking Clothes

Since my bone marrow transplant, I’ve started wearing sun hoodies more frequently, as I’m at a higher risk for skin cancer. I’ve tried many different brands, and I really enjoy a few of them.

But overall, for short and long-sleeved hiking shirts, you’ll want them to be loose and moisture-wicking. This means to aiming for polyester (think athletic dry-fit) or wool.

Hiking Pants/Leggings/Shorts

Photo Credit: Austin Sills-Trausch

Whatever you feel comfortable with, wear that. I toggle between shorts and pants depending on the weather, bugs, and terrain I’m going through.

If there are a lot of bushes, I may opt for pants to protect my legs from getting scratched. Honestly, there is no wrong answer for what to bring on a hike!


It’s relatively self-explanatory. Grab a smaller bottle and keep it in your hiking pack to reapply on longer hikes and hot days.

Hiking Shoes

Talk about having a million options to choose from. Hiking shoes are almost as numerous as the rocks you’ll see on the trail. I could go on and on with what I think are the best shoes, but honestly, that’s up to your own preference and how they feel.

That being said, I do love my Altra Lone Peaks (Men’s here & Women’s here). I’ve been rocking them since 2019, and they are a phenomenal low-weight, high-production shoe.

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Hiking Socks

I choose wool hiking socks because they have a lower blister risk and keep my feet dry and odor-free. The standard sock size is perfect, though if you enjoy the low sock style, there are plenty of wool socks in that variety. (But I would recommend the higher sock length to keep dirt and rocks off your skin. (Mens & Womens)

Hiking Socks


It’s unnecessary if you’re going during the middle of the day, but if you plan to stay out for the sunset or your hike takes you through a dark forest, you may want these in your pack, just in case. You can usually grab a solid headlamp between $40 and $65, and it’ll last you forever.

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Hiking Poles

I don’t KNOW if you need these, but if you like to have more stability as you hike, hiking poles are for you. I usually take mine when I am backpacking, but I leave them for day hikes unless I’m crushing a lot of miles and elevation gain.

Water Filter

For many people, this isn’t necessary. You should be fine if you are tackling a short hike near home or it’s not overly warm. But if you’re doing a longer hike or it’s a hot day, bring a water filter just in case you need more to drink.

This is also a nice thing to have in emergencies.

Bug Spray

It’s totally location-dependent, but if your area is known for being buggy, throw a small bottle into your hiking bag. This will save you headaches and some pain later on.

Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Water and Snacks

Last but not least, food and water! Make sure to bring the appropriate amount of snacks and water on your hikes. This is difficult and weather-dependent, but I would suggest 2-3L of water for a six- to eight-mile hike.

On the food side, salty foods like chips or nuts, fruit, something sweet like M&Ms, and sandwiches are perfect hiking snacks.

Random other things to pack:

Hiking Safety Tips

Tell people where you’re going

Before you head out, especially if you’re going alone, tell a friend or loved one where you are going. In the worst case, this will help people know where to look for you when you don’t come home.

Carry some sort of communication device

While I carry my cell phone and a Garmin inReach Mini 2, if you are in a place with consistent cell service, that’s all you’ll need. You just need a resource to turn to in case something goes wrong, and you need to reach out to help.

Don’t push yourself too hard

This doesn’t mean you don’t do a challenging hike. It’s more along the lines of not going past your breaking point and to the point where you can get hurt.

Have a jug of water and snacks in the car post-hike

This is one that I’ve recently started doing. Just have some water and food in the car because sometimes you might use all your water on the hike, and hydrating when you drive back instead of at home can help your recovery.

Photo Credit: Austin Sills-Trausch

How to Find Great Hikes Nearby?

If you’re just getting into hiking, finding a place to go may seem daunting.

But don’t worry—it’s not too hard or stressful! The easiest ways to find hikes near you are to search “hikes near me (or insert city)” or to go to AllTrails and look up the popular hikes nearby.

You can then see which ones are close and how hard they are and begin planning what trails to tackle when you’re free!

Another great resource is to use local hiking groups or to call up REI and ask them. They will be more than happy to help point you in the right direction! If you visit an REI store, you can also ask them to help show you the gear and what to bring on a hike. They love having gear conversations!

To recap:

  • Search for hikes nearby (you can use maps or see what blogs pop up)
  • Use AllTrails
  • Call up REI or another outdoor store in your area
Photo Credit: Alec Sills-Trausch

Final Thoughts on What To Bring On A Hike

As we wrap up this ‘what to bring on a hike’ article, remember that proper preparation is key to a successful and enjoyable hiking experience.

Essential items like a reliable backpack, appropriate clothing, and sturdy footwear form the foundation of your hiking gear. Additionally, bringing along sufficient water, snacks, a map and compass, or a GPS device ensures you remain nourished and oriented throughout your journey. Don’t forget to pack a first-aid kit, a multi-tool, and some form of communication device for safety. Each item you carry serves a purpose to enhance your comfort, safety, and enjoyment of the natural surroundings.

By packing wisely, you ensure that you’re ready to face whatever the trails throw at you.

Until next time, adventurers, take care and be safe.

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Author: Alec Sills-Trausch

Title: Founder of Explore with Alec

Expertise: Hiking, Backpacking, Photography, and Road Trips

Alec Sills-Trausch is a hiker, backpacker, landscape photographer, and syndicated travel writer. He enjoys showing off the beauty of the world through his photos, videos, and written work on ExploreWithAlec.com. Alec is also a 2x cancer survivor and bone marrow transplant recipient, showing the world that there is a future from this terrible disease.

He lives in Washington, where he gets to enjoy the stunning PNW mountains in addition to all the other places he attempts to visit each year! You can see more work on IG at @AlecOutside