A Beginner Hikers Packing Guide

Updated: May 17, 2021

At this point in my life, I would definitely classify myself as a moderate to moderate advanced hiker. My parents got me into hiking at a very young age, and while I kind of strayed away from hiking while I was in college, after graduating I have quickly picked it right back up. Throughout my life, I've hiked different types of mountains, tackled different elevation gains, hiked easy, moderate, and difficult trails, experienced air changes, etc. Whether it's a walk around my local park, or hiking around the mountains of Colorado, I always make sure to pack a backpack full of my essentials. If you've already read my "Airplane Essentials" post, most of this stuff is pretty similar. Of course everybody is different with what they prefer to bring, and the list will vary depending on several different factors such as weather, type, length, and difficulty of the hike, terrain, etc. but these are some of the things I feel are essential that I always try and remember to bring on any day hike I go on. The most important thing is to have any sort of sturdy pack...I used to use a basic black JanSport backpack, but now I use the JanSport Hatchet Outdoor Backpack . So now, let's get on with the list! ( I will try my best to find specific links to items)



Snacks and Water

These might be two of the most important things I always have with me. I almost always use my Nalgene, Hydroflask or some sort of insulated, metal water bottle especially if I'm hiking on a hotter day. Depending on the length, and intensity of the hike and the temperature outside, I typically bring one to two 32oz water bottles, and for more extreme conditions, I'll usually pack a Gatorade or something with electrolytes with me as well. For most hikes I also try and pack some sort of Granola or Protein bar, some of my favorites are Protein One bars, Belvita bars, or Nature Valley granola bars. Some other snacks I typically pack are some sort of fruit like a banana or an apple, or goldfish.


First Aid

This is also another extremely important thing I always make sure to have with me. At the absolute minimum, I like to have a at least a few bandaids, and usually an extra t-shirt in my bag. I also keep a mini bottle of hand sanitizer on hand. However, I typically keep my first aid kit in my bag with me. You can find these literally anywhere, and there are so many varieties! The one I personally keep with me has bandaids, gauze pads, wraps, different ointments, aspirin/advil, gloves, aluminum blankets, sting relief, burn cream, and so much more! I also keep at least one extra layer and gloves in my pack, especially in the colder months.


Hair Accessories

I always keep extra hair ties, bobby pins, and usually a headband in case my hair tie breaks or I need to get my hair out of my face. I also love wearing hats, beanies if it's cold out and baseball caps if it's a sunnier day.


Cellphone

This is a pretty obvious one, and I know most people have their phones with them anyway, but this is another very important thing to pack when going for a hike. Not only can you track your distance and health stats, but you can also call for help heaven forbid, or use your phone as a compass if you get lost. I personally use the app AllTrails to track all of my hikes, and as a guide for my trails.


Sunscreen / Bug Spray

I always keep at least a little tube of face sunscreen in my bag no matter what the season. Of course if I'm going on a longer hike in the summer I usually pack a bottle of spray sunscreen also. Bug spray is also very important, especially if your hike includes walking through the woods or if you live somewhere where it can get hot and muggy. Some bugs can carry diseases, and they're just overall annoying, so I like to keep this on hand.


Safety Items

Another super important packing category!! I have recently started doing some solo hikes, and as a 23 year old female, that is not alwsys the safest, so I like to make sure I'm prepared. (I will make a whole post on my experience as a female solo hiker). Regardless, safety is always a priority, so these are some important items to keep with you, and have very easily accessible. First I keep 3 safety whistles with me (my mom went a little overboard on Xmas). I typically keep one in my pocket, one tied to the loop of my backpack, and then one in the front pocket. These whistles are super loud and super high pitched, and I also keep the whistle blowing guide for emergency whistle sound in my backpack too. Next I keep pepperspray handy, and if I am going to an area known for bears, I will also bring a canister of bear spray. Luckily, I have never encountered a bear yet, but I have definitely seen bear feces, and tufts of fur along trails I've hiked, so you can never be too safe there! I also keep a pocket knife with me both for safety and just in case I need to cut stray branches blocking the way. Lastly, I keep what's called a "birdie". My old roommate actually just got this for me for Xmas, but you carry it with you and when you pull the pin and point it in the direction of somebody it flashes a super bright flashing light in their face as well as acts as a safety alarm.


Lighting

These are super important to have if you like to do sunrise/sunset hikes where you might start or end the hike in the dark, but I also keep a small flashlight and a battery operated headlamp in my pack with me too.


Trail Maps

This is another super important thing to keep with you! As I mentioned above, I almost always use the app AllTrails when I'm hiking, and follow that as a guide. However, AllTrails does drain your battery, and I don't always have service where I'm hiking so I always also try to keep a paper copy of the trail map as a backup. Some trailheads and visitor centers will have paper maps, but they are also typically very easy to find online and print ahead of time!


Miscellaneous

Some other random things I keep with my typically in my pack are whatever book I'm reading at the moment, a rag of some sort, my trail journal with a pen, and my camera (I use the Canon t7i)


As I mentioned above, I am definitely not an expert hiker, but these are the essentials I always try and bring with me on any hike I go on. Some of my essentials vary depending on the duration and intensity of the hike, but for the most part, this is almost always what I have on hand. Thanks for reading, and always remember, never stop exploring!

-nicole elizabeth

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