20 Must-Haves for Your Next Big Hike


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two hikers at viewpoint in mountains with lake in summer
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Whether you're in it for the exercise, scenery, or both, it's hard to beat a hike when the weather's nice. But even though it's cheap or free to hit the trails, be sure you're prepared for the great outdoors — especially if you're thinking of tackling a longer day hike that takes you farther afield. From the most practical clothing to a few in-case-of-emergency items, here are 20 things you'll want when you add more miles to your woodland wanderings.

(Note: Prices and availability subject to change.)

legs of the traveler in hiking boots with trekking poles
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The first thing that needs an upgrade when you head out for a longer hike? Your shoes, experts say. Hiking boots have more ankle support, but trail shoes are lighter and often comfier out of the box, according to REI. But either will provide more stability and traction than your average pair of sneakers, which are best left to flat, paved trails. Check out some of our budget-friendly hiking boot picks.
Women's Merrell Moab 2 Vent Low Hiking Shoes
Photo credit: Courtesy of rei.com

Price: $59.83 | Buy it at REI
These Merrells have plenty of cushioning and a Vibram outsole to provide plenty of grip in dicey conditions. Mesh panels on the upper will keep your feet nice and cool. There's also a men's version.

man wearing hiking socks with mountain scene in background
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Don't upgrade your shoes without considering your socks. Experienced hikers will tell you cotton socks are the kiss of death, since they'll trap moisture against your skin. Wool is most popular for its comfort and ability to regulate temperatures, but polyester, nylon, silk, and spandex are often in the mix, too.
Darn Tough Vermont Merino Wool Crew Socks
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Price: $19 | Buy it at Amazon
Made in Vermont, these high-density knit socks are a blend of Merino wool, nylon, and spandex — perfect for keeping feet dry while maintaining airflow. They're also backed by a lifetime guarantee. Check out the men's version, too.

young man walking up a mountain
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If cotton won't work for your feet, it's not good on the rest of your body, either. Trade that heavy T-shirt that stays soaked with sweat for something lighter and more breathable. Another great feature to look for: Built-in sun protection to shield you from the sun's powerful rays.
Eddie Bauer Women's Resolution Crew T-Shirt
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Price: $20 | Buy it at Eddie Bauer
This FreeDry polyester shirt will keep your skin cool and dry, even when you're working up a sweat. It has built-in odor control and UPF 20 sun protection to give you a little extra cover on those longer hikes. Unfortunately, the women's version is sold out.

couple with a dog hiking in forest with backpacks
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While a massive backpack is overkill for a day hike, a longer trek still demands a comfortable, reliable place to stash water, snacks, and other gear. Outdoor Gear Exchange recommends a backpack size around 20 to 30 liters for long day hikes — it should provide enough room without weighing you down.
REI Co-op Trail 25 Pack
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Price: $79.95 | Buy it at REI
At 25 liters, this backpack is the perfect size for day hikers who want to be prepared. It includes a rain cover, a removable waist belt, padded mesh-covered straps, an internal frame that helps it keep its shape, and plenty of convenient pockets to stash things you need to keep handy.

woman sitting down from hike with water bottle
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High on the list of rookie hiking mistakes? Not bringing enough water. How much you need depends on a lot of factors like temperature and terrain, but SectionHiker recommends 32 ounces every two hours as a good rule of thumb. Of course, that means you'll need a reliable bottle to keep it in.
Camelbak Chute
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Price: $15.59 | Buy it at Amazon
Carry 50 ounces in one bottle with the lightweight CamelBak Chute – though it's also available in smaller sizes. A magnet keeps the cap out of the way as you quench your thirst, and the leak-proof top means you can put it in your backpack without dousing your other gear.

group of hikers with one purifying water with water purifier
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Yes, you should bring enough water for how long you expect to be out, but it's also good to have a backup plan in case you run out. There are plenty of options, including bottles with built-in filters, purification tablets, portable stand-alone filters, and much more. As always, weight is one of the biggest concerns.
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

Price: $14.75 | Buy it at Amazon
LifeStraw will take up almost zero room in your backpack, but it can filter up to 264 gallons of water. Simply sip through the straw wherever you find a water source, or scoop up some water and use the straw to drink it later — it removes 99.9 percent of dangerous bacteria and protozoa.

woman sitting down from hike, eating protein bar with desert scenery in background
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Don't forget a little extra fuel for your long hike. The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics recommends non-perishable, nutrient-dense staples like trail mix, dried fruit, energy or granola bars, and jerky. Want a precise guide for how much food to bring? Try the Hiking Dude's calculator for a good estimate.
RXBAR Whole Food Protein Bar
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Price: $18.50 for 12 | Buy it at Amazon
It's hard to beat the convenience of a protein bar when you're on the trail. These RXBars pack in 12 grams of protein with no added sugar. They're also gluten-, dairy- and soy-free, with an ingredient list refreshingly free of crazy tongue twisters.

person hiking with headlamp through mountain aspen forest
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Even if you aren't planning on being out in the dark, a lightweight headlamp can be a big comfort if your hike takes a wee bit longer than you think it might. You'll be able to see the trail or your campsite with hands-free convenience, or call attention to yourself during an emergency.
Black Diamond Spot
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Price: $33.40 | Buy it at Amazon
This Black Diamond headlamp provides up to 300 lumens to light your way. It includes strobe and night-vision modes for increased versatility, and it requires just a tap to go from bright to dim. It's also waterproof.

female hiker putting on sunscreen
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Even the shadiest trail or most overcast skies won't protect you from all of the sun's rays, including UVA rays that penetrate the skin more deeply than UVB rays. Bottom line: Don't even think about skipping sunscreen on a long hike.
No-Ad Sport Sunscreen
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Price: $8.97 | Buy it at Walmart
Who says you have to spend big for great sun protection? SPF 50 No-AD, one of Cheapism's favorite budget sunscreens, is fragrance-free and sweat-resistant for up to 80 minutes. You can also opt for a more compact travel tube for your backpack.

female hiker putting on hat on male hiker while in forest
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Now that you've loaded up on sunscreen, don't forget the hat. A good hiking hat will shield your scalp, face, and neck from the sun, and it can provide an extra measure of protection from rain and wind if conditions go south. And don't worry about overheating: Good hiking hats are cool and breathable, with material that wicks sweat away from your forehead and neck.
Columbia Bora Bora Booney II Sun Hat
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Price: $30 | Buy it at Amazon
This one-size-fits-all sun hat is made of textured nylon poplin with built-in UPF 50 sun protection. An integrated sweat band and mesh panels will keep things cool on hot days, and an adjustable chin strap will keep the hat from slipping around too much while you move.

female and male hiker with sunglasses with mountain in background
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You might already have some sunglasses, but a typical pair of designer shades (or knock-offs) probably isn't going to cut it during a long hike. So keep your eyes — and face — happy with a lighter pair that wraps slightly around your face to keep sun from streaming in along the side. Look for polarized lenses to reduce glare.
Duduma Polarized Sports Sunglasses
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Price: $22 | Buy it at Amazon
If you're just an occasional hiker, there's no need to overspend on shades. These sunglasses are economical and lightweight, with a polycarbonate frame made to resist breakage. The polarized lenses also have an anti-scratch coating.

female hiker with raincoat while drizzling
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In survival situations, staying dry is one of the most important rules to heed. The longer your hikes get, the more chance you run of facing changing weather conditions. Stuff a lightweight raincoat or shell into your pack to stay dry and comfortable in case of a sudden downpour.
The North Face Venture 2 Women's Rain Jacket
Photo credit: Courtesy of rei.com

Price: $49 | Buy it at REI
This lightweight North Face jacket will help shield you from wind and water, but the breathable shell and vented armpits won't trap the heat. Zippered pockets, adjustable cuffs, a full hood, and a cinch cord easily keep the rain away from your body. Check out the men's version here.

female and male hiker with dog taking picture while sitting on rock
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Don't rely on your phone for navigation — you still want to bring a paper map and a compass — but if you're hiking in an area that gets decent cell service, bringing it is a no-brainer. Another no-brainer? Bringing a lightweight battery pack that can power up a dead phone in a pinch.
Anker Astro E1 Portable Charger
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Price: $20 | Buy it at Amazon
This charger is about the size of a candy bar, but it will recharge your phone roughly two times. Even better, the PowerIQ Technology can get the job done in short order compared with using a normal computer USB port.

female hiker aiding another injured female hiker
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Sure, you certainly hope you won't need it — but a first-aid kit is a must for any hiker venturing a little farther afield. Check out our list of first-aid essentials to build your own kit, or buy a premade kit that can help you manage common trail injuries like cuts, blisters, bug bites, or stings.
Northbound Train First Aid Kit
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Price: $17.97 | Buy it at Amazon
This kit, housed in a durable nylon zipper pouch, weighs just 11 ounces and will take up next to no room at the bottom of your backpack. Inside, you'll find essentials like stainless steel tweezers, an emergency blanket, bandages, gauze pads, antiseptic towelettes, and more.

group hiking in spring mountain area
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If your first-aid kit doesn't include an emergency whistle, this is a great better-safe-than-sorry item to toss in your pack, especially since it's so compact. If you get separated from companions or wander off the trail, whistling for help will be a lot less tiring than shouting — and a lot louder, too.
Fox 40 Sonik Blast CMG
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Price: $3.63 | Buy it at Amazon
This 120-decibel whistle can be heard up to a mile away, and the durable ABS plastic will be just fine no matter the weather. It comes in a ton of colors and includes a breakaway lanyard perfect for looping around your neck or backpack straps.

two hikers using compass and map on hike
Photo credit: Kerkez/istockphoto

Again, while it's tempting to rely on your phone here, you need an old-school backup in case your battery runs out, your phone takes a bath in a rainstorm or if you can't get a signal. Outside recommends hikers go with a clear plastic orienteering model that's easier to use with a paper map.
Brunton Truarc 3 Compass
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Price: $14.78 | Buy it at Amazon
This budget-friendly compass is accurate whether you're in the northern or southern hemisphere, includes both standard and metric measurements, and features tool-free declination adjustment. It includes a lanyard to loop around your wrist or backpack straps.

man putting on insect repellent while on hike in woods
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Even if you don't see another soul in the woods, there will be plenty of insects that will be more than happy to keep you company. Chemical insect repellants containing DEET and picaridin have more staying power than natural repellants, REI advises; plant-based Oil of Lemon Eucalyptus can also ward off bugs for quite a while.
Off! Deep Woods Insect Repellent
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Price: $7.46 | Buy it at Walmart
With 25 percent DEET, OFF! Deep Woods helps ward off flies, gnats, chiggers, ticks, mosquitoes, and other pests. It can be sprayed directly on clothing and is sweat-resistant, keeping you protected even on the most strenuous hike. Prefer to steer clear of aerosol? Pump sprays and towelettes are available, too.

father and son starting campfire at campsite in woods
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Unless you're an Eagle Scout who needs just a couple of sticks to start a fire, matches or some kind of fire starter can be a life-saver — literally — if you end up spending more time in the woods than you expected because you get lost or injured. GearJunkie recommends stormproof matches over fire starters because they're more reliable in poor weather conditions.
UCO Stormproof Match Kit
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Price: $7.30 | Buy it at Amazon
Even if it's windy or pouring rain, these matches won't leave you in the lurch. They'll even relight after being submerged in water. The plastic case is waterproof and includes an integrated striker.

Swiss Army knife in log
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Finally, a place to bring that Swiss Army Knife where you might actually need it. A multi-tool can be indispensable for a hiker, helping to open packages, cut bandages, and whittle sticks. But pay attention to weight — day hikers who will only use their multi-tool occasionally will want something light and streamlined.
Leatherman Wingman Multi-Tool
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Price: $49.95 | Buy it at Amazon
The stainless-steel Leatherman Wingman is a gold standard in this category, and the splurge is worthwhile since it's useful in so many situations beyond hiking. There are 14 tools, including pliers, wire cutters, a knife, a bottle and can opener, a file, a screwdriver, and more.

woman on mountain looking over edge with bivvy
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Again, no one plans on getting caught in the woods, but in case of emergency, a warm place to sleep is a must. If wrangling some sort of tarp seems like overkill, don't worry: a lightweight bivvy — short for bivouac — can be used like a sleeping bag and will take up very little room in your pack.
Adventure Medical Emergency Bivvy
Photo credit: Courtesy of amazon.com

Price: $17.59 | Buy it at Amazon
Packaged in a palm-size carrying bag, this bivvy weighs only 3.8 ounces. It's windproof and waterproof, but most importantly, it traps and retains 90 percent of your body heat — crucial if the temperature drops or wet conditions threaten to leave you drenched and shivering.

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