Hike Must-Haves
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20 Must-Haves for Your Next Weekend Hike

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Hike Must-Haves
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Happy Trails to You

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.


Prices and availability subject to change.


Related: Epic Hiking Trails Around the World

Trail Shoes
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Trail Shoes

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. 


Related: The Best Cheap Hiking Boots and Shoes

Gear to Try: Men's Merrell Moab 2
Merrel

Gear to Try: Men's Merrell Moab 2

$125 from Merrell

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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 women's version


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Hiking Socks
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Hiking Socks

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.


Related: Well-Made Products You'll Never Have to Buy Again

Darn Tough Vermont Merino Wool Crew Socks
Amazon

Gear to Try: Darn Tough Women's Hiker Micro Crew Socks

$23 from Amazon

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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.


Wicking T-Shirt
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Wicking T-Shirt

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.


Related: Stores With Comfortable Clothes You Can Wear For Years


Gear to Try: Eddie Bauer Men's Resolution V-Neck T-Shirt
Eddie Bauer

Gear to Try: Eddie Bauer Men's Resolution V-Neck T-Shirt

$30 from Eddie Bauer

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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. You can find the women's version here.


Backpack
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Backpack

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.


Related: The State Park You Don't Want to Miss in Every State


Gear to Try: REI Women's Co-op Trail 25 Pack
REI

Gear to Try: REI Women's Co-op Trail 25 Pack

$80 from REI

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At 25 liters, this backpack is the perfect size for day hikers who want to be prepared. It includes a rain cover, a removable hip 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. The men's version is here.


Water Bottle
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Gear to Try: CamelBak Chute Mag Water Bottle
Amazon

Gear to Try: CamelBak Chute Mag Water Bottle

$17 from Amazon

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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.


Water Purifier
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Water Purifier

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.

Gear to Try: LifeStraw
Amazon

Gear to Try: LifeStraw

$15 from Amazon

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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% of dangerous bacteria and protozoa.


Extra Food
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Gear to Try: RXBar Whole Food Protein Bar
Amazon

Gear to Try: RXBar Whole Food Protein Bar

$19 for 12 ct. from Amazon 

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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.


Headlamp
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Headlamp

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.

Gear to Try: Black Diamond Spot
Amazon

Gear to Try: Black Diamond Spot

$40 from Amazon

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This Black Diamond headlamp provides up to 350 lumens to light your way. It has brightness memory and can be adjusted with a tap, plus peripheral lighting helps with close-range activities. It's also waterproof.


Sunscreen
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Gear to Try: Equate Sport Broad Spectrum Sunscreen
Walmart

Gear to Try: Equate Sport Broad Spectrum Sunscreen

$8 for 2 ct. from Walmart

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Who says you have to spend big for great sun protection? Walmart's SPF 50 store brand actually beats out pricier brands in independent testing, and the quick-absorbing formula is sweat-resistant for up to 80 minutes. It's also available as a spray.


Hat
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Hat

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.

Gear to Try: Columbia Unisex Bora Bora Booney Hat
Amazon

Gear to Try: Columbia Unisex Bora Bora Booney Hat

$19 from Amazon

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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.


Sunglasses
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Sunglasses

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
Amazon

Gear to Try: Duduma Polarized Sunglasses

$22 from Amazon 

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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.


Raincoat
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Raincoat

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.


Gear to Try: Columbia Women's Arcadia II Jacket
Amazon

Gear to Try: Columbia Women's Arcadia II Jacket

$60 from Amazon

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This lightweight Columbia jacket will help shield you from wind and water, but the breathable shell won't trap the heat. Zippered pockets, adjustable cuffs, a full hood, and a cinch cord easily keep the rain away from your body. The Columbia Roan Mountain is a similar option for men.

Smartphone Battery Pack
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Smartphone Battery Pack

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
Amazon

Gear to Try: Anker Astro E1 Portable Charger

$22 from Amazon

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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.


First Aid Kit
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Gear to Try: Adventure Medical Kit Mountain Series Hiker First Aid Kit
Amazon

Gear to Try: Adventure Medical Kit Mountain Series Hiker First Aid Kit

$24 from Amazon

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This kit, housed in a durable pouch, weighs just 8 ounces and will take up next to no room at the bottom of your backpack. Inside, you'll find essentials like tweezers, bandages, gauze pads, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, and more.

Emergency Whistle
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Emergency Whistle

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.



Gear to Try: Fox 40 Sonic Blast CMG
Amazon

Gear to Try: Fox 40 Sonic Blast CMG

$9 from Amazon 

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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.


Compass
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Compass

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. The website Outside recommends hikers go with a clear plastic orienteering model that's easier to use with a paper map.


Gear to Try: Brunton TruArc 3 Compass
Amazon

Gear to Try: Brunton TruArc 3 Compass

$17 from Amazon

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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.


Insect Repellant
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Insect Repellent

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 repellents 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.


Related: We Tried 4 Bug Sprays and This is the Best

Gear to Try: Off! Deep Woods Insect Repellent
Walmart

Gear to Try: Off! Deep Woods Insect Repellent

$8 from Walmart 

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With 25% 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.


Matches or Fire Starter
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Matches or Fire Starter

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.


Gear to Try: Uco Stormproof Match Kit
Amazon

Gear to Try: Uco Stormproof Match Kit

$11 from Amazon

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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.


Multi-Tool
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Multi-Tool

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.

Gear to Try: Leatherman Sidekick Multitool
Bass Pro

Gear to Try: Leatherman Sidekick Multitool

$60 from Bass Pro

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The stainless-steel Leatherman Sidekick is a worthwhile splurge 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.


Emergency Bivvy
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Emergency Bivvy

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.

Gear to Try: Go Time Gear Life Bivvy
Amazon

Gear to Try: Go Time Gear Life Bivvy

$20 from Amazon

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Packaged in a palm-size carrying bag, this bivvy weighs only 4 ounces. It's windproof and waterproof, but most importantly, it traps and retains 90% of your body heat — crucial if the temperature drops or wet conditions threaten to leave you drenched and shivering.