What are the 10 Essentials for Hiking?

Hiker in Canada wearing a JeltX belt while climbing over a rock

The most essential thing you'll need to head out onto the hiking trails is a state of general good health and a bit of cardiovascular stamina. But if you plan on trekking for more than half an hour or so, you'll also need to pick up some hiking essentials for beginners.

Whether planning on a stroll through a green forest or a rugged scramble up mountainside for two hours, a half-day or day-long hike, your security and well-being are paramount. Here are 10 essentials for hiking that every novice and experienced nature lover should have with them to maximize their comfort and increase their safety outside.

Woman looking out onto lake in Canada. Wearing Jelt Original USA Stripe elastic stretch belt

10 Essentials Hiking Items for Beginners

If you’re getting ready to pack for a day hike, this list of essential hiking gear will prepare you for your next big outdoor adventure — letting you enjoy your time in the wild that much more.

1. Quality Hiking Boots or Shoes

Mother nature can be tough on your feet. To protect your toes, you’ll want rugged hiking boots or shoes. If trekking in colder climates, you’ll also want comfortable boots with some type of thermal insulation. Terrain and temperatures vary, but look for boots or hiking shoes that offer solid foot support and traction and that aren’t too heavy. Breathable, waterproof Gore-Tex is a material and technology used for some of the best hiking shoes available on the market today.

2. A Durable Hiking Backpack

A rugged day-hiking backpack is a must when you’re out in the elements — as it’s where you’ll carry all your food, water, clothing and other hiking essentials. Try on multiple packs and find one that fits your spine comfortably. Remember, you’ll be wearing this pack all day long. For those things you keep clipped on your belt for easy access, remember to choose a multipurpose belt that stands up to your adventures and doesn’t dig in to your skin.

3. Suitable Outdoor Clothing

Dress for the weather and dress in layers. Layers can be added or peeled off as the temperatures and wind increase or decrease. A bulky parka will generally weigh you down (unless you’re tramping around Antarctica). Moisture-wicking, breathable materials are essential for hiking, protecting you from the weather, as well as adding to your overall physical comfort.

4. Extra Food and Water

Look at the power bars, trail mix, sandwiches, water and whatever else you’ve planned to sustain you and your crew during your hike. Now add more. You never know what will happen out in the wild (you may get stuck or stranded somewhere for a spell). Extra food and water are a godsend when you’re in a bit of a jam and need some additional calories to burn.

5. Extra Clothing

Bring some extra clothing in case you get soaked (maybe you fell into a creek) or need some supplementary layers. Also, bring a backup pair of laces for your boots or shoes in case your original laces break.

6. Navigational Gear

While the GPS and maps on your phone are great, make sure you pack a (paper) map or a real compass, along with a handheld GPS hiking device to ensure that you always know where you are.

7. Flashlight or Headlamp

A flashlight or headlamp will come in handy if you're out after dark or exploring a dark wood or cave. Also, pack some extra batteries in case the original batteries conk out.

8. Pocket Knife or a Multi-Tool

A knife or multi-tool can literally save your life. You can use these tools to open cans and packages, remove thorns from your clothing or skin, whittle wood and accomplish a variety of other essential outdoor tasks.

9. Fire-Starting Equipment

You never know when you’ll need to start a small fire: to warm up after you fell into that freezing creek, to cook food or to signal for attention. Waterproof matches and lighters are the best fire-starting equipment around. You may also need a flame to ignite a small cooking stove. As always, if working with fire in the wild, be careful not to burn yourself or your surroundings.

10. Sun Protection Gear

Sunburn, heat exhaustion and heat stroke are no joke. Defend your skin from the sun with caps and hats, along with sunscreen, sunglasses and UV protective clothing for the rest of your body.