Best Hiking Gear
There is so much to choose from on the market when it comes to hiking gear. There are GPS watches, merino wool clothing, hiking poles, CamelBaks, and the list goes on and on. There is no end in sight when it comes to purchasing performance and fun enhancing gear. So where can one begin when it comes to getting started on the trail to gear? This list is a good place to start, as we have done the research and put together a solid selection of items to choose from, so if you are in the market to buy for yourself or a loved one, we have you covered.
- Silva Ranger 515 Compass
- Laken Pluma Hiking Water Bottle
- Victorinox Swiss Army EvoGrip Army Knife
- Columbia Men's North Plains Hiking Shoe
- Swiss Safe First Aid Kit 120
- Aqua Quest Trail Map Case
- Marmot Minimalist jacket
- Teton Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack
- Helly Hansen Dry Stripe Crew
- The North Face TKA 100 Glacier
- Criteria Used for Evaluation
- Other Factors to Consider
- Frequently Asked Questions
Top 10 Picks
1. Silva Ranger 515 Compass
- Easy to use
- Precise and accurate
- Compact and easy to carry
- Not as tough as some of the more durable compasses out there.
Hiking is about finding your sense of direction in more than one way. While losing yourself in the beauty of your surroundings is one thing, you don’t want to really get lost. Thankfully, the Silva Ranger 515 Compass helps you to keep your bearings quite well.Read more
The Silva Company is well known among outdoor enthusiast for their commitment to precision and accuracy in their equipment, and this compass is no exception. This compass easily measures 360 degrees and has easy to read two minute graduations, so finding your bearing with precision is not a problem at all. Plus, the built in clinometer allows you to keep track of the elevation changes you encounter as well.
Ease of Use
The last thing that you want while you’re hiking is a complicated compass to deal with. After all, you’re out there to enjoy the forest, right? This is where the Silva compass really shines. After just a few minutes with the instruction manual, you’ll be good to go. The classic bezel rotates easily to help you set your bearing, and the lid and mirror make sighting your target a simple task. Plus the map magnifier makes it easy to correspond what you see in the field with your map to get a true sense of where you are in the world.
There are many compasses out there that are simply not feasible to use because of their size. They’re either too bulky, too small to read, or just too cumbersome to really use. Thankfully, you don’t have that problem with the Silva 515. Measuring just 0.7 x 5.1 x 7.8 inches and weighing just under a ¼ of a pound, this compass can easily fit in your hand while in use, or slip easily into a jacket pocket for storage.
While this compass may not be as damage resistant as some of the compasses that are designed for use in harsher environments, this one is still pretty solidly built. It has built in protections for the liquid filled center area to resist damage from moisture, scratches and dirt. Plus, it can easily survive being dropped on the ground while hiking.
Zone Balance and Declination
If a compass is magnetic, which most of them are, they use the earth’s magnetic field to determine the overall geographical and directional relationship to the magnetic poles. However, the magnetic field that they use changes depending on its location. The best compasses, like the Silva 515 take those changes into account through both the declination and the overall zone balance. This is done by the weight of the needle accounting for the vertical component of the magnetic wave. This allows for increased accuracy.
Losing you in the great outdoors shouldn’t involve actually getting lost. The Silva 515 compass offers you a way to lose your worries and inhibitions without losing your way.
2. Laken Pluma Hiking Water Bottle
- Great capacity
- Very durable
- Easy to use
- Polyethylene construction may be a turn off for some.
When you’re out hiking in the wilderness, the last thing you want is to be thirsty. While there are many choices out there for a water bottle, one of our favorite canteens is the Laken Pluma, and with good reason.Read more
This canteen holds approximately 34 ounces of water, or just under one liter. It may not sound like a lot, and there are other water bottles out there that hold more, but on a hike, weight is at a premium. In most cases, a liter of water is more than enough for a good hike through the woods for the individual.
One of the biggest problems with most water bottles today is that they are hard to carry while hiking. They either have to be held, or put into a sleeve on the backpack that they easily fall out of during more strenuous climbs. That’s where the shoulder strap that is firmly attached to this canteen comes in handy. Simply throw it across your shoulder and you’re good to go.
While we would have preferred that food grade stainless steel be used for this canteen, the polyethylene bottle is BPA free and can easily keep your water cool during a hike during the day.
Ease of Use
The purpose of a good canteen is to allow you to drink water when you need to, right? This canteen is not only easy to carry; it’s also easy to hold. Also, the tight fitting screw top lid makes it a cinch to not only keep the water where it belongs until you want it, but also get to it while you’re taking a much needed break.
Let’s face it. You are going to drop your canteen at some point during a hiking or camping trip. There are some water bottles out there that simply won’t survive. However, unless you plan on deliberately smashing this canteen against a rock, chances are the durable materials will survive an occasionally fall quite easily.
There are quite a few canteens out there that are great for hiking. However, the Laken Pluma is one of our favorites based on its sturdiness, overall capacity and ease of use.
3. Victorinox Swiss Army EvoGrip Army Knife
- Maintains a good edge
- Has essential tools for the wilderness
- Easy to hold and use
- Some prefer the Victorinox Classic knife
No hiking trip is complete with out a Victorinox knife. It may not seem like an essential, upon first thought, but having a knife handy is super useful in many situations, and this Swiss Army EvoGrip Army Knife is a great place to start. Find out why we love it below.Read more
When you are hiking or camping, space is a premium, and you mostly likely want to utilize it as smartly as possible. That's where having a Swiss Army knife comes in handy. This particular EvoGrip knife has a lot of handy tools to keep you prepared. It touts 11 tools that have 15 features, such as a screw driver, scissors, tweezers, and toothpick.
Along with all of it's great features, this knife is made of stainless steel and can easily be taken care of. Victorinox offers an oil that you can use to keep it's knives running smoothly.
This knife is also 85mm, so it is big enough to be substantial, but definitely small enough to fit in the side pocket of your hiking pack.
Overall, if you need a little something extra to boost your hiking trip to the next level, this knife will do just that, and to boot, it is very reasonably priced.
4. Columbia Men's North Plains Hiking Shoe
- Very comfortable to wear
- True to size
- Not waterproof, only water resistant.
Hiking, is a much more enjoyable form of walking in our opinion. So what you wear on your feet is essential to having a good time. There are many different shoes and hiking boots to choose from, and if you choose shoes, this entry from Columbia is one of the best we’ve found.Read more
These shoes may look like normal athletic shoes, but they offer more support, cushioning, and materials that allow for a high energy spring in your step while in use. Plus, they are relatively light weight, which means that you can walk for hours on end.
The rubber soles and combination of leather, webbing and textile materials in the upper portion of the shoe work together nicely to maintain the overall durability of the shoe, even in inclement weather. So don’t be afraid of jumping the puddles or traveling through the mud in these shoes. Chances are your socks will wear out before your shoes do.
Protection from the Elements
These shoes are designed to be waterproof, but unfortunately only allow for good water resistance. While you’ll stay dry while wading through a puddle or two, we wouldn’t suggest using these shoes while fly fishing.
When you’re hiking over rocks and roots, the last thing you need is an ill-fitting shoe causing you problems, pain, and potentially blisters. So having a shoe that is true to size is a good trait to consider. Thankfully, these shoes are true to the size about 80% of the time. When they aren't true to size, they tend to run a little large.
The longer your shoes last, the more hiking that you can do. And that’s a grand thing, right? The Columbia brand is well known not only for providing comfortable clothes and shoes, but also for making shoes that last. This entry on the list has been known to easily last for two to four years of frequent hiking and outdoor activities.
In truth, what you wear on your feet can mean the difference between an enjoyable hike, and a painful one. If you chose to wear shoes, the Columbia’s Men’s North Plains II Hiking shoe is a great choice.
5. Swiss Safe First Aid Kit 120
- Very comprehensive contents
- Straightforward and easy to use.
- Relatively compact
- An additional smaller personal first aid pack is included.
- Outer bag is not completely waterproof
If you’re planning on hiking for a while or in a group, chances are someone is going to get injured. While training to deal with first aid emergencies is always a good idea, having a well-stocked first aid kit that is not only easy to carry and easy to use is a great idea as well. This first aid kit from Swiss Safe is one of the best we found so far in the market.Read more
While it’s not practical to list everything that this first aid kit provides, we can tell you that if you get injured, and you can’t find what you need in this case, chances are you need much more attention than any first aid kit can provide. There are a total of 120 different items ranging from stainless steel trauma shears to Band-Aids and everything in between.
The package for the first aid kit is relatively compact, measuring approximately 9 x 3 x 6 inches, so it’s relatively easy to fit into a backpack. Plus it weighs just over one pound, so it’s fairly light weight. You won’t have to worry about adding too much unnecessary bulk to the things you bring hiking.
Protection from the Elements
While we would have liked a truly waterproof case, the water resistant nylon outer shell does serve to protect the contents fairly well. Just be aware that if you tie it to the outside of your pack during a rainstorm, some water may leak in through the zippers.
While the 120 piece first aid kit has nearly everything you need, it can be a hassle taking it out of your backpack each time someone has a minor injury. This is where the much smaller 32 piece mini-pack comes in so nicely. The smaller pack can be easily tied to your belt, a ring on the backpack, or something of that nature, and has most everything you need for everyday injuries like lacerations.
Latex and Allergen Considerations
With more and more people having allergic reactions, especially to latex materials, it’s important that items used in medical emergencies reduce the exposure to these allergens as much as possible. Everything in this kit is latex free, and is also free of many of the most common things that cause allergic reactions.
Staying safe while you’re hiking not only takes presence of mind and overall skill. Staying safe also means having the right equipment at the right time to treat injuries as they occur. This comprehensive first aid kit by Swiss Safe lets you do just that.
6. Aqua Quest Trail Map Case
- Large enough to handle most maps
- Truly water proof
- May be a bit large for some uses
If you spend any time hiking over long distances, or going off trail, chances are you’ll be carrying some type of map- either topographical, geological, or something in between. Keeping your map dry and protected from the elements is essential to help you find your way around. The Aqua Quest Trail map case is a great way to do just that.Read more
Measuring 0.79 x 11.81.x 17.72 inches, and weighing just under a ¼ of a pound, this map case is not only large enough to hold many of the most common maps that hikers use, but it’s light enough to easily carry in your backpack, or even looped through a belt loop.
Protection from the Elements
One of the requirements of a quality map case is that it protects the contents within it from the weather. The last thing a hiker needs is to be trying to read a rain soaked map that has been smudged beyond recognition. Thankfully, this map case excels at keeping your map nice and dry. It doesn’t matter if you’re in a torrential downpour, or the map case gets accidentally dunked in the river. Simply pull it out, wipe it off, and you’ll be ready to go.
While the case is designed for maps of many different shapes and sizes it can also be used to store other valuable items during the hike. Things such as another pair of dry socks, a sandwich, or even your GPS locator can be kept in this pouch for extra protection.
When the weather is bad, and your visibility is low, chances are you don’t have the inclination or the time to deal with a map that can’t easily be read. Also, you want to make sure that the distortion of the map caused by the clear case material is minimal at best. Thankfully, this map case performs beautifully. The case features a black background piece that adds great contrast to the map, and the clear top cover allows for superior visibility.
While it may be a bit bulky to carry around when it is in full extension, this map case can be easily rolled up and attached to hooks on the backpack or belt loops through the use of two sturdy plastic molded clips.
Along with a compass, your map is one of the essential parts of making sure your hike is a successful one and to help you return back in one piece. So protecting your map during the trip is important. This entry on our list helps you do just that.
7. Marmot Minimalist jacket
- Very true to size
- Protects from the weather and other elements
- Not suitable for very cold weather
When it comes to hiking, staying warm and comfortable for the journey means dressing in layers. Your outermost layer should not only be relatively breathable, but also be able to protect you from the weather. This jacket does that beautifully.Read more
This jacket has been shown to be true to the designated size an astounding 88% of the time. For most customers, the jacket is extremely well fitting and comfortable.
Made from 100% Gore-Tex material, which is well known for its ability to repel water, dirt and grime, this jacket excels at keeping your dry and relatively clean during your outdoor excursions. While we would have liked to see a little more interior lining for comfort, overall it serves its purpose of protection very well.
This jacket is clearly designed for use in an outdoor environment, and to protect you from any type of weather or elements that you may encounter. There is an adjustable hood, and the front is easily ventilated through a series of well-placed zippered vents that allow cool air to enter when needed. Or, the whole jacket can be sealed up tight to prevent rain or colder temperatures from getting in.
This jacket can be used in a wide array of situations as a general weather protective shell. It can easily be used in the spring, summer and autumn as the outermost layer, but lacks a bit of the warmth needed during a harsh winter. While it certainly will keep you comfortable most of the time, we would suggest extra layers during the colder months.
The Marmont brand is well known for creating clothing that can withstand the wilderness and all that comes with it, including hikers with an adventurous spirit. The materials used to make this particular jacket are designed to withstand rain, sleet, mud and the occasional tear without too much of an issue.
If you’re looking for an outer shell to your hiking outfit that is relatively lightweight and versatile, this is a great choice. While we wouldn’t recommend it during the winter months without significantly more layers, overall it does a nice job.
8. Teton Sports Scout 3400 Internal Frame Backpack
- Great capacity
- Easily adjustable
- Offers some protection from the elements.
- Only water resistant, not water proof.
Let’s face it, even if you take the bare minimum into the woods with you, if you’re going for any length of time into the woods, you’re going to need a place to store your things and a way to carry it all. A good backpack that is designed to make the load easy to carry is a great thing to have. This one is one of our favorites overall.Read more
Framed backpacks are divided into two basic categories: internal and external frames. As the name suggests, internal frame backpacks have a ridged frame within the lining of the backpack that allows for a more even weight distribution over the back, and prevents the backpack from shifting or slouching into an uncomfortable position. While it does make the pack slightly heavier, the aid is weight distribution is more than worth it.
When you’re enjoying the woods, the last thing you want is to be constantly adjusting and readjusting your backpack. You want to be able to throw all your stuff inside the pack, throw the backpack on, and be ready to go without hesitation. Thankfully, the shoulder and hip straps are fully adjustable, and the chest or sternum strap is very prepared as well. Even with the overall ridgity of the internal frame, this backpack is fairly easy to adjust for comfort and overall control. Also, the length of the project can be adjusted to allow for different torso lengths, so kids, as well as adults, can potentially use this backpack.
Empty, the bag weighs just less than four and a half pounds, so it’s relatively easy and light weight to carry.
While this may be one of the smaller internal frame backpacks that we’ve seen, the 55 liter storage space is absolutely nothing to sneeze at. It can easily fit provisions, sleeping items, an extra pair of clothes, or anything else you need with you while you’re hiking through the wilderness
When it comes to transporting your equipment and materials during a hiking excursion, having the best hiking bag for your needs goes a long way. While having an internal frame might not be everything to everyone, this example is a great place to start.
9. Helly Hansen Dry Stripe Crew
- Comfortable to wear
- Keeps your skin relatively dry
- Provides some protection from the elements
- Can run a bit small.
In addition to having a great outer layer, the layer of clothing you wear next to your skin is also important. A good base layer allows you to conserve your body heat and energy, pull energy robbing moisture away from your skin, and help to shield you from unwanted bites, stings and scrapes.Read more
In order to function well, the base layer that you use during a hiking trip needs to fit snugly against your skin. So finding the right fit for your body is essential. Thankfully, this shirt is true to the listed size over ¾ of the time.
When a piece of clothing is right next to your skin, and under a number of layers, it needs to be comfortable. Just ask any of us with highly sensitive skin. This particular shirt is made with material that is not only allergen neutral, but it is also extremely lightweight and easily can wick moisture away from the skin.
Since it is made from polypropylene material, and consists of three durable layers of fabric, there are very few things in the wilderness area that will harm you. While we wouldn’t suggest taking on a bear or a cliff with nothing but this shirt on, insects, small branches, and poison ivy are not a problem.
Ease of Care
The other nice thing about this shirt is how easy it is to care for. Just simply wash in your normal wash cycle and use a gentle detergent when needed. What could be simpler than that?
While this shirt can be easily used as a base layer during a long hike, that’s not the only thing that it can accomplish. Many people use it for a quick extra layer of insulation on their skiing runs or as their made shirt during aerobic exercise.
While it may seem silly to think of fashion for a base layer while hiking, since these shirts can be used for more than just the great outdoors, how they look can be a factor when buying, Thankfully, this shirt is flattering in its cut the stripes on the sides provide a nice accent.
What you wear next to your skin is very important when it comes to keeping you warm and dry during a hike outdoors. This shirt from Helly Hanson goes a very long way to do just that.
10. The North Face TKA 100 Glacier
- Very comfortable to wear
- Lots of different sizes
- Offers significant warmth
- May be a bit bulky for some people.
Between your outer layer and your base layer is the middle layer. While it may not get as much attention as the other two, it is in some ways much more important. It’s the layer that adds extra warmth and padding to your hiking outfit, and can mean the difference between being overheated or overly cold.Read more
In order to be effective, this layer needs to be both relatively lightweight and insulating. You don’t want material that will weigh you down too much, but you also need to make sure that heat and warmth are trapped easily for use later when you’re tired or hungry. Thankfully, this fleece is made from a soft fleece material that is great for adding a layer of warmth without too much bulk or weight.
The overall cut of this ¾ zipper pull over is not only well suited for an athletic body, but it also has plenty of length in the sleeves and room in the neck area to allow for a significant amount of movement.
Ease of Care
Another nice thing about this pull over fleece is that it is fairly easy to care for. Just treat it like you would any other sweatshirt-like material. Just wash, dry and go.
With a thread count of nearly 100 threads per square inch, this is one of the toughest fleeces available on the market today. While it is definitely not strong as some other fabrics, it is still quite capable of resisting tears and holes with the best of them.
The nice thing about this mid-weight layer is that it comes in a wide array of colors, so it’s fairly easy to find one that suits your personality.
It may not get the press that the other clothing layers get in today’s world, the middle insulation layer is still very important to make sure that you stay warm during your hiking excursion. This pullover fleece not only keeps you warm and comfortable, but it is also easy to care for and comes in a wide array of colors.
Criteria Used for Evaluation
Let’s face it; when you’re out in the wilderness, the last thing you need is your knife breaking or your canteen springing a leak. As such, the ability of your equipment to last through many different trips is a key factor to consider. So we took a careful look at how long, and under what conditions most of the things on this list would last. Thankfully, most of the items on this list are able to go with you through the long haul. It is important for all of the hiking gear to have a long longevity to make sure the products are safe and durable.
Despite what many people think, hiking can be a dangerous undertaking. Injuries will happen. Knowing that information, it pays to look for the hiking essentials that not only minimize the risk of you being hurt. The items presented in this list not only help to keep you oriented correctly, warm, dry and comfortable, and also provide a way to deal with emergencies as they arrive. It is very important to keep yourself save when hiking and going into any crisis or dangerous situation.
When it comes to hiking, personal preference can often outweigh what is generally considered a good thing. While we may consider the Teton Sport Scout 3400 to be the best overall backpack for most people, an individual may not agree with the presence of an internal frame. However, there are a few things that we feel should be easily addressed prior to setting out on your hiking adventure. When a piece of clothing is right next to your skin, and under a number of layers, it needs to be comfortable. Just ask any of us with highly sensitive skin. A lot of the hiking gear is made with material that is not only allergen neutral, but it is also extremely lightweight and easily can wick moisture away from the skin.
When you’re enjoying the woods, the last thing you want is to be constantly adjusting and readjusting your backpack or hiking gear. You want to be able to throw all your stuff inside the pack, throw the backpack on, and be ready to go without hesitation. Thankfully, the shoulder and hip straps are fully adjustable, and the chest or sternum strap is very prepared as well. Even with the overall ridgity of the internal frame, this backpack is fairly easy to adjust for comfort and overall control. Also, the length of the project can be adjusted to allow for different torso lengths, so kids, as well as adults, can potentially use this backpack.
Expert Interviews & Opinions
Hiking is one of the most enjoyable, and rewarding ways to conquer the great outdoors. Not only do you get to see a wide array of sights, hear some amazing sounds, and experience a great many things, but you also get the satisfaction of knowing that you were a part of this natural world, at least for a little bit. While you may not use absolutely everything on this list, chances are if you do, your experience will be better for it. Making sure you are careful by keeping all of the hiking gear in your backpack is most important.
Other Factors to Consider
When it comes to transporting your equipment and materials during a hiking excursion, having the best hiking bag for your needs goes a long way. While having an internal frame might not be everything to everyone, this example is a great place to start. Storage space is absolutely nothing to sneeze at. It can easily fit provisions, sleeping items, an extra pair of clothes, or anything else you need with you while you’re hiking through the wilderness
Frequently Asked Questions
Whenever you’re out in a wilderness environment, there are a few different situations that you may encounter that has the potential to become dangerous rather quickly. While covering each and every situation is simply impossible, we can say that they usually fall into these basic categories: getting disoriented, getting injured, or falling ill.
Getting disoriented, or lost can be a significant problem because it can easily acerbate the other two situations. Plus, being lost can quickly run you out of provisions and cause you to lose a sense of calmness. If you do become lost or disoriented, the best thing you can do is stop, look around, and stay put until you either figure out where you are in relationship to where you want to be, or someone finds you. If you know that someone is actively seeking you out, then do not move unless staying puts you in a more dangerous situation.
Getting injured or falling ill, while two very different situations, often have very similar solutions while hiking. If you’re injured, remain calm, and make use of the first aid kit as you can to alleviate the situation. If you fall ill, do your best to remain calm, and keep your temperature at a tolerable level. In both cases, it’s best to get professional medical help sooner than later.
Whether you are part of a large expedition or going on a solo hiking adventure, the number of people involved is an important factor to consider. While there is nothing inherently wrong with hiking by yourself, and we highly suggest you do so from time to time, it is not as safe as traveling in a group. So your hiking essentials may have to change to things that are better suited for use by one person in an emergency situation. Also, you might want to consider making sure you have a way to communicate with the outside world if you plan on hiking alone. Thankfully, they do make a number of long range walkie-talkies or cell phones that can do the job quite well.
While a walk in the woods may seem a simple task, it can have a few different dangers associated with it. So it’s important to be able to handle yourself in an emergency situation if warranted. After all, you’re going to be carrying a first aid kit, so you should probably know how to use it, right? So before you go on a hike, it’s best to make sure that at least two people in your party have been trained in first aid, using a compass and map, and basic survival techniques. Now, if more than that are properly trained, that’s great, but that should be the bare minimum.
The answer to this question truly depends on you and the trail. If you know where you are hiking and have experience and in depth knowledge of the particular route, it can be safe to trek on your own. It can also be very peaceful.However, if you do go out hiking alone, it is highly suggested to bring some form of location tracker (like a GPS watch) and a form of communication. Also, just to be safe, make sure to let someone know where you will be hiking and how long you will be gone for. If you find that you are new to the terrain and there is a chance of wildlife (like bears), then it’s best to go as a group, or at least, with a friend.
You may love that old college sweater made of cotton, but for hiking, it’s best to stick with fabrics other than 100% cotton. The reason that cotton isn’t suggested is because it is highly absorbent, so if you sweat, the fabric will soak all of the moisture up and keep it on your body. You are better off to wear something that is a quick-drying fabric and layer it with merino wool.