Interested in venturing out into the great outdoors but aren’t exactly sure where to start? Check out our essential hill kit that you’ll need before setting off on a hike.
Essential walking kit (10 things to pack for a hike)
Less is often more when it comes to packing for a hike, but that doesn’t mean that you should cut corners and avoid spending the cash where it counts.
A small number of high-quality items is always better than a plethora of low-quality accessories and when it comes to spending time outdoors, the quality really does matter. Our list of the top 10 things to pack for a hike is comprised of essentials that you can both really rely on when it counts and is stuff that will last a long time.
From the correct footwear and waterproofs to first aid and navigation equipment – these are our essentials for tackling (just about) any hill.
What you’re wearing on your feet is the single most important equipment factor that you should worry about when heading out for a hike.
Depending on the terrain, a pair of trail running shoes may provide enough traction, but we’d always tend to recommend a good pair of walking boots.
A competent sole is vital when tackling mountain terrain and is something that should be considered when purchasing. The upper should be suitable for 3-season walking and, if winter hikes are something that you’d like to try, a dedicated winter boot should be in your arsenal.
Walking boots come in all different shapes and sizes with each brand offering different credentials that suit different walkers. It’s typically best to buy these in person to get them properly fitted by a dedicated retailer.
- Premium leather uppers – Long lifespan for durable performance
- E-vent waterproofing – Breathable waterproofing protects from adverse conditions
- Comfort PU footbed – Cushioned footbed with a soft, shaped interior
- Vibram outsole – Reliable sole with unrivalled grip and traction
- Leather boot will last longer but require looking after
- Leather lined cuff
- Suede outer cuff
- Full rubber rand
- Weight: 740g
- Recommended for: Walking and Hiking
A good rucksack can make the difference between a sweaty, sore and semi-broken back and a fresh, healthy and ready-to-go spine.
When hiking, it’s best to go with a backpack that offers just enough space without tempting you to bring unnecessary equipment. As a general rule, between 15L and 30L is the perfect size for an average hike.
Key features to look out for include a sturdy and fully adjustable harness, comfortable hip-belt and sternum strap alongside a padded and moisture-wicking back panel.
There’s a huge amount of choice out there, but we would always tend to recommend the Osprey Talon as a fantastic overall option. Our full review of the hiking pack can be digested in full here.
- Tried and tested design
- Padded harness, hip belt and sternum strap
- External hydration access
- Bike helmet attachment
- Small size may pose an issue for some winter activities
- Some hikers dislike the appearance
- Volume: 22 litre
- Weight: 0.9kg
- Dimensions:(H) 51cm, (W) 25cm, (D) 23cm
- Suitable for: Hiking, Trekking, Cycling
It doesn’t matter when the weather forecast is looking like, if you’re going to be hiking in the UK, it will rain – it’s just a question of how much.
The hills and mountains in the UK are some of the best in the world (although I may be slightly biased) but that doesn’t mean that the weather is good – it’s not.
Rain, both light and heavy, can strike at any time in our beloved national parks and it’s always a good idea to be prepared for the worst. A high-quality waterproof jacket alongside a pair of waterproof trousers should always be kept towards the top of your rucksack.
There’s a range of different routes you can go down when buying waterproofs. Lightweight clothing is great for saving pack space and weight but will wear easier whereas heavier waterproofs are better suited to mountain terrain but will require more space in the pack.
For the majority of hikers, we would recommend something in the middle, a waterproof hard-shell jacket that’s great for the wet weather and, ideally, a lightweight pair of trousers packed for the worst of the weather that mother nature throws at us.
- Superior waterproof protection with top breathability.
- DWR finish – Repels water and offers top defence against water.
- Hood – Fixed and adjustable for best coverage.
- Drawcord hem adjustment – Customisable fit for maximum warmth
- Dark colour may be difficult to spot
- Weight: 285g
- Suitable for: Hiking, Trekking, Cycling
4. Base layers
A base layer is one of the more important layers that you’ll be dressed with on the day of your heavily anticipated hike.
A simple cotton t-shirt isn’t exactly the best option that you’ve got when preparing for hours in the hills and although you won’t mind getting it a bit sweaty, your body will.
Instead of digging through the wardrobe for t-shirts no longer for best, it’s a good idea to pick up a moisture-wicking base layer. These are great for taking the moisture off the skin and avoid making you dangerously cold when the weather changes or the wind picks up.
These base layers don’t have to cost an arm and a leg and plenty of budget examples that work perfectly fine can be found in walking shops up and down the country.
- Antibacterial – Odour free and fresh thanks to merino wool
- Quick wicking – Keeps walkers dry and warm, keeping away sweat
- Well priced – The Moutain Warehouse base layer is well priced without compromising quality
- Simple design, no fun patterns available
- Material: Merino wool
- Washing: Machine wash
- Suitable for: Hiking, Trekking, Cycling
Picking out your favourite pair of jeans for a walk in the countryside might make you look like a fashion icon, but you won’t feel so great after spending the whole day in soggy denim.
It’s vital to get your bottom half-clothed appropriately when hiking in the hills with a good pair of quick-drying walking trousers.
Walking trousers come in all shapes and sizes with an abundance of features available for consideration. Zip-off lower legs, ventilation options and knee-pad support are just a couple of examples of what you can shop for, but the basic material is the most important.
You want to find a pair of trousers that are comfortable and that are made of quick-drying fabric that won’t make you cold and frustrated if caught in the rain (or off-balance in a stream).
- Nosi Defence – Insect repellent technology
- SolarShield – Sun protection technology for UPF40+
- SmartDry Eco – Water repellent technology and free of PFC
- Relaxed and comfortable fit
- Not always the most durable option
- Weight: 465g (approx)
- Fabric: 65% polyester / 35% cotton
- Suitable for: Hiking, Trekking
6. Warm layers
The warm layers, as you’ll probably have guessed, are designed to keep you warm and are worn over the base layer and beneath the waterproofs.
Learning to layer correctly is one of the most important lessons you can learn about the outdoors and a warm layer is usually our favourite of the bunch.
These can take a handful of different forms with the most common example of a fleece jacket, but these aren’t for everyone. A woolly jumper or hoodie are other examples, but the latter is often prone to holding onto sweat and making you cold once you’ve come to a stop.
The warm layers may be off and on a handful of times during a walk so it’s a good idea to go with something that’s easily removed.
A headtorch is one of those bits of kit that you’re likely to overlook, right up to the point that you need it the most.
Even if you aren’t considering heading or staying out when it’s dark, a headtorch is a must-have for any hill walker.
Not everything goes according to plan when spending the day outdoors and, more often than not, the time gets away from us. For the sake of a couple of quid for a high-quality headtorch, there’s peace of mind if you do happen to get caught out by the moon and the stars.
Not only will a headtorch light the way when you run out of that precious daylight, but if things turn sour, they can be used to attract attention if there’s an emergency.
- 300 lumens brightness rating
- 3 brightness levels – Close range, movement and distance vision
- Red light option – Best for dark adaptation of the eye and prevents dazzling
- Phosphorescent reflector – Helps to locate the headlamp in the dark
- Petzl power core sold separately
- Weight: 136 Grams
- Lumens: 300
- Waterproof: IPX4 (weatherproof)
8. Map and Compass
Digital navigation has developed dramatically in recent years, but that doesn’t mean that we should follow our mobile apps and our smartwatches blindly.
Map reading is a skill that we firmly believe that everyone should develop, to at least a basic degree meaning that a map and compass can be used to get yourself back home.
These two essentials go hand-in-hand and are a must for any walker, especially those heading off the beaten track. If you’re heading to hike the depths of Scotland or even the remote areas of the Lake District, you’ll find your apps start to struggle as there’s no 4G to be found.
A detailed map can be purchased from either Ordnance Survey or Harvey Maps and we would recommend the Silva Expedition 4 Compass as a top-quality pairing that you can really trust.
- Features a magnifier, millimetre and inch scales
- Sapphire jewel bearing – Allows friction-free movement of the needle
- Romer scales: 1:40.000, 1:50.000, 1:25.000
- Silicon rubber feet – Great when completing precision map work
- A little pricey for those that will not use
- Weight: 40 Grams
9. Hat and gloves
A warm beanie a good pair of gloves should be packed in every hill-lovers backpack – you never know when the temperature may drop drastically.
When you’re travelling up a mountain, the temperature is prone to change (for the colder) and it’s wise to keep a warm beanie and a toasty pair of gloves ready for the dip.
The body loses a huge amount of its heat from the head and by placing a warm hat over the top of it, you’ll notice the rest of your limbs start to warm up too. Similarly, walkers that find their fingers starting to lose a little temperature when walking will benefit from the option of a pair of gloves packed in their rucksack.
Beanies are all pretty similar and we don’t really have any dedication to one brand, but there are all sorts of different types of gloves.
10. First aid kit
Heading out on the hills with a first aid kit is a true no-brainer.
It’s always better to be safe than to be sorry and a simple first aid kit is the easiest step to take to look after yourself.
It’s unlikely that you’re going to be carting around any serious medical equipment. Instead, a small kit with a selection of blister plasters, light bandages and painkillers/prescription medication is all that you’ll really need.
We would recommend the Lifesystems Outdoor First Aid Kit as a competent accomplice for any time that you’re lucky enough to be spending outdoors.
FAQ: Hiking essentials
Have a question about any of the hiking essentials listed above? Don’t hesitate to reach out – but just before you do, it may be worth checking our FAQ below for the answers to some frequently asked questions.
Different rucksacks offer different organisation solutions that can utilise volumes to different extents.
We would typically recommend between 15L and 30L for a hiking backpack with the smaller size for summer hikes and the larger for winter.
If you’re still struggling to find the answer to your question – head over to our socials and ask away!