Hiking equipment

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Hiking equipment is what one needs to take along to go on an outdoors hiking trip. This list does not cover general travel equipment, such as passport, contact lenses, travel books or contraceptives (although those can be needed according to personal and local circumstances). What one should bring along depends very much on the type of hike, so one should make a selection of the following, based on that. Is it a daytrip or an overnight trip, what facilities can one expect, are there rivers and is the water potable, what are the expected weather conditions (check the latest weather report) and how quickly can conditions change (especially important in mountainous regions)?

Even for a day trip it makes sense to pack at least rudimentary solutions for staying the night, in case of emergencies. Also always let someone know where you are going and for how long, especially when hiking alone.

Weight and bulk limit the amount of equipment that can one can carry (particularly if one follows the principle of Leave No Trace and does not discard items on the trail). Criteria for packing an item include weight, bulk (size), number of alternative uses and the chances of each of those uses becoming apparent, weighed against the importance. For example, a whistle may seem unlikely to become necessary, but can be real life saver when it does and weighs next to nothing. Other items, like a sleeping bag, can also be important but can also be very restricting, so a simpler alternative like an extra layer of clothing might be a better idea.

First of all, of course, one needs something to carry the equipment in. This can be simple fisherman's jacket or a daypack for short hikes, or a full backpack.

Basic equipment

  • Pocket knife, possibly with a tin opener and a saw.
  • Electric torch (flashlight) plus spare batteries and bulb
  • Map(s)
  • Compass - roughly knowing which way is North can already make a huge difference
  • First aid kit
  • Matches and/or a lighter and possibly a flint or magnifying glass (always work, even when wet)
  • Tinder - plus knowledge how to start a fire. In emergencies, a campfire can be one of the biggest life savers (warmth and signalling) and it is not as easy to make as some might think. A fire also keeps up the spirits, which can also be a life saver.
  • Candles - for light but also a useful aid to start a fire
  • Water flask, plus water if needed
  • Water purification - tablets and/or filter
  • Food - preferably with a low water content to keep the weight down (if water is readily available on the spot)
  • Plastic bags of various types and sizes to keep things dry and pack things out. Ziploc bags are very practical because they are easily closed and opened. Garbage bags can be used to line the backpack with, but also to put in one's shoes to keep the feet warm, even when the socks are already wet.
  • Insect repellent
  • Mat - even a small thin one can make a difference in emergencies
  • Sleeping bag (and/or liner)
  • Clothes - best worn in layers, so one can easily adapt to changing circumstances. So two thin sweaters make more sense than one thick one. Also, on overnight trips, keep one set of clothes dry for evenings and nights (eg a jogging suit) and put the dayclothes back on before you start walking, even if they are wet. You will thank yourself for that during the next evening.
  • A warm hat or cap - even when no cold weather is expected. Per weight and volume, this is the best insulator because a lot of body heat escapes through the head ("If your feet are cold, put on a hat").
  • Big handkerchief - for various purposes, such as a rough water filter, a thin scarf or a bandana to keep the sweat out of one's eyes (should be big enough for that purpose).
  • Rain jacket or parka - preferably either one that fits over the backpack or accompanied by a separate pack liner
  • Boots - worn in boots, that is! Often heavy boots with soles with a thick profile and high heels are recommended to avoid twisted ankles after a misstep, which is one of the worst things that can happen to a solo hiker. However, heavy boots put a lot of weight where it is least desirable and are thus exhausting. A less popular alternative philosophy is to use light trainers with thin soles so one can feel the ground one walks on and avoid making missteps in the first place.
  • Socks - as with boots, special attention should be given to socks (eg, no irritating ridge above the toes). Footwear is obviously essential for long distance walking.
  • Toilet paper or paper napkins - also handy as kindling
  • Sun cream and sun glasses - may be essential for those who are easily sunburnt, eg fair skinned people who rarely go outside. Especially on snow, water or (to a lesser degree) sand. The reflection of snow can lead to snow blindness.

Worth considering

  • Tent and/or ground sheet - the sheet (plus a rope) can be a simple substitute for a tent.
  • Bivvy bag or space blanket - a simple substitute for both a tent and a sleeping bag, mostly to keep out wind and rain.
  • Hammock - especially popular in the tropics, to stay away from most creepy crawlies
  • Pillow - small or big, preferably inflatable because of bulk (possibly neck pillow). Can be improvised on with clothes or backpack.
  • Mosquito net
  • String - for all sorts of purposes, such as a clothes line
  • Rope - various lengths and girths, for various purposes, eg Parachute cord. Maybe also (copper) wire.
  • Fishing line and fishing hooks - extremely light weight, but potentially a life saver. The fishing line is also very versatile (eg for repairing boots)
  • Machete - may be frowned upon or even confiscated in National Parks, but can be essential when one wishes or needs to go off the beaten track, where one may encounter thick vegetation. Also very handy for construction and collecting firewood. Can also double as a spade.
  • Cooking pot or billy
  • Stove and fuel - can be as simple as an Esbit cooker. Esbit blocks are also good firestarters, albeit not too environmentally friendly.
  • Spoon and possibly other eating utensils
  • Rain pants
  • Sarong, shawl or other large cloth - for various purposes, such as a (spare) towel or sleeping sheet (or sleeping bag liner)
  • Scarf - can double as a headdress
  • Gloves
  • Flip flops or sandals - for the evenings or night visits to the toilet (or what ever passes for that)
  • Towel - can double as a scarf or head dress (against the cold)
  • Soap and shampoo - can be frowned upon in National Parks. Preferably bio-degradable. Use sparingly and away from lakes and rivers.
  • Sewing kit, possibly with a scalpel
  • Heliograph - a mirror with a hole in it for signalling airplanes. Requires knowledge of how to use it.
  • GPS
  • Walking stick
  • Notebook
  • Earplugs - some forests can be noisy, especially cicadas in the tropics
  • Elastic bands - various sizes and girths for various purposes
  • Gaffer tape - for quick repairs
  • Condoms - one condom can hold about a liter of water (although a condom without spermicide would be preferable for this purpose)
  • Radio - eg to listen to weather reports
  • Tweezers (if not already in pocket knife) - for removing thorns and such.
  • Spade - for various purposes, eg to dig a cathole.
  • Snacks - preferably of the healthy kind, as emergency 'power food'.
  • Beta light - handy for reading maps and possibly to catch fish at night
  • Black Shoe Polish - Can be use as a fuel for fire , gives of a smell that can repel animals , marking and camoflage

Special interests


External Links

See also