Looking for the absolute best backpacking, trekking and hiking gear list for multi-day hiking trips or your next overseas hiking adventure?
The Ultimate Hiking Gear List is filled with epic, field-tested trekking gear that will have you perfectly prepared to enjoy a majestic mountain sunset, that first cup of camp coffee, or a sunny day on the trail. I’d be lying if I said it was the definitive “best” backpacking gear guide because that is a totally subjective term. What is the best for one person might not work for someone else for one reason or another.
But after 15+ years of backpacking trails around the world including trekking in places like Patagonia, the Inca Trail in Peru, Nepal and the American west I’ve learned what works and what doesn’t.
What makes this hiking gear list different?
1. Built For Travel
I’m not the type of person that buys something for one activity, it’s a waste of money. This backpacking gear list is built to go beyond hiking. In addition to being awesome in the outdoors, most items I reccommend are also perfect for overseas travel, various other outdoor activities or even during day-to-day life at home.
2. Affordable NOT cheap
I love high-quality items – and am willing to pay for them. If there is a choice between spending a little more or getting inferior gear I will ALWAYS spend more because I know it can last for many years. Some things I’ve had for more than a decade, and once you get your core setup you don’t need to spend that money again. This list represents my value of quality gear at affordable prices.
3. 100% Honest Recommendations (not sponsor-or-advertiser-driven)
I’ve used all of the gear I recommend in this list on treks around the world, and if I haven’t I explain why. For example, the manufacturer doesn’t make the same model backpack I use anymore, so I found their newer improved version and recommend that because it’s the same design with even better features.
This list is sponsor free. I am not paid to recommend any of these items. Like you, I had to save my hard earned money and purchase this gear for myself, so you won’t find any conflicts of interest here.
Overall, I’m not a big shopper but as an avid traveler and hiker, I always get excited to go to REI and gear up for a trip.
I’ve been shopping at REI for nearly 20 years and they’ve always done right by me. Once, when my favorite tent zipper broke after 10 years of fairly heavy use they gave the new version of that model tent…for FREE. It’s this type of customer service-driven attitude, plus a generous return policy and outdoor friendly core values that keep me coming back.
Since I am already a fanboy of REI you’ll notice that most of my links take you to rei.com (with some amazon links for items REI does not carry). As an affiliate partner, if you chose to purchase any items through my links, I will get a small commission at ZERO extra cost to you and you’ll be supporting my work – thank you for that!
Here are the guiding principles that drive my recommendations. All of the gear I’m discussing here fits this criteria:
Safety – You must have the 10 Essentials. Check out the classic and modern 10 essentials list.
Layering – Clothing recommendations are based on the layering system designed to keep your body dry and at the ideal temperature despite heat or cold.
Packable and Light – Ultralight when possible but I’m no psycho about it. This is to help you avoid extra weight and save space.
Intelligent Fabrics – Focus on proven outdoor-friendly fabrics including; non-cotton synthetic fabrics, merino wool, and silk.
Intelligent Design – X-factor features that take something from good to “must have”.
* This is not a packing list! The ultimate hiking gear list is designed to give you my overall recommendations for every piece of equipment or gear you might bring depending on preference, location, weather and a variety of other factors. Pick what you need for your trip, pack and go.
** This list contains unisex items (ex: pots and pans, stove) and some gender specific items. My wife provides the recommendations for the ladies.
Ok, here we go….
The Ultimate Hiking Gear List
Water Filter(s) and Cooking Gear
The 10 Essentials
Hiking Accessories (aka the “Guilty Pleasure” section)
Backpack – Gregory Baltoro 75 ($319.00)
Winner of the Backpacker Magazine 2015 Editors’ Choice Gold Award this is the new and improved version of my current pack, the Gregory Palisade 80 (discontinued). Like my younger self, the Baltoro 75 is lighter, stronger and better looking. Gregory’s durability is undeniable. My pack not only functions perfectly after over a decade of travel but against all odds it somehow still looks good. From trekking around Patagonia to Central American surfing adventures and extended European excursion this pack has been a great travel partner and just the right size for multi-day or weeks long hiking adventures. Don’t mess around, get this pack.
Backpacking Tent – Half Dome 2 Plus ($167.93 – $173.93)
Among many nights in the outdoors, I lived in this tent for a couple of weeks in Crested Butte Colorado and took it on several multiday treks in the Patagonian Andes. It’s roomy enough for car camping but small and light enough for backpacking, which is what makes it such a versatile and intelligent purchase. Half Dome 2 Plus is built for 1-2 people and 3 seasons and sports a shockingly low price tag given the features offered. It’s never leaked, never blown over and never let me down. Why build a tiny house when you can have this home away from home?
Recommended Podcast: Car Camping Superstar
Sleeping Bag – REI Igneo Sleeping Bag (For Men – $299-$319) and REI Joule (For Woman $235-$260)
Real down or synthetic down or a combo? What fill rating? Mummy bag or semi-rectangular fit? Three-season or four? What temperature rating? You could go down a sleeping bag research rabbit hole but instead, I am going to make this easy for you. Get a three season down mummy because it’s warm, down is lighter plus more compressible and you most likely won’t be camping in the winter. My REI Sub-Kilo 20 degree rated sleeping bag (now discontinued) has been a godsend and the Igneo blows it away. Same goes for the REI Joule. Don’t worry about the down bag getting wet, both are water resistant and you can always pack it in a waterproof stuff sack (recommendation coming later). Bonus: the Joule’s right-hand side zipper matches the left side zipper Igneo, which means cozy couples can zip these two bags together for some fun under the stars.
Liner – Cocoon CoolMax Mummy ($45.95)
This liner easily slips this into your sleeping bag adding instant warmth and comfort. Pack the liner on colder trips or use it regularly to keep your bag a bit more clean. This liner also works well as a sleep sheet in hostels around the world or as a body barrier against your buddy’s nasty ass couch. It also makes a great warm weather “sleeping bag”. I’ve used it to sleep in a Hawaiian A-frame hut, lowland Nepalese teahouses and sweaty car camping nights in Utah to name a few.
Sleep Pads – Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus Sleeping Pad ($89.95 – $119.95) or Therm-a-Rest Z Lite Sol Sleeping Pad ($34.95 – $44.95)
Ok, you’ve got a bag and a tent, now you need something to sleep on top on. Insulation from the cold ground is mandatory and the Z-Lite sleep pad is a no brainer because a) it’s stupid affordable and b) it’s crazy light. Outside of the tent, use it to sit or take a mid-day wildflower meadow nap then brush off the grass as if you were never there. If you want more comfort and don’t mind the weight opt for the Therm-a-Rest ProLite Plus. I own both.
Stuff Sacks (Regular) – REI Ditty Sack 3 Pacherek ($16.95) or here’s a general list of options.
Want a simple way to stay mad organized? Get your stuff sack on! When you pack with stuff sacks, finding what you need in a backpack full of stuff takes seconds. No more guessing or unloading your entire bag to find one small thing. Stuff sacks can double as storage for dirty or wet clothes or provide a place to store and hang food away from bears and other hungry animals.
A lighter weight version is available for slightly more –
Stuff Sack (Waterproof) – Sea to Summit eVac Dry Sack ($21.95-$36.95)
Having at least one waterproof stuff sack with you guarantees a safe place to store water sensitive gear like electronics, down sleeping bag or jacket, book, journal, and more. When traveling bring your dry sack in a daypack and keep your stuff safe and dry in all weather. This has saved my ass on more than one rainy occasion.
Hiking Boots (Heavy Duty) – Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Hiking Boots ($230) or Vasque Sundowner GTX ($220)
Some people prefer to go light on footwear. Generally, I am not one of them. I want dry feet and protection against twisted ankles, jammed toes, and other trail foot hazards. Both of these boots and brands have been a powerful ally on the trail and kept me blister free to boot (pun intended). Everyone has their preferred brand, these are mine.
Hiking Boots (Light Day Hikers) – Merrell Grassbow Air Low Hiking Shoes ($99.95)
These kicks are so comfortable and light I could wear them as slippers around the house. With the kicks, your feet stay cool on warm weather hiking days without compromising support and stability. Want to go for a trail or road run when you’re traveling? These shoes pull double duty which makes them my go to.
Hiking Sandals – Chaco Z/2 Classic Sandles ($105.00)
Invented by rafting guides, these are the only sandals I would hike with due to the durable soles and strong strap construction. The toe loop takes some getting used to for some, but after a day you’ll not only barely notice it, you’ll be glad it’s there. This is a heavy sandal made for active travelers. They look pretty damn good too.
Trekking Poles- REI Basic Trekking Poles ($119.95)
If you’ve never used trekking poles and think they aren’t for you, I’d beg you to try them out. It’s almost hard to believe how much easier they make everything on a multi-day hike, particularly if you’re carrying weight on your back coming downhill. Benefits include less stress on your knees, balance, and support that is crucial on long hikes. On flat terrain pack them down and strap them to the side of your pack. Four legs are better than two, trekking poles are for you!
Sunglasses- Maui Jim’s ($150-$300)
Sunglasses are not a luxury item, they are necessary. Which is why they are listed as one of the 10 essentials. I am a bit of a sunglasses snob, consequently, I don’t mind spending money on something I know is quality and will last. That’s why I roll with Maui Jim’s. If these are too rich for your blood I understand, just be sure to get something that is polarized – otherwise, you’re wasting your money.
Headlamp- Petzl Tikka ($29.95) or Petzl Tikka XP ($49.95)
This might be my favorite piece of equipment. I really don’t know why. Maybe it’s the memory of my light cutting through the darkness on pre-dawn volcano summit push in Patagonia, or illuminating a delicious dinner on camping road trip with friends, or snuggled up in my sleeping bag using it to read a good book. The list goes on and on. Where will you take your light?
Swiss Army Camper Knife ($28)
For a neutral country, they sure make cool knives for the army they have no plans of using. This is your basic solid camping knife. Those that want more functionality and weight can opt for multi-tool like the Leatherman Wave.
Carabiner (Heavy Duty) – Any Quality Brand (Cost Varies)
You can get some cheap carabiner keychains all over the place and you should. But I recommend having at least one serious climbing carabiner. Something that can hold serious weight, and be used for anything you can think of. Clip it to your pack and hang shoes, wet clothes that need a little sun or your camera bag for easy access. Loop together food filled stuff sacks to hang from a tree. You’ll find your uses.
Best Hiking Clothes
When it comes to hiking and clothing, it’s all about the layering. If you’re not familiar with the concept of layering, here is an excellent tutorial:
REI layering video explanation:
Here is a great article with great advice on layering.
For layering to work you have to have purchase clothing made out of the right fabrics. Cotton t-shirts are great for relaxing around camp or at the brewery after an adventure, but terrible for keeping your body temperature regulated while you hike.
Over the years I’ve discovered that a lot of technical clothing just ain’t that comfortable or fashionable, which is made worse by how expensive it can be. But when you find the right clothing you won’t want to take it off. Why should we spend our hard-earned money on stuff we’ll only wear on the trail? That’s bollocks, as the Brits would say. I want clothing that I WANT to wear at home, while traveling, on the trail, to the gym, or out for a night on the town. Pants that zip off into shorts (gross) and khaki vests with an obscene amount of pockets (double gross) don’t fit the bill. I want stuff that is functional, comfortable AND fashionable. Let’s start underneath…
BASE LAYER – Moisture Be Gone!
You could spend a lot on fancy technical underwear, but I don’t. I buy my underwear used. Just kidding! Wanted to make sure you were paying attention because this is a hot item. Scoop up your non-cotton, technical blend undies at discount stores like Marshall’s and TJ Maxx. Target also has a good selection. Put your saved money towards the next item…
Socks – REI Lightweight Merino Wool Hiking Socks ($14.95)
Some things in life you just can’t skimp out on. I’ll spend the extra money on things like orange juice, coffee, and beer to make sure I’m getting something that isn’t shit. Hiking socks fall into that category. We need to care for our feet to get down the trail otherwise like the famous gold saying goes “It’s a good walk spoiled.” Nothing ruins a good time like freezing feet and blisters. Have at least 2-3 pairs of quality wool socks. Thickness depends on preference and season but overall I like lightweight covers for my feet. Some people swear by Smartwool but mine have always gotten holes over a short period of time. The REI socks cost less and last longer.
Long John’s – Patagonia Capilene Top ($49) and Bottom ($59) Mens and Womens
Patagonia is one of those feel good brands, and for good reason. They have consistently made an effort to do the right thing when it comes to the environment and being eco-friendly (just reach found Yvon Chouinard’s book). You’ll get warm and fuzzies too after slipping on the classic Capilene. I’ve been wearing mine on trails worldwide for a decade – they make great camping pajamas too.
Shirts and Pants
Ok, I know we said NO cotton on this list but cotton is cozy and I always bring one cotton t with me on the trail for post hike comfort. I swear by American Apparel.
Technical T-Shirt – REI Co-Op Tech T-Shirt ($19.50) or mountain hardware
This is the one clothing category I can’t seem to find any super cool options for. I go with your basic REI technical tee because you need 1-2 good ones when you hit the dirt. I also own a mountain hardware tee (insert link).
Shorts – Kuhl Renegade Shorts ($70)
Love everything about them. The minimal industrial look. The various zip pockets for securing your stuff. The durable construction. The quick drying material. The fact that it matches pretty much everything in my pack. After years with these shorts, I can say they are worth every penny and more.
Pants – prAna Stretch Zion Pants ($85)
Holy crap are these things comfortable! They’re stylish, form fitting, impossible to wrinkle and stretchy in all directions so you can do just about anything while wearing them. Plus they are straight up nice looking pants. You won’t look out of place bopping around town after your adventures. I also like a good pair of PrAna jeans.
Second Layer – Insulation Recommendations
Fleece (whatever strikes your fancy)
I’m not partial to any particular fleece. A fleece is a fleece so if you can save money here do it. I use a random fleece that was given to my by my Father-In-Law and a prAna fleece that I obtained from a one night stand (don’t ask).
Vests aren’t everyone’s cup of tea…they’re more like a cup of vest I guess. I currently own a Mountain Hardware one. Do I need it? Not really? Do I like it? Yes, yes I do.
Third Layer – Protective Outdoor Armor
Mountain Hardware Down Jackets – ($175-$350)
Seeing a trend, what can I say? I’m a Mountain Hardware fan. I’ve owned two Mountain Hardware down jackets over the last decade plus. Together we’ve shared many memories from powder ski days in Colorado to cool camp nights by the fire. I recommend a down with a hood. Styles and types are ever changing so see what you like and grab one, you can’t go wrong.
Waterproof Shell with hood – REI Shell’s ($165+)
Shells are something I know I could spend a lot more money on and get better results but the problem is, I’ve been too cheap to go high end and buy something with Gortex. My first shell was a Northface purchase at an outlet mall – I used that for about 10 years. It wasn’t the best but worked fine – hey I’m alive! I feel sort of the same about my current shell. It works but could work better. I just choose not to spend a lot of these things, but if you don’t mind I would recommend grabbing a shell made with Gortex and seam seal zippers.
Rain pants ($119)
If you’re wondering, do I need rain pants? The answer is yes. Unless you want to spend the day soaked from the bottom down. Still want to skip the rain pants – try out a poncho…
Some people swear by them. I can see that. The poncho covers everything including your pack. When you add in a found wooden walking stick and hunch a tad you’ll look like some bad ass Gandalf type warrior coming out of the woods.
Hat Thin and Thick $39.50
Just a friendly reminder to avoid cotton winter hats – they won’t keep you warm or dry when wet!
REI Liner Gloves ($19.95)
Outdoor Research Mittens ($75.00)
I also practice layering with my gloves for three reasons. First, sometimes I want to wear lighter gloves only, and this gives me the option. Second, I always have at least one dry pair. 3. If I want ultimate warmth I put on both!
Odds and Ends
My slight obsession with cotton bandana has not waned over the years. These things do everything! Cover my head or act as a sweatband, get wet and keep me cool, wash dishes, grab hot pots, tie things together, act as a blindfold (none of your business!) and whoever else you can imagine. Get two.
A good old fashioned baseball hat works but if you need serious protection you should consider one of those lame ass looking fisherman type hats because they’ll block the sun on all sides. Yes, I own one. Yes, I know it’s lame. No, I don’t wear it on dates.
Travel Towel – Pack Towel ($10-$40)
Travel towels rock! This multi-use, quick drying friend is indispensable.
Hiking Water Filters and Cooking Gear
Planning ahead in regards to food and drink can make or break a trip. There are lots of great products that keep cooking, drinking, and snacking on the trail as easy and enjoyable as possible. Here are my recommendations:
Water Bottle – Platypus SoftBottle Water Bottle ($8.95)
Light, durable, functional, light and light. Did I mention it’s light? Also extremely packable. Fill it with warm water at night then stick it in your sleeping bag to stay toasty.
Water Bladder – MSR DromLite 2 Liter ($26.95)
Going on a serious trek? Time to upgrade to a water bladder for on the go sipping. Newsflash, you’re supposed to drink a lot of water while you hike, especially at altitude. As a rule, you should be drinking BEFORE you are thirsty. Sip on the fly with this bad ass bladder.
Water Filter / Water Purification – Katadyn Hiker Water Filter ($69.95)
Most backcountry locations require you to bring a water filter. If you need one, get this one. You’ll get drinking water fast and it’s easy to use.
Water Filter / Water Purification – SteriPEN Adventurer Opti Water Purifier ($89.95)
I’ve frequently thought about buying this filter, and have heard good things. The reason I’m listing it here is because of its use for general travel. I hate the idea of creating more plastic water bottle waste and this will allow you to create drinking water anywhere. The downside to using this in the backcountry is that it won’t filter your water, it will only purify it so you might end up drinking sediment and rocks. Still, it’s worth considering depending on your style of trip.
Gas Stove – MSR PocketRocket Backpacking Stove ($39.95)
This is my go to camping stove for backpacking in the USA. Also, makes a great car camping companion. Fuel is easy to come by, it’s light and it works.
Gas Stove – MSR Whisperlite International Backpacking Stove ($99.95)
Not all types of fuel are available everywhere, which is why this stove exists. I prefer to buy a stove upon arrival after I figure out which types of gas are coming but if you are going somewhere remote right away, or want assurances, you might want to grab this.
It’s not a spoon. It’s not a fork. It’s a spork!
Mug – Snow Peak Titanium Single 450 Cup ($29.95)
Nothing beats a good camping cup for coffee, soup, wine or water.
Pots and Pans – MSR Alpine 2 Pot Set ($49.95)
If you need pots and pans, this is a solid set. They are easy to pack and clean, and should last you forever.
Soap to clean your stuff.
Spice Containers ($7.95)
Just because you’re camping doesn’t mean food has to be boring- add some spice!
10 Essentials of Trekking
The 10 Essentials of Trekking are items that without, you’ll likely find yourself lost, hurt, maybe dead or at the very least, extremely uncomfortable. They are relatively inexpensive and can make a HUGE difference in your trip.
Maps – $20
Compass – $44
Sunscreen & Insect Repellent – $8.50
Extra food- (such as delicious Mountain House Freeze-Dried Food) – $8.50
Matches – $7.95
Firestarter – $7.95
First-aid supplies – $16.95
Knife – $28.95
Backpacking Chair- Thermarest Compack Chair Kit – $59.95-69.95
Earplugs – $8.95
Garbage bag – $29.95
Emergency shelter – Space Emergency Blanket – $3.95
Blister kit – Spenco Second Skin Blister Kit – $8.75
This is the final part of the Ultimate Hiking Gear List – we’ll call it the “Fancy Schmancy Guilty Pleasures Edition”. This is the stuff that you don’t NEED to bring on your next outdoor adventure…but might want to.
iPhone 6se ($599.95)
If you’re not leaving the electronics behind, then get this phone. I hate those smartphones with comically large screens. It’s too much to carry into the mountains. This phone has a compact, thin design and acts as the ultimate electronic swiss army knife, complemented by a rocking camera.
Kindle Paperwhite ($119.95)
Slipping into your sleeping bag and snuggling up with a book is one of the great joys in life. The kindle Paperwhite gently lights up making it easy to read, and can hold more books than you can read on a trip. Never tried an e-reader? Trust me, this one is awesome…I am obsessed!
Gorilla Pod ($14.99)
Wrap it around anything to capture that perfect memory. Available in a multitude of sizes and types.
Martin Guitar ($439)
For campfire sing-alongs, you can’t beat this little gem of an instrument.
Keeping electronics charged in the wilderness is a struggle, but this solar charger makes it as easy as possible.
The Final Word
There you have it – the Ultimate Hiking Gear List. If you’re still here you must be a gear geek too:)
If you love hiking adventures I’ve got more goodies for you to check out.
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