How to Pack for Your Next Hiking Adventure (in 12 Essential Steps)

Packing for your next bucket list trip? I don’t know about you, but sometimes it takes us an embarrassing amount of time to pack for a simple weekend trip, so where does one even begin when packing for adventure travel?! Don’t worry, we got you! As you prepare to hit the trails, the right packing strategy can make all the difference in ensuring a comfortable and stress-free experience so you can focus on the hiking, adventure, and incredible vistas. This guide will walk you through the art of packing for a hiking adventure, helping you strike the perfect balance between preparedness, safety, and comfort. Let’s go!

Beautiful View atop a Mountain

1. Research and Plan

Before you start packing, research the hiking trail and its conditions. Is it a day hike or a multi-day trek? What's the terrain like? Knowing these details will guide your packing decisions. Where will you be traveling? Check to see if you need to make any reservations or acquire permits. 

2. Keep Important Documents Safe

This is a big one! Make sure to keep any documents such as your passport, license, other forms of ID, proof of travel insurance, and any essential medications on your person! You’ll want to make copies of these items as well in the event they go missing. Keep a physical printed copy in a separate location (somewhere safe in your pack), and be sure to have them emailed to yourself as well. Other helpful documents like itineraries, reservations, or information about where you’re traveling can be stored on your phone.

3. Choose the Right Hiking Pack

Select a pack that suits the length of your hike. For day hikes, a smaller pack will suffice, while multi-day treks require a larger, more supportive pack. In either case, you’ll want a soft duffle or pack rather than a hard shell. You may need to shove it under your feet or into a small taxi. Having a more malleable pack will make this much easier. Another pro tip is to see if your airline offers backpack protection. If you are only traveling with your pack, you’ll want to ensure its safety!  

You may want to pack a smaller daypack inside your hiking pack. Your daypack can be used to carry your essentials, such as toiletries, medications, and spare socks. If the airline were to lose your pack, what things would you be lost without? Those are the items you should include in your daypack!

Hiking Pack and Essentials

4. Pack Light

The fewer things, the better! A common suggestion is to lay out what you think you need, and then try to half your items (we know it’s hard, but we have faith in you!). Boil it down to the essentials. If you’re going on a long trek or will be moving locations frequently, you’ll quickly grow tired of lugging around a heavy pack. 

5. Essential Clothing

Choose moisture-wicking, breathable clothing that suits the climate and weather conditions. You’ll want to shop for quality items that you can layer up (it’s all about the layers!). You’ll need tops and bottoms that are comfortable, durable, and moisture-wicking to help regulate your body temperature. Don’t forget good hiking socks and undergarments! Good footwear is also a must. Do your research and invest in a pair of hiking boots that feel comfortable, provide good ankle support, and are at least water resistant (bonus points for waterproof boots).

6. Rain and Wind Protection

Mother nature answers to no one. Be prepared for all types of weather, even if it’s not typically expected. Pack a lightweight, waterproof, and windproof jacket or poncho. These items can be a lifesaver when the weather takes an unexpected turn. You will also want a waterproof cover for your pack!

Woman Hiking in Bad Weather

7. Hydration and Nutrition

Carry a refillable water bottle or hydration system to stay hydrated on the trail. Pack energy-rich snacks like granola bars, nuts, and dried fruits to keep your energy levels up. Depending on your type of outdoor adventure, you may need to pack more or less food. Be sure to plan ahead and map out locations where you can refill your water or restock on food. If you’re only going on a day trip, bring just enough to boost your energy while hiking, and store a couple of extra small things for emergencies. 

8. Navigation Tools

Carry a map, compass, or GPS device to ensure you stay on the right trail. Familiarize yourself with the trail's route before setting off. Depending on the length and difficulty of the terrain and weather conditions of your hike, you may need a more reliable GPS. For shorter or popular hikes, a map or simply relying on waymarkers may do. 

9. Safety Essentials

Don’t forget this! Even if you think you may not need it (and hopefully you won’t), but it could be a life-saver! Make sure to pack a compact first aid kit that includes essentials like adhesive bandages, antiseptic wipes, pain relievers, and blister treatment. An all-purpose multi-tool with features like a knife, scissors, and screwdriver can is always a good addition, too! Consider bringing an emergency whistle to signal for help, and as always, be sure to bring sun protection! You’ll want to pack sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat to protect you from the sun’s harmful rays. 

10. Campsite Gear (for Overnight Hikes)

If you're camping overnight, pack a lightweight tent, sleeping bag, sleeping pad (luxury item), and a compact stove for cooking meals. For longer treks, you may need a heavy-duty waterproof tent. Depending on where you’re traveling and what nighttime temperatures will be, you’ll want to research which sleeping bag is best, too!

Hiking Tent and Man Watching Sunset

11. Leave No Trace

As always, please respect mother nature. You are a visitor in her home, so remember to pack out everything you brought with you, including trash. Leave the trail as pristine as you found it, not only out of courtesy but also for your safety! No need to lead any trail predators right to you.

12. Test Your Gear

You’ll want to break things in before you actually hike with them. The first time to try out your new gear should not be on your long-distance hike! Before your adventure, try out all your hiking equipment to make sure it is comfortable and works properly.

Hiking Pack Left on Rocks

Time to Adventure

Alright, it looks like you’re ready to hit the trails! We can’t wait to see where your next adventure takes you. We understand that packing for a hiking adventure requires thoughtful planning and attention to detail, but we know you can do it! Just follow this guide, and you’ll be sure to set yourself up for success. By packing essentials like proper clothing, safety gear, and nourishment, you'll be well-prepared to conquer the trails and soak in the beauty of the great outdoors. We find that the key to a successful hiking adventure lies in finding the balance between preparedness, comfort, and respecting the environment. So, gear up, step onto the trail, and embark on an unforgettable journey.