Hiking has become a big part of our travels over the last few years, with trekking and outdoor guides popping up regularly on this blog. So, we figured it was time to put together a comprehensive list of exactly what hiking gear we use, and why. We hope this will be helpful when choosing hiking gear for your own adventures (and at the very least, we’ve now got a handy checklist when packing for our next hike!)
We’ve broken things down into three sections, covering our hiking clothes, backpacks, and extra gear. In each section we’ve given an indication of when, why, and how we use these items, aiming to help you make relevant gear choices for your own hiking trips.
We don’t consider ourselves experts by any means, but we have spent lots of time in the outdoors over the last few years. Throughout this time we’ve built our knowledge and experience (more or less from scratch) to a point where we feel confident in our choice of gear and prepared for most hiking situations outside of winter. So whether you’re an enthusiastic beginner or a seasoned adventurer, we hope you’ll find our hiking gear checklist useful and informative.
Interested in camping? Check out our complete backpacking camping gear.
Jump to each section using the links below, or expand the boxes to find an item specific list.
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Our main concern when it comes to hiking gear is having weather appropriate clothing that will keep us cool when it’s hot, warm when it’s cold, and dry when it’s raining. We want our gear to be durable, comfortable to wear, and as lightweight as possible. For every hike we have our go-to items, plus a few extra things for overnight trips. We’ve found that investing in quality gear and choosing the right materials goes a long way when it comes to our comfort and enjoyment on the trail.
A few thoughts on the importance of layers, clothing material, and packing for longer hikes.
Layering is key when it comes to hiking clothing, and no matter the forecast we pack our layers each and every time we head for the hills. This helps us regulate our body temperatures as we can easily take layers off or add extra ones depending on the weather and our own level of exertion. The key principles of layering is to have a breathable moisture wicking base layer, an insulating mid layer, and a waterproof outer layer.
I learnt the hard way that cotton is a hiker’s worst enemy, during monsoon season on our first ever trek in Nepal. It retains moisture easily (whether that’s sweat or rain) and just refuses to dry, weighing you down and making you cold and smelly. Merino wool, on the other hand, is a hiker’s best friend. We dress almost entirely head to toe in it when hiking these days (and quite often even when we’re not hiking!).
Merino wool keeps you cool when it’s hot and warm when it’s cool, and amazingly, doesn’t stink even after days of wear. This breathable wonder material is the perfect choice for underwear and base layers, wicking moisture away from your body and keeping any stink at bay. Icebreaker is our go-to company for all our merino wool needs.
If we’re doing an overnight hike we always pack spare clothing to change into, particularly underwear, socks, and baselayers. If we’re camping we’ll usually pack thermals too. A fresh change of clothes keeps us warm when we’re at rest and allows us to dry out our hiking clothes for the next day. We usually pack trekking sandals to wear at night too.
We both wear Icebreaker merino wool underwear when hiking and find them super comfortable and of course, stink free. Del wears the Anatomica boxers, and I like their boy shorts and sports bra. If it’s a multi-day hike, we each take a spare pair of underwear to change into in the evening. I don’t bother with a spare bra unless I’m going to be in the company of others, eg. staying in a guesthouse.
We both love our Icebreaker merino Tech Lite short sleeved t-shirts which we use as base layers for hiking most of the time (his/hers). We prefer dark colours to hide any dirt or stains as we usually wear the same t-shirt for days on end (remember, no stink!). If we’re on a multi-day hike we’ll each change into a long sleeved Icebreaker merino top at night (his/hers). If it’s extra cold, we might wear the long sleeved one as our hiking base layer.
We also each have Icebreaker thermal leggings (his/hers) which we change into for camping, or occasionally wear under our hiking trousers if it’s very cold. Sometimes Del wears these around town (under his shorts, along with socks and sandals) and I get very embarrassed, but such is the life of a backpacker with limited clothing options…
A light to mid weight technical fleece makes a perfect mid layer, adding warmth when needed while remaining breathable. Del wears the Patagonia R2 TechFace Hoody, and I have an old Rab Nucleus fleece which is no longer in production but is similar to the current Nexus, without a hood. I also have a Rab Polartec hooded fleece which I often take for wearing around camp in colder weather because it’s super warm and comfy, but I have to argue my case with Del every single time because to be honest, it’s a bit unnecessary.
Down offers the best warmth-to-weight ratio so the Rab Microlight Alpine Jacket is the perfect choice for our insulating layer (his/hers). These jackets are lightweight, pack down small into a stuff sack, and are impressively warm. The one downside is that down loses its insulating properties if it gets wet, but these jackets are treated with a ‘hydrophobic’ finish so we don’t worry too much if we get caught in a drizzle. For heavier rain, their slimline fit means they sit comfortably under our waterproof outer layers.
Waterproof jackets and trousers that are lightweight, non-bulky, and packable are a priority for us, but of course, they also have to keep us dry. After much research, we both settled on Outdoor Research jackets and trousers.
There are a couple of features I really love about these jackets. The first is the side zippers. They allow you to completely unzip from waist to armpit (in either direction), turning the jacket into more of a poncho. This is great for ventilation and ideal when hiking in hot, rainy weather (like on Jeju). You can buckle up your backpack waist belt underneath and stay dry without overheating. The second is the two-way front zip, which I find really handy for grabbing stuff from my inner layer pocket. I just unzip the jacket a little from the bottom and reach into my pocket, instead of having to completely unzip from the top down.
The jacket hood is another plus point. It is super snug and stays perfectly in place thanks to drawstrings at the neck and back of the head. Also, the stiff peak does a great job at keeping rain off our faces. One downside on my jacket is the arm pocket. It’s annoyingly awkward to use, but I did notice the newer women’s version has a chest pocket instead (much preferable).
After more than 3 years of use in some tough conditions, we’re still pretty happy with the performance of these jackets. We do notice some ‘wetting out’ under the shoulder straps during prolonged periods of hiking in rain (Scotland, we’re looking at you), but even then we stay mostly dry underneath. In heavy rain we can feel a bit damp, but when we take our jackets off, we’re actually dry. When this happens, it’s time to wash them in Nikwax and restore the DWR coating.
Initially, we both opted for the Outdoor Research Helium trousers (2017 model) which are incredibly lightweight and tiny when packed. Our only concern when choosing these was their durability. A valid concern as we both ended up with rips after various falls or scrapes against bushes. I’ve patched mine up with tape and they are still doing a decent job, but Del completely blew out the crotch and had huge, unpatchable rips, so replaced them with the Foray trousers. These are much more durable, and he’s loving the full length leg zippers which make them easy to put on over boots.
Both models do an excellent job at keeping us dry, and the latest version of the Helium trousers have ‘Diamond Fuse’ technology and claim to be five times more tear-resistant than our models, which all sounds very promising.
P.S. It might sound like we love to wear matching couple outfits, but to be honest we’re just too lazy to bother shopping for different items. After spending months researching and comparing gear to find the right stuff, why not take advantage of the fact that most companies make his and her versions of the same thing?!
Ugghh, I despise shopping for trousers, and even worse is shopping for hiking trousers. So, I was delighted when I found a pair that I actually liked and fit me well. So much so that 4 years ago, I bought two pairs (one with and one without zip-off shorts) and have been wearing them ever since. In truth, I desperately need a new pair of convertible hiking trousers, but the company has stopped making them and I can’t face the new trouser-trauma quite yet. These wonder trousers are the Marmot Lobo’s Convertible, but there are just a few limited pairs kicking about these days. They are lightweight, quick drying, and unlike most hiking trousers out there, I don’t find the material horrendous.
As much as zip-off trousers make me roll my eyes in disgust, they are incredibly handy when hiking in changeable weather conditions, or in countries where it’s culturally inappropriate for women to wear shorts (Tajikistan, for example). I usually wear my convertible trousers for hiking, and pack the regular trousers for evenings on multi-day hikes. I know lots of women like to wear leggings and/or running shorts for hiking but that’s not something I would feel comfortable in, plus I’d need way too much sunscreen to stop my legs from burning in short shorts.
Del also had to find replacements for his convertible hiking trousers when the company stopped making them. Now he has Craghoppers Kiwi Pro trousers and Craghoppers Kiwi Pro shorts. Depending on the weather, and how much Giant Hogweed is around (shout out to Georgia), he wears one for hiking and the other at night on multi-day hikes. This sometimes means pairing his shorts and thermal leggings at night.
We each have a hiking belt which doubles as a secret money stash, and we love it! It’s very practical for multi-day hikes when our weight might fluctuate, while being a safe and secure place to store up to $1800 in hundred dollar bills (or whatever currency we’re carrying).
No surprises that our hiking socks are also merino wool. I firmly believe that good quality, well fitting socks are a must for avoiding blisters and hot spots. I always check that my socks are sitting correctly (no bunching or twisted toe seams) before putting on my boots to avoid rubbing.
I have a variety of thicknesses to choose between depending on the weather. I often use Icebreaker ultralight merino liner socks underneath the Icebreaker Hike+ Light Crewe socks, again to minimise the chance of rubbing and blisters. I love how these socks have L and R on them to ensure I always wear them on the same foot and they don’t get stretched in different ways over time. I also have some thicker Darn Tough Boot Full Cushion socks for colder weather or long hikes when I need some serious cushioning. Del has a few pairs of Bridgedale midweight boot socks which he is happy with.
While I’ll happily wear the same t-shirt or underwear for days on end, socks are one thing I’m quite particular about changing every couple of days. Dry socks equal happy feet, and on multi-day hikes we always pack enough spare pairs to ensure we have fresh socks at the end of the day, and a dry pair for the next. They take forever to dry if they get wet, so spare socks are a must.
We aren’t particularly light or fast hikers and we hike on all sorts of terrain, so we both prefer to wear hiking boots with full ankle support (as opposed to trail running shoes or light support hiking shoes). Boots like this can be bulky and heavy though, which makes it a bit tricky given that we travel full time with our hiking kit as part of our general travel gear. After a lot of shopping around and weight/bulk comparisons, we have both now settled on the Salomon Quest 4D 3 GTX as our favourite hiking boots (his/hers).
Del has been wearing this model since 2017, and I made the switch in late 2019 after a couple of years hiking in the Asolo Falcon GV GTX boots. The Salomon boots are much more comfortable than my previous ones, with little to no rubbing or hot spots. My toes don’t touch the front of the boot while descending, a problem I’ve had with all of my previous hiking boots or shoes. Over time and prolonged use on rough terrain, we have both noticed the rubber toe cap coming away slightly, which is the one thing we don’t love about these boots. However, Salomon does offer a 2 year warranty against material and manufacturing defects, and Del got his last pair replaced under warranty for this reason.
We started using Superfeet insoles with our hiking boots in 2019 and wouldn’t hike without them now. We removed the insoles that came with our boots and replaced them with Superfeet ones, cut to the right size using the originals as a template. Del uses Superfeet Black as they suit his low arch foot profile, and I use the Trailblazer Comfort insoles which are perfect for stabilising my feet on uneven ground.
We bought our waterproof trekking sandals in 2014 for wadi hiking in Oman, and still have the same pairs to this day. I have the Keen Whisper Sandal and Del has the Keen Clearwater CNX sandal. If we’re doing multi-day hikes or have river crossings to deal with, we pack these with the rest of our hiking gear. They are quick and easy to slip on and off and can be worn with or without socks around camp in the evening (not exactly a sexy look I know, but practical). For river crossings, they sit securely on our feet and provide much more grip and comfort than going barefoot.
If we’re expecting heavy rain, snow, or boggy/muddy terrain, we’ll pack our gaiters. We have some pretty heavy-duty Gore-Tex Black Diamond Apex Gaiters. We bought these in Kathmandu in preparation for our most recent Nepal treks after discovering how much we needed them while trekking in snow in Kyrgyzstan. They are a bit heavy and bulky, but do an excellent job at keeping us dry and warm in wet conditions.
For sun protection I absolutely love my Tilley Endurables Tec-Wool Hat. It’s actually intended for winter use, and I’m pretty sure it’s a ‘men’s hat’, but it works great year-round for me. The wide brim keeps the sun out of my eyes and stops me from flying into a sun-induced rage, and the fold down ear flaps keep me cosy when the wind picks up. It also does a good job of regaining its shape after being stuffed in my backpack when I’m not wearing it.
Del’s bald noggin needs plenty of sun protection too, and he usually wears a lightweight Ronhill beanie. For colder weather we each have wooly fleece-lined hats bought in Nepal, although we often ditch these if we are trying to save space and weight, relying on our down, fleece, or waterproof jacket hoods instead.
I’ve tried a lot of gloves over the years and think I’ve finally found a pair I’m happy with, although they need a bit more real-world testing to be sure. I’m currently using the Sealskinz Unisex Waterproof All Weather Glove, which keep my hands dry and protected from wind chill, but aren’t too bulky to use comfortably with hiking poles. My main gripe with previous gloves was that I couldn’t use my phone while wearing them, but the Sealskinz have excellent touchscreen ability, allowing me to check GPS or take photos without removing them. I also have a lightweight pair of liner gloves which I use for sun protection or when it’s just a little chilly. Del has the Sealskinz Unisex Waterproof All Weather Insulated gloves, which are thicker and warmer than mine.
A must for a sun hater like me. I have Oakley Latch Oval sunglasses (turns out they are men’s but fit me great) and Del has the Oakley Trillbe X model. We’ve had them for over 3 years now and while pretty battered up, they still do the job just fine! I recently picked up a lightweight cord to attach to the legs so I can have them around my neck when not in use, which is super handy.
We use a combination of backpacks and waterproof liners.
We’ve been using Osprey backpacks for a long time now and highly recommend them. They are durable, intuitively designed, and very comfortable to wear. The back support provided by their Anti-Gravity AG system is fantastic. It uses a single piece of flexible mesh from the top right through to the hip belt, which moves with your body and hugs it perfectly. A large gap between the mesh and the back of the pack makes it incredibly breathable, and the seamless design minimises rubbing or sore spots. Finally, the AG system does an amazing job at weight distribution, making a heavy load feel lighter than it actually is.
Del has the Osprey Aether AG 70 litre backpack, and I have the Osprey Aura AG 50 litre. These are our full-time backpacks, used both for hiking and camping trips as well as general backpacking. For shorter hikes where we don’t need to utilise the full capacity, we often just take one and remove the lid to make it smaller and lighter.
Another reason we love Osprey is their All Mighty Guarantee, which promises to repair any damage or defect for any reason free of charge (regardless of how old your product is!). This came in very handy when I left a chocolate brownie in my backpack and a hungry bothy rodent chewed right through it, leaving me with a gaping hole in the lid and (even worse!) no summit brownie the next day. The team at Osprey had it patched up and sent back to me in no time.
We always use an Osprey ultralight pack liner for extra waterproofing in our bags. We pack our waterproof jackets and trousers in the bottom where we can quickly grab them via the lower zipped section, and pack everything else inside the liner on top. It does mean we can’t take advantage of the front access J-zip on the Aether, but it keeps our camera equipment, spare clothes and sleeping bags extra dry and secure.
I drink a lot of water as standard and even more when I’m hiking, so easy hands-free access to water is vital for me. Therefore, I always carry a 3L Hydrapak water bladder in my backpack. I can drink on the go without having to stop and pull out a water bottle, and having 2-3 litres sitting next to my back is the best way to carry that weight. Del doesn’t use a bladder unless we are hiking in a very dry area where we have to carry more than 5 litres between us. Instead, we just share my water hose on the trail. When camping, having a water reservoir as well as our bottles is also handy, especially if the water source is far away.
On shorter day hikes with just one backpack between us (which Del will most likely be carrying) we usually take one or both of our 1 litre Nalgene Tritan Wide Mouth water bottles. We’ve had these for years and love their durability, simple design, and looped carry strap. The wide mouth makes them easy to clean, although it makes drinking on the move a little bit challenging.
On multi-day hikes, these bottles are handy around camp or for using at guesthouses. They have markings up the side, allowing us to measure the exact amount of water we need for cooking (although over the years this has rubbed off). They are the perfect size to use for filling up water at streams or taps, before sterilising with our Steripen.
We nearly always treat our water when hiking, and our preferred sterilisation method is the Steripen. It’s quick and easy to use, and leaves no aftertaste like some purification tablets. It takes 90 seconds to sterilise 1 litre of water, killing all bacteria with UV light. We use it in conjunction with the Steripen filter to ensure there’s no weird floating things in our water. The Steripen has a USB rechargeable battery and the display shows you how much life is left so it’s never a guessing game. Each bulb sterilises 8000 litres before needing to be replaced, which the company will do free of charge. We’ve had ours for over 3 years now and use it to sterilise water both on and off the trail, meaning we never have to buy bottled water anywhere in the world.
On multi-day hikes we rely on our Anker 15W solar panel as the main source of power for charging phones, headtorch batteries, Steripen, Garmin watch, etc. It has two USB ports and works great in direct sun, okay in patchy sun, and not so much when it’s cloudy. It’s a bit awkward to use on the move, so we try to charge things in the morning around camp or during lunch stops. When not in use, it folds flat and takes up minimal space. We usually pack it at the bottom of our backpack lid to reduce any risk of it getting bent or broken.
On multi-day hikes we use our solar panel whenever possible, but always carry an Anker 20100mAh power bank in case of cloudy weather or for quick charging on the go. On day hikes we usually just take the power bank.
A headtorch (headlamp) is always part of our hiking gear, even on short day hikes when we take it in case of emergencies. We each have the Black Diamond Revolt model which uses rechargeable batteries.
I rely heavily on trekking poles to keep me upright on steep or slippery terrain, and on tough days they really help propel me up/down/along the trail when I’m tired. Del often has 23 kg+ on his back, so poles are a must on steep or slippery descents to keep him balanced and reduce the risk of falling.
We did a lot of research into trekking poles, comparing weight, durability, and ease of carry when not in use. Finally, we settled on the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork model. Cork handles are the best when it comes to dealing with hot sweaty palms, and carbon fibre is lightweight and durable.
This design is less convenient to carry while travelling than a folding ‘Z’ model such as the BD Alpine Carbon Z Z-Poles, but after reading many reviews, we felt that non-folding poles would be more durable and less likely to snap on the trail. As we often hike in countries where getting a replacement is tricky, we went with the ‘safe’ option. Unlike most folding poles, ours also vary in length, which is ideal for steep ascents and descents when we need to make them shorter or longer respectively.
When hiking, our poles sit in the dedicated stowaway straps on our backpacks, making them easy to grab or put away without taking the bag off. When travelling, the poles are short enough to fit upright inside Del’s 70L backpack, although we usually only pack them like this for flying, or for a neat setup on public transport. Otherwise, we just strap them to our backpacks and chuck them in the boot of a car, or carry them separately.
We’ve used these poles in different trekking conditions across Europe, Central Asia, the Caucasus, Nepal, and elsewhere. They’ve been caught in small rocky gaps numerous times but never snapped (touch wood!). I’ve slipped and cracked them off rocks without any damage. And they’ve provided much needed support and stability during river crossings, and on tricky terrain with heavily laden backpacks. Overall, they’ve been excellent.
Unfortunately, after three years of use, Del suffered a casualty when the lower section of one of his poles came loose while strapped to his bag, falling out somewhere in the Juta Valley on our first multi-day hike in Georgia. The height adjustment lever must have caught on something and opened, allowing the shaft to extend all the way and drop out. The latest models have a re-designed FlipLock which may be better at preventing this (our models are from 2017). Del claims he now prefers hiking with one pole anyway….
We have an InReach Explorer, a handheld satellite communication and GPS navigation device with an SOS function for emergency situations. It’s capable of two-way messaging via the Iridium satellite network, which allows us to communicate via text regardless of whether we have phone reception or not. We bought this primarily for emergencies, this device providing us with a lifeline to a 24/7 global emergency response coordination team. Thankfully, we’ve never had to use it in such a situation, but it has given us peace of mind on many hikes and off-grid adventures.
Besides its SOS function, the InReach has come in handy for messaging family to let them know we are safe when hiking in remote locations without phone reception. We also use it regularly for getting accurate weather reports. You need to have an active contract to use the InReach. We opt for the Freedom Plan, activating it on a month-by-month basis whenever we need it.
As a fair skinned redhead, I need factor 50+ sunscreen and lots of it. These days I’m using Ultrasun which I really like as it’s non-greasy, fast absorbing, and so far hasn’t left any nasty stains on my clothing. It also does an excellent job at protecting my sensitive skin from burning with just one or two applications a day. Del uses SPF30 at home, but we only carry one bottle with us on hikes which means my SPF50+. Both of our lips burn very easily, so we always use Ultrasun sunscreen lip protection too.
We have a general first aid kit that we top up as and when we need to with extra sterile wipes, plasters, painkillers, Compeed blister pads, and rehydration sachets. Thankfully we haven’t incurred any serious injuries while hiking, but we’ve had plenty of minor scrapes requiring antibacterial wipes, antiseptic cream, or a plaster. We always make sure this is part of our hiking gear setup.
We have a Victorinox Swiss Army Hunstman Pocket Knife which comes in handy for all sorts and is vital part of our hiking gear setup. We use the sharp knife and scissors more than anything, along with the corkscrew at home.
Depending on the season and location, we carry some insect repellant such as Smidge.
We always pack a small bottle of hand sanitiser to clean our hands after going to the toilet and before eating.
For overnight hikes, we usually have a small supply of wet wipes in case we don’t have easy access to water at camp.
That’s the lot! Each of these items have been with us in one form or another for the past few years, and overall, we’re pretty settled on our hiking gear. Saying that, there’s always room for improvement, so if you have any great ideas or suggestions get in touch and let us know in the comments below.