Hiking has become a big part of our travels in recent years, with trekking and outdoor guides popping up regularly on this blog. So, we figured it would be useful 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 past several 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 short sleeved t-shirts which we use as base layers for hiking most of the time (his/hers). I also have a lightweight long-sleeved Icebreaker merino wool top which I hike in if it’s a bit colder, or I want extra sun protection for my arms. 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 200 weight long sleeved Icebreaker merino top at night (his/hers).
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 the Rab Nexus Hoody. 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 do the job of keeping us dry. After much research some years ago, we settled on Outdoor Research jackets and trousers. However, we have both since replaced our jackets with models from Rab and Patagonia.
Although we’ve now gone for different options, there are a couple of features I still really love about these jackets. The first is the side zippers, which 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 found really handy for grabbing stuff from my inner layer pocket.
After more than 4 years of use in some pretty tough conditions, these jackets were getting towards the end of their usable lives (especially Del’s with its patched up burn holes from a couple of cooking accidents!). Simply replacing them like-for-like was one option, but we had noticed some all-too-easy ‘wetting out’ on stress points (under shoulder straps) during the lifetimes of these jackets, especially when hiking for prolonged periods in rain (Scotland, we’re looking at you), and although we read that Outdoor Research had made improvements to the DWR coating on the newer models (Aspire/Foray), we decided to try something different.
I enjoy the Rab Meridian for its lightweight, slimline feel and fit. It allows me a great range of movement, and even though I can comfortably wear multiple layers beneath it (including fleece and down jacket), it doesn’t feel bulky when just worn over a single base layer. So far, it has shed water well and not wetted out too quickly, and even when wet on the outside, it has kept me dry on the inside. While it doesn’t have full-length side zips like the Outdoor Research Aspire model, it does have pit venting zips which are super useful. And having changed from my previous black to a brighter green colour, I’m pretty happy with how easily I can be spotted in the mountains, and Del’s happy it makes me a more noticeable subject in photos ; ).
Del is extremely happy with the Patagonia Calcite, which he claims ‘fits him like a glove’. It is doing a great job of keeping him both warm and dry, and with its 75-denier outer layer, it’s proving to be highly durable – important for him as he tends to carry a heavy pack.
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 perfect 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.
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. I bought two pairs (one with and one without zip-off shorts) and wore them for a good 4 years or so. By that point, I desperately needed to replace the convertible hiking trousers, but the company appeared to have stopped making them. I scoured the internet and managed to find a pair in green and while updating this post nearly 2 years on, I’ve just found another black pair available, woohoo! These should see me through another few years. These wonder trousers are the Marmot Lobo’s Convertible, but with just a few limited pairs kicking about these days, you’re lucky to get them. They are lightweight, super 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.
For the last few years Del’s had Craghoppers Kiwi Pro trousers and Craghoppers Kiwi Pro shorts, both of which have served him well. 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. Just recently he has replaced his Craghopper trousers with Patagonia Quandary Pants. The initial appraisal is he’s happy with the cut, material, overall lightweight feel, and DWR (durable water repellent) finish.
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 4 Gore-Tex as our favourite hiking boots (his/hers).
Del has been wearing a version of 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. The latest version also has a super grippy sole, giving us extra confidence while descending on slippery terrain.
Over time and prolonged use on rough ground, we have both noticed the rubber toe cap coming away slightly, which is the one thing we don’t love about these boots. However, this does seem improved in the most recent models. Also, Salomon offers a 2 year warranty against material and manufacturing defects, and we have both had pairs 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. I still have the same pair to this day, the Keen Whisper Sandal, and Del has since replaced the Keen Clearwater CNX sandal with the Bedrock Cairn Pro II Adventure Sandals. If we’re overnight hiking or have river crossings to deal with, we pack these.
They are quick and easy to slip on and off and can be worn with or without socks around camp in the evening (you’ll need toe socks like Injini to pair with the Bedrock sandals). For river crossings, they sit securely on our feet and provide much more grip and comfort than going barefoot. Del switched to his Bedrocks because he wanted something more lightweight and with better grip, especially in water and on slippery rocks, although the downside is they offer considerably less protection.
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 Gaiters. We bought these in Kathmandu in preparation for trekking in Nepal after discovering how much we needed them while trekking in snow in Kyrgyzstan. They are a little bit heavy and bulky to pack, but are comfortable to wear and do an excellent job of 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 BUFF 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 combination I’m happy with. I’m currently using the Sealskinz Unisex Waterproof All Weather Glove as my main pair. They 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.
Although they’ve proved to be great gloves they are not the warmest in really cold or prolonged wet conditions, so I’ve invested in a pair of Black Diamond Guide Gloves too. These still need some real world testing, but I’m confident they’ll keep my hands nice and toasty in the high mountains. 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. They fit well, do a great job of keeping the water out, and keep his hands warm in most situations. He finds them a bit awkward when using the camera (which is most of the time!), so only really wears them when the weather is pretty rough or it’s super cold.
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 5+ years now, replacing the lenses when they got too scratched and they still do a great job! I also 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.