The 10 Essentials for Hiking

Photo of a map on the ground with a camera, notebook and backpack

You’re ready to go out on your first day hike – you’ve chosen a trail and planned the route, let someone know where you’re going, and checked the weather. But what do you even bring!?

Let’s start with the basics: the 10 essentials you should bring on any hike for a safe and enjoyable adventure.

1. Illumination:

A flashlight or headlamp in case you get caught hiking in the dark. We like to use a headlamp – it is small, lightweight, and you don’t have to hold it.

Renew Tips: 

  • Ensure you have fully-charged batteries for each hike. Throw extra batteries in your backpack. 

  • Check what time the sun sets before you leave on your hike, leave yourself ample time to complete the hike, and keep in mind it will get darker faster if you are under tree cover

2. Fire-making kit:

Waterproof matches or a waterproof lighter in case you need to spend the night outside or quickly warmup. 

Renew Tips:

  • Throw your lighter in a Ziploc bag to keep it dry!

  • Bring homemade firestarter – like lint from your dryer – or buy commercial firestarter from an outdoor store like MEC

3. Nutrition and Hydration:

Bring enough food and water to sustain you during the hike plus extra in case you are outside longer than expected.

Renew Tips:

  • A general rule of thumb is 0.5 litres of water for each hour you hike plus an extra 1-2 litres.

  • Using a water bladder makes it much easier to carry and drink water! We use this one and put it in our backpack or this hydration pack for trail runs.

  • Bring water purification tablets or a Life Straw in case you run out of your own water and need to treat water.

  • We like adding a Nuun tablet or two to our water to boost the hydration and our electrolytes! 

  • Some of our favourite hiking snacks: homemade energy balls and power cookies, roasted chickpeas, nuts and seeds, Larabars or RX Bars, dried fruit and apple chips, roasted sweet potatoes, apples

4. Clothing:

Be prepared for different weather and layer accordingly. 

Renew Tips:

  • Consider: if you were forced to spend a night in the worst conditions possible for the season, what clothing would you need to survive the night. Bring that with you! 

  • Good quality hiking socks, proper footwear, sweat-wicking and quick-dry clothes (no cotton), and a waterproof jacket make a world of difference

5. Navigation and Communication Aids:

Bring a topographical map and a compass or GPS device. 

Renew Tips:

  • Don’t forget your cell phone but if you can, keep it turned off and in a Ziploc bag or waterproof pouch. We also bring a portable charger in case our iPhone dies. Because Instagram photos.

  • We like to use the Vancouver Trails App to download trail maps for offline use. The app is free, but the maps are $1.50 each.

  • Learn how to get GPS coordinates off your phone to give to search and rescue in worst-case scenario. This post by North Shore Rescue explains how – it’s easy!

6. First Aid Kit:

Buy a ready-made one at MEC or an outdoor store. Always include: protective gloves, bandages, scissors, blister dressings, moleskin, bulk dressings, pocket mask, and SAM splint

Renew Tips:

  • We also like to bring: extra gauze, triangle bandages, hand sanitizer, hand wipes, duct tape, tissues, Gravol, Advil, and Aspirin

7. Emergency Shelter:

Use a bivy sack, brightly coloured tarp, or large orange plastic bag. This will help you stay warm and dry – and be seen by search and rescue. We have this one and this one.

8. Pocket Knife:

You never know when you might need one! 

9. Signalling Device:

Bring a whistle that will help you be found if you get lost. 

Renew Tips:

  • We recommend the Fox 40 Whistler with a lanyard. You can also use bear bangers.

10. Sun Protection:

Wear a hat, sunscreen, and sunglasses. You can also consider lightweight, sun protection clothing with UPF.

Renew Tips:

  • Don’t forget the bug spray! 

  • This post by Joyous Health has a good overview of natural sunscreens.

Note: you will have to add additional items for winter activities (i.e. snowshoes and clothing), specialty sports, and your personal needs.

Keep your 10 Essentials in a bag or container together so they are ready to toss into your pack on your next hike! 

For a list of bonus items that we don’t leave home without, download our Hiking 101 Guide. Need a little TLC after your latest adventure? This post has our recovery essentials.

Happy adventuring.