Best Hiking Gear and Gadgets for 2024

By mattv


Quality gear will keep you comfortable and safe on hikes, no matter how far you go.

Finding all the best gear takes some time, so I’m going to tackle this in order of importance. If you’re new to hiking, this is a good sequence to buy equipment in. You don’t need all these things to hike, but you definitely want to have the first few on the list.

  1. Water
  2. Footwear
  3. Backpack
  4. Hiking Socks
  5. Performance Shirt
  6. Nutrition + Electrolytes
  7. Long Sleeves
  8. Sun Protection
  9. Jackets
  10. Bottoms
  11. Safety Equipment
  12. Navigation

Before we start, you will see the term moisture-wicking repeatedly. Moisture-wicking fabric does two things:

  1. Moves moisture (sweat) to the to the outer layer of the material
  2. Moisture dissipates and dries quickly

This combination prevents sweat from hanging around, which can irritate skin, cause blisters, and lower body temperature.

Moisture-wicking fabrics are synthetic or wool, bamboo, or alpaca. What you don’t see on this list is cotton. Cotton is great for many things, but drying quickly is not one of them. You may have noticed how much longer it takes cotton shirts to dry, both in the dryer and in the air. You don’t want this while hiking.

And now on to our list of best hiking gear, roughly in order of importance.

1. Water

If you only bring one thing hiking, that thing should be water. Staying hydrated is essential, especially in high altitute.

The best water bottles for hiking make it easy to drink while on the move. Walking with a water bottle in hand can increase the chance of falling, so I opt for either hip pack that holds a water bottle or a backpack with a hydration reservoir.

If you’re hiking with dogs, don’t forget to bring some water for them too.

2. Hiking Shoes + Boots

The second most important piece of hiking gear is shoes.

I used to hike in running shoes but can’t anymore. Athletic shoes are adequate for entry-level hikes but don’t have enough traction and support for longer distances and rugged terrain. Now I wear hiking boots for even 30-minute dog walks.

The best hiking footwear is what fits your foot and the trail conditions you will encounter. Check out our footwear guides to help make your decision. Changing your insole can improve the fit and comfort of hiking footwear.

The Moab hikers by Merrell are one of the best-selling hiking shoes because they do everything you need at a great price. I wore mine for seven years in all conditions, including sun and snow.

Right now, I’m enjoying the Saucony Endorphin Edge trail runners.

3. Backpack

When you’re hiking, you need to carry stuff – water, snacks, extra layers, sunscreen, bandaids, and maybe more.

My first hiking backpack wasn’t a hiking backpack at all. It was a canvas backpack that was the opposite of what you want for hiking. It was heavy, the fabric soaked up moisture, and there was only one zipper pocket. After a few months of wear, the straps were stained from sweat and sun.

Now I know to look for something lightweight, with some kind of airflow for the back, and plenty of loops, pockets, and straps for storage. The length of your hike should determine backpack size.

THE BEST BACKpacks for hiking

4. Socks + Blister Prevention

A good pair of socks can be the difference between having a great day or a miserable hike. Hiking socks have features that regular socks don’t.

Socks designed for hiking:

  • Wick moisture to dry sweat
  • Have a tight fit to prevent blisters and slipping
  • Do not contain cotton

The best hiking socks are made by Darn Tough. They are not the only wool socks out there, but they set the standard.


Quality socks aren’t always enough for blister-prone feet. I swear by sock liners for extended distances, especially with newer

5. Performance Shirts For Hiking

You want the same moisture-wicking qualities in hiking shirts as socks and backpacks. Sweat that doesn’t dry can weigh down a garment and stretch it out. That’s not the worst of it. The build-up of moisture and salt under the straps of a backpack or waistpack can irritate skin.

Performance shirts aren’t just for hiking. Any wool or synthetic athletic shirt works, it just might not have all the features of a hiking shirt.

THE BEST shirts for hiking

+ 25 Hiking Shirts
+ Sun Shirt Reviews: Kühl vs Ridge Merino vs Himali

6. Nutrition

Food is energy, and that’s what you want on a hike. The common advice is that any activity over an hour benefits from some food. During exercise, you want a balance of carbohydrates for both fast and slow-acting energy. Some protein also helps keep you full. Energy bars are quick and easy but not the only option. I like pb+j sandwiches, Newtons, and some chocolate for reaching the top of the hill.

THE BEST Snacks for hiking

Electrolytes are also helpful for extended hikes. You can take pills or add them to water. I like Nuun or Gu for sugar free flavor and Skratch for energy boost.

7. Long Sleeves (aka Mid Layer)

It’s a good idea to have an extra layer for hiking in every season, including summer. Long sleeves provide protection from all the elements, including sun, wind, rain, and cold. And the weather in the parking lot is usually gentler than trail conditions.

  • Sunshirts can be a base layer year-round
  • Fleece might already be in your wardrobe and lightweight and packable
  • Insulated jackets for cool weather

Layers for hiking

8. Sun Protection

The sun gets stronger as you get higher. Sunscreen is essential but only works for about 2 hours, maybe less with sweating. I find the sunscreen sticks or spray easier to reapply. And don’t forget to use sunscreen balm for the lips!

Sun protection is more than sunscreen. A hat and sunglasses are also essential for hiking. I swear that the shade and darker view help me feel cooler. I used to wear a baseball cap with a bandana to cover the neck. I have since upped the sun protection with collared shirt and full-brimmed hiking hat.


10. Jacket (aka Shell)

For more extreme weather, there are many options that are waterproof and windproof, from ultra-light rainjackets to heavy-duty Gore-Tex. Here’s how to pick between 2- and 3-layer jackets.

Hiking Jackets

9. Bottoms

With your top half covered for all weather conditions, it’s time to look at bottoms, including pants, shorts, skirts, and underwear.

11. Safety Equipment

Anything can happen out there so it pays to be prepared. The most likely issues are blisters, cuts, and headaches. It is also a good idea to have extra food, a whistle, and mylar blanket in your pack. These small things take up a tiny bit of space but can save your life.

12. Navigation

GPS navigation is essential when you get off the beaten path and sometimes on it too. Phone apps, like AllTrails, allow you to download a map to your phone. GPS watches do the same in a smaller format. When you’re out of cell phone range, satellite communicators make it easy to call for help from anywhere.

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