Hiking Gear List

We’ve all been there- you’re standing in front of your backpack, and you sigh while looking at it’s contents.  “Do I really need all of this crap”, you say to yourself.  Well, let’s break down what you need, and what you don’t need.  Even if you travel light, you’ll still want to check out this list.  This is a list of all the hiking gear you need to hike with, whether if you are doing a day hike, or an overnighter.  This is some essential gear that can save your life one day, if you need it.  I’m also going to talk about some of the things that I’ve left off of this list, so you can also see what I don’t put in my pack.  Just for fun, I’ve also included a list of the treats of modern life that I haul up mountains.

Day Hiking Gear List (essentials)

  • water bottle (you can’t live without water)
  • bear spray (you can substitute a proper firearm, if you would like)
  • extra bottle (you can leave this empty if you want, but you need a spare)
  • water purification method (Katadyn, or similar)
  • backup water purification method (iodine tablets work well here)
  • snacks (I’m a huge fan of apples, but granola bars are another great choice)
  • major meal, if necessary (depends on how long you are hiking)
  • Bic lighter (more reliable than matches)
  • strike anywhere matches (just a few, as backups to the lighter)
  • GPS/topographical maps (more hikers are lost on day hikes, than overnighters)
  • bear bells (practically required in Montana)
  • light jacket (waterproof, reasonably warm, and hoodie/small jacket sized)
  • spare fishing gear (it’s really awful to hike back to your car to grab a lure)
  • hiking first aid kit

Overnighter Hiking Gear List

  • Tent (duh!)
  • Sleeping bag (here in Montana, make that a 20 degree bag)
  • Long johns/thermals (I like the Rocky brand of thermals- they’re cheap and lightweight)
  • Spare pants/shirt (to save on space, make it a long sleeved shirt that you can wear at night)
  • Spare socks and underwear (change your daily)
  • Backpacking camp stove/fuel canisters (I carry a backup stove as well- they’re light)
  • Pot/pan for cooking/boiling water
  • Spare cup for boiling water in an emergency
  • Light weight mess kit (I like plastic forks, and spoons)
  • Ziplock bags (for trout, wet clothes, and garbage)
  • Machete/hatchet/saw (I currently pack my 18″ machete.  It’s light weight, and cuts through logs quickly!)


What I Leave at Home (with explanations)

    • Flashlight- OK, so I’m going to catch some grief for this, right out of the gate.  Yes, I know that it’s unsafe to be in the woods at night without a flashlight.  Yes, I know that it really sucks being lost in the dark, without a flashlight.  Yes, I know that a flashlight can be used for signaling.  However, flashlights are heavy, rarely used in an emergency, and unreliable.  Flashlights are worthless on the trail at night, in my opinion (it’s super easy to get lost at night).  If it’s nighttime and you need a flashlight, you can usually get by with using an alternate light source.  You can use a campfire/torch, the moon, or just plain wait until sunrise.
    • Heavy plates and bowls- Ditch these bowls and plates for either light weight alternatives (made from plastic), or entirely.  You don’t need a plate, if you eat your meal out of a bag.  While you’re at it, you can leave the soap at home, too.  Lick your spoon or fork clean, and maybe rinse it with some canteen water.
    • Dirty clothes sacks- These have never made any sense to me.  Why bother placing your dirty clothes neatly inside your pack?  Just stuff those guys into a small pocket on your pack, and get on with your life.  You can be neat and tidy at home, where it doesn’t matter how much weight you have.
    • Emergency signaling kits- A whistle or a mirror is useless, in an emergency situation.  If you can whistle, you can yell, and if you can angle a mirror at a rescuer, you can get in the open and wait.  You’re much better lighting a visible emergency fire, than you are trying to use a whistle and mirror.  Better yet, save your energy for building that fire.
    • Sandals- I go back and forth on this one.  It’s hard to justify that extra weight, just so you can hang out with sandals on.  Pick out a great pair of boots, and you shouldn’t need sandals.

Lazy Camping Gear (heavy stuff that makes your life easier)

  • Camp chair- I’m going to get a lot of flack for this, but if you want to be lazy while camping, you’ve got to have a nice chair to rest on.  I’ve dragged mine happily up mountains, because the weight is worth it to me.  Nothing is cooler than sitting by a high mountain lake, in a comfortable chair.
  • Beer- Until you’ve tasted a beer at high altitude, you haven’t tasted beer.  Beer just tastes better at 8,000 feet, especially after a long hike.  Don’t drink excessively, though.  Pick a canned micro beer, and make it a single.  It weighs around a pound, and you crush the empty can to make it easier to pack out.
  • Regular sized fishing rod- I’ve used plenty of five-piece rods.  They all suck.  These days, I carry a two piece setup, or a one piece setup.  They are bad to bush whack in, but will beat the frustration of using a five piece rod, any day.


Regardless of what exact gear you carry in your pack, be sure that it meets the above minimum list- or you could be sorry.  Above all, make sure that your pack has a good backpacking first aid kit in it.  These kits can truly save lives, and are muti-purpose (an alcohol pad and a bandage can be used as tinder).  Take care, and hike safely!