Beginner’s Hiking Gear Checklist

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This may seem like an obvious list of hiking gear to pack to some of you but others could be new to hiking or may be visiting the area soon and plan to hike. I will go through everything you will need and some things that you don’t need but may want, to get you through even a strenuous day hike. 

So many people venture off into the wilderness totally unprepared. I see this all the time and it frustrates me to death. I was in Zion National Park this summer doing the hike to Angel’s Landing. It’s a pretty strenuous hike. There is some significant climbing involved to get to the very top. It’s going to take you several hours round trip. It’s a half day hike easy and the heat can be pretty intense if you go in the afternoon. I can’t tell you how many people I saw with little kids that had no pack packs and barely any or no water at all.  A lot of people were even attempting this hike in freaking flip-flops!

Now Tennessee is much different than Southern Utah in the summer. I am listing below more what I think you would need for Tennessee hiking. Most of the hikes are going to be in a forest, very shaded with no direct sunlight, so it will be cooler but possibly still very humid. In that region out west you will be out in direct sunlight most of the time, and it gets a different kind of hot. You will get sunburned easily if you don’t use sunscreen and you can overheat easily.

Essential hiking gear

  • A good backpack – I use a hydration pack so I don’t have to carry water bottles. Don’t go cheap on this one, spend a little extra and get a good backpack. I prefer Osprey Packs and would recommend this hydration pack on Amazon for day hiking. This one is great for all purpose, it has no bladder but one may could be purchased separately and installed.
  • Some good trail shoes or boots – Try out these Merrells, they have come highly recommended to me by friends and they have great reviews on Amazon.
  • Plenty of snacks for energy – Beef jerky, trail mix, an apple, maybe even a sandwich. Stuff you can eat it on the go.
  • Plenty of water – see hydration pack above. If you don’t have a hydration pack then just bring a couple of liters of water, give or take.
  • Sunscreen – nobody likes a sunburn
  • Bug spray – bug bites are no fun either
  • A first aid kit
  • Light jacket or sweatshirt – for cooler weather hikes
  • Map or guide for the trail you are on – download one onto your phone so you can open it up without internet or print one out.

Not quite essential hiking gear, but good to have

  • Wool socks – your feet support you, it’s best to take care of them. These Darn Tough Socks are frikkin’ awesome.
  • A good knife – I love my Spyderco, but a multi-tool or Swiss army knife may work for you.
  • Extra clothes – good to have an extra T-shirt
  • Sunglasses – you may be in the shade for your whole hike, still good to have though.
  • Digital camera – see recommendation below
  • Hat or bandana – keeps the sun and/or sweat out of your face
  • GPS location device – know where you are at all times even without a cell signal
  • Satellite phone – good for emergencies but can be pricy
  • Trekking pole – I personally do not use them while hiking, unless through water however many people may benefit from one
  • Binoculars – great for seeing nature and wildlife that you may not be able to see with the naked eye.
  • Zip-lock bags – keeps things safe and dry like your phone, wallet, keys etc also good for your trash

Where are you hiking and when?

Where you are actually hiking could really change the needed hiking gear. Are you going to get wet? Will you have to do any climbing? Things like this will drastically change what kind of gear to throw in the old pack.

Are you going to be in a forest with a lot of shade, perhaps a creek? Take that bug spray for sure but the sunscreen won’t be as crucial here. Is this hike going to be out in the open sunlight across a field with high grass? Then definitely take the sunscreen and wear long pants.

When you are hiking is also going to have an impact on what to pack. If you are hiking in the summertime and it’s 90 degrees out, you will not need a jacket and you will need to take some extra water. I would probably also go with the trail shoes rather than the boots if you can get away with it.

If you are hiking in the winter time, definitely layer up, take the jacket, and consider the boots with wool socks. Use common sense and make sure you pack your hiking gear accordingly. Just always make sure you are going to be warm enough or cool enough and have ample food and water.

Don’t overpack

While it’s very important to take the essentials because the last thing you want is to be a few miles out in the wilderness and realize you forgot something you really needed… like your lunch. Also be careful not to overpack. This is a mistake many people have made, myself included. I have taken my big DSLR camera on hikes more than once and really wished I had not because it is so bulky.

If you really want to take a camera other than your phone, then I suggest a more compact mirrorless camera. I have the Sony A6000. It’s small and lightweight and takes beautiful pictures. Not quite as good as a good DSLR, but I think you would be pleasantly surprised with the image quality this little thing can produce…


On a day hike just keep it simple and stick to the basics. You may realize that there was something you wish you had. You can just bring it next time and it won’t be devastating. I like to keep my pack as light as possible, because at the end of a 5 mile hike those straps can really start tugging on your shoulders and feeling heavy if you are overloaded. So keep that in mind when you are packing your hiking gear.

Now that you’ve got your gear list, check out our post on how to prepare for your first hike for some other tips and tricks.

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