7 Hiking Essentials for Beginners


By: , SparkPeople Blogger
  :  87 comments   :  155,035 Views

Walking is a great way to get fit, but if you're ready to add a more challenging element, go take a hike! Hiking works different muscles and burns more calories as you navigate rolling hills and uneven terrain. As an added bonus, you'll get to reconnect with nature and escape from everyday stressors.  

Whether you're exploring one of these epic U.S. hiking destinations or just trekking the trails in your own backyard, having the right gear is essential to making the most of your experience. Before lacing up and striking out on your first hike, try to gather these basic essentials.

1. Camelbak Hydration Pack ($49.95)

Image courtesy of Amazon

Water backpacks are a great way to haul your food and supplies on a hike while staying hydrated. This 50-ounce size is great for longer hikes, and there's a pocket to hold energy bars and your keys.

2. ExOfficio Women's Nomad Roll-Up Pant (starting at $34.96)

Image courtesy of Amazon

Even if the day starts off sunny, you'll likely need an extra layer or more coverage when you start your return trip. Roll-up pants are convenient and versatile, and more practical than the kind that zip off. (Who wants to risk losing a pants leg in the woods?)

3. YUOTO Outdoor Fanny Pack ($21.99)

Image courtesy of Amazon

A prepared hiker is a happy hiker. This roomy hip pack has plenty of space to stash snacks, water bottles, your cell phone and a small first aid kit.

4. Larabar Energy Bars ($20.99)

Image courtesy of Amazon

Hiking burns major calories, especially if you're hauling gear or climbing hills, so be sure to take along some fuel. Larabars are calorically dense (about 200 calories each) with a clean ingredient list--no weird chemicals or flavorings. They come in dozens of flavors, so you can pick your favorite.

5. Hammers Hiking Poles ($17.99)

Image courtesy of Amazon

To ease the uphills and gain traction on steep downhills, use hiking poles. This one comes with a built-in compass and thermometer to help keep you safe and sound.

6. White Sierra Women's Trabagon Rain Shell (starting at $31.32)

Image courtesy of Amazon

Weather forecasts aren't always the most accurate when you're in the middle of the woods or on the side of a mountain. It's important to always have an extra layer--especially if rain is possible. This lightweight, perfectly waterproof jacket is small enough to stash in a backpack, with an adjustable hood and plenty of ventilation.

7. Smartwool Hiking Socks (starting at $13.75)

Image courtesy of Amazon

Is there anything worse than cold, soggy socks? Cotton socks hold onto moisture, but wool wicks it away while insulating. Smartwool socks have arch support and plenty of cushioning, which will help keep your feet comfortable and free of blisters.

What is your "must-have" item for hiking?

We hope you love these products as much as we do! SparkPeople may collect a small percentage of revenue from the links on this page. 

Click here to to redeem your SparkPoints
  You will earn 5 SparkPoints
See More: stuff we love, outdoors,
Got a story idea? Give us a shout!
NEXT ENTRY >   8 Amazing Goals You Can Achieve in the Next 8 Weeks


    Great Article................Thank You. - 2/16/2018   8:55:04 PM
  • 86
    Sneaky way to slip in more advertisements. - 2/5/2018   8:59:13 AM
  • 85
    Thanks for the info - 1/11/2018   2:32:05 PM
  • 84
    I have found walking/hiking sticks essential. - 12/6/2017   5:32:01 PM
    Good items to have on hikes. Thanks! - 11/8/2017   10:40:35 AM
    Itís my first time to visit this site & Iím really surprised to see such impressive stuff - 10/29/2017   11:40:53 PM
    Good article. love the additional product information. Thank you for providing a good reference point for gathering hiking gear; especially for someone who knows nothing about hiking! I also appreciate all the comments and suggestions left by other SparkPeople! Thank you so much!!!! - 5/26/2017   8:39:08 AM
  • 80
    Key things missing.....Tick Repellent for one, how about a compass? - 5/23/2017   9:03:46 AM
    great - 5/16/2017   5:00:26 PM
    great - 5/16/2017   5:00:25 PM
  • 77
    Good article but you didn't talk about hiking boots or shoes - 5/14/2017   2:46:30 PM
  • 76
    You left out the most important item hiking shoes/booths! For your info men do hiking too. - 5/14/2017   12:11:32 PM
  • 75
    How about some suggestions for the men next time? - 4/19/2017   11:33:53 PM
  • 74
    Great stuff - 4/16/2017   8:43:12 AM
  • 73
    Interesting advice, little heavy on branding. Suggestions in comments were very informative. - 4/16/2017   2:10:20 AM
  • 72
    To me, this read like a sales pitch. For example, water is the essential item for hiking. The camel pack is not. - 4/11/2017   8:26:19 AM
  • ZRIE014
    very helpful - 4/6/2017   12:09:09 AM
  • 70
    If you never try, you will never know what you can accomplish. - 4/5/2017   6:49:56 PM
  • YMWONG22
    Great tips. Thank you. - 4/5/2017   11:21:16 AM
  • 68
    Thanks for the ideas. - 4/5/2017   11:04:12 AM
  • 67
    The article was a good start but the comments offer even more helpful hints. - 4/5/2017   7:32:12 AM
  • 66
    Thanks for the suggestions! :) - 4/5/2017   7:07:49 AM
  • 65
    I live in Alaska. Before I got sick, and gained tons of weight, I hiked and bouldered. Good gear is a MUST for both comfort and safety! - 4/5/2017   3:59:52 AM
  • ZRIE014
    helpful - 4/5/2017   12:09:34 AM
    I also keep insect protection. If its just a day hike in the public park, wipes! - 4/4/2017   9:13:27 PM
  • 62
    A large brimmed hat and sunscreen are essential for me. Also I much prefer Glenny's fruit and nut bars to Lara bars. Healthier balance of nutrients and they also travel well in my car when I have to travel long distances. - 4/4/2017   9:00:38 PM
  • 61
    Sorry...this article left me "cold"... Its more advertising and selling unnecessary items than useful information. I've hiked for years, including backpacking and Search and Rescue...and I wonder if the author actually hikes?!!
    Larabars? How about a decent lunch?! Fanny pack and Camelbak? Duplicates.... How about a simple backpack/knapsack and a water bottle, then you have room for your lunch and rain gear, first aid kit, water and other, real essentials? I do use hiking poles---but a cheap set with a "Built in compass and thermometer" (oh be still my beating heart!) is not going to keep you "safe and sound". LOL

    I do agree with rain gear, nylon/polyester clothing/and decent socks. Smartwool are great--but not the only brand!! Ditto for their selections for pants/raingear.

    If Beginners really want to do it right and be safe then go to a seminar at REI or another quality outdoor store! Get a list of the real 10 Essentials from the Mountaineers' website, find polyester clothing, decent shoes, take real food, and KNOW WHERE YOU ARE GOING: map!! Be certain someone at home knows WHERE you are going and WHEN you will be back. Stay Safe Out There--and learn to love it!! - 4/4/2017   8:55:21 PM
  • 60
    Good information - 4/4/2017   7:46:37 PM
  • 59
    Great article - 4/4/2017   6:57:29 PM
  • 58
    I have wanted a pair of those hiking pants for years but I'm still a long way from size 14. Manufacturers seem to think us larger gals don't do any actual fitness activity. - 4/4/2017   5:46:10 PM
  • 57
    Water bottles are easier to refill when you are hiking where the cool streams are clean, on the maintains. And you don't have to log around heavy load of water on your back. - 4/4/2017   12:48:10 PM
  • 56
    When I walk/hike away from home, I also wear a lanyard with my ID and contact info of family members or who I am staying with close by. I' ve used my first aid kit more for other hikers who weren't prepared., but that's o.k. I love the wool socks year round. Try eating Kind bars. They are good and healthy! - 4/4/2017   12:45:26 PM
  • 55
    Good recommendations. - 4/4/2017   12:23:29 PM
  • 54
    Tell someone outside of the hiking group where you are going, sign in at the trailhead and most importantly know how to use a map, compass and keep an eye on the weather! - 4/4/2017   12:03:30 PM
  • 53
    Camelbaks are awesome...hiking poles are great to use as well, though if you have soft or sensitive hands, you may want to use some sort of gloves to protect them as you walk. I'd recommend a good pair of shoes, too. Invest in your hiking shoes-the more expensive brands like Keen (my favorite) deliver in terms of quality and comfort. - 4/4/2017   12:01:42 PM
  • 52
    I went hiking a couple times with my husband, the wildland firefighter. I spent most of my time sliding down the mountain on my butt. Hubby was at least 15 feet in front of me the whole time. I think I would have enjoyed it if I didn't spend the whole time falling. I kind of missed the scenery as I was first trying to step on rocks for traction, and then when that didn't work, trying to avoid the rocks and still slipping. I was hoping that this article would help me with that. - 4/4/2017   11:15:48 AM
  • 51
    who knew? - 4/4/2017   10:35:57 AM
  • 50
    I never hike with out my buff! (Like the TV show Survivor Buff) - 4/4/2017   10:22:02 AM
  • 49
    Love my smart wool socks, and I use them for every day use too, also poles are a must. I used to wear good quality leather hiking boots, but because of toe issues have now switched to trail running shoes and I love them, so grippy and lightweight but not as much support as hiking boots which are better to prevent rolling your ankle on uneven terrain. DEET is a must here because of all the ticks. Love the BUFF too. I use the Vest of Many Pockets from Tilly to carry all my essentials -it even has two large built in pockets in the back to carry large items in a comfortable manner. I never go anywhere without my camera, I have no Smartphone, just a standard flip phone. I also use a Sunveil hat that has a flap down the back and sides, and I also have the Sunveil shirt for hot days. I hike along a river trail system so lots of up and downs along the steep banks -the trails were made by mountain biking enthusiasts who maintain them :-) We have some 40 miles of trails running along the river that splits our city in two, the dog loves running in it and chasing rabbits. The city allows no development near the river, great foresight by the founders to leave it natural for generations to enjoy! - 4/4/2017   9:22:34 AM
  • 48
    Larabars are a mass of carbs and not much else - this comes from my dietician. - 4/4/2017   9:21:27 AM
    great tips - 4/4/2017   8:51:22 AM
  • 46
    "ACLAYJAR" said it best!

    "You will need a bigger pack to fit in the real -10 essentials.
    Sunglasses and sunscreen
    Extra clothing
    First-aid supplies
    Extra food

    And let me reiterate - MAPS, MAPS, MAPS! Please don't go hiking without one. Don't rely on your phone or some APP that may or may not work when you need it. - 4/4/2017   8:29:08 AM
  • 45
    I particularly liked the socks and the light rain coat! Great article! - 4/4/2017   7:42:02 AM
    the water and the snack are the biggest must have for me at all times - 4/4/2017   7:35:35 AM
  • 43
    Great tips! Thanks! - 4/4/2017   7:32:43 AM
    Must be a serious hike with that hardware - 4/4/2017   6:55:35 AM
  • 41
    I always carry a small first aid kit: bandaids, ibuprofen, antibiotic ointment, benadryl, alcohol wipes. Maybe I'm just accident prone, but I have used it on many occasions. - 4/4/2017   6:51:05 AM
  • 40
    The protein bars are essential when you are out and up. Just what you need to do the return trip and keep your blood sugar even too. - 4/4/2017   6:49:24 AM
  • 39
    I like my snow sneaker boots from LLBean. They are great on all types of terrain. - 4/4/2017   6:47:43 AM
  • 38
    Just thought I'd add that I have those exact poles already as they're some of the least expensive that come up on an amazon search. They work fine as walking poles but the compass does NOT work....fine by me as I didn't care about that feature, but maybe good to know. - 4/4/2017   6:37:21 AM

Please Log In To Leave A Comment:    Log in now ›


Close email sign up
Our best articles, delivered Join the millions of people already subscribed Get a new exercise each day, handpicked by our certified trainers. We will never sell, rent or redistribute your email address.

Magic Link Sent!

A magic link was sent to Click on that link to login. The link is only good for 24 hours.