Get Ready for Adventure With the Best Hiking Gear
These are 11 essential pieces of day-hiking gear, whether you’re out for an hour-long jaunt or a full day in the mountains.
Day hikes are excellent cross-training for running and can double as beta-gathering sessions for future trail runs. For a mellow few miles around a recreation area or an all-day peak-bagging adventure, we’ve listed a variety of gear to get you safely from trailhead to trailhead. Our recommendations of the best hiking gear includes apparel, footwear, packs, and smaller items that you might not think of immediately but you won’t be sorry to carry.
The Expert: I started hiking in New Hampshire with my dad when I was just a kid, eventually ticking off most of the state’s 4,000-footer list. My hiking took me across the country when I moved out west to continue exploring the mountains and trails on the other side of the U.S. My outings range from one-hour trail jaunts on local trails to bagging 14,000-foot peaks in Colorado and full-day traverses across epic ridgelines. I’ve hiked in the swamps of Florida, through Utah canyons, the desert floor in Death Valley, and the high peaks in the Rockies. I’ve been writing about hiking and backpacking and the gear it entails since 2013. My gear reviews and other work has appeared in Backpacker Magazine, Outside, Backpacking Light, The Trek, among other outlets. In 2020, I cofounded Backpacking Routes, a website that connects backpackers with long-distance trails across the country.
How We Evaluated This Hiking Gear
In curating these recommendations, I chose gear that I have tested and loved for many miles of hiking over the years. Some of these time-tested models are in their second decade of iterations, and others are newer models. Not only are these my go-to items, but most are also proven popular among other avid hikers. All this hiking gear is reasonably priced and should last season after season.
A 20% DEET Premium Controlled-Release Lotion will work well against mosquitoes, but Dr. Zimring says he prefers the 20% Picaridin lotion since it also protects against ticks, gnats, chiggers, and flies. (In both instances, he recommends Sawyer brand.)
Part of spending time outside means battling ticks, mosquitoes, and other biting insects. For this, Nelson swears by permethrin.
And out of the products we tested, Dr. Zeichner highly recommends Sawyer Products 20% Picaridin Insect Repellent.