Leisurely day hikes through scraggy trails, straight-up scrambles up rocky ascents, and treacherous Matterhorn-like expeditions all demand the same thing: durable gear. It's the backbone of any good hike.
And while you’ll obviously need different equipment depending on the season, conditions, and terrain, these 16 essentials will keep you comfortable, protected, and prepared for everything nature throws at you.
What's unique about these hiking boots—aside from a stylish silhouette and profile you'll actually want to wear—is their lightweight innovation, which Danner designed with the legendary sole solvers at Vibram. You’ll see and feel the tech in the boot’s midsole; it heightens the rebound effect you get with each step and provides a more cushioned level of support. A maximum-grip outsole secures your footing on slippery surfaces. The Mountain 600 Hiking Boot also features a waterproof suede upper for durability against the elements, and a perforated, moisture-wicking collar and liner for long-lasting dry comfort.
Ideal for backpacking (if you’ve got less than 40 pounds in tow) and thru-hiking, the Atmos AG 50 is a seriously impressive pack. Osprey’s very own Anti-Gravity™ suspension system is made of lightweight mesh that expands from the hip belt to the top of the backpanel to provide loads of ventilation. The seamless structure contours to your body for a better fit, unrestricted movement, and absolute comfort. You can slip a hydration bladder into its own respective sleeve. The pack can adapt to your trips, too: A removable floating top lid can be attached to store extra gear or removed to save weight. There are loops and tie-offs so you can secure ice tools, straps suited for a sleeping pad, and more compression-enabled straps to stabilize large loads. You can even tow your trekking poles in the pack’s attachment system in cased you need to scramble over rocky terrain or simply want to free up your hands.
Not only does this down jacket from Mountain Hardwear have a slim fit and sleek feel, it's also knit with welded channels so air doesn't come through (traditional jackets let air seep in through the holes of the stitching). What's more, the jacket's down fibers are infused with a permanent water repellent, so it can do its job insulating you even in rainy, wet conditions. Even more impressive: It's so efficiently designed, it can be stored away in its own pocket.
LifeStraw is a godsend for hikers, backpackers, campers, and the like. The straw-like filter lets you turn up to 1,000 liters of contaminated water into water safe for drinking. LifeStraw removes up to 99.9999% of waterborne bacteria, including E. coli. Clip the straw onto keys or packs and keep it handy for emergencies, like if run out of water or your reservoir punctures. Best of all? It won't weigh you down.
Whether or not it's winter, high-altitude hikes can yield icy conditions. Always be prepared with Kahtoola's hiking crampons. You’ll forge through tough terrain and snow with ease: They're the lightest steel crampon on the market, so they're incredibly easy to pack in a bag and slip on over boots. Made with a flex bar, the crampon moves seamlessly with you for precision traction and control. One size fits most.
REI Carbon Composite Men's Power Lock Trekking Poles - Pair
Trekking poles are an absolute must for hiking. They offer stability and power on ascents, and on descents, they help you maintain balance and take some of the pressure off your knees. These ultra-light carbon composite poles from REI reduce shock vibrations from the ground and include an external locking mechanism that's easy to handle, even with gloves on. Foam grips contour to your hands and padded wrist straps help you stay comfortably in control.
If you're hiking in seasonal temps and want to cool down fast, keep the Invisible Shower in tow. Slip your hand in the mitt; it has a pre-loaded towel pad and comes with a natural aloe skin cleanser that contains spearmint and melon extract with vitamin C and B. Add a few pumps of cleanser and refresh as needed. One pack has 20 super-soft, absorbent towel pads. If you're more of a minimalist trail hound, you can also keep this in your car so you can clean after your hike, before you head home.
Life is unexpected; and while you might struggle to find it in yourself to ask for directions, that doesn't mean you won't get lost every now and then. If you get turned around and wind up hiking in low-light conditions, slide on the battery-powered Nathan 300 Lumen Multi-Function Headlamp. It has a professional-grade lifetime LED bulb, an easy-focus twist/pull telescoping beam (you can change it from spotlight to floodlight), and three settings (50%, 100%, and strobe).
The North Face's 60-liter Cobra pack is better suited for technical backcountry adventures; it's fully stocked with everything you'd need for comfort, ease of movement, and performance in harsh mountainous environments. With an intuitive ice tool and oversized crampon storage, and a stowable helmet and ski carry, you can consider this your winter pack. The load-supportive aluminum frame is durable and athlete-tested. You can also remove the framesheet, hipbelt padding, and top lid to strip things down for lighter treks; or, as with the Osprey pack, you can accommodate larger loads with the removable/floating lids.
Store your valuables and electronics in the space-saving Blocker Dry Sack. It has impressive waterproof capabilities; and, thanks to its welded seams, is 50% stronger than other packs that are sewn and taped. It's also made of a polyurethane-coated nylon that can withstand the elements outside your pack. Available in four colors (like bright orange!) and five sizes.
Changing weather and tough conditions? Bring it on. These zip-off hiking pants from Cresta are made from a breathable nylon fabric and have high-performance design features. They're resistant to rips and tears, are crafted from two-way vertical stretch, and boast articulated knees and a gusseted crotch for next-level range of motion. They offer UPF 40+ UV protection, wick moisture, have two zippered cargo pockets and back zippered pockets to store your essentials. Quickly zip-off the bottom to convert into 10" inseam shorts when things heat up.
The right socks are just as important as the right boot, and these micro-crew cushion pair more than fit the bill. They provide cushioning along the bottom of your foot for the right amount of support (without feeling too thick). The performance fit ensures no bunching or slipping and helps prevent blisters; they're also crafted from Merino wool, so they're breathable and quick to dry. These socks will keep you cool in the summer and toasty in the winter. They're naturally antimicrobial, to boot. (No pun intended.)
To keep dehydration at bay, you'll want to keep a hydration bladder in your pack. This CamelBak water reservoir is made of a blend of natural and synthetic rubber that's BPA-free and holds 2 liters of water. Access with just a turn of the quick-snap cap.
Don't just throw a pair of sunglasses on—invest in a pair of stylish, sporty frames that can keep up with your pursuits. The classic aviator silhouette of these frames is sleek yet functional with a detachable cord reminiscent of traditional shades. The brown glass lens is also highly functional; it helps accentuate same-color terrain.
If you're looking for a do-everything layering piece, you've found it. The smooth-faced polyester fleece slips effortlessly under a shell; the fabric is also moisture-wicking and quick-drying. The half-zip design is a breeze to pull on and off. Plus, the close-fitting hood is even comfortable under a ski helmet.
You'll obviously need feul as you traverse long-winding trails—but nothing that'll spoil or weigh down your pack. If you're gone for the day, a CLIF Nut Butter Filled Energy Bar can give you sufficient, sustained energy. With a range of creamy nut butters inside an organic energy bar, you'll find something for your palate.