5 autumn hiking essentials every self-respecting walker must carry with them

Autumn is an awesome time to go walking, especially if you remember to pack these experience-enhancing items

autumn hiking
(Image credit: Getty Images)

With the natural landscape awash with spectacular colours, the air full of new smells and the sound of migrating birds, and earlier evenings offering the promise of spectacular sunsets followed by star-splattered night skies, autumn is arguably the most sensational season to enjoy day hiking.

This is a time of transition and change, however, and – especially in the early days, before you’ve had time to adjust to the new season – it is very easy to forget the things you need to take out with you in order to make a the absolute most of an autumn amble. Luckily, we’re here to remind you. So, before you lace up your best hiking boots and leave the house, make sure you have popped the following five fall essentials in your hiking backpack.


(Image credit: Getty Images)

1. Binoculars (or monoculars)

Autumn is a fantastic time of year for spotting birds, particularly if you have appropriate binoculars for birdwatching or if you prefer something more compact, a decent monocular. The sky is busy with hundreds of migratory species, either setting off for sunnier climes in the southern hemisphere or arriving here from even further north before the seriously cold weather kicks in. Over-wintering native species such as robins are busy plumping up on berries while they can, and as the leaves start to fall from the trees, it’s increasingly easy to spot birds (and squirrels) amid the branches. As the evenings draw in, you can also very often spot bats preparing to set off on their nighttime feeding forays.

thermos flask

(Image credit: Getty Images)

2. Hiking water bottle

In early autumn, trees hang heavy with fruit and berries, and it’s well worth taking a container along to scrump some wild bounty while you walk – popping some blackberries into a hiking water bottle can make staying hydrated a more colourful and tasty experience. One of the absolute best things about mid-to-late autumn, though, is the abundance of locally grown vegetables that become available and the urge everyone suddenly seems to share, as soon as the air starts feeling cooler, to turn this cornucopia into tasty soups. Filling a thermos flask with the resulting creations and taking them out on the trails with you to enjoy mid-hike is something to be savoured.

head torch

(Image credit: Getty Images)

3. Head torch or flashlight

No matter how old you are, I’m willing to bet that autumn retains the ability to surprise you with its ever-shortening days and increasingly early evenings. I’m over halfway around my 50th lap of the sun, and I still get caught out all the time, with darkness often descending around me long before I’m at the end of my walks. I may be a fool, but I have, at least, learned to always pack a head torch and/or a flashlight in my bag before I head out for any autumn amble, and I urge you to do the same.


(Image credit: Getty Images)

4. Layering options

Temperatures, like hours of daylight, rapidly diminish during the onset of autumn, and before you know it, mornings are feeling quite crisp, and evenings induce more than the occasional shiver. Personally, I love this transition away from the sweaty heights of summer, but it’s easier to enjoy it if you have enough outdoor clothing to stay comfortable (and if you’re walking with children, it’s essential to make sure they’re warm). It’s always a good idea to pop on a decent base layer before you set off for an autumn walk, but don’t forget to pack a lightweight fleece top and a shell layer, such as a waterproof jacket, to keep breezes and raindrops at bay.

autumn sunset

(Image credit: Getty Images)

5. Portable pew

Admittedly, this one is a luxury rather than a necessity, and not everyone is going to be prepared to cart a chair with them into the wilderness but bear with me. Besides brilliant bird-watching and great soup-enhanced picnicking potential, autumn offers some of the most stunning sunsets of the entire year, as well as excellent early evening star-gazing opportunities. 

All of the aforementioned experiences are best enjoyed from the comfort of a proper pew (not least because natural surfaces are more likely to be damp from now on, especially after dusk). The best camping chairs are getting increasingly light and easy to carry, and some – including various Helinox models and the Trekology YIZI Go – don’t take up much more space or weigh any more than an average water bottle.

Pat Kinsella
Freelance outdoor writer

Author of Caving, Canyoning, Coasteering…, a recently released book about all kinds of outdoor adventures around Britain, Pat Kinsella has been writing about outdoor pursuits and adventure sports for two decades. In pursuit of stories he’s canoed Canada’s Yukon River, climbed Mont Blanc and Kilimanjaro, skied and mountain biked across the Norwegian Alps, run ultras across the roof of Mauritius and through the hills of the Himalayas, and set short-lived speed records for trail-running Australia’s highest peaks and New Zealand’s nine Great Walks. A former editor of several Australian magazines he’s a longtime contributor to publications including Sidetracked, Outdoor, National Geographic Traveller, Trail Running, The Great Outdoors, Outdoor Fitness and Adventure Travel, and a regular writer for Lonely Planet (for whom he compiled, edited and co-wrote the Atlas of Adventure, a guide to outdoor pursuits around the globe). He’s authored guides to exploring the coastline and countryside of Devon and Dorset, and recently wrote a book about pub walks. Follow Pat's adventures on Strava and instagram.