The ultimate hiking kit list: here's EXACTLY what you need for your next trek

Take exactly what you need (and nothing more) with our definitive hiking packing list

man hiking
(Image credit: Getty)

Heading out for a hike? With many of us staying close to home and looking to take staycations in 2020, a post-lockdown walk, hike or trek is on a lot of minds. In fact, recent research by Intrepid Travel found that 87 per cent of people plan to travel within the UK in 2020, and 78 per cent are seeking hiking and nature walks. 

From England's Lake District and the Pennines to the Brecon Beacons in Wales and Scotland's Cairngorms, the UK is spoilt for choice when it comes to choosing where to go hiking – you could even head up to the top of a mountain (check out our list of the best UK hikes for some inspiration). 

However, what to take on a hiking trip is another matter. You don't want to go unprepared, but neither is there any point over-buying and falling into the ‘all the gear and no idea' brigade. If you want to know what to wear and what to take on a walk, hike or trek, read on for our definitive guide: 

1. A great pair of walking boots

A pair of walking boots is to the 'outdoorist' what a car is to a motorist: it's everything. Whether you're after the best hiking boots for men or the best women's hiking boots for women, they're how you get from A to B, and they determine how much you endure and enjoy your walk, trek or hike. So don't skimp on a pair of walking boots.

Walking boots are unique in the footwear world; they're the only kind with ankle padding, a waterproof membrane, unbeatable grip, and rubber buffers that protect your feet from sharp stone cuts. So don’t skimp on a pair of walking boots, though before you start looking for the perfect footwear, consider whether you need the ankle support of a traditionally designed pair of walking boots, or whether you can get away with a pair of the best walking shoes for men or the best walking shoes for women, which tend to have low-rise designs. That choice is up to you, but don't forget to get yourself some of the best hiking socks before you try on any footwear. 

T3 recommends: Salomon Men's Quest 4D 3 GTX
If you're going anywhere where you're nervous of twisting an ankle, choose high-rise walking boots, which offer full support, like these from Salomon. Breathable enough to be worn during the warmer months, they support foot and ankle, reduce foot fatigue, and their Contragrip sole offers traction on all kinds of terrain.View Deal

2. A map and a compass

When you're in remote areas, smartphones aren't great at navigating. Sure, you can download apps such as ViewRanger and OS Maps, but you're still going to be safer if you have some basic map-reading skills too. While you probably don't need to be able to know how to use a compass for walks and short hikes on well-trodden, well-signposted paths, it's a skill that anyone who enjoys the outdoors should master (here's a useful guide).

T3 recommends: Silva Field Compass
This classic Swedish-made compass converts mileage for 1:25,000 and 1:50,000 scale, and has a liquid-dampened needle. A basic compass weighing just 28g, the Silva Field hangs from a cord and measures 75x50x10 mm, easily slipping into a pocket. View Deal

3. A well-fitting day pack

Choosing a day-sack is tricky, and it's always tempting to go for a sturdier, heavier, expandable or just plain massive hiking backpack. However, always go for a day-sack; something that can take 20 litres and, if possible one that allows you to strap a jacket or warn layer on the outside. Pockets are helpful for dividing-up gear, but most important is comfort. As well as choosing a backpack with padded and adjustable shoulder straps, find one with a hip-belt (which will further save your shoulders) and a curved ‘air-flow' design that keeps the rear of your backpack away from your back (to avoid profusely sweating). 

Osprey Talon 22 day-sack
Super-light at just 800g when empty, this backpack is ideal for day excursions. There are hip-belt pockets for snacks and a phone, attachments for trekking poles, a large stretchy pocket for holding extra layers, and a sleeve for a hydration pack. View Deal

4. Enough food and water

Don't take a step without at least a snack and a bottle of water in your pockets. You will get dehydrated so do bring a hydration pack (if your backpack can take one) or a reusable water bottle; figure on around two litres per person. Food will give you energy, which could be critical if you get exhausted or worse, you get injured and have to wait a long time to be rescued. There's no need to over-prepare; keep it simple by packing a sandwich for lunch, and a couple of other options, such as fruit, nuts or a cereal bar. 

T3 recommends: Vapur Element reusable water bottle
Available in 0.7 litre and 1-litre designs, the Vapur Element has a classic ‘why did no-one think of this before' design. It stands upright when full, yet rolls, folds and flattens when empty for easy storage. It's even got a carabiner for attaching to a belt. View Deal

5. A reliable waterproof layer

So the weather report says it's going to be sunny? Ignore it. Where you're going, anything can happen. On average it rains for 156.2 days in the UK, but in upland areas, it's much more than that. So always pack a waterproof – not weather-resistant – jacket. However, the best waterproof jackets don't just keep the rain off. Equipped with various pockets to keep gadgets and more to hand, they should be comfortable and lightweight so they don't weigh you down when stowed in a backpack. 

T3 recommends | Fjällräven Keb Eco-Shell Jacket
Custom-made for the mountains, this waterproof jacket stays dry in driving rain and its wired hood stands up to fierce weather, but it also has extensive ventilation openings to let off steam. It's designed to be worn with a backpack. That's obvious because it's got chest pockets instead of hand-pockets, since the latter are blocked by a hip-belt. View Deal

6. Comfy walking trousers, hats and gloves

Now for your extremities. A decent pair of the best walking trousers will be helpful, ideally some that have zip-off legs to convert to shorts, plenty of pockets, and some stretch around the knees for climbing steep slopes. A warm hat is another must-have for windy days and mountain tops – a simple beanie will do – as are a pair of gloves and some hand-warmers for when it's biting cold. Together these items will make you walk, hike or trek a more comfortable experience. 

T3 recommends | Mountain Hardwear Chockstone hiking trousers
What we like most about these hiking trousers are the comfortable ‘performance stretch' that comes from some Elastane woven-in to the fabric. Also really handy while hiking is the integrated belt, zippered rear pocket for keeping valuables safe, and drawstring toggles around the ankles. View Deal

7. A well-stocked first aid kit

Be prepared for something to go wrong. That doesn't just mean packing a few plasters; make sure to bring a small, but well-packed and well-thought-through first aid kit. The essentials are obvious and you can get away with buying a pre-packaged first aid kit, but be sure to add blister plasters and any of your own medicines. Now consider doing a first aid course online from the Red Cross.

T3 recommends: Adventure Medical Kits Ultralight Watertight First Aid Kit 3
This classic first aid kit specifically designed for two people hiking or trekking is all about ultra-lightweight medical care. Despite having enough gear to cope with wound cleaning, blisters, muscle ache and pain, allergic reaction and sting relief, it weighs just 66g. Somehow that also includes antiseptic wipes, ointment and bandages.View Deal

8. A reliable torch (for if you get lost)

Have you ever gone for a walk, got lost, and found yourself in a forest a long way from your destination just as the sun goes down? It happens – and it's a tricky predicament to get out of safely unless you have a good torch with you. Even if you're planning to leave early and be back in civilisation by mid-afternoon, always pack some kind of emergency lighting. For night-time rambling find a torch – preferably one of the best head-torches – that pumps out 200+ lumens. 

T3 recommends: BioLite HeadLamp 200
Nicely priced, weighing just 50g and capable of 200 lumens, the BioLite HeadLamp 200 is a great all-rounder that excels on hikes. Its beam projects 200 lumens of light 50 meters ahead for a maximum of three hours, with its regular beam lasting 40 hours. It recharges via micro USB, so can be refuelled by any smartphone battery.View Deal