First hike? Here’s what to pack.

  Want to go deeper? External + members have access to all backpacker stories, skills, reviews, and more, plus plenty of other great perks. Sign up today!

   Why the price rise? Let’s count them. Hiking is a great way to experience nature, exercise, and connect with friends and family. Plus, studies show that spending time outdoors has huge benefits for your stress levels, mental clarity, and overall health. Of all the ways to enjoy the outdoors, hiking is the easiest – after all, it’s just walking on dirt.

   Hiking for the first time can be scary. Before you go, you may have questions about where to go, how to stay safe, and what to pack. We’ll cover how to pack for your first hike so you can comfortably be prepared for the unforeseen.

   When it comes to packing for a hike, you want to be prepared to keep yourself comfortable and safe in the wilderness without allowing yourself to be overwhelmed by unnecessary gear. It’s important to think about what you might want to bring if something goes wrong, but keep in mind that an overweight backpack can hinder your enjoyment of the trip.

   First, consider how long you will be hiking. For short hikes — a mile or two — you can pack light. On these quick excursions, you’re less likely to spend an unplanned night out and need to use the bathroom than you are on an all-day adventure. Your destination will also affect your packing list: You’ll need different gear for a hot, shade-free desert hike than you would for a rainy forest hike. Use this list as a general guide that you can tailor to your needs on specific hikes.

 For your first hike, any backpack will do; Grab your commute bag, school backpack, or whatever else you have handy. When you go on longer hikes, consider padded backpacks and belts to distribute the load comfortably. Things like water bottle holders and various pockets can also come in handy. Are you going on an overnight hike? Try it on in a store and ask a salesperson to help you choose the right one.

   This kit list contains everything you need to stay safe in remote areas, especially if you find yourself lost or in a survival situation. While some of these 10 essentials may seem redundant for a short day hike, it’s a good idea to keep them in your backpack.

   A bottle full of water or a hydrating bladder is the most important item in your backpack to prevent dehydration and allow you to move comfortably during your trip. As a rule of thumb, carry a liter of water for every hour you plan to hike. Beginner hikers can expect to cover 2 miles per hour on moderate trails (allowing for more steep time), so carry at least two liters of water on a 4-mile hike. On particularly hot days, pack extra stuff.

   Yes, the water is heavy. Consider carrying a water filter or purifier on a long hike and locating water sources such as streams on a map ahead of time. That way, you can refill halfway through the day instead of carrying an uncomfortable full bag.

   Don’t have a reusable bottle? Any bottle with a screw top — from old disposable water bottles to soda bottles — will do.

   It’s easier to get lost outside than you think, especially in places you’re unfamiliar with. On your first hike, it’s best to familiarize yourself with the route. If you have no experience hiking, choose a popular trail where you are likely to meet other people. Mapping apps like Gaia GPS are a great place to find route suggestions. Download maps of the area ahead of time so you can check them even if you lose your cell signal, and make sure your phone is fully charged before you hit the road. Paper maps and compasses are essential for long hikes or cross-country trips, but make sure you know how to use them.

 What’s the best part of hiking? Snacks, obviously. Hikers should consume about 200 calories per hour to maintain energy. The best hiking food is non-perishable, packable (won’t crush or crush in a backpack), and nutritious. Consider foods like nuts, dried fruit, granola bars, peanut butter sandwiches, and trail mix. On your first hike, nutrition is secondary: Pack whatever food you want, even if exercise reduces your appetite.

   Put on sunscreen before you go and pack more to reapply throughout the day. Also wear a hat and sunglasses or anti-static clothing. Insect repellent is also a good idea, especially in heavily wooded areas and in the summer.

   You should avoid wearing cotton clothing while hiking because it absorbs sweat and moisture and doesn’t dry out, but that doesn’t mean you need to spend money on fancy hiking clothes. Wear comfortable, moisture-wicking clothing on your first hike. In the summer, running shorts, sweatpants or yoga pants and a sports T-shirt will do. In winter, start with a warm non-cotton lining, a wool or wool intermediate layer, and a waterproof outer layer. Always bring extra clothes, even if you don’t think you need them. Things that can keep you warm and rain gear should always be in your backpack if you stop moving. Consider wearing a hat and gloves during colder or peak weather.

   Taking a headlight on a morning hike may seem like overkill, but it’s never a bad idea to keep a headlight in your backpack in case you’re out after dark. Make sure your phone has fresh batteries or is fully charged before you go. Don’t have a headlamp? A small flashlight will do.

 Basic first aid supplies are vital so that you can treat yourself or your hiking partner in the event of injury. At the very least, wear a bandage, an elastic bandage in case you sprain your ankle, and painkillers like ibuprofen. Also carry hand sanitizer and something to clean the wound, such as an alcohol sanitizer pad.

   It may be left in your backpack on your first day of hiking, but from simple gear repairs in the wilderness to slicing salami, a multi-tool or pocket-knife can come in handy.

   Again, it is rarely necessary to carry a full camping tent on a day hike, but protecting yourself from the elements can be reassuring, especially on longer, challenging hikes. Consider packing a compact space blanket (available for a few dollars at any big box store), an emergency down jacket, or even a small tarp for long trips.

   This is the tenth most important item for winter and night hikes. Lighters, matches, or camp stoves can be used to purify water, keep warm, and even signal for help in an emergency.

   In addition to these 10 essentials, you might also want to consider packing the following items, depending on where you’re going.

   Your phone can act as a map, camera and everything else, and you can call for help if something goes wrong. Make sure it is fully charged and protected with a sturdy case. Keep your phone in a plastic bag or waterproof case for rainy hikes or when you need to cross a stream.

   Of course not necessary, some hikers may prefer to use a pole for balance and to take pressure off their knees while hiking. Consider foldable poles that you can keep in or on your backpack when not in use. Don’t want to lose your money? A cheap pair of ski poles (available at thrift stores) will also work.

   It’s a good idea to take a bathroom break before hiking, but sometimes, you run into problems with nature. Swing bags, diapers, or a shovel and toilet paper can come in handy in a pinch. Always handle and dispose of garbage in accordance with no trace guidelines.

   Always pack your own junk. If you see litter left by other hikers on the trail, pick it up and take it out, too.