Advice: Top 10 Summer Hiking Gear Must Haves

While there are a lot of different gadgets, tools and other items that are designed to make your hiking and backpacking trips more comfortable, there are some items that make it into my backpack and come with me on almost every trip I take.  Not all of them are essential (though several are), but they all can make your hiking easier, more comfortable and safer in the long term.

Since each hiking season calls in different items you may need, here is our list of what we consider to be our Top 10 Summer Hiking Gear items.

How many of these do you have in your backpack regularly during the summer hiking season?


#10 - Petzl Tikka Headlamp
Nothing beats a good headlamp and Petzl’s Tikka Headlamp definitely fits the bill. This lightweight, easy to wear headlamp offers crisp, bright, white lighting. I always carry it in my backpack, even on day trips, since you never know when you might end up being in the dark due to delays in your hike. Plus on overnight trips, this headlamp is great for finding your way out of your tent and around your campsite.

#9 - Adventure Medical Kits Heatsheets Emergency Bivy
Safety is a big concern for me as I do a lot of hiking either alone or in a small group. Either way, I want to make sure that I am ready for anything and the Heatsheets Emergency Bivy from Adventure Medical Kits helps me out there. This emergency bivy provides a warm and dry emergency shelter in case the worst happens and I need to bed down for the night or if there is a medical emergency and I need keep myself or someone else protected.

#8 – LL Bean Bigelow Backpack
The Bigelow Backpack from LL Bean has to be one of the best backpacks I have ever had for day hiking. Not only that, it has enough space to even double as an overnight backpack if you pack light. The back is very well constructed and will last through years of use. Not only that, but it is backed by LL Bean’s lifetime warranty, so if you do end up damaging it, LL Bean will fix or replace it for free for you.

#7 - REI Lite-Core Sit Pad or Thermarest Trail Seat
As I have gotten older, creature comforts have become more important to me when I am outdoors. That is where REI’s Lite-Core Sit Pad or the Thermarest Trail Seat comes in. This small, self-inflating pad is so simple, yet makes being out in the woods so much more comfortable. It makes any lunch stop better, providing cushioning and insulation from the ground. In camp it makes for a great place to rest as I’m cooking or doing whatever else.

#6 - CamelBak StoAway Hydration Bladder
Staying hydrated is important and while I still carry water bottles with me, I also almost always bring my CamelBak StoAway Hydration Bladder. This bladder holds 70 ounces of water and fits in the hydration sleeve in my backpack. I can sip water as I walk and usually the 70 ounces along with a bottle or two is more than enough for all but the longest day hikes. My only complaint with the bladder is that it is not the easiest thing to clean, but considering how much easier it makes drinking while I am hiking, I will spend a few extra minutes scrubbing it and making sure it dries completely when I get home.

#5 - Nalgene Lexan Loop-Top 32 Ounce Wide Mouth Bottle
Right after the CamelBak Bladder, I think these 32-ounce Wide-Mouth Lexan Water Bottles from Nalgene are a must have. For short hikes when I don’t need a bladder, these bottles make up the difference. Plus even with the bladder, these bottles are my all purpose water bottles, letting me bring water with me, mix up drink mixes in them and use them on every hike I take.

#4 - Dermatone Sun Protector Pomade
Sunburn? Wind burn? Protect yourself from all of this by carrying around a small tin of the Dermatone Sun Protector Pomade. It is all season protection that works equally well in the summer and the winter. I also have a small tin in my backpack and use it to protect my skin whenever I’m out hiking. A little goes a long way and I make sure I have it on my ears and my nose to prevent sunburn. In colder weather, a thicker layer makes a good defense again windburn and helps insulate your skin a bit.

#3 - Jetboil Personal Cooking System
When you are on an overnight backpacking trip, cooking can sometimes get pretty complicated. The Jetboil Personal Cooking System backpacking stove simplifies this process. You do not have quite the variety or ability to cook many different things in many different pots, but the Jetboil makes up for that by being ultra-efficient and quickly and easily cooking up one pot meals. Not only that, but it boils water for tea and coffee very quickly. Plus, it doubles as a great coffee press.

#2 - Mountain Hardware Epic Jacket
A raincoat? A waterproof shell is so much more though. The Mountain Hardware Epic Jacket is a lightweight, breathable, waterproof shell that can come in handy on any hike. In wet weather it keeps you dry. In windy weather, it protects you while not overheating you. In cold weather, it helps provide extra insulation on top of your clothes and jacket. Around camp you can wear this as an extra layer or protection too.

#1 - LL Bean's Leather and Fabric Gore-Tex Day Hikers
Comfortable hiking boots are key to any hike and LL Bean’s Leather and Fabric Hiking Boots do not disappoint. These boots are sturdy, comfortable and durable. I have had a pair for several years worth of hiking and they work equally well in all the seasons. They are also some of the most comfortable boots I have ever owned and probably produced the fewest blisters of any boot I have owned. Sadly the model that I have is no longer made by LL Bean, but there are several boots that they still carry that are very comfortable and several other manufacturers have boots that are as comfortable to wear and durable enough to last.  The Asolo Fugitive is my new boot of choice for major hikes, though my LL Bean boots are still kicking and out on the trail, after about 8 years of use.

Need more hiking and camping advice?

Adventures in the Outdoors has a number of guides and advice columns on a number of different hiking, camping and outdoor adventure related topics, including our introductory guide to hiking, Hiking 101.  Browse our Advice Section for more information and to get out and start enjoying the great outdoors!