Advice: Our favorite summer hiking gear

What do you always bring on your hike in the summer?

While we could all fill our backpacks with all kinds of tools, gear and gadgets, especially nowadays with all the specialized hiking gear that is available, for us there's only a handful of items we always keep in our backpack or have with us when we are hiking in the summertime.

Most of our summer hiking is a series of day trips and there is just some gear that makes life easier, more comfortable and safer while you are enjoying the great outdoors.  Those are the kinds of things we always have with us.

How about you?  How many of these do you have in your backpack or with you during the summer hiking season? What do you bring that we don't?

Here's some of our favorite summer gear!

Suntan Lotion: It may not sound like much, but suntan lotion can mean the difference between a enjoyable hike or being burnt to a crisp and suffering from too much exposure to the sunlight.  Make sure the parts of your skin exposed to the sun always have at least some sunblock on.  We're always extra careful with our ears, face and if we aren't wearing a hat, our head!  You'll be surprised at what a difference it makes when you finish your hike and you aren't feeling like you've been burned by the sun all day. It also makes sense to help prevent long-term damage to your skin by the sun, something anyone who is in the outdoors should be thinking about!

Lightweight Hiking Boots: If you aren't camping overnight and you find them comfortable, the lower cut, lightweight hiking boots are great choices for summer day hikes and even an overnight trip.  The lighter boot is more comfortable on your foot and there's a marked difference we find in just overall hiking comfort. We've been partial to Keen's Targhee shoe.  If you want some advice on picking out the right boot for you, check out our Hiking Boot Shopping 101 Guide where we break down what can be the very confusing and overwhelming world of boot shopping.

Sunglasses: Having worn glasses for years and never really gotten on the contacts train, I always bring my prescription sunglasses with me.  They help cut down the glare on really sunny days and they help protect my eyes from too much sun exposure. If you don't need prescription glasses, count yourself lucky and be sure to bring a pair of good quality UV blocking sunglasses to protect your eyes!

Quick-Dry Synthetic Shirts: There's a ton of different "hiking" shirts available, but we find that any well made quick-dry, synthetic shirt works well for hiking.  It's really about finding what you feel comfortable in.  We find some of the best deals and most comfortable shirts on the clearance rack at Target of all places!  Seriously though, these shirts wick sweat away from your body, keep you dry and make for a much more comfortable hike!

Headlamp: You never know when you might be getting out of the woods later than you expect and so I always keep a headlamp in my backpack.  Today's headlamps are small, lightweight, and easy to wear.  They offer crisp, bright, white lighting and take up practically no space and weigh only a few ounces.  When you are easily walking out to the trailhead with your headlamp on, you will not have any doubts why this is a must-have in your backpack!

Baseball or Hiking Hat: Going back to the sun, for those of us with thin hair (or no hair), a hat is key to a comfortable hike.  It not only keeps the sun out of your eyes, it shades your head and helps prevent inadvertent sunburn.  We like full fabric hats, which while a bit warmer then mesh hats, offer more complete sun protection.

Zip-Off Hiking Pants: It is funny, but a pair of pants can make a real difference in how you enjoy your hike.  We love the synthetic zip off hiking pants that are available today (though we don't love the usually expensive price!).  These pants give you the flexibility to alternate between pants and shorts as the temperatures and conditions warrant and are built tough enough to stand up to rugged use on the trail.

Trail Seat: My guilty pleasure for hiking, but as I have gotten older, creature comforts have become more important to me. That is where a trail seat or pad comes in and saves the day. 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.  Want to take a nap? Just roll it up a bit and the pad makes a great pillow too!

Wide-Mouth Lexan Water Bottles: Old school on the water bottles huh? We have used water bladders and other bottles, but we always come back to the wide-mouth water bottles.  Just some of the reasons we love them: they are easy to store in the sides of our backpack; they are practically indestructable, the wide-mouth makes it easy to put in ice cubes or drink mixes; they are easy to fill on the fly; and they are easy to clean when you get home!

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!

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