A group of hikers walking over the summit of a rocky hill.

Hiking Essentials Checklist

Whether you’re going for a short hike in the countryside or a long, two-day walk; it is important you are equipped with all the hiking bag essentials.

Hiking Essentials Checklist

1 June 2023

While they may not all be necessary for every trip, it is good practice to ensure you have all the necessities in case of an unplanned emergency or change in plan. When packing for your next big hike, take a look at our handy hiking essentials checklist and make sure you have everything you need.

Hiking Boots or Shoes

Hiking boots are a must for any long walk or hike, and not having the correct footwear can be dangerous. There are several factors to consider when choosing hiking boots or shoes and making sure they are supportive while comfortable should be your top priority.

Hiking boots have many benefits to protect you against injuries and are specifically designed with stability and support to secure your feet and ankles. They provide ankle support to avoid sprains and rubber soles to ensure better grip, especially during wet weather. If you are more of a trail runner or on a shorter walk, you may prefer hiking shoes, which have less ankle support but are lightweight and made of thinner, more breathable fabric.


When choosing the perfect hiking backpack the first step is to determine the length of your hike. For a day hike a 20-30 litre bag would be perfect for fitting in all your essentials. If you are going on a longer weekend hike a 30-40 litre bag would allow more space to fit a tent, sleeping bag and other overnight essentials. For longer hikes or for those with more to pack, there are larger-volume bags you can buy.

There are several features to consider when choosing a backpack with the first being the frame. There are three main frame types, frameless, an external frame, or an internal frame, which is the most common. Internal framed backpacks are designed to disperse the weight from your shoulders to your hips. Padding and ventilation are also important factors. A breathable mesh will allow for airflow across your back, and sufficient padding around your hips and shoulders will avoid rubbing and support your back.


Preparation is key. Navigating a route can be challenging, especially with ever-changing conditions and visibility. Decide beforehand what route you are going to take and research the terrain and path to ensure there are no hidden surprises. You need to feel confident in your route and how to get there. While many hiking trails have clear paths and signs to follow, you need to be prepared in case you get lost.

There are many popular navigation apps to help you plan your journey and track to ensure you are going the right way, but don’t solely rely on technology and your mobile phones as service can be unreliable in remote areas. Having a traditional paper map, in case you find yourselves lost or without a phone signal, can help keep you on the right path. Discover how to read a map with our handy tips and avoid getting lost on your hike. Learning to read a compass can also help, but this will take more practice and training to learn how to use it. As part of the Army Cadets syllabus you can learn all these navigation skills and more!

Getting lost is all part of the hiking experience and is usually due to a small wrong turn or unexpected change in the route. The most important thing is to stay calm and look around you to see if you can identify any markers or paths. Check your map and try to identify where you are and, if necessary, backtrack until you can recognise where you are. Make sure you have a plan before going any further to avoid confusion.


It can be challenging knowing what to wear on a hike; you want to be comfortable while dressing appropriately for the weather. It is important to remember the higher the elevation, the colder it is, so our best advice is to layer!

A lightweight, short sleeve base layer will keep you cool and comfortable as this is the closest layer to your skin. Depending on the weather, you may want to wear a middle layer which is usually a fleece to keep you warm and dry. The outer layer should be a waterproof, lightweight jacket to protect you from the rain and wind. Similarly, with trousers, layering is a good idea. We would recommend having longer trousers to protect your skin from vegetation with a thermal base layer to keep you warm.

Sun Protection

When you are outside it is important to use suncream and going on a hike is no exception. You are exposing yourself to UV rays which can cause sunburn and skin damage. Protect your face and skin with a high SPF suncream and re-apply throughout the day. Keep your head protected with a wide-brim hat and sunglasses with UV protection to safeguard your eyes. If possible, avoid being out in direct sunlight during peak sun hours and seek shade where possible.

First Aid Kit

When hiking you are often on your own in the wild without immediate access to help, this means your first aid kit is essential to helping you on your trail. You want to have all the necessities while keeping it small and lightweight as you are the one carrying it. The top essentials for a hiking first aid kit consist of basic medication including painkillers, antihistamine and anti-inflammatory. Wound treatments including plasters, bandages and blister plasters; safety pins, scissors, matches and hand sanitiser.

The first aid kit can’t cover all medical eventualities but should be able to provide fixes and treatment for small injuries and ailments. Before every hiking trip check your first aid kit and stock up on any essentials missing from your kit. All our youth and adult volunteers have the opportunity to be first aid qualified with the Army Cadets as part of our syllabus.


Choosing the right food to bring on a hike is essential to help you feel great and maintain energy. It is best to choose lightweight, filling and nutritious snacks including those with protein and complex carbohydrates to steadily release energy. Fruits, vegetables, protein bars, nuts and cheese are great snacks to keep you going.

Staying hydrated is the most important factor to remember when on a hike, make sure to drink plenty before your hike and pack plenty to last the whole journey. A hydration bladder is a great way to drink on the go or insulated bottles to keep your water cold and refreshing.


If you are hiking overnight there is extra equipment you will need to remember and pack. This includes a tent, sleeping bag, mat and pillow, and cookware. You will need to take into consideration these extra items and weight when deciding what else to pack and the size of your backpack. For more camping essentials, check out our ultimate camping checklist.

Get involved!

We hope this hiking essentials checklist was helpful in preparing you for your next journey! For more fun adventures with the Army Cadets search for your nearest detachment and join today.

Photo by Eric Sanman: https://www.pexels.com/photo/g...