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What you need to take on a walk or hike depends upon the type or length of the walk, the time of year, how remote the walk is, and the expected weather, but being prepared and wearing and taking the right hiking kit is essential for your comfort and safety.
Check out our what to wear guide for what to wear on the walk itself, which includes: hiking boots; waterproof jacket, base layer, mid-layer, walking trousers or shorts, walking socks, walking overtrousers, gloves, walking hat or cap, sunglasses, sunscreen, buff, and walking underwear.
If you are not wearing any of these whilst walking, simply pop them into your rucksack.
In addition to what you wear, we've set out below what to take on a day's walk or a hike:
Whilst the above are the essentials to take in your rucksack, there are certain extras you may wish to consider taking on a day's walk or hike:
If the walk/hike is in very cold/wet weather or involves walking in the snow/ice, then additional equipment is needed such as crampons, ice axe, bivvy bag, etc. along with a larger backpack, which is not covered by the above list. These are more specialist equipment and you must know how to use them.
Remember, before you set out on a day's walk or hike, it is always a good idea to leave your route with someone and an expected time for when you'll be back.
We've set out below our favourite choices for 2023 of what to take on your walk. The recommendations aren't necessarily the best/most expensive products out there, they are our selection of ones that we believe give good value for money... and we like.
You'll have this on your back for the whole day, so comfort is the key here. Some rucksacks come in different sizes/back lengths and most have adjustable straps. The padded shoulder straps and hip belt should be taking the majority of the weight in the pack. Most backpacks come with a variety of pockets, compartments, and openings, some on the side, some on top, and some on the rear - the choice is yours.
Compression straps and loops on the outside allow additional equipment to be kept on the outside creating additional room if needed and easy access. Hip belt pockets are useful for easy access to items on the move without having to stop. Some packs also come in women's specific versions.
The suspended mesh back panel of the new AirZone LT creates a ventilation space between your back and pack for dispersal of moisture to allow for comfort on fast-paced hiking trips. It's made from ripstop nylon with a hydroshield coating and also includes an integrated rain cover. A 30L Airzone Trail is also available if you need a little more room.
Provides plenty of space for the long day trip and has an adjustable AirScape back panel to help keep your back dry. 2 sizes - S-M is 31L and L-LX is 33L. It features side compression straps, a powermesh pocket, a padded hip belt with twin zippered pockets, side compression straps, sternum straps with an emergency whistle, and much more...
The innovative Montane Covalent harness allows a body-hugging fit without restricting movement. The 30L daypack gives plenty of storage and with its many pockets offers east access to your essential items whilst you are on the move.
The drybag does what it says - it's a bag to keep things dry. I generally have a larger drybag that lines my rucksack to keep everything dry and some smaller ones inside that to separate wallets etc. inside the pack itself. Most come with rolltop closures so you can also compress clothes down further in your pack.
The raincover performs a similar function and is a cover that you attach to the outside of your rucksack to keep it dry. Some packs do come with a built-in raincover.
If you want to have a more detailed look at drybags and raincovers, check out our Best Raincovers and Drybags for Hikers in 2023 article.
The electric lime colour maximises visibility and comes in at just 110g in weight.
Waterproof with taped seams, it comes with an adjustable bungee cord with an attachment clip, weighing just 80g.
Waterproof ripstop nylon, fully taped seams, and a waterproof roll-top closure. Various sizes are available, just remember to get one that fits inside your backpack.
This is my current small sack that I keep my wallet and a few other bits in, inside my rucksack. 70D nylon, fully taped seams, and roll-top closure.
On any day walk, you will need to drink and keep well hydrated, so you will need to take a hydration bladder or water bottle with you.
I generally prefer the bladder as you can drink small sips on the go from the tube which attaches to the shoulder strap on your rucksack, but many people do prefer just to take bottles. The only downside I've had a few times with the hydration bladder is walking in very cold weather, the water in the tube has frozen, which I've never experienced with a wide-mouthed water bottle. The bladders do need to be kept clean especially if you have drinks other than water and are a bit more fiddly to clean compared to a water bottle.
I always carry water purification tablets or a 'pen' (see below) with me in case I need to top the bladder up with more fluid on the way round from stream water.
Water bottles come in a wide variety of designs, from insulated bottles to plastic hard-sided bottles, to collapsible lightweight ones.
Light, durable and BPA-free, it has a slide-seal opening for easy filling and cleaning. The magnetic, lockable bite valve helps prevent leaking.
BPA and Phthalate free, its double-wall vacuum insulation keeps hot for up to 12 hours and cold for up to 24 hours. Stainless steel with powder coat finish in various colours has a 621ml capacity and weighs in at 295g.
Made from flexible BPA and PVC-free thermoplastic, it's lightweight and when empty can be twisted and collapsed down to a quarter of its filled size.
The choice is yours! The best foods to take are ones that provide energy without making you feel bloated or lethargic. Complex carbohydrates, healthy fats and protein are digested slowly so provide a steady release of energy. You can also buy energy powders that you can add to your water to provide the same.
In addition, I tend to add electrolyte tablets to the water, especially on warm days, which are meant to reduce tiredness, and muscle fatigue and protect cells from oxidative stress - they don't provide energy though.
Always take some emergency rations.
My current favourites... sugar-free with zero calories with vitamin C and precise levels of electrolytes, sodium, and magnesium - they come in a wide variety of flavours.
If you take medication then ensure that is included in your kit, or if you have allergies ensure you have the medication/EpiPen/inhalers, etc. that you need to treat them.
Other things to consider including in the first aid kit are assorted plasters, assorted compeeds for blisters, assorted bandages, antiseptic wipes, gauze pads, antihistamine, steristrips, pain tablets (ibuprofen/paracetamol, etc.), tweezers, safety pins, antibacterial ointment, resusciade face shield.
If you don't have a first aid kit, I would suggest buying a base one and then just adding any additional items you need. Probably just me being a little accident-prone, but I always have a lightweight adjustable ankle support in the backpack as well!
Good value base kit. Plasters, gauze, bandages, etc.
Well-designed kit with 36 items and a 'quickfind' system - tweezers, scissors, gloves, plasters, bandages, tapes, cleansing wipes, etc.
Their hydrocolloid technology is ideal for treating blisters and provides instant pain relief. Other sizes and multi-size packs are available.
I always carry a 1:25,000 OS explorer paper map of the area I'm walking in - or a couple if I'm walking between maps. Keep the map in a map case if it isn't laminated. They do generally come with a free digital download of the same map.
I do also have mapping on my phone, but a paper map cannot run out of battery and will always be there for you. You do need to know how to read and use it though.
There are quite a few mapping apps available now for a variety of devices. The two on my phone are the Outdooractive App and the OS Maps App. There are free versions of these, but paid versions include a lot more functionality and a variety of mapping, including the Explorer 1:25,000 maps.
There is one main place to go to - Ordnance Survey. The whole country is covered by their Explorer 1:25,000 maps. You can also get custom-made maps made up for yourself or as a gift, where you can specify the centre of the map and upload a photo for the front cover and then add your own title.
Having previously used ViewRanger for many years, when Outdooractive bought them a few years ago, I've just continued to use the Outdooractive app. It's easy to use to create tracks and download them to your phone and with the paid-for service, you get access to OS 1:25,000 and 1:50,000 for the UK. It does come with free mapping in the app, which can be useful, but I find I always use the 1:25,000. It also includes some topo European maps, which I've found useful for walking in France.
What they say about themselves:
Outdooractive is the world's leading platform for outdoor tourism - a digital home for all outdoor
enthusiasts. With our solutions, we inspire millions of users in living an active lifestyle and encourage them to explore the
great outdoors respectfully and sustainably.
Outdoor enthusiasts can browse through thousands of route suggestions, plan their own routes with just a few clicks, easily navigate from A to B with speech output, track their trips, whilst including details such as duration, distance, elevation gain and showcase an interactive altitude profile, and much more.
Our state-of-the-art vector maps guarantee the best possible adventure in the outdoors.
If you want to see which topographic maps are included, have a look here.
There is a free version, but you can get unlimited OS Explorer and Landranger maps on any device making it easy for you to explore the great outdoors for just the price of a coffee a month. Amongst other features, premium allows access to OS Explorer and Landranger mapping, import and export routes, save maps offline, aerial 3D, and print A3/A4 maps.
Navigation, especially in poor visibility or in indistinct areas can be tricky. Phones/GPS devices/watches with built-in GPS can be useful, but not if they run out of battery or have no signal. That is why I always carry a compass... but you do need some navigation skills to successfully use it.
The compass ideally needs to be durable, with a needle that settles quickly on north, rotating bezel and base plate with a ruler. You can normally tie a leash through a small hole in the compass so that you can wrap it around your hand whilst using it so you don't lose it.
This and previous versions have been my main compass for many years - quick setting and reliable. DoE recommended product and can use up to 5000m altitude and down to -15°C. Includes built-in magnifying glass.
Good, functional compass with a magnifying lens.
Many now have built-in GPS and many mapping apps can be bought for all types of mobile phones. As mobile phones are a personal choice and I'm sure in most cases whether it has GPS won't be in most peoples' thoughts when they are buying one, so I won't be recommending any.
My current setup is an iphoneX (water-resistant) with the Outdooractive and OS mapping apps.
Whilst a power pack does add additional weight, I do find it useful to charge the mobile phone/camera, etc. on the go as both are very power-hungry especially whilst using GPS if you are recording your route. Just remember to charge your power pack before you go!
Mine is still going strong after 3 years of continued use. Once charged (before you set out on your journey), it will charge most mobiles fully almost five times. 2 USB outputs, so you can charge 2 devices at once. Drop tested to 1 metre and comes with a travel case.
A slimmer, lighter version of the Anker 20000. Only one device can be charged at once with this and it will recharge fully most mobile phones approximately twice.
A useful lightweight addition to any pack. If you are stopping for a break or lunch and want to sit down, it saves you from having to sit on your pack or ending up with a wet bum. They also provide some insulation from the ground if it's cold.
Weighing only 40g, you won't notice you have it with you, but the durable, insulating foam provides a warm dry place to sit on any break.
Twice the weight of the multimat, but still relatively light at 79g, the insulated folding seat mat provides that extra bit of sitting comfort when you stop.
A whistle takes up no room but can be very useful in emergencies. Six short blasts on your whistle followed by a minute pause is the UK standard signal for help. In the US and some other countries, it is three blasts of about 3 seconds each.
Only 13g in weight but provides up to 128db of noise.
Comes on keyring attachment and provides up to 100db of noise.
Many people use walking poles whilst out hiking. They are believed to have certain benefits including:
They are very much a personal choice - I have tried them a few times and didn't think they benefitted me and found them a nuisance getting in the way when drinking, map reading, scrambling, etc. So, I don't use them, but quite a few people I walk with do swear by them finding they do help with balance, reduce fatigue and help with knee issues.
The poles balance comfort, features, and affordability. Good feedback from all I know who use them. Interchangeable tips allow them to deal with different surfaces (rubber tips are sold separately). The women's version is tailored in its size, grip, and plush-lined padded strap.
They feature an anatomically formed AERGON Thermo Long Grip and the super simple Speed Lock 2 Adjustment System along with the newly developed ELD External Locking Device, which ensures more stability and safety on the mountain thanks to its special construction. 100% carbon makes them lightweight and strong and can be folded down to just 40cm when not in use. Feedback received from two regular users are they feel they are the easiest to use poles they've ever hiked with.
The ergonomic handle provides comfort and support and the flex tip short gives the perfect grip in nearly all terrains. The Speed Lock 2 system makes adjusting the pole length quick and easy.
A gaiter is a fabric guard attached to your boot and lower leg. Its primary purpose is to protect your feet and lower leg from mud, water, debris, and shrubs. On well-made paths or in dry conditions you won't need them and some people just find wearing them makes your legs hot and sweaty.
Good value, waterproof and breathable, they work with standard walking boots. They have an adjustable calf, with a snag-free drawcord and elasticated ankles.
More of a specialist gaiter, made with 40D Gore-Tex Pro fabric with 300D nylon reinforcement. They use a zipless hook and loop closure and fit technical alpine boots.
Made from 3-layer Drilite Extreme waterproof upper with 500D nylon reinforced lower leg. Front opening zip and rear drawcord adjustment.
There are many fitness watches now that feature GPS that can be used for walking. The features available are endless, but generally, the more features the more expensive the watch. Many are multi-sport watches so can be used for a variety of activities.
My most expensive piece of kit, although certainly not just dedicated to walking - well that's my justification for having one anyway. That, and being a bit of a data geek, there isn't much this watch won't know about you when you fully put it to the test. You can customise the watch face for different occasions.
The level of data from your walks runs and other activities is incredible with advanced performance metrics and over 30 built-in sports apps. It tracks your health and wellness and can navigate with a level of accuracy. There are maps for thousands of golf courses and ski resorts that can be downloaded... if only it would work with my Outdooractive app!
This solar version extends the battery life up to 37 days or up to 135 hours when using GPS. Have a look at the full list of specs and see if it's the one for you. Previous versions can be picked up at quite discounted prices and come with many of the features of the Fenix7. Some people may find the watch a little on the large size, but smaller versions are available.
GPS smartwatch with solar charging capability. Shock and water-resistant to 100m and has a scratch-resistant corning gorilla glass display. Activity profiles for running, biking, swimming, etc., and health monitoring tools along with VO2 max and other training features to track your fitness. Now the 'Instinct 2' is out, at the time of writing, the original Garmin Instinct Solar is currently on sale with £100 off.
There is a range of handheld durable devices made specifically for hiking and other outdoor activities. The memory can store many preloaded or purchased maps and the units can house larger GPS chips for very accurate locations and many are waterproof.
It is an extra device though and with the range of mapping apps available for mobile phones, my personal preference is a mapping app on a mobile phone (especially a water-resistant phone) rather than another separate device. I've used a few Garmin etrex devices in the past before the mapping apps were available, but now do find you can get most of the same functionality with apps on the mobile phone - albeit they are not as durable.
There are many small, lightweight, powerful head torches available. In case I'm out on the hills longer than planned, I always have a lightweight head torch in the rucksack and regularly check its batteries.
If using to come off the hills in the dark, you do need ideally a minimum of 300 lumens (brightness) and beam distance. These both decrease with decreasing battery charge. Having a greater beam distance is useful, but you have a trade-off as the head torch generally will be heavier. How you use your settings will affect battery life, so consider spare batteries.
Also, consider whether the head torch is waterproof. How waterproof items are is measured using IPX rating, from 1 to 8. IPX4 protects from splashes so ok for some general use, but if you're out in heavy downpours consider getting a higher rating torch.
Also useful for when doing DIY jobs around the house where light is needed as you are hands-free!
Provides 450 lumens, so fine for night walking, and weighs in at only 75g. It's rechargeable, easy to use, and also works with standard batteries. It has a detachable washable headband and a lock function to avoid accidentally switching it on. It is weather resistant with an IPX4 rating.
The Swift RL is a compact, ultra-powerful, rechargeable head torch with Reactive Lighting technology to automatically adjust the brightness to your needs. It provides an impressive 1,100 lumens of brightness if needed but weighs just 100 grams.
The 1,100 lumens is brighter than most hiking and running head torches, and the reactive lighting, which adapts the brightness to the ambient light, ensures your battery lasts longer.
Another personal choice as to your level of interest in photography and how much additional equipment/weight you want to carry. Most people you see taking photographs out on the hills now just use their mobile phones.
They are lightweight, waterproof and windproof and help retain body heat and reduce wind chill - a useful safety addition to any rucksack. I bought one quite a few years ago that sits in the bottom of my rucksack and I'm still hoping it's something I'll never have to use.
110g - it's windproof, waterproof, taped seams and has a compact storage sack.
Larger, more expensive and heavier than the Lifesystems bivi bag above weighing in at 370g but does pack down quite small and forms a small emergency shelter to create a warm and dry microclimate. You could even use it just to have a dry rather than a wet lunch!
Reusable, lightweight (110g), waterproof and windproof bag that provides total body coverage that can reflect and retain over 90% of radiated body heat.
If you are going somewhere a bit more remote, or on long trips where you don't want to carry lots of water with you, the purifiers/tablets can make stream/river water safe for you to drink. Generally, the pen/straw type purifiers purify water quicker than the tablets, but tablets are light and very small. I generally have a strip of tablets in my first aid kit in case they are needed.
30 foil sealed tablets each treating up to one litre of water. Leaves no residual taste, odour, or colour and is a DofE recommended product. I always just leave a strip of six in my first aid kit - only weighs 6g!
This award-winning LifeStraw water filter weighs in at just 59g and can filter up to 4,000 litres of stream water. There is no aftertaste and BPA free. It uses advanced hollow fibre technology filtration that requires no chemicals. I must admit I was dubious about its claims when I first bought one, but it's now been used several times with no ill effects!
Field-proven, simple solution to getting your water clean on the go. Click it into your hydration system and the Thru-Link will filter water as you drink.
An assortment of useful tools in one small device - you just never know when they'll be needed!
This Swiss army knife comes with a choice of 15 tools including blades, scissors, tin opener, bottle opener, saw, flat head screwdrivers, tweezers and more. It weighs in at 97g.
The all-singing, all-dancing Swiss army knife features 33 tools but is almost twice as heavy as the Huntsman at 185g.
Classic Leatherman craftsmanship with this 14-tool Rev. Includes wire cutters, pliers, knife, screwdrivers, bottle opener, can opener and more...
Remember don't pack more gear than you can safely carry for the whole day. There is a trade-off between what you can carry and what you need for comfort and safety.
Author: Andrew Forrest