Ask 10 people what essentials you should pack on your extended hiking trip and you’ll probably get 20 different answers. We don’t want to haul around a bunch of stuff we’re highly unlikely to use or need. But we also don’t want to leave behind that “oh, geez. I should’ve packed…” item.
Here’s a quick list of 10 items you do NOT need to pack on your next long hike:
1. Cotton clothing.
In hiking circles, the phrase is “cotton kills.” Wear synthetic fabrics instead. Sweat-wicking and quick-dry are key.
Lose the stiff jeans. They don’t breathe well or let you move much. Jeans can even be dangerous if they get wet, since they have a tendency to hold on to moisture rather than wick it away from your body. Can you say, “Hypothermia”?
Raise your right hand and repeat after me: “I shall not wear denim when hiking. I shall not wear denim when hiking. I shall not…”
3. Make Up.
Ladies, if leaving Mary Kay or Maybelline at home sends you into a fainting spell or a temporary coma, I’ll let you in on a secret: when it comes to make-up and trail time, nobody cares. Far as I know, cosmetic-lessness isn’t a leading cause of death. When it comes to the Great Outdoors, au naturelle is in.
You do not want to risk losing great-grandma’s heirloom pendant or getting something snagged on a rock, tree or, um, bear. You don’t get extra points for style and there’s no need to impress when you’re hiking. So leave the jewelry at home.
5. Anything white
Wearing white anything – pants, shirt, shoes, jacket, etc. – on a hike is like donning a “Mud Shoot Here” target. Go for colors or neutral tones!
6. A ton of cooking gear.
Unless you’re planning on rivaling Wolfgang Puck, there’s no real need to haul a bunch of fancy cooking gear around in your pack. All you really need is a stove, a pot, a spoon, fuel and a few accessories like a pocket knife and a lighter.
Altho it pains a bibliophile like me to tell you this, you don’t need a lot of books on a hiking trip. They add weight, and fast. If you need reading material for a few days, try one lightweight paperback.
Bringing a trail guide and maps are great. But you can cut weight and bulk considerably by copying the pages you actually need and bringing just those. Or using a hiking app.
Also consider bringing a Kindle. Way lighter and more portable than the hardback version of War and Peace.
8. Spare shoes
One pair of sturdy, waterproof boots should do. Make sure they’re comfortable so you can wear them on the trail and around camp without wearing out your feet.
9. Extra Clothes & Gear
You’re packing to hike, not lounge around on the French Riviera sipping a fine Merlot. (Or even a mediocre one.) So take essentials. Not “well, maybe….”
For example, pack enough clothes so you’ll have adequate clean attire to change into. Be prepared for abrupt weather changes – a rainproof jacket and a change of dry, warmer clothes so you can change if necessary. But don’t pile all that “just in case” stuff into your pack that you’ll probably never use. That second sweater or mittens during the middle of summer? Nah. Likewise, you can likely leave the swimsuit behind if you’re tackling the trails in January.
Additionally, consider the season and weather when packing for a hiking trip. Unless you’re tackling an Alaskan glacier or the South Pole, a heavy-duty winter sleeping bag is overkill if you’re hiking in July.
10. Fancy Camera Gear
That Nikon D850 and tripod? It takes awesome pictures. But you don’t really need it. No, really. You don’t.
That gear is not only bulky and hard to cart around, it’s also expensive to replace if it gets lost or broken. It’s also heavy. Unless you’re a professional photographer or your last name is Crawford, a phone will suffice for photos just fine.
What else can you do without on your next hiking trip?
For further reading:
The 10 Essentials of Hiking – American Hiking Society
Why Does Cotton Kill? – Section Hiker