Hiking is a fantastic way to connect with the great outdoors, and explore the beautiful planet we call home. Wherever you are in the world, there’s always somewhere fascinating to explore on foot.
However, when you go hiking, there’s a certain amount of equipment you need to take with you. And while you want to make sure you have everything you need, you don’t want to be weighed down and tired out by heavy, bulky and cumbersome luggage.
This blog gives you all the vital information you need when packing for a hiking holiday: what to take, what to prioritise, how to balance weight with necessity, and what else you need to consider before you go.
What is key to a packing list for a hiking holiday?
Probably the most important thing to consider when packing for a hiking holiday is to keep the weight down to a minimum. Every extra kilogram you pack is an extra kilogram that you’ll have to lug around for a very long period of time. Hiking can be a real test of endurance, especially over hilly terrain, so stripping out anything that isn’t essential is a must, as well as packing the lighter choices of each item.
Of course, you don’t want to take the pursuit of weight-saving too far: you still want to make sure you have everything you need for every possible eventuality. Striking that balance is key to having the most enjoyable adventure, and ensuring you’re ready for whatever the route or the weather conditions can throw at you.
Your ultimate hiking holiday packing list
Getting your packing list for a hiking holiday right is absolutely critical. This is especially so if you’re travelling solo: whereas you can share items with companions if you’re in a group, you’ll need to cover every single base if you’re on your own.
So for your next trip (assuming you won’t be camping), make sure you consider these nine areas:
There are two important factors to take into account with your backpack. The first is size, as you’ll need to make sure it’s big enough to fit everything that you want to take with you. But the second is comfort: you’re going to be wearing your backpack for several hours a day, potentially day after day. You’ll need to feel sure that it won’t cause you back pain, or any chafing around your arms and shoulders.
Probably the most important thing you will pack is what you’ll be wearing on your feet. You’ll need comfortable walking shoes or boots, as well as similarly comfortable socks: as well as providing support underfoot, they also need to be suitable for the conditions and temperatures that you’re going to be walking in. Blisters and bad feet can ruin a trip, so make sure you’ve got footwear you’re happy with.
In many ways, clothing comes down to individual preference, but you’ll need to get some clothes that are both lightweight and that don’t chafe against the skin. T-shirts, lightweight tops, shorts or trousers, and especially underwear are all important to consider. And if you’re going somewhere cold, make sure you have a good thermal layers, too.
If the weather is likely to be bad, then it’s essential to take some waterproofs that are quick and easy to take on and off, and that don’t take up too much space in your bag. Items like the ‘kag in a bag’ mean you can carry a waterproof top that consumes hardly any space or weight at all.
There are lots of different types of headgear that you will want to take into account. Hats are always handy, whether it’s a simple cap to keep the sun off your head in warm weather, or a woolly hat or beanie to fend off the cold. Sunglasses or shades are also useful in many cases, even if it’s just to keep the wind out rather than the sun.
A simple first aid kit is very important, so that you can treat any minor injuries or incidents on the move. However, there are lots of other items that you may want to consider taking, depending on the characteristics of the location. These can include (and are not necessarily limited to): sunscreens, athletic supports (especially for knees and ankles), lip balm and insect repellent.
Don’t overlook all the hiking and trekking-specific equipment you’ll need to take with you. For example, you may need poles to deal with longer routes and more challenging terrain. There’s also electronics to think about, such as GPS systems if you’re planning on using technology to guide your way. Naturally, you’ll have your mobile phone with you at the very least, so make sure you have all the chargers you need, too.
Food and drink
Keeping yourself fed and watered is essential, and if you’re going to hike through remote areas, the availability of food and drink from shops and cafes may be limited. That’s why you should make sure you have at least an emergency supply of high-calorie food like energy bars, as well as sufficient water bottles for you to keep hydrated throughout the day.
And last, but by no means least, is to remember to carry all the relevant documentation you need for your trip – you won’t get very far without them. Make sure you have your passport, any relevant maps, plane and transport tickets, proof of bookings for any accommodation along the way, and evidence of your health insurance cover.
What else do you need to plan before you go?
As well as packing, there’s plenty more to organise before you head out on your hiking trip. The importance of some of the following will be higher than others, depending where in the world you intend to go, but all deserve some consideration at the very least:
If you’re travelling to somewhere really off the beaten track, such as into high mountains or deep forest, then hiring an experienced local guide is strongly recommended. Indeed, in some countries like Bhutan, independent trekking is banned and using a recognised hike operator is compulsory. They can ensure you don’t stray into anywhere dangerous, ensure you take routes that are commensurate with your ability, and help raise the alarm in the event of injury or emergency.
Visa and currency
Every country has its own rules and restrictions regarding entry by foreigners. You should check these before making any bookings: even if you have been to a country before, it’s still worth rechecking in case factors like Brexit or COVID-19 have affected matters. At the same time, you should also read up on how to manage money in your trip: whether you should get travel money before you go; how much you’re allowed to take in and carry; and how common card payments are (or not, as the case may be).
Travel and accommodation
While it’s natural to want to take a fluid and free approach to your travel and accommodation, this isn’t always practical or even suitable. Some countries may even require you to show proof of an accommodation booking before they let you into their country. That’s why it’s worth arranging as many of your flights, transfers and accommodation bookings before you travel, to remove some of the risk and uncertainty from your trip.
Health and rescue
Anything can happen on a hike, and the risk of illness or injury is exacerbated if you’re in a remote area, in a country with poor healthcare infrastructure, or both. While you should make sure you have a European or Global Health Insurance Card (EHIC or GHIC), these will only cover you for a very basic level of care. If you need serious treatment, surgery, rescue or repatriation, these could cost many thousands of pounds. It is absolutely vital that you take out comprehensive insurance cover before you travel, in order to mitigate this major financial risk.
Get trekking insurance with SportsCover Direct
Wherever you plan to travel in the world, don’t put together your packing list for a hiking holiday without including insurance.
At SportsCover Direct, we can provide comprehensive cover for hikers just like you, whatever your level of experience. We can make sure that you’re financially compensated if you get hurt; need rescuing; have your travel plans disrupted; or have your luggage lost, stolen or damaged. That way, you can concentrate on making the most of your adventure, without the worries of facing a major bill if something goes wrong.
Take a closer look at our affordable, flexible hiking and trekking insurance.