Heading out for a hike or setting up camp in your favorite national forest are both great ways to explore nature, connect with friends and family, and get a little respite from your daily life. From local excursions to mountainous journeys, preparation is key. Even a short day hike close to home could require some extra supplies.
Equipment and gear, first aid kits, food, and water are just a few of the necessities every camper, hiker, or backpacker should have. Whether your trip goes as planned or you're thrown off course, with the right supplies there is nothing to worry about. Gear up with the best outdoor recreation hats, the tools and technologies to keep safe, and the right clothes to stay warm and dry.
Continue reading below to see exactly what you need for your next excursion.
Camping, Backpacking, and Hiking Essentials
Whether you’re spending a few hours or a few days out in the wilderness, it’s vital to be packed and prepared. Imagine you and your friends have set off on a day-long hike in a national park. Anything from a bear, to a fall, to bad weather can interrupt your trip, throwing your group off course and potentially extending the trip into the night. Even if you’re not forced to stay overnight, any of those occurrences could require some basic first aid care or a signaling device.
From equipment and gear to emergency supplies and personal items, there are various items to bring along on your camping, backpacking, and even your day-long hiking trip. These items can be easy to forget, especially if you’re not keeping a list. Luckily, you can easily keep track of which items you need by utilizing a supply checklist such as this one.
Equipment and Gear
Equipment and gear includes items such as navigation tools, lighting, and tents or sleeping bags. Essentially, this category constitutes all the items you need to keep safe and dry, besides your actual clothing, which is explored below.
Read here for a full scope of the equipment and gear for outdoor excursions:
- Navigation tools: Always bring a map and a compass on your trips. Altimeters, GPS devices, personal locator beacons (PLB), and satellite messengers are other useful navigation tools to consider.
- Headlamp and extra batteries: Headlamps are essential for overnight trips. You should have one headlamp per person — and don’t forget the extra batteries. You’ll need at least as many extra batteries as there are people.
- Knife or multitool (with a knife): Every hiker, backpacker, and camper must carry a knife or multitool with a knife. From opening cans to marking trees, this is about the most versatile and necessary tool to bring on your trip.
- Matches and lighter: You’ll need some way to start a fire for keeping warm, eating, and setting up camp in general. Waterproof matches and lighters can do the trick. Just make sure you bring enough.
- Tent and sleeping bag(s), sleeping mat(s): Tents and sleeping bags help campers stay warm and protected throughout the night, while sleeping mats increase comfort.
- Blankets: Blankets can also come in handy if you’re backpacking in cold temperatures, or with children or pets.
- Tarp: A tarp serves many purposes for campers and backpackers. Use a tarp to protect your food and supplies, your tent, or yourself from windy weather and UV rays. Tarps do add weight to your pack though, so just keep that in mind.
You should always dress appropriately for an outdoor adventure. This means adjusting your clothing checklist for the season and the duration of your trip. If you’re backpacking through Colorado in the winter, warm coats and waterproof snow boots are your best friends.
Meanwhile, if you’re camping in the Ozarks over the summer, breathable clothes and well-fitted and sized hats to protect you from the sun are a necessity.
For most of North America, the seasons go as follows: winters are cold, summers are hot, springs are rainy, and falls are just right. The clothing checklists below have been sorted by what a typical season looks like in this region of the world.
All-season clothing checklist:
- Waterproof boots: Most hiking or camping trips are around some form of water so it’s best to wear waterproof boots.
- Waterproof jacket: No matter the season, a waterproof jacket is essential. Whether it starts raining, flurrying, or is windy, this type of jacket can protect you from the conditions.
- Wool socks: Wool socks are perfect for every season as they wick away moisture and keep your feet warm. For warmer months, opt for thinner wool socks. In the winter months, wear thicker wool socks.
Winter clothing checklist:
- Snow pants: For a lot of winter trips, snow pants are a must. These keep your lower body dry and warm whether it’s snowing, raining, or sleeting.
- Fleece jacket: Just like snow pants, a fleece jacket is another necessity. This keeps your upper body dry and warm through any adverse conditions. Always remember to layer as well.
- Warm hats and gloves: In the colder months, you’re going to need a warm hat, such as a wool beanie, which are great for accommodating larger heads, that can also help cover your ears against the cold, and a thick pair of gloves — invest in a waterproof set to be prepared for all conditions.
Spring clothing checklist:
- Waterproof clothing: You should expect some rain during your spring outdoor adventures. From shirts to pants to jackets, it’s best to wear waterproof, quick-drying clothing.
- Convertible clothing: Spring is also the perfect time to wear convertible clothing. This could include pants that allow you to unzip the bottom half, turning them into shorts.
- Athletic caps or wide-brimmed hats: In the spring, you need some sort of protection from the sun’s UV rays. Athletic caps or other wide-brimmed hats are a great form of protection. Plus, they are typically lightweight and wick away moisture.
Summer clothing checklist:
- Light-colored clothing: If you’re walking through a valley with the sun beating on you, light-colored clothing is a necessity. Come prepared with white, beige, or tan clothing.
- A warm jacket: While you may not think to bring a warm jacket on a summer hike or camping excursion, temperatures can quickly drop as the sun falls or you get higher up a mountain. It’s always a good idea to bring a layer or two, including a warm jacket.
- Bucket hats: Especially if you have a larger head, bucket hats are an excellent way to comfortably keep your face safe from the sun’s harmful UV rays. Just like the rest of your clothing, lighter colors are preferred in the summer.
Fall clothing checklist:
- Layered clothing: Fall is the perfect time for layers, especially when exploring the outdoors. For overnight trips, make sure you have a breathable t-shirt, waterproof jacket, and some sort of intermediary layer, such as a flannel.
- Insulated vest: Fall is also ideal for insulated vests. Throw this on over a base layer or two as you ascend a mountain and enter chillier weather.
- Warm hat: Just like in the cold winter months, it’s best to bring along a warm hat. Temperatures can drop significantly as you reach higher elevations, making it important to keep your head protected.
Personal items include anything you may personally need or want on your trip, such as sunscreen or a prescription. While it is definitely up to you, the following represents a list of some common personal items you may want to consider.
- Portable phone charger: Lots of hikers and campers today bring their cell phones in case of an emergency. Even if you’re not using your phone while hiking, it’s generally a good idea to bring a portable phone charger.
- Hygiene supplies: For overnight trips, you may wish to bring a variety of hygiene supplies, such as a toothbrush, toothpaste, and a hairbrush, among other common items.
- Bug spray: Bug spray is one item you should not leave the house without. Unless you’re hiking in the winter, bugs and pests are likely to be present.
- Sunscreen: In addition to wearing hats, you should also be wearing sunscreen. This is true for pretty much any season. Even in the winter, you could get a sunburn if you’re not careful.
- Medications: You probably already know that medications are a necessity to bring with you camping. But even on a day hike, it can be good to bring along your medications, just in case your trip gets extended.
Survival Kits and Emergency Supplies
There are certain emergency supplies every hiker, backpacker, or camper should consider packing in a survival kit. From flares to bear spray, this list covers a broad scope of emergency supplies.
- Extra food and water: It is always a good idea to bring extra food and water whether you’re going on a three-hour trip or a three-day trip.
- Flares: If you’re traveling in a very remote location, it is advisable to bring flares. In an emergency, these can inform mountain rangers of your location.
- Whistle: A whistle is another good item to bring. Every person on the trip should have their own whistle, in case they get separated from the crowd.
- Bear spray: At some hiking locations, bears may be native to the area. In this case, it is a good idea to bring bear spray, and know how to properly use it.
- Radios: Two-way radios, or walkie-talkies, can be great for keeping in touch with other people on your trip.
- Paracord: From holding a bandage in place to setting up camp, paracord can come in handy for all sorts of situations.
- First aid kit: Some common first aid kit items you need are band-aids, gauze, ACE bandages, over-the-counter medications, rescue signaling devices, and a raincoat. The first aid kit supplies will be explored in further depth below.
Survival kits can easily get weighed down by carrying too many items at once. A helpful trick for lowering the weight of your kit is to pack items with as many multiple uses as possible. A bandana, for instance, can be used to keep sweat off, signal for help, or cover a wound.
You may also consider adding small, but extremely useful items, such as floss. Strong, versatile, and super easy to pack, floss can be used to hold items together, patch up a wound, or simply floss your teeth.
Even if you’re just going for a day hike, several of these items may come in handy. If you trip and roll your ankle, you don’t know how long your hike may be extended. Experienced hikers should take note too. Even someone familiar with the trails can run into obstacles.
First Aid Checklist
A well-stocked first-aid kit can save lives. Whether you fall or come down with a fever, a first aid kit should have all the supplies you need to make it through your trip safely. You can buy first aid kits at many drug stores, online, or an outdoor shop. Below we’ll explore basic first aid care items, medications and treatments, wraps, tools, and other essential supplies.
First aid basic care:
- Antiseptic wipes;
- Antibacterial ointment;
- Assorted adhesive bandages;
- Blister treatment;
- Emergency blanket;
- Gauze pads in various sizes;
- Hydrocortisone ointment;
- Ibuprofen, acetaminophen, or aspirin;
- Ice pack or cold compress;
- Insect sting/anti-itch treatment;
- Medical tape;
- Nonlatex gloves;
- Nonstick sterile pads;
- Oral thermometer;
- Safety pins;
- First aid kit manual.
Additional medications and treatments:
- Antacid tablets;
- Diarrhea medication;
- Injectable epinephrine;
- Lubricating eye drops;
- Oral hydration salts;
- Prescription medications;
- Throat lozenges.
Wraps, splints, and wound coverings:
- Elastic wrap;
- Triangular cravat bandage;
- Finger splints(s);
- SAM splint(s);
- Rolled gauze;
- Hydrogel-based pads;
- First-aid cleansing pads with topical anesthetic;
- Hemostatic (blood-stopping) gauze;
- Liquid bandage.
Other tools and supplies for a first aid kit:
- Cotton-tipped swabs;
- Knife or multitool with a knife;
- Paramedic shears.
These items represent the minimal equipment you will want. Further first aid kit items may be recommended depending on the duration and location of your outdoor adventure.
Take care of your first aid kit after returning from a trip. Make sure to regularly replace outdated medications and refill depleted supplies. One way to do this is to keep a list of the items you regularly pack in your first aid kit. Write down the number of each supply you have, as well as their respective expiration dates. When you return from a trip, go over that list and see what supplies you need to replace and replenish.
Further Resources for Camping, Backpacking, and Hiking
Below are further resources on all your camping, backpacking, and hiking needs:
- American Hiking Society: The American Hiking Society can help you find trails near you, tips for your next hike, and even hiking organizations.
- Camping Gear and Gadgets: Mashable provides a great list of gear and gadgets to bring along on your next camping trip.
- National Park Service Trails & Hiking: The National Park Service’s Trails and Hiking guide offers several resources and articles on hiking.
- U.S. Outdoor: U.S. Outdoor provides information on hiking safety, foods, first aid kits, and gear.
Further Resources on Emergency Preparedness
Below is a list of further readings on survival kits and emergency preparedness:
- Red Cross Survival Kit: The Red Cross Survival Kit lists several emergency items, such as those specific to families and different types of disasters.
- Backpacker Survival Kit: Backpacker.com provides a guide on how to build a backpacking survival kit, with tips on preparing for bad weather, unexpected overnights, and injuries.
- Lightning Precautions: The CDC provides a guide on lightning precautions for outdoor recreation. The guide has tips such as checking the weather before a trip and not carrying metal.
Further Resources on First Aid Kit Necessities
Below is a list of first aid kit resources for further reading:
- Red Cross First Aid Kit: The Red Cross first aid kit guide offers a thorough list of supplies, as well as additional tips on being prepared for an emergency.
- KidsHealth First Aid Kit: The KidsHealth first aid kit guide is a great resource for kids who are outdoor enthusiasts.
- Mayo Clinic First Aid Kit: Mayo Clinic’s first aid kit guide provides a thorough list of stock supplies that can save lives.