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27 expert-approved hiking essentials for your next adventure

Conquer peaks and heights with these essential outdoor pieces.
Three girls walking on a log overlooking beautiful lake.
Jordan Siemens / Getty Images

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Hiking is one of the best outdoor activities to do in the summer, especially if you live near trails and rolling hills. While you don't need to be an athlete or mountaineer to hike, there is a certain level of preparedness to make your outdoor adventure stress-free and more enjoyable.

Whether you are a long-time backpacker or trail runner, having the right outdoor essentials is important to get you through the woods. Shop TODAY talked to some expert hikers to prep you with a checklist of necessities to help you gain elevation with confidence. From choosing the perfect pair of hiking shoes to packing the right gear pre-expedition, here are several useful tips to help you conquer that summit without having a hiking degree.

What to wear for hiking in summer

Summer weather can be humid, sticky and sweltering, but one thing expert hikers agree on is avoiding one type of fabric when hiking: cotton. "We tend to stay away from cotton because it absorbs and holds water. Basically, it holds it in the fiber and if you're going to a higher elevation, it can make you colder," shared expert hiker and co-founder of Hikerkind, Chelsea Rizzo.

Instead, you'll want moisture-wicking fabrics and weather-proof materials that will keep help you withstand abrupt changes with the forecast. "Also, you want recycled synthetic materials with antimicrobial properties that will extend the functionality and build your endurance and sports activities with these treatments," added Rizzo.

One of the best materials for hiking is merino wool or merino-blend because these are known to be breathable. As for the style system, Hikerkind co-founder Allison Levy recommends donning a base and mid layers and keeping an outer layer in your backpack for when it gets chilly outside. While some people opt for leggings when hiking, Levy and Rizzo prefer trousers and shorts because they're more comfortable and less constricting.

What to bring for hiking

There are several essentials you need when it comes to trekking and traveling uphill. Aside from having the right clothing and shoes, you also need to anticipate the weather conditions and environment for the day.

Mountain performance coach Jason Antin abides by 10 categories for packing before stepping into the wild — the right clothing, water, shelter system, nutrition, first aid kit, sun protection, external battery, multi-tool (such as a knife), illumination and navigation.

“You definitely want to stay hydrated and bring the right amount of water with you and, in some instances, a way to purify water," said Antin. "For me, I look at how long the day might take and if there are opportunities to get water such as streams and waterfalls.”

Additionally, Antin suggests keeping at least a two-person blanket in your travel backpack as an extra tool for insulation. If you're hiking for hours, the ladies at Hikerkind also recommend bringing a bathroom kit (particularly toothbrush, toothpaste, wipes and hand sanitizer), bug spray and a fire starter such as a lighter.

Hiking gear to shop

Zealios Reef-Safe Sun Barrier SPF 50

Keep your skin protected against UVA and UVB rays with this zinc-based, reef-friendly sunscreen. The formula contains SPF 50 and leaves a hydrating feel without a chalky residue. Also, you can be sure to wear it at the beach thanks to its gentle formulation that's said to keep the coral reefs harm-free, according to the brand.

Body Glide Anti-Chafe Formula Skin Protectant

For a chafe-free hiking experience, opt for this skin protectant from Body Glide. The formula can be applied on your thighs, neck, feet and anywhere your skin experiences chafing. The great thing is that this anti-chafe formula is water- and sweat-resistant for those extra humid stretches.

Hydro Flask 32 oz Wide Mouth w/ Straw Lid

Stay hydrated with this water bottle when going the extra mile. The Hydro Flask features a straw lid that is easy to sip without having to tilt your head back. It comes in nine different colors and sizes that are convenient to carry for easy sipping.

Vermont Smoke & Cure BBQ Beef Sticks

You want to keep your caloric intake high while you're hiking. These beef sticks not only deliver a tangy-sweet barbecue taste, the pack includes 24 one-ounce sticks to keep you full before — and during — the victorious journey.

Kind Minis Dark Chocolate & Caramel Almond

If you happen to forget your lunch, these bars will keep you energized throughout your hike. These easy bites are packed with nutrients and enough calories to keep you full for longer treks.

No Rinse Bathing Wipes

Refresh during the hike with these bathing wipes. The pack comes with eight thick, premoistened towels enriched with aloe vera for ultimate comfort.

"I just completed a 12-day trek to Everest Base Camp where we had no shower facilities. I used 1-2 body wipes each morning to refresh and wipe down my entire body before getting dressed. I never felt dirty," shared one reviewer.

Katadyn BeFree 3.0L Water Filter

Never run out of water with this water filter featuring a three-pound reservoir. The collapsible bag is easy to pack and store for easy filtering.

Sleepingo Sleeping Pad for Camping

If you need a nap during your hike, take a rest in the wilderness with this sleeping pad. The inflatable mat is made of waterproof material and features thermal insulation for temperatures as low as 32 degrees Fahrenheit.

One Amazon reviewer rated this pad five stars for its durable feature. "I was overly impressed with the size, thickness, ease to blow up/deflate and small size to fit on a bike, backpack or motorcycle. I blew it up in Colorado, slept on it for 3 nights with no loss of air at any time."

Away The Packable Backpack

Pack all your hiking essentials in this ultra-lightweight and collapsible backpack from Away. This carry-all baggage combines recyclable materials and a water-resistant fabric you can bring to all your adventures. The backpack also features lightly padded shoulder straps to easily carry on while climbing a hill.

Rumpl Original Puffy Recycled Blanket

For unexpected cold weather, snuggle into this recycled blanket. The puffy piece is made with synthetic fabric and a quilting pattern that will keep you warm. Also, it's easy to pack and store in your small backpack.

"It is much more comfortable and allows me to move freely without feeling trapped/zipped in. I’ve used it in as low as 40-degrees weather comfortably," said one customer.

Hiking clothes to shop

REI Co-op Sahara Shade Hoodie

Feel lightweight while protecting your skin with this UPF 50+ fabric that shields against UV rays. The shirt also has antimicrobial treatment, a three-panel hood and thumbholes to hold the shirt in place.

Jack Wolfskin Women's Sonora Sleeveless Shirt

For a more elevated look, opt for this sleeveless shirt from Jack Wolfskin. The sleeveless shirt is perfect for long, hot summer days and offers moisture-wicking properties to stay dry throughout the day.

90 Degree Interlink Rib Princess Seam Funnel Neck Performance Jacket

Nylon is also a great material for hiking and this performance jacket will keep you warm during chilly morning treks. The jacket features thumbhole cuffs and two front pockets if you need extra storage.

Ripstop Trek Shorts

If you tend to run warm, these shorts are great to keep you fresh. These are high-waisted and easy to pull on. With a nylon and spandex blend, these shorts can be worn in most outdoor activities.

Eddie Bauer Upf Auburn Quarter Zip Pullover Top

Another shirt with sun protection to keep in your hiking gear, this simple yet modern find from Eddie Bauer is made with UPF 50+ protection and long sleeves to keep your skin safe.

Outdoor Voices Rectrek 3" Short

Whoever said hiking clothing wasn't cute hasn't met Outdoor Voices. This functional pair of shorts features a water-resistant TerraStretch fabric with a secret back pocket to keep your keys.

Ridge Merino Women's Jovi Merino TENCEL Tank Top

This merino wool shirt is made from renewable wood pulp and feels light on the skin. The top is super breathable and can be worn off trail for a relaxed hang out with your friends.

Forloh Women's SolAir Lightweight Pants

These pants feel more elevated than your traditional trousers. Aside from featuring a classic design, the lightweight pair is designed for warm weather and all your outdoor activities like camping, climbing and hiking.

Power Stride Hiking Crew Sock

Your feet also need protection and these crew socks are made with a wool-blend fabric, which is naturally thermoregulating and soft on your skin.

Convertible High-Rise Hiking Jogger

For a more relaxed fit, wear these high-rise joggers featuring enough pockets and zipper to keep quick snacks at hand. The pair are made with an abrasion-resistant fabric in case you get caught with any twigs.

Multi-Pocket Cargo High-Rise Hiking Skirt

You can also be feminine on the trails. This skirt offers multiple pockets and is made with water-repellent fabric to keep you dry during unexpected light rain. Also, these have built-in shorts to prevent chafing.

Kühl Weekndr Tight

If you prefer a tighter fit, these lightweight pants are water-resistant, durable and form-fitting for a comfortable hike. The pants combine a mix of TUFFLITE, nylon, polyester and spandex with 186 GSM (a thicker fabric) for optimal endurance.

Athleta Expedition Dress

If you're planning to explore a town after your hike, wear this chic exercise dress. With built-in shorts and side pockets, this Athleta dress will become your favorite off-trail outfit.

How to choose hiking boots

Choosing the right shoes and fit for hiking will determine your performance. According to Antin, a pair of trail runners and sneakers are great for most conditions.

"The only circumstances you're going to need a hiking boot is if you need warmth for your feet, you need them to be waterproof and the last component is that it needs to be compatible with some sort of traction," Antin said.

"One of the things I advise is that the ankles are in good shape because the trails will certainly require to use muscles that you may not be using," he added.

Bear Paw Neverwet Tech Hiking Boots

For half off the price of traditional boots, this pair will keep you moving and trekking along the trail. The shoe features a lace-up closure and a rounded toe to protect your foot against rocks.

Altra Women's Lone Peak 6

This Runner's World award-winning pair comes in seven different colors and feature the brand's FootShape Fit technology to allow room for your toes. The pair is great for most terrains and trails while featuring a grippy MaxTrac outsole.

Cascade Trail Women's Water Resistant Hiking Sneaker

Looking for a water-resistant sneaker? This pair has a quick-dry upper, anti-odor lining and MultiGrip outsole to keep your feet protected through unexpected puddles.

Ecco Biom AEX Women's Trainer

If you're a fan of Ecco sandals, then you will love this trainer shoe. The stylish design encompasses a BIOm technology that makes you feel you're barefoot and provides enough stability through your walk. Also, the shoe is made with a lightweight PHORENE midsole to keep you comfortable through every step.

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