12 Hiking Essentials For Hitting The Trail This Weekend

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After a long and undeniably discontented winter, it’s time to return to the trails. I’m looking at a Wunderground map of the US right now and it would seem that a good 90 percent of the country is currently experiencing downright beautiful weather for a hike. And if the weather turns between me writing this and you reading it, well, that just gives you more time to prepare.

Head to toe, inside and out, this is the gear that will make the day better, smoother, and more enjoyable when you make your way to the trailhead. Our 12 hiking essentials have been chosen from experience and, yes, prior mistakes. Peruse, order up what you need, and you’ll be fully prepared for hitting the trails this weekend, next weekend, or even on a random Tuesday. 

Proof 72-Hour Merino Tee

Proof 72-Hour Merino Tee

The best beers you’ll ever drink are the ones imbibed after a good long hike. To make sure you can roll back into town and over to your favorite pub without a wardrobe change (or turning off the locals), wear the 72-Hour Merino Tee from Proof. At 87 percent merino wool, it’s naturally anti-odor (and temp-regulating) so no matter how arduous your adventure, you’ll be welcome on any barstool. 

Danner Trail 2650 GTX Mid

Danner Trail 2650 GTX Mid

The model number on Danner’s Trail 2650 GTX Mid isn’t arbitrary. It’s named for the 2,650 miles of the Pacific Crest Trail. If these lightweight hikers are good enough for the PCT, they’re good enough for the AT too, or any trail in between. The Gore-Tex liner adds breathable waterproofing, the Ortholite footbed supports and keeps your feet cool, and the Vibram sole grabs on to any terrain. Plus this is Danner, so plan on hiking in these for many, many weekends to come.     

Mystery Ranch In & Out Packable Backpack

Mystery Ranch In & Out Packable Backpack

The longer the hike, the heavier a pack feels. Carrying one that’s just 0.9 pounds to begin with is a fantastic way to shave the ounces. The In & Out is a packable backpack, meaning it packs up small in its attached stuff sack/pocket so you always have it (very nice for excursions from basecamp and vacations alike). Mystery Ranch always puts a ton of thought into their packs and this one has ergonomic straps and a good amount of pockets — including one for something like…  

CamelBak Stoaway 2L Insulated Reservoir

CamelBak Stoaway 2L Insulated Reservoir

Pressed against your back all day, the water in your hydration bladder eventually rivals soup in the temp department. The Stowaway is insulated with closed-cell foam insulation to keep things refreshing. Plus it’s made by CamelBak, the original and still one of the best hydration pack makers out there. 

REI Co-op Sahara Path Pants

REI Co-op Sahara Path Pants

The right pants for spring and summer hikes will dry quick, let in the breeze, and have a little stretch for clamoring over that fallen tree. REI’s Sahara Path pants tick all of those boxes plus you get a zippered phone pocket and a key loop. Soft and light with a modern cut, they look good on you — and won’t mind if you take them out to dinner every once in a while.  

Garmin fēnix 5 Plus

Garmin fēnix 5 Plus

If a hike happens but your smartwatch isn’t there to track it, did the hike really happen? Garamin’s fēnix 5 Plus will not only tell you what a very good job you did with those fitness stats, it also comes with GPS connectivity and pre-loaded, full color TOPO mapping. Find the best routes to get farther out there, and then always be able to find your way back. 

Sunski Couloir Sunglasses

Sunski Couloir Sunglasses

Until you try a pair of Sunskis, it’s hard to get a handle on how simultaneously light and durable they are. That’s thanks to their recycled SuperLight resin that’s actually made from stuff that was designed for a landfill. The Couloir sunnies are polarized and have removable magnetic side shields to keep you hiking even when the sun dips towards the horizon.  

BioLite HeadLamp 750

BioLite HeadLamp 750

Did the sun dip and then just keep going? I’ll admit to pushing the turnaround time on an out-and-back a little further than was wise on a few occasions. What I love about the BioLite HeadLamp is they put the battery at the back of your head. No giant miner’s headlamp pressing on your forehead, just hands-free, path-finding light. The headlamp is directional too, and recharges via micro USB. 

Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket

Outdoor Research Helium Rain Jacket

Even on the sunniest summer desert hike, you’d do well to add OR’s Helium Rain Jacket to your pack — those rain clouds come out of nowhere, dude! Packing into its own chest pocket and weighing just over six ounces, it’s more waterproof than a doubled up hefty bag and about fifty times more breathable. 

SealLine Blocker Dry Sack

SealLine Blocker Dry Sack

Protecting your person from the rain is one thing, protecting your phone, snacks, keys, and extra clothes from getting waterlogged is another. Bring a dry sack along and whatever you put in will come out dry as a Mojave summer. The dry sacks from SealLine have roll top and buckle closures and come in different sizes, depending on how much stuff you need to keep dry. 

Black Diamond Trail Back Trekking Poles

Black Diamond Trail Back Trekking Poles

Whether you need walking poles or not is up to you. They certainly have their advantages, like distributing the weight as you walk, which makes hikes full-body affairs and not just all about the knees. The Trail Back poles are a solid selection from Black Diamond. No frills, just lightweight aluminum construction, easy three-point adjustability, and ergonomic rubber handles. 

Clif Energy Bars

Clif Energy Bars

Throw a few of these in your pack and stopping for food suddenly becomes optional. Though they’re made from regular, normal food stuffs, Clif Bars totally feel like some sort of future food designed to pack an entire meal’s sustenance into an edible brick. But also they taste dang good. Especially that tried and true chocolate chip. This pack comes with 16 bars. Two of them are a surprise. But I hope they’re chocolate chip.

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