By Nick Del Giudice, American Forests

As a beginning hiker, it can be daunting to determine what gear you actually need. The good news is that there are only a few pieces of equipment that are necessary, while others are highly recommended. Here is our list of six essentials for hiking today!




Some thru-hikers swear by their sandals and will wear them for whole scenic trails, while others won’t even give them a chance. One thing is certain, your feet are exposed; they’ll dry quickly, stay cool and experience less fatigue, but they’ll also be susceptible to stubs, debris and whatever else the trail brings.

Trail Runners

These are the off-road equivalent of running shoes. With a rugged sole, excellent support and world-class breathability, these are the preferred footwear of most distance thru-hikers.

Hiking Boots

There are three classes of hikers ranging from light to heavy, and each is good for a different kind of hike. Lightweight hikers are generally low-top hiking type shoes. Many models have waterproof liners that can detract from the breathability, but can add a significant amount of weather protection. Midweight hikers are the most traditional hiking boots. They are heavier than the lightweight hiker, with strong support, a tough exterior and, in most cases, strong ankle support. Heavyweight hikers are typically waterproof and their stiff, supportive soles make them the best boots for winter hikes or hikes over extremely rough terrain.

Mountaineering Boots

These are the toughest and most structured and restrictive footwear option for hiking. Because mountaineering boots were originally designed for scaling raw rock and ice climbing, they have an immensely stiff and protective sole, as well as hardcore insulation and waterproofing.

Weather-Appropriate Clothes



First Aid Kit

This is by no means a complete list of what you need to hike, but this list is a good place to begin. When you do get out there, share your experience with American Forests and our partner, Eddie Bauer, by tagging photos on your social media with @AmericanForests and #WhyIHike. You could win one of three hiking destinations!