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The 15 Best Hiking Gear for Conquering the Trail with Confidence

Roam the wilderness with these rakish, high-performing essentials.

best hiking gear

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Having the best hiking gear makes all the difference for any outdoor pursuit. When I was growing up in New England, my friends and I would use any chance to head up to the White Mountains, often bringing little more than our school backpacks, some candy and a bottle of water. I used to be completely unbothered by hiking around in whatever footwear was handy or by wearing cotton pullovers that would soon turn cold as they sagged with sweat. It was something that I was happy to ignore in my teenage years. But as an adult, I no longer want to subject myself to that level of discomfort and inefficiency.

The good news is that was then, and this is now. Over the years, hiking gear has skyrocketed, becoming more lightweight, more functional and more stylish. But even though options abound, you’ll still want to choose carefully—it can be so easy to overpack, and when you’re carrying everything on your back for a hike, every ounce and every single function matters. 

Here, we’ve scoured the market for some of the highest-performing, most stylish, all-around best hiking gear, all of which you can carry with confidence, whether you’re trekking the Appalachian Trail or just getting some extra steps in on your lunch hour. Happy trails. 

Best Shoes for Hiking 

Salomon XT-Pathway Sportstyle Shoes

Although it was designed as activewear, Salomon’s Sportstyle shoes have become streetstyle hit amongst the fashion set. But even though they have a certain air of coolness for city life these days, the kicks still very much are a performance shoe designed for hikes, with features such as breathable mesh uppers and extremely grippy soles for scrambling over muddy and slippery surfaces.

Buy Now on Solomon: $130

Best Backpack for Hiking

Marmot Kompressor Plus 20 Pack

Leave the bulky bags at home and opt for a brand that the world’s most serious alpinists turn to for reliable, durable gear. The Kompressor Pack offers 12 liters of volume at an astonishingly light 10 ounces, so you can carry your hiking essentials without being weighed down along the way. 

Buy Now on Moosejaw: $60

Best Underwear for Hiking

CDLP Boxer Trunk

For outdoor pursuits, you’ll want underwear that doesn’t bunch up, chafe or get in the way. CDLP’s boxer trunks are made from a breathable, moisture-wicking blend of lyocell and elastane that has natural anti-microbial properties, so your nether regions won’t, well, stink after a day on the trails. 

Buy Now on CDLP: $35

Best Shorts for Hiking

Vuori Aim Short

Here’s a hiking short that can also do double duty as a casual style at your next barbecue. Vuori’s Aim is made from a lightweight four-way stretch that performs like an athletic short but has a tailored, modern fit.

Buy Now on Vuori: $75

Best Short-Sleeve Shirt for Hiking

Ten Thousand Versatile Shirt

A good hiking shirt should also be something you can both wear to the gym or casually on the weekend. Ten Thousand’s Versatile shirt packs silver ion anti-stink properties, anti-chafe flatlock seams, moisture-wicking and abrasion-resistance fibers all into one sleek, slim-fitting shirt. It also has strategically placed perforation zones for extra breathability and dries in a jiffy. 

Buy Now on Ten Thousand: $68

Best Long-Sleeve Shirt for Hiking

Tracksmith Harrier Long-Sleeve Shirt

Hiking in cold weather is a conundrum–you’ll want some added coverage to keep your arms warm, of course, but being active is also likely to send your body temp through the roof. Enter a performance merino wool blend, such as this one that Tracksmith uses in its Harrier long-sleeve tee. The merino part of the fibers flicks moisture away from the body and keeps stink at bay, and the hint of nylon helps this shirt retain its shape even after the most grueling hikes.

Buy Now on Tracksmith: $84

Best Pants for Hiking

Outdoor Research Ferrosi Pants

Cold weather hikes—or hikes through dense brush—call for proper leg coverage. But who wants to wear hiking pants that look like hiking pants? The Ferrosi from Outdoor Research comes in a slim but not skinny fit and has just an ever-so-slightly tapered ankle. The material itself is flexible and stretchy, making it a worthy companion for adventures from mild to wild.

Buy Now on Outdoor Research: $99

Best Boots for Hiking

Arc’teryx Acruz TR GTX Boot

For longer, more technical hikes that require a little more support, the Arc’teryx Acruz is a sleek, durable option. Its SuperFabric upper uses a unique micro-plated fiber that is flexible, lightweight and abrasion-resistant. It also features a GORE-TEX insert that is both waterproof and breathable.

Buy Now on Arc’teryx: $250

Best Sunglasses for Hiking

Article One Park Sunglasses

All the appeal and performance of an athletic frame, but the style chops of your favorite designer sunnies: Article One does both. The lens provides excellent coverage on sunny days, but the frame manages to keep a low profile so it doesn’t look like you’re competing in the Tour de France. They’re made from a durable polymer plastic, finished off with anti-reflective coating, polarized lenses that block harmful UVA/UVB rays, adjustable nose pads and rubber temple tips so they stay put from base to summit. 

Buy Now on Article One: $199

Best Hat for Hiking

Ciele ALZCap Hat

A hint of protection for your melon will block the elements and keep glaring sunlight out of your eyes. You’ll also want something lightweight enough so you don’t start to overheat mid-hike. Ciele is a cult classic amongst distance runners; the brand’s colorful, breathable styles also work fantastically well for hikers, too. 

Buy Now on Rei: $40

Best Socks for Hiking

Feetures Elite Ultra Light Quarter Socks

The quarter-height sock is a happy medium for hiking. It’s low enough so that you won’t look like a 1970s camp counselor but high enough to offer more protection than the lower-profile socks you might wear day-to-day. 

Buy Now on Feetures: $18

Best Water Bottle for Hiking

Yeti Yonder 1L Bottle

Yeti is already a leader in the world of thermoses, soft coolers and insulated hot water bottles, but the Yonder series offers lightweight, shatter-resistant, BPA-free bottles that you can carry on both long and short hikes alike. 

Buy Now on Yeti: $28

Best Sunscreen for Hiking

Dr. Dennis Gross Wrinkle Defense Mineral Sunscreen SPF 30

Leave chalky, goopy sunscreens in the past and graduate to something that will support your skincare routine. Dr. Dennis Gross’s Wrinkle Defense Mineral sunscreen is lightweight, doesn’t leave a white cast and sticks to your skin even if you start sweating. Plus, it has added ingredients such as sea buckthorn and lingonberry extract to moisturize skin and prevent free radical damage. 

Buy Now on Dr. Dennis Gross: $42

Best Bug Spray for Hiking

Kinfield Golden Hour Mosquito Repellant

Nothing ruins a hike faster than when the bugs take an interest in you. This unique mosquito repellent keeps them all at bay, naturally. It’s made from a unique strain of Indonesian citronella, is free from harmful chemicals found in most insect repellents—and it just so happens to smell fantastic.  

Buy Now on Kinfield: $22

Best Hiking Poles

Black Diamond Distance Z Trekking Poles

It’s amazing what a difference the right pair of trekking poles can do for longer, more challenging hikes. Sized appropriately, they can take pressure off your joints and can be useful in maintaining your balance while negotiating tricky terrain. Black Diamond is a gold standard for hiking gear, and this aluminum style is lightweight and collapses so they can be easily stored in a backpack or suitcase.

Buy Now on Rei: $140

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