The 10 Hiking Essentials Packing List for the Blue Ridge Mountains

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One of the more common questions people ask before exploring the great outdoors centers around what to bring on a hike.

Whether you’re simply packing for a day hike or assembling a list of backpacking gear needed for a multi-day trek, it’s important to know about the 10 Hiking Essentials. 

As defined by the U.S. National Park Service, the 10 essentials is a hiking packing list that includes a variety of emergency items to help if you should experience minor injuries, abrupt weather changes, or get lost in the course of your adventure. 

Some items will obviously depend on the ecosystems and time of year you’ll be exploring (such as bug spray in summer, warm jackets in winter, or a life jacket for water-based recreation). 

But for the most part, the 10 essentials are about the things you should pack for hiking, no matter where or when you’re planning on going. 

From basic items like extra clothing, food, and water to survival gear such as repair tools, fire starters, and a compass and/or GPS system, read on for our 10 hiking essentials packing list created specifically for the Blue Ridge Mountains.

READ MORE: 30 Fascinating Blue Ridge Mountains Facts

National Park Service 10 Essentials for Hiking & Outdoor Recreation

10 Hiking Essentials Packing List 

  1. EXTRA CLOTHING- Hiking Clothes, Jackets, Hats, Gloves, Etc.
  2. FIRE- Matches, Fire Starter
  3. FIRST AID KITS
  4. FOOD/DRINK- Protein Bars, Dehydrated Foods, Hydration
  5. LIGHT- Flashlights, Headlamps, Lanterns
  6. NAVIGATION- Maps, Compass, GPS System
  7. REPAIR TOOLS- Knives, Multi Tools, Machetes, Etc.
  8. SHELTER- Tents, Tarps, Hammocks, Shelters
  9. SUN PROTECTION- Hats, Sunglasses, Sunscreen
  10. WATER- Hydration Packs, Water Filters
  11. BACKPACK- For carrying all your hiking gear

 

1. EXTRA CLOTHING

Patagonia Clothing

After exploring the mountains near Asheville, Banner Elk, Burnsville, and Hendersonville, we quickly understood why “extra clothing” is considered one of the 10 essentials for hiking.  

When you’re deciding what to pack for hiking in the Blue Ridge region, it’s important to remember that temperatures can swing by 30º to 40º in a single day. So layering your clothing and having an extra jacket or sweater in your day pack is a smart plan.

Patagonia is one of the world’s best hiking gear brands, with performance clothing designed for comfortable layering.  

Their slim fit Pack Out Tights are versatile and made for women on the move, pairing perfectly with their moisture-wicking Capilene Midweight Zip-Neck top as a base layer hiking top. 

Their Women’s Torrentshell 3L Jacket takes up very little space in your daypack, but its 3-layer H2No  technology makes it waterproof and breathable for all-day comfort.

The Men’s R1 TechFace is also a great jacket to wear for hiking. It’s breathable, stretchy, and warm as fleece, but offers better resistance to abrasion and the inclement weather so common in the mountains.

READ MORE: The 25 Best Things to Do in Asheville NC

Jack Wolfskin Eagle Peak Jacket

The fall colors in North Georgia and North Carolina are especially beautiful. But low temps in the High Country have already dipped down into the 30s, and it’s not even October yet! 

So a warm jacket is truly a must-have when you’re packing for a hike in the mountains. 

The Eagle Peak Jacket from Jack Wolfskin (a German brand with 40 years in the outdoor industry) is made for challenging hikes in the backcountry, with men’s and women’s styles available. 

The weatherproof fabric, Texapore O2+ Dobby, is designed to be completely waterproof and windproof, and it’s coated with a PFC-free Super DWR finish to ensure you stay dry no matter how torrential the downpour. 

It’s also impressively breathable, has an adjustable hood and hem, and offers 4 pockets (chest, hands, and inner pocket). So it’s essential gear for hiking when the backcountry weather gets rough!

READ MORE: Fall in North Carolina: 20 Great Places to See Fall Colors in Western NC

Gordini Gloves Womens Ergo Infinium - bring extra clothing when hiking is essential

Gordini Men’s Essence & Women’ Ergo Infinium Gloves

Gloves are another important thing to bring for hiking when temperatures start dropping, especially on those epic mountain summits when the wind starts whipping around. 

The Men’s Essence and Women’s Ergo Infinium Gloves from Gordini are excellent options to add to your hiking kit.

The Essence is a lightweight, weatherproof, soft-shell glove that repels water and wind effortlessly.

You’ll love the soft-brushed interior, not to mention the textured grip of the palms and the touchscreen capability in the thumb and index finger.

The Ergo Infinium is made with Gore-Tex Infinium Windstopper and an ErgoKnit nylon shell back. These women’s gloves also boast a printed silicon palm for extra grip and a thumb and index finger designed to work with your phone’s touchscreen.

READ MORE: The 20 Best Fall Fairs and Festivals in Georgia

Lolë Packable Piper Rain Jacket & Men’s Irving Jacket

We’re newcomers to Lolë, the Canadian active lifestyle brand founded by Evelyn Trempe in 2002. 

But the brand is based in Montreal, Quebec, a city that commonly sees temperatures go from a balmy 95º high in summer to a frigid -40ºF in winter. Suffice to say that they know a thing or two about extreme weather conditions. 

Their Piper Rain Jacket for women showcases their talent for balancing fashion and function. The stylish, seam-sealed design (available in 4 colors) features an adjustable hood, waist, and sleeves, plus two-layer fabric coated with DWR to keep you dry. We love that it can convert into a backpack, or pack down into a daypack with ease. 

The Irving Packable Jacket for men is also wind and waterproof, filled 700 insulated down designed to keep you warm and cozy  at temperatures down to 32ºF.

The stand up collar and zippered hand pockets help keep the winter cold at bay, and we love the fact that you can fold it up into its own little carry pouch. 

READ MORE: The Top 25 Blue Ridge Mountain Towns in GA & NC

Saucony Packaway Jackets for Women & Men

Even in places where cold weather isn’t much of a concern, a packable jacket to protect against inclement weather is still one of the must-haves for hiking.

The Packaway Jackets from Saucony fit the bill nicely, offering light weight, impressive portability, and protection from the elements. They also fold down into a hidden pocket at the back neck, making them easy hiking necessities to pack.

The Men’s Packaway Jacket comes in black and white options and features thumbholes, front zip pockets, reflective trim and logo for visibility at night, and a Durable Water Repellent finish. 

The Women’s Packaway Jacket adds a back panel designed to fit the female form and an adjustable waist cinch that allows you to customize the fit. And both jackets are organic cotton and recycled polyester and nylon, making them a sustainable option for your hiking gear list.

READ MORE: The 20 Best Places to Live in the Georgia Mountains

Muk Luks Heat Retainer Socks, Hat, Mittens

Muk Luks Heat Retainers Socks, Patch Beanies & Flip Mittens

Extra socks might not be the first thing you think of when planning what to take on a hike. But if you’re hiking long distances or crossing creeks along the way, they are absolutely hiking list essentials. 

Muk Luks’ Heat Retainers are a fantastic option for hiking in colder mountain climates thanks to their super-thick construction and high-density yarn. 

The  soft-brushed lining feels amazing, and helps to keep the warmth close to your feet while locking out the cold.

They come in men’s and women’s sizes, with an array of cool, colorful patterns that would make great Christmas stocking stuffers.

Muk Luks also makes stylish Patch Beanies and matching Flip Mittens. The thick knit hats are lined with fleece and topped with an adorable faux fur pom.

The mittens keep your hands nice and toasty, while also offering the option of flipping the end back to keep your fingers free for photos and phone usage. 

READ MORE: The Best North Georgia Christmas Events for 2021

Farm to Feet Hiking Socks

Based in Mount Airy NC (the small town that inspired The Andy Griffith Show‘s Mayberry), Farm To Feet may be the only brand on this list that’s actually in the Blue Ridge Mountains. And their comfy hiking socks pay tribute to the region they call home.

Their Blue Ridge Hiker socks were designed in collaboration with Asheville native Jennifer Pharr Davis (who set a record for through-hiking the Appalachian Trail in 46 days), and feature light targeted cushioning to help during long days on the trail. 

Their Damascus socks are a similarly constructed 3/4 crew, named for the small town in Virginia’s Blue Ridge that serves as the halfway point on the AT.

And the Max Patch socks depict the stunning landscapes of their namesake mountain, which is one of the most popular hikes in the Appalachian region thanks to its signature grassy peak and jaw-dropping 360º views.

READ MORE: The 20 Best Western NC Small Towns To Visit (and Live In!)

 

2. FIRE

SOL Fire Lite Fuel-Free Lighter, Emergency Fire Blanket & Scout Survival Kit

As they say on Survivor, “fire is life.” So it’s an important consideration when you’re packing equipment for hiking. While a simple lighter is a good start, weatherproof options are much better.

The Fire Lite Fuel Free Lighter from SOL (Survive Outdoors Longer) is an awesome addition to your hiking pack. It includes a battery-powered push-button fire starter, a 3 ft lanyard cord of tinder, and 100 lumen LED light, all in a waterproof/watertight case the size of a roll of nickels.

SOL also makes the Scout Survival Kit, with 8 essentials of backpacking in a waterproof dry bag the size of a smartphone. It includes a compass, duct tape, flash signal mirror, a micro-sparker and Tinder Quik for starting fires, survival fishing/sewing kit, survival blanket, and a rescue whistle. 

SOL’s Emergency Fire Blanket may be a little heavy for backpacking, but it’s great to keep in your car or at your campsite. It measures 3.9 x 5.9 feet; works well for small liquid, grease, and campfires; and includes a carabiner clip for easy attachment. 

READ MORE: Non-Venomous vs Venomous Snakes In Georgia (Identification Guide)

Primus Essential Trail Backpacking Kitchen Kit

Primus Essential Trail Kit Backpacking Kitchen

A camp stove isn’t an essential for hiking if you’re just packing for a day hike. 

But a lightweight means of cooking food and boiling water is one of the most important essentials when backpacking the Appalachian Trail, Mountains-to-Sea Trail, or other multi-day treks.

The compact Essential Trail Kit Backpacking Kitchen from Primus weighs just 13.5 oz and measures 4.6″ x 5.7”, providing everything you need for cooking in the wild (except the 230g gas canister). 

It includes an 8600 BTU burner, 0.5L anodized aluminum pot, a lid that doubles as a frying pan, two removable handles, and a mesh storage bag for packing it all into your backpack. 

Other cool features include a wind-blocking pot, Laminar Flow Burner Technology to keep it stable, and the ability to boil a liter of water in 3.5 minutes. 

READ MORE: The 25 Best Hiking Trails in North Georgia Bucket List

 

3. FIRST AID

Essential Pack for Hiking

My Medic 10 Essentials Kit

A First Aid Kit is one of the most crucial essentials for hiking in national parks, national forests, and other stretches of remote wilderness.

And while a simple one may be enough for a day hike packing list, your backpacking essentials list should include a more comprehensive package like the My Medic 10 Essentials Kit

Designed to meet ALL of the National Park Service’s 10 Essentials categories in one 8.15-pound bag, the kit includes 110+ life-saving products, including survival gear such as a water filter, paracord, super bivvy, space blanket, compass, fire starter, food supplies, a multi-tool, and much more.

It also includes medical essentials like bandages, emergency pressure bandage, and med packs for every sort of burn, blister, sting, or scrape you could possibly need. 

It all comes in a waterproof dry bag (which doubles as a flotation device!) with modular organization and comfortable shoulder straps, making this an essential piece of hiking gear for backpackers!

READ MORE: Things to Do at the Linville Gorge Wilderness Area (Near Linville Falls NC)

Adventure Medical Kits Mountain Guide Medical Kit for packing for a hike

Adventure Medical Kits Mountain Guide Kit & Mountain Backpacker Kit

The Mountain Guide Medical Kit is the official medical kit of the International Mountain Guides. So it’s tailor-made for the type of injuries that may occur while exploring the Blue Ridge Mountains.

The expansive kit comes with a comprehensive guide to “Wilderness & Travel Medicine,” featuring 100 illustrations on how to treat outdoor injuries and illnesses.

The enclosed “Find It Fast” kit map is extremely helpful, making it easy to find what you need quickly during energy situations.

We don’t have enough space here to list all of the medicines and hospital-quality tools this Mountain Guide Kit contains (which include a digital thermometer, EMT shears, irrigation syringe, etc.).

But if you ever need to treat blisters, burns, cuts, scrapes, fractures, sprains, or bleeding wounds, it’s got everything you need… not to mention the detailed instructions on how to do it properly!

Their Mountain Series Backpacker Medical Kit is smaller (13.4 oz) and more budget-friendly (around $40). Yet it contains 96 pieces of backpacking essentials for first aid, including 6 medications, bandages and pads, moleskin, antiseptic, antibiotic ointment, and more. 

READ MORE: The 10 Best Things to Do in Luray VA (Gateway to Shenandoah)

 

4. FOOD/DRINK

Good To-Go Backpacking Meals for 10 Hiking Essentials Packing List

Good To-Go Backpacking Meals

As a young boy backpacking in the North Georgia mountains with my parents, dehydrated meals were essentials for hikers doing multi-day treks. 

But the options for food supplies for hiking today, more than 40 years later, would’ve blown my 8-year-old mind (and made our Appalachian Trail meals a lot more enjoyable). 

The healthy gourmet meals from the Maine-based Good To-Go should be considered backpacking must-haves, offering a fantastic array of new flavors that include Chicken Pho (which won Backpacker Magazine’s Editors’ Choice Award), New England Corn Chowdah, and Chicken Gumbo.

They also have a variety of gluten-free, vegan, and vegetarian options, such as Bibimbap, Cuban Rice Bowl, Granola, and Mushroom Risotto.

All of them come in easy-serve pouches that you simply add boiling water to, making them a great addition to your hiking trip packing list. 

READ MORE: 101+ Things to Do in North Georgia

R.E.D.D. Plant Based Protein Bars -what to bring on a hike

R.E.D.D. Plant-Based Protein Bar Variety Pack 

Whether we’re swimming laps at Georgia’s Lake Allatoona or hiking to waterfalls along the Blue Ridge Parkway, we never do any sort of physical activity without packing protein bars in our bag.

The R.E.D.D. Variety Pack is especially great to pack for a hike because they offer an array of plant-based proteins, pre- and probiotics, and phytonutrients, with low sugar and high fiber.

The Variety Pack comes with 8 bars in five fantastic flavors– Chocolate, Mint Chocolate, Oatmeal, Peanut Butter, and Salted Caramel. 

Each bar offers a 210-calorie energy boost, with 10 grams of protein, 13 grams of dietary fiber, and only 2 grams of sugar.

That’s a lot of nutritional value for something tiny enough to fit in a small pocket of your day hike pack! 

READ MORE: The 20 Best Blue Ridge Parkway Hikes for NC Day Trips

Harbor Sweets/Dark Horse Chocolates Gourmet Trail Mix

Hiking Blood Mountain back in the ’70s with my church youth group (which my parents led), I was introduced to GORP for the first time.

The old fashioned trail mix started out as just “good ol’ raisins & peanuts,” but we would also add granola and M&Ms to create a sweet, delicious treat perfect for long days on the hiking trail. 

This Gourmet Trail Mix from Massachusetts-based Harbor Sweets is an excellent addition to your hiking checklist, offering four 140-calorie servings in a pack small enough to fit in your pocket.

What makes it gourmet? Think sea salt almonds and pecans instead of peanuts, dried cranberries instead of raisins, and almond butter crunch coated with rich dark chocolate instead of M&Ms. 

Think of it as trail mix for grown-ups (and foodies of all ages)!

READ MORE: The 20 Best Pisgah National Forest Hiking Trails in North Carolina

Gnarly Nutrition Fuel2O & Hydrate

It’s no surprise that food and water are included among the most important things to bring on a hike, whether you’re packing for a day hike or a whole weekend of backpacking. 

These are the fuels that keep our bodies going when we’re on the move for hours on end, and we all know those hiking trails in the mountains take a lot out of you. 

So it’s impressive that Gnarly Nutrition Fuel2O has found a way to kill two birds with one stone, offering a way to hydrate and replenish calories with their “liquid fuel.” It’s designed for endurance, offering 200 calories, 50g carbs, 200mg potassium, and 180mg magnesium in a 24-oz bottle. 

If you’re more focused on electrolytes, Gnarly’s Hydrate Drink Mix is a major step up from Gatorade. Available in 3 powder flavors, it’s got just 60 calories and 8g of sugar in a 24-oz bottle, but offers 500mg sodium, 250mg calcium, 200mg potassium, and and 180mg of magnesium. 

READ MORE: Camping & Hiking Grandfather Mountain State Park in Banner Elk NC

Osmo Nutrition Preload & Active Hydration

Water bottles are obviously a must-have for your day hike backpack, but we find that what you put in them can make a huge difference in how your body deals with the stresses of strenuous treks. 

Osmo Nutrition offers specially formulated powders designed to replenish electrolytes during intense exercise. Their Preload Hydration Mix is great to drink before your hike, with a tasty Pineapple Margarita flavor, 1430mg of sodium, 83mg of potassium, 14mg of magnesium, and 10g of carbs. 

Their Active Hydration Single Serve Box has a delicious blueberry pomegranate flavor. Each packet of powder makes 16oz, with 320mg of sodium, 17g of carbs,  137mg of potassium, 29g of magnesium, as well as Vitamin B6, B12, and C. 

They also offer a mango-flavored Active Hydration Optimized for Women. When mixed with 16oz of water, it provides 150mg of sodium, 9g of carbs, plus calcium, potassium, magnesium, riboflavin, thiamin, and Vitamin B3, B6, and B12.

READ MORE: The 21 Best Blue Ridge Parkway Waterfalls in North Carolina

 

5. LIGHT

Biolite Headlamp 750 for Hiking Essentials Packing List

BioLite HeadLamp 750

If you’re hiking to catch spectacular sunsets at places like McAfee Knob in Roanoke or Black Rock Mountain State Park‘s Tennessee Rock, a headlamp is a vital piece of hiking equipment to pack.

The BioLite HeadLamp 750 is a great option to pack for hiking at night, with 750 lumens of light in the front and a second light in the back that offers a red strobe or flood light to help with visibility.

The headlamp uses 3000 mAh li-ion battery that can be charged via micro-USB and lasts around 150 hours on low, 7 hours on high, and 8 hours on reserve. 

And with the device’s Constant Mode and Run Forever pass-thru charging, you can use the headlamp at full-lumen power and never run out of juice!

READ MORE: The 10 Best Things to Do in Roanoke VA

Goal Zero Nomad10 + Torch 500 light - 10 Hiking Essentials Packing List

GoalZero Nomad 10 Solar Panel + Torch 500 Multi-Purpose Light (flexoffers?)

When you’re packing for hiking multiple days on end, a light that can be recharged using the power of the sun is essential backpacking gear.

The Torch 500 Multi-Purpose Light and Nomad 10 Solar Panel from GoalZero are a great addition to your hiking checklist, but they’re also great for emergency lighting in case of power outages.

The Torch 500 weighs 12.8 oz, measures 8.8 x 2.2 x 1.4″, and offers 500-lumen LED light in a variety of spotlight and floodlight options.

It can be recharged using solar power in 23-46 hours, or you can pair it with the Nomad 10 Solar Panel and recharge it in 4-6 hours. If there’s no sun, it can also be charge using any USB-C source. 

We love that the Torch 500 is made to withstand the harsh elements, with an IP67 rating that allows it to be submerged in water up to a meter deep for a half-hour!

READ MORE:The 10 Best Lakes in the North Carolina Mountains to Visit

Luci Base Light

MPOWERD Luci Base Light

Remember the days when packing for a hike that included overnight camping meant taking a big, bulky lantern along? 

The MPOWERD Luci Base Light is one of the most portable hiking accessories we’ve tested. The inflatable waterproof light weighs 10.1 oz, measures 6 x 5.4″, and collapses down to just 1.5″ thick. 

But big things come in this small package! It offers 360 lumens of warm LED light, with 4 modes (including flashing) and a battery that can last up to 50 hours on the low setting. 

Best of all, the light can be recharged via solar panel or USB, and also works as a mobile-charging power bank with its built-in USB port (cable included).

READ MORE: The Mysterious Brown Mountain Lights of Morganton NC

 

Brunton TruArc 20 & ECOmpass

Understanding how to find your way in the backcountry is one of the most important wilderness survival skills. Unfortunately, it’s also one of the least common skills for modern hikers to have. 

When it comes to gear for hiking, the compass has largely been replaced by the GPS and smartphone apps. But if you know how to use it, a compass is one of the easiest hike essentials to pack. 

The professional grade Brunton Truarc 20 is designed to withstand the most extreme weather conditions. It includes features such as a including a sighting mirror, Clinometer, tool-less declination adjustment, and a protective cover. It also has a Global Needle that’s accurate in both hemispheres!

The new ECOmpass is an eco-friendly version (made from recycled bottles) of their Brunton 8010 Compass. One of the more basic hiker accessories on this list, it features the TruArc Global Needle, a map magnifier, and inch/millimeter scales for more accurate and effective map work.

READ MORE: A Beginner’s Guide to Exploring the Pisgah National Forest

Noc Provisions Binoculars
Nocs Provisions Standard Issue 8×25 Waterproof Binoculars

In our extensive travels around the world, we have traditionally used binoculars watching birds and other types of wildlife. 

But they’re also a great item to add to your list of hiking gear if you need enhanced vision of distant sites and landmarks to help navigate wilderness terrain. 

These Nocs Provisions Standard Issue 8×25 Waterproof Binoculars are an affordable option, offering top-notch optics (8X magnification) in a rugged, waterproof housing.

We love the compact and lightweight design, the scratch-resistant lenses, the durable rubber grips, and especially the company’s “No-Matter-What Lifetime Warranty.”

READ MORE: The Cataloochee Valley Elk in Great Smoky Mountains National Park

AllTrails & onX Backcountry Apps

Confession time: I’m a bit of a troglodyte when it comes to technology, and didn’t even own a smartphone until my daughter left for college in 2019. So apps are generally not my thing. 

But when it comes to backcountry navigation, a phone is arguably among the most important items on your hiking gear list, because it’s both a GPS and a means to access hiking apps. 

AllTrails is the undeniable king of outdoor apps, offering the largest collection of hand-curated trail maps you’ll find. You can search over 200,000 hiking trails with trail info, maps, detailed reviews, and photos curated by other hikers, and download them to use even when you’re out of range.

The onX Backcountry App is the new kid in town, designed to help trailblazers and powder-seekers safely navigate off-grid. Features include in-depth trail guides, comprehensive National Park maps, a 3D landscape mode, and avalanche forecasts and slope angles for backcountry skiing routes. 

READ MORE: The 10 Best Places for Snow-Skiing in North Carolina

 

7. REPAIR TOOLS

Gerber Principle Knife, Multi-Plier 600 & Ultimate Survival Knife

Knives and multi-tools are essentials to include in your hiking packing list, and Gerber (which was founded in Portland in 1939) is one of the most venerable brands in the business. 

Their Gerber Principle Knife is designed for backcountry bushcraft. It’s got a multi-grip ergonomic handle, an easy-to-sharpen Scandinavian Grind blade, Firestriker 90º edge, 3 lashing holes, and a triple mounting sheath system that makes it easy to carry. 

The Gerber Ultimate Survival Knife is another great option, featuring a half-serrated, drop point blade, steel hammer pommel, emergency whistle, and a sheath with a built-in sharpener and fire starter.

The rugged Multi-Plier 600 is arguably Gerber’s best gear for hiking, part of the #1 multi-tool series used by the US military. It features a one-hand opening design and 14 handy tools, including pliers, wire cutters and crimper, two knives, four screwdrivers, bottle opener, file, ruler, and more. 

READ MORE: The 20 Best Western North Carolina Waterfalls for Hiking

Victorinox Swiss Champ Pocket Tool - 10 Hiking Essentials Packing List

Victorinox Swiss Champ

Widely regarded as one of the best beginner hiking essentials, the Swiss Army Knife has been a trusted tool among outdoor adventurers since 1897. 

The Victorinox Swiss Champ is a medium-sized version of their classic Officer’s knife. It measures just 3.6 x 1.3 inches and weighs 6.5 oz, so it’s a great pocket-sized repair tool for your hiking essentials list.

Big things come in this small package, which comes in four colors and includes 33 useful functions. 

They include 5 screwdrivers, 2 blades, scissors, wire cutter/stripper/crimping tools, bottle opener, pliers, a fish scaler, wood saw, rulers, chisel, tweezers, nail file and cleaner, a corkscrew, and more!

READ MORE: The Cradle of Forestry in Pisgah National Forest (Near Brevard NC)

 

8. SHELTER

Mountain Hardwear Aspect tent 2p

Mountain Hardwear Aspect 2 Person Tent

A tent may not be among the essentials for a day hike, but it’s arguably among the most important things to bring when hiking for multiple days. 

The Mountain Hardwear Aspect 2 Tent is an ideal choice for the “Shelter” slot of the 10 backpacking essentials because it’s lightweight (min. 2 lb 14.7 oz), big enough for 2 people (29.3 sq ft), and offers durable 3-season protection from the elements. 

We love the Featherlight poles, the unique canopy-to-pole attachment system that makes it easier to compress into your pack, and the option of using a 3/4 mesh canopy for stargazing in the mountains.

We also like the two dry entry vestibules, dual mesh doors with dual sliders, and the three interior pockets for storage.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Western North Carolina Mountains For Hiking

Tentsile Flite Tree Tent 2p

Tentsile Flite 2-Person Tree Tent

Tentsile has been one of our favorite outdoor brands for years, because they make some of the most innovative gear for hiking and camping we’ve seen.

Weighing in at 8.42 pounds, with packed dimensions of 17.7 x 8.6 x 8.6 inches, their Flite 2-person Tree Tent might be a little large to be considered one of the 10 essentials for backpacking. But for camping, this unique tent/hammock hybrid is pretty dang cool!

The sleeping bed is a double-tension hammock that attracted caches to 3 trees, with an adjustable dividing strap that turns the floor into one or two hammock berths for solo or dual camping. 

We love the bug-netting roof, which allows for stargazing, and the rain fly for privacy and protection from the elements.

Right now they’re offering a free tent wall that wraps around the bottom of the tent to create a storage area beneath the tent. Just use code WALL21 at checkout.

READ MORE: Camping & Hiking at Vogel State Park in Blairsville GA

Forclaz Trek 500 Waterproof Tent 3p

Decathlon Forclaz Trek 500 Waterproof Backpacking Tent

With 40+ years in the business of making products that balance high quality and low prices, the France-based Decathlon specializes in affordable camping and hiking gear.

Their Forclaz Trek 500 3-person, 3-season backpacking tent is no exception, offering an impressive array of features at around half the price of the other tents on this list.

Weighing in at 7.8 pounds, with a compression bag measuring 15.4 x 7.1  x 7.1 inches, the waterproof, self-standing dome tent is easy to set up and made to resist winds up to 45 mph. 

We love that it offers 2 doors, 2 vestibules for storage, and 3 pockets in the 9.84 x 7.7-foot interior (max height 46.9″). It’s a great little backpacking tent for the price!

READ MORE: Hiking & Camping at Unicoi State Park & Lodge in Helen, GA

 

Six Moons Design Gatewood Cape

Six Moon Designs Gatewood Cape

Truth be told, my lady is much more into glamping than she is into backcountry camping. And frankly, at our age, we’re too concerned to sleep on the ground without some sort of air mattress.

But if no-frills camping is your style, the Gatewood Cape from Six Moons Designs might be a perfect fit for your hiking essentials list.  

Ranked among the best hiking gear by both OutDoor by ISPO and Backpackers.com, this classic convertible is made for ultralight backpackers.

It works as both rain gear and a tarp shelter, with a sturdy pyramid design that protects you from rain, snow, and wind. 

The shelter’s canopy offers 35 square feet of coverage, with a long zipper on the vestibule. You can also purchase the Serenity NetTent separately for added bug protection.

READ MORE: Hiking & Camping at Stone Mountain State Park, NC

Shrooms Two Person Hammock Parks Project

Parks Project Shrooms Two Person Hammock

We love national parks and state parks, and we’re avid mushroom foragers who also grow our own Wine Caps and Shiitakes at home.

So it was kind of a no-brainer that we would dig this retro-hip hammock from Parks Project, a brand that has given $ 1,729,021 (and counting) to help conserve America’s parklands.

Weighing just 2.86 lbs and measuring 9 x 6 feet, the hammock is big enough to hold two people (400 pounds max), but small enough to stuff into most day hiking backpacks.

In addition to the groovy mushroom design, we also love that the hammock is really easy to set up, breathable, and quick-drying. It’s one of our new favorite things to bring on a hike!

READ MORE: The 15 Best North Georgia State Parks & Historic Sites

 

9. SUN PROTECTION

Tenth Street Hats

Dorfman Pacific Men’s Cooler Hat & Scala Women’s Big Brim Raffia Hat

Remember those halcyon days of youth, when we would use tanning oil rather than sunscreen, and rarely gave a thought to the possibility of skin cancer?

Sadly, middle age and climate change have conspired to make those things much more of a concern. These days I simply try to avoid the sun during the hottest part of the day.

But when I can’t, I always wear a hat, and these adventurous chapeaus from Tenth Street Hats offer great sun protection without sacrificing style. 

The Dorfman Pacific Men’s Cooler Hat is a lightweight, Aussie-style canvas hat with a mesh crown that helps keep your head cool even on the hottest summer days. The Scala Women’s Big Brim Raffia Hat offers a safari-style woven raffia hat that looks stylish, but also provides loads of coverage.

Both are great for sunny days of hiking, paddling, or just lazing away the hours at the lake or beach! 

READ MORE: The 15 Best Lakes in the North Georgia Mountains

Costa Santiago & Caleta Sunglasses

The Untangled Collection of sunglasses from Costa del Mar is revolutionary. All of the line’s frames are  made from discarded fishing nets, and are fully recyclable.

So not only are they stylish accessories for hiking, but they’re also helping to reuse plastic, reduce carbon footprint, and protect the planet’s oceans in the process. In fact, Costa’s partners at Bureo have collected some 3.4 million pounds of discarded nets to date!

The Santiago and Caleta Sunglasses are part of the collection’s next generation, all of which boast performance frames, upgraded NetPlus material, and maximum protection for long days in the sun. 

Designed for fishermen, kayakers, and others who spend endless hours on the water, they’re also a great fit for your hiking essentials list. 

READ MORE: Camping, Hiking & Fishing at Moccasin Creek State Park on Lake Burton

Ombraz Armless Sunglasses-DOLOMITE

Ombraz Dolomite Sunglasses

When you talk about revolutionizing the eyewear industry, the folks at Ombraz Sunglasses have to be part of the conversation.

Awarded “Gear of the Year 2021” honors by Outside Magazine, their innovative Dolomite Sunglasses eschew conventional arms entirely! 

Instead, they use a recycled Japanese Nylon cord, which ensures a much better fit on heads of all shapes and sizes without the irritation that arms sometimes create with long periods of wear. 

We love that the cord makes them easy to bring hiking, whether you hang them around your neck or in your hikers pack.

We also love that Ombraz is carbon negative, and plants 20 trees for every pair of shades they sell!

READ MORE: The Top 10 Treehouse Rentals in the Georgia Mountains

OLITA Family Sun Care Pack & Everyday California Sunscreen Bundle

Sunscreen is listed as one of the NPS’s 10 Hiking Essentials for good reason. Skin cancer is the most common cancer in the US, and an estimated 1 in 5 people will get skin cancer in their lifetime.

But sunscreen isn’t without its issues. Many of the chemicals used in them are bad for fresh and saltwater ecosystems, and one– benzene– has been associated with blood cancers such as leukemia.

OLITA won Parent Magazine and Mom’s Choice Awards safest sunscreen for kids in 2021, and their sunscreens are verified organic and reef-safe. The OLITA Family Sun Care Pack includes two SPF30 Mineral SunSticks (one for kids, one for adults) and AfterSun Body Serum with aloe and Vitamin E. 

The Everyday California Sunscreen Bundle also features reef-safe mineral sunscreen, and includes an SPF 30 Continuous Spray, SPF 50 Continuous SpraySPF 30 Lotion, SPF 50 Lotion, and a SPF 45 Sunscreen specifically for the face. 

READ MORE: Hiking to Minnehaha Falls, GA at Lake Rabun

 

10. WATER

Platypus-GravityWorks-Water-Filter-System for Hiking Essentials Packing List

Platypus GravityWorks Water Filter System

I learned that fresh water was essential to pack for day hikes the hard way during a school trip to the Okefenokee Swamp, where I suffered a mild heat stroke from dehydration and exertion.

A few years later, while hiking to see the waterfalls in Cloudland Canyon State Park, I made the mistake of refilling my bottle from a mountain stream and wound up with crippling dysentery.

The Platypus GravityWorks Water Filter System offers an easy portable solution, filtering up to 1.75L/minute with absolutely no pumping required.

With a microfilter that removes 99.9% of bacteria and protozoa and lasts up to 1500 liters of water, the system is very easy to use. You just fill it with water, hang it up, and let gravity do the rest.

The filter can be cleaned in under 5 seconds, and we love that it is lightweight and stows smaller than most 1-liter water bottles!
 
 
Lifestraw Go Water Filtration for 10 Hiking Essentials Packing List

Lifestraw Go

Due to the physically debilitating experiences I mentioned above, a personal water filtration system is one of the most essential hiking supplies I recommend to people.
 
And with a retail price of just over $30, the Lifestraw Go Water Filter Bottle is one of the most dependable and affordable options on the market. 
 
The Lifestraw Go uses a 2-stage filtration process that removes 99.9999% of all waterborne bacteria (including including E. Coli and Salmonella) and parasites from up to 1,000 gallons of water before it needs a replacement filter. 
 
The BPA-free bottle holds 22 ounces of water, which you can fill directly from a river or creek. As far as we’re concerned, it’s an essential for your hiking gear list if you spend time in the backcountry.
 

Sea to Summit Watercell X 10L for your Hiking Essentials Packing List

Sea to Summit Watercell X 10L

Available in 6-liter, 10-liter, and 20-liter sizes, the Sea to Summit Watercell X is another great piece of hiking gear to add to your backpacking essentials list. 

Made from flexible, abrasion-resistant laminated 400D nylon fabric, this tough versatile water bag is both BPA and PVC-free.

Its opening is compatible with all industry-standard water filtration systems and replacement lids, making it easy to refill your personal bottles while hiking in the mountains. 

We love the adjustable strap, which makes it easy to carry, and the welded lash, which makes it easy to hang the Waterfall X at your campsite. 

We also appreciate that the 3D baffled, RF-welded TPU construction makes it easy to fold the bag and stuff it in your backpack when you’re done using it.  

READ MORE: The 27 Best Waterfalls Near Asheville NC

CamelBak Octane 25 Hydration Pack

CamelBak Octane 25 70oz Hydration Pack

The CamelBak Octane 25 is a great hiking day pack option, with a 2-liter (70 ounces) Crux reservoir for water and room to store 22 liters of hiking gear. 

Weighing just 1 lb 6 oz and measuring 17 x 11 x 10 inches, the pack hugs the body closely, making it great for trail running and other active adventures. 

Features that make this one of our favorite hydration packs for hiking include breathable 3D vent mesh shoulder straps, plentiful pockets for organizing essentials, and a great system for keeping the water tube in place. 

We also like the ventilated hip belt (which has another stash pocket), loops for attaching trekking poles, and integrated rain cover. 

READ MORE: The 10 Best Waterfalls Near Blue Ridge GA

Nathan Sports Vapor Airess 7L -Womens Hydration Vest

Nathan Sports VaporAiress 2.0 7L Women’s Hydration Pack

Specifically designed to fit the female form, the Nathan Sports VaporAiress 2.0 7L is a great hydration pack for women created with racing and trail running in mind.

One of its most innovative features is the unique Adaptive-Fit Adjustable Sizing System, which leads to an almost tailored feel to the fit that makes it ultra-comfy when you’re on the go. 

The pack is equipped with a 2-liter water bladder that has a quick release valve, and it has two front pockets that fit bottles up to 22 ounces. 

There’s lots of cool storage options as well, including a large main compartment, a transparent zippered pocket, and a back kangaroo pocket large enough for a light jacket and a snack.

READ MORE: The 15 Best Waterfalls Near Helen GA

 

11. BACKPACKS

Mountain Hardwear PCT 55L Backpack - 10 Hiking Essentials Packing List

Mountain Hardwear PCT 55L Backpack

Backpacks aren’t technically part of the NPS’ 10 hiking gear essentials, but they’re obviously a must for packing all your trekking gear into! 

The PCT 55L Backpack from Mountain Hardwear offers plenty of room for all your must-have backpacking gear. It’s got 55 liters of storage, including a removable top lid with two zippered compartments, a large front pocket, zippered interior pocket, and two side stretch pockets for water.

Weighing in at just over 4 lbs, the lightweight bag also features a trampoline back panel and hover hip belt that offer a blend of tighter and more open woven air mesh for enhanced breathability on long hikes. 

We especially like the way the hip belt is connected to the spring steel frame by four points, which gives it a dynamic side-to-side motion that makes for an exquisitely comfortable carry. 

READ MORE: The Best Hiking in Asheville NC Bucket List (Top 20 Hiking Trails)

mystery ranch gallagator daypack

Mystery Ranch Gallagator Daypack

If you’re looking for a smaller bag for all of your day hiking essentials, the 19L Mystery Ranch Gallagator is one of the best day hiking packs we’ve tested in 2021.

Weighing 1.3 lbs and measuring 17.5 x 10.75 x9 inches, it’s big enough to carry all the essential hiking gear you need for a day hike, but light enough not  to weigh you down. 

With 6 colors available, the urban-inspired backpack boasts Mystery Ranch’s trademark 3-zip access, with a top-zipped pocket lid, stretch-woven side pockets, and a removable web waist belt. 

It’s also hydration reservoir compatible, and at under $100 it’s one of the more high-quality packs for hiking we’ve seen for the price.

READ MORE: The Best Things to Do in DuPont State Forest, NC

Peak Designs Travel Backpack 30L Andy Cochrane

Peak Design Travel Backpack 30L

If you need a bigger bag for packing all your day hike essentials, the weatherproof  30L Peak Design Travel Backpack is a great option that’s just as durable and expandable as their popular 45L pack.

It’s large enough to hold 3 of their Packing/Camera Cubes (sold separately) when fully expanded, or you can compress your load by closing the expansion zips.

The recycled nylon daypack features a big top pocket, expandable side pockets for water and other essential hiking items, and rear access via a huge #10 Ultra Zip. 

We also love that all of Peak Design’s products are Fair Trade Certified and 100% carbon neutral!

READ MORE: Exploring Etowah Indian Mounds Historic Site & Hiking Trails in Cartersville GA

DeckerXLab NVSTP Pack

Deckers X Lab NVRSTOP Pack

The Deckers X Lab NVRSTOP Pack is the first performance backpack from the company behind iconic footwear brands like HOKA ONE ONE, UGG, and Teva. 

The 25L bag (which can extend to 40L via the roll-top closure) is designed to be the ultimate action pack for outdoor adventure, whether you’re speed hiking in the mountains or competing in an Ultramarathon. 

If organization is your thing, this may be the best day hike backpack for you. The breathable daypack offers 19 pockets (including 9 in front), trekking pole holders, hydration bladder compatibility, and more.

We love the detachable organizer for securing a jacket or other essentials for trekking, as well as the 3 adjustable side release buckles on the front for securing the bag to your body. –reviews by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett; lead photo via Canva 

Leave No Trace logo

We encourage anyone who loves the Blue Ridge region to learn about the Leave No Trace principles of responsible environmental stewardship. 

Stay on marked trails, take only pictures, pack out your trash, and be considerate of others who share the trails and parks you explore. 

Remember that waterfalls and rocky summits can be dangerous. Never try to climb waterfalls or get close to a ledge to get a selfie.

When you're exploring the wilderness, it's better to be safe than to be a statistic!

The BRMTG was created by Bret Love & Mary Gabbett, the award-winning team behind the world-renowned responsible travel website Green Global Travel. Bret grew up camping and hiking in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Georgia and North Carolina with his parents, and the couple both spent childhood summers on the water with their grandparents. After becoming empty nesters, they yearned for a pristine place where they could escape the hustle and bustle of the city, commune with nature and family, and embrace a sustainable lifestyle that leaves time to appreciate the simpler things in life. Join them and their team as they explore the region, offering expert insights on Blue Ridge travel as they search for the perfect mountain home.