If, after you’ve decided that yes, you do kind of dig this whole hiking thing, you might be wondering what items you want to spend a little extra cash (or dividend) on to enhance your overall hiking experience. Modern Hiker recommends adding these to your shopping bag, after you’ve already worked your way through the Ten Essentials, of course:

boots1. A Good Pair of Boots: Hiking obviously puts a lot of wear and tear on your feet, and while there are plenty of trails you can enjoy out there with a pair of sneakers, if you’re going to start going longer distances or through more difficult terrain, you’re going to want to invest in a good pair of hiking boots. High or low top is a preference — I like the ankle support of high top boots, but some hikers prefer the lighter weight of a low-top. Ideally, you’ll want to pick up a boot that will match the situation you’ll most often be hiking in. There’s not too much water in SoCal, so in the spring and summer months, I usually wear a lightweight, breathable boot like the Vasque Breeze. If I’m going to be river hopping or walking through snow, I’ll take a waterproof boot like the Vasque Switchback.

socks2. A Good Pair of Socks: If you’re going to spring for a good set of boots, you might as well buy yourself some good wicking socks, too. A good pair of hiking socks will add padding, reduce sweating, and help prevent blisters. SmartWool has always treated me well, but other folks swear by Wigwam.

a shirt3. Wicking Everything: Just assume that every area on your body where you can prevent pooling sweat will make your hike a more pleasurable experience. That means not only socks, but also tops (some of which also have sunscreen-properties) and undies. Chafing is not your friend — especially when it shows up 6 miles into the wilderness. Try to get as many of your hiking clothes in lightweight, wicking fabrics. Cotton and denim will soak up the sweat, making your clothes heavier and potentially lowering your body temperature too much.

a camelbak4. A Hydration System: I’ve been using a CamelBak for years, and I’d never hike any other way. Not only do you not have to stop down to unpack a water bottle from your bag, but you can also use your reservoir as a handy treatment bag (after you’ve filtered water from a spring, for instance), or as a hot water bottle on cold nights. Almost every form of daypack and backpack has built in sleeves for reservoirs, so once you buy one, you can pretty much use it any gear for a very long time. And they come in all sorts of sizes, volumes, and pack structures — from simple slings with a reservoir to full-featured daypacks.

convertible nylon pants5. Convertible Hiking Pants: Nylon pants that can double as shorts are probably the best leg-coverings for walking around outside. They’re waterproof, lightweight, surprisingly resilient when dealing with windy situations, and they count as two layers of clothing. These provide a ton of options for a low investment and very little weight.

berts bees chapstick6. Chapstick with Sunscreen: You forget that your lips can get sunburned, too. Once you do, however, you’ll never forget to pack some lip balm ever again.

bugs spray7. Insect Repellent: You can pick up small, lightweight “backbacking” versions of bug spray at any outdoor store. They’re not bad now, but in the spring and summer, flies in the San Gabriels can really ruin a hike. Some sprays will even deter ticks from latching onto you, too.

Did I forget anything?

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Casey Schreiner

Founder and Editor-in-Chief at Modern Hiker
Since founding Modern Hiker in 2006, Casey's work on the site has appeared in regional and national publications, including the Los Angeles Times, National Public Radio, the Associated Press, CNN, New York Magazine, High Country News, and others. He has broken several national news stories about outdoor vandalism and policies and his first book "Day Hiking Los Angeles" is available for pre-order.
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This post was written by Casey Schreiner on March 12, 2009


  • Mark McD says:

    I always pack a signal mirror. It may seem silly for day hikes, but could easily save a life. It’s a small, one time purchase you can just leave in your bag.

  • matt says:

    I did some long distance hiking a few years ago, and wow the difference that a wool sweater makes. Say what you will about other layers, like fleece or whatnot – nothing keeps you warm in wet conditions like wool. Perhaps not as relevant when hiking in the socal area, but if you’re going somewhere wet/cold, I can’t stress it enough.

  • Barbara says:

    I swear by Fox River socks. I use them for hiking in the verdugo mts and the Deumajian wilderness area. They are American made and I order them from Fair Indigo. (www.fairindigo.com) a fair trade company.

    Thanks for the advice on the boots. I too like the ankle support.

  • Kenita says:

    Pack two bandanas, weight, 1 oz! A multi-purpose and essential hike item. Short list of uses: neck gaiter, protection from sun, tourniquet, tri fold bandage, filter water, mark the trail if lost, the list goes on….

  • Wayne says:

    Awesome sequel post! Can we make this a trilogy w/a post about what not to bring on a hike?

  • Chas says:

    Also I always take a whistle and cellphone (when service is available).

  • Pete says:

    How about headlamp (or at least a good flashlight)?

  • Modern Hiker says:

    Yeah, a camera is definitely also included in MY Essential Items.

    I put the CamelBak on here because 1). When I started hiking, I just took a few water bottles in a backpack and while that was fine, 2). My hiking life became much more enjoyable after I saved up and bought a CamelBak. Not necessary, but a nice bonus.

  • Raphael says:

    A camera!!!!! For me, photos are half the point of hiking. No, more than half!!!!

    At this point, I hike with two cameras, because I’m that ridiculous: A DSLR with a 70-300 zoom lens (for wildlife!) and a point and shoot for landscapes, portraits, or macros.

    Oh, and I count my camelback as my “essential” (we did say “water”, didn’t we?).

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