10 Hiking Essentials: Must-Haves For Your Next Hike

Hiking Essentials and Sun Protection

Hiking is one of the best ways to spend time outdoors. Whether you’re pushing your limits on a strenuous hike, or just taking a leisurely stroll to appreciate nature, here are ten hiking essentials that you should always have. No matter the length or difficulty of your next hike, go prepared with these 10 hiking must-haves!

Here’s the quick list of our 10 hiking essentials, followed below by more details for each:

  1. Hooded UPF 50+ Shirt
  2. Neck Gaiter
  3. Breathable Socks
  4. UV-Protective Hat
  5. UV Sunglasses
  6. Broad Spectrum Sunscreen
  7. Refillable Water Bottle
  8. Lightweight Snacks
  9. Navigation
  10. Emergency Pack

Hooded UPF 50+ Shirt

Sun protection is critical for every outdoor activity, and only more so if you are planning to be outside for more than an hour. For lightweight, breathable comfort that protects as well as it performs, consider a well-balanced UV-protective hoodie. The Sun Bound UPF 50+ Bamboo Hooded Shirt from Rayward Apparel is well-suited for the outdoors, easy to layer and provides the highest rated sun protection for hiking with a UPF 50+ rating.

Hiking UPF Sun Hoodie

Neck Gaiter

One of the most versatile pieces of apparel, a neck gaiter should be packed for every hike, regardless of length. A well-designed neck gaiter, such as Rayward Apparel’s Del Mar UPF 50+ Gaiter, is versatile, lightweight and protects against sun damage. You can wear neck gaiters more than a dozen ways, which is why they are often referred to as tube headwear or multi-functional headwear. Whether worn as a neckerchief, beanie, headband, full face shield or simply around your wrist, just in case, you’ll never regret bringing a lightweight UPF 50+ neck gaiter.

Breathable Socks

Never underestimate the importance of a good pair of socks, especially before participating in any activity involving significant time spent on your feet. You’d be wise to consider wool or bamboo blends for their insulation, breathability and odor-resistance. Plus, well-made wool socks are unbeatable in the departments of comfort and durability. Wool also dries very quickly, which is something every hiker appreciates when our shoes or socks get wet or sweaty.

Wool hiking socks

UV-Protective Hat

A quality sun hat is a must for any hike. Although you may not notice the visible signs of sun damage, your skin and scalp are very susceptible to UV damage. Our top recommendation for UV-protective headwear is Rayward Apparel’s Sun Ops UPF 50+ Bucket Hat. The 360-degree brim offers more protection than a baseball hat, and the lightweight material will keep your head cool. Additionally, this bucket hat is lightweight, adjustable and easy to pack—important for all hiking essentials.

UV Sunglasses

Just as you’d protect your skin from the sun, you must also protect your eyes. This is especially important when hiking around terrain that reflects UV light, such as hiking near snow or water. We recommend a pair with lightweight frames that fit closely to your face in order to minimize the amount of UV light directed around your eyewear. Bonus points if they float, but you definitely want a snug fitting pair that will stay secure when you run and jump (or slip).

Hiking Sunglasses with UV Protection

Broad Spectrum Sunscreen

You might imagine wild animals as your scariest threat, but you’re most in danger from something invisible—the sun’s UV rays. Ultraviolet light attacks your skin through both clear and cloudy skies, and is even more dangerous at higher altitudes. Therefore, don’t take any chances with your skin’s safety, and cover up in broad spectrum sunscreen. Additionally, since you need to reapply sunscreen at least every two hours, make sure you pack enough to last for the duration of your time outdoors. When it comes to protecting the only skin you have, better safe than sorry!

Refillable Water Bottle

Never start a hike without making sure everyone has more than enough water. Water accessibility, weather, altitude and hiking duration, as well as your health, will impact exactly how much water you need. We suggest consulting the Mayo Clinic for detailed information regarding daily hydration, but plan to drink 20-32 ounces of water every 1-2 hours. A stainless steel or BPA-free bottle is our top recommendation, but we also love the convenience of hydration packs. For remote hikes or more extreme weather, you’ll need much more water, and you may even consider a water purification system or purifying tablets.

Essential hiking water bottle

Lightweight Snacks

Hiking is not only healthier, but also more enjoyable when you have some tasty treats to keep you company. Trail mix is tried and true, as are granola and protein bars. Whatever your preference, plan to consume about 200 calories per hour, and pack accordingly. Also, depending on who you’re hiking with, you may need to pack additional snacks to fend off the grubby hands of your fellow hikers who forget to bring their own trail snacks. 

It is essential that you have some means of navigation for every hike. This will vary based on your specific hiking plans, but may include everything from a map or compass to a handheld GPS device or any mobile phone with a reliable signal. The more adventurous your hike, or perhaps the less marked the trail, the more likely you’ll need additional navigation tools. For most hikes, a working mobile phone and an updated trail map will suffice. However, you should always make sure someone knows when and where you’re hiking, in case of emergencies.

Essential hiking navigation

Emergency Pack

Ok, this one is a bit of a catch-all, but some level of first-aid and/or outdoor survival pack is essential for every hike. Items to consider include a standard first-aid kit, whistle, knife, headlamp, blanket, shelter and source of fire. The more extreme your hike, the more you need to pack for your safety. However you pack it, make sure you have it handy and that you know where everything is located. Of course, for a less-remote or more heavily-trafficked hike, you might be fine with a smaller first-aid kit or only select emergency hiking essentials.

Next time you hike, go prepared with these ten hiking essentials. Not only will you get more enjoyment out of your hike, but you’ll hike safer with some variation of these ten must-haves carried with you. Of course, depending on the weather and remoteness of your hiking region, you may need to build upon this list with additional hiking and survival equipment, but this is an excellent starting point for any type of hike.

For all of your hiking sun protection needs, consider Rayward Apparel. All of the clothing and accessories designed by Rayward Apparel are rated UPF 50+ for maximum sun protection. Our philosophy is simple: the world revolves around the sun, but your life shouldn’t. #StayRayward with Rayward Apparel’s UPF 50+ hiking apparel.

Source: Mayo Clinic

How to Treat Sunburn

Woman with Sunburn on Beach

Without proper UV protection, your skin is highly susceptible to sunburn. Depending on the UV conditions and your skin type, it could take as little as 15 minutes of unprotected exposure to get sunburn. Of course, the best way to avoid a painful sunburn is with a combination of UPF apparel and sunscreen. However, with insufficient sun safety preparation or even a momentary lapse in sun protection, accidents can happen. If you do sustain a sunburn, follow these quick tips to treat sunburn:

One of the most important factors in tending to sunburn is to begin treating the damage as soon as possible. Therefore, early identification is critical, so pay attention to how long you’ve been in the sun, and consider that you may not see or feel a sunburn right away. If you suspect that you or someone you know may have sustained a sunburn, consider the following treatment steps.

Get Out of the Sun First, Then Treat Sunburn

The first step is to get out of the sun as quickly as possible. If you haven’t already done so, seek shade or shelter, preferably indoors. Make sure you are not only safe from direct sunlight, but also reflected UV rays that bounce off of water, sand, cement and other surfaces. It’s hard to tell how bad a sunburn is right away, so don’t take any chances by letting it get worse. Once safely indoors, you can begin to treat sunburn and follow steps for pain relief.


Drink plenty of water. Sunburned skin pulls fluids away from the rest of your body towards the skin’s surface, so dehydration is a big concern. Combat this by drinking extra water and re-hydrating. If you develop lightheadedness, chills or a fever, seek medical attention.

Drinking Water to Treat Sunburn

Anti-inflammatory for Pain and Swelling

To reduce pain and swelling, consider taking an anti-inflammatory such as ibuprofen or aspirin. These are most effective if taken within a few hours of sustaining the sunburn. However, as with any medication, consult your doctor before use, and make sure you are aware of any potential side effects.

Cool Showers or Baths

Over the next several days, take cool showers or baths to treat sunburn. After each, be careful to lightly pat yourself dry so as to avoid irritating your skin. You may also find some relief in not drying off completely, but instead leaving your skin damp.

Water-based Moisturizer

To treat sunburn, apply water-based skin moisturizer, preferably one with aloe vera, to your still-damp skin. This offers the dual benefit of soothing burned skin and preventing dryness. In cases with significant discomfort or especially damaged skin, you might consider applying a non-prescription hydrocortisone cream.

When to Seek Medical Attention to Treat Sunburn

If your sunburned skin begins to blister, this indicates a second-degree sunburn. Do NOT pop the blisters. Instead, allow them to heal, as this is your skin’s natural response to heal and defend against infection. Please speak with a doctor if you experience significant blistering or extreme discomfort.

While taking the treatment steps above will reduce your discomfort and prevent further damage, nothing will heal a sunburn overnight. Therefore, while your skin recovers, be extra careful to protect your skin from additional UV exposure. Always wear UPF 50+ apparel to cover as much of your skin as possible, since this is the most effective form of sun protection. For all remaining exposed areas of skin, liberally apply broad-spectrum sunscreen (minimum SPF 30), remembering to re-apply every two hours.

Whether minor or severe, every sunburn has lasting effects well beyond reddened skin. What’s more, sun damage is cumulative and sustaining sunburn increases your risk of getting skin cancer. Don’t let one sunburn keep you from going outdoors. At the same time, however, don’t take it lightly. Sun protection and sunburn prevention starts before you leave the house, so plan accordingly with UPF 50+ sun protection clothing from Rayward Apparel.

For additional information, check out this short video from the American Academy of Dermatology:

Sources: Skin Cancer Foundation; American Academy of Dermatology

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