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

What Can I Wear Instead Of Sunscreen?

Sunglasses and Alternatives to Sunscreen

Bamboo clothing and other sun protective apparel are becoming popular alternatives to sunscreen, but what else is there? UV exposure is harmful to your skin so it’s important you stay protected, but sunscreen is not your only option. There are a lot of reasons you might want to avoid sunscreen. Maybe it’s an allergic reaction, general discomfort, or you just want to avoid covering your body in chemicals. Regardless of your reason, there are a lot of ways to stay protected throughout your day without applying chemicals to your skin.

Sun Protective Bamboo Clothing

The number one option would be to simply wear clothing designed for sun protection. Keeping your skin physically covered with bamboo clothing will act as a natural barrier. However, not all clothing actually protects you from UV rays. To know if it’s designed that way, simply look for its UPF rating. The below chart gives a quick breakdown of how ASTM defined the various UPF ratings:

UPF RatingProtection Category% UV Radiation Blocked
UPF 15 – 24Good93.3 – 95.9
UPF 25 – 39Very Good96.0 – 97.4
UPF 40 – 50+Excellent97.5 – 98+

Our SUN BOUND line of bamboo clothing is all UPF 50 and designed with breathability and comfort in mind. To get maximum protection, you should cover as much of your skin as possible. This means when given the choice between a short sleeve shirt and long sleeve shirt, go with the long sleeve. This same logic applies to your lower body as well. In addition to keeping your torso and arms covered with UPF clothing, make sure to do the same for your legs. 

Bucket Hats and Sun Hats

Your face can be a difficult part of the body to stay protected without sunscreen, but there are options. Our top recommendation would be a UPF 50+ sun hat. A sun hat (sometimes referred to as a bucket hat) is a little different than a baseball hat. It not only keeps your head and (some) of your face covered, but has a wide brim that extends over the ears and also provides neck protection. Sun protective bamboo clothing can certainly keep your body covered, but the face, scalp, ears, and neck are four of the most common places people develop skin cancer

Neck Gaiters and UPF Face Masks

If it’s specifically your face and/or neck that need UV protection, consider a UPF neck gaiter. Lightweight, portable and breathable, neck gaiters are a great sun safety accessory to complement your UPF apparel. They can be worn up over your face, just underneath your chin, or a handful of other ways. As far as when to wear sun protection neck gaiters, as with the UV protective clothing mentioned above, it’s whenever you’ll be outside for as little as 10-15 minutes.

Sunglasses With UV Protection

Unless you are soaking your eyes in sunscreen (not recommended!) sunglasses aren’t necessarily an alternative, but still worth mentioning. It’s just as important to keep your eyes protected as it is your skin. Your eyes are just as susceptible to UV damage as your skin. By wearing the proper sunglasses you can easily eliminate this risk. Check your sunglasses to make sure they are designed for UV protection. Many different brands are now producing sunglasses that provide 100% UV protection.

Seek Shade

Sun hat and bamboo clothing with umbrella

The safest option is always to seek shade whenever you can. This might be a nearby building, tree, or you might want to bring a large umbrella. Even if you are fully protected with UPF rated bamboo clothing, pants, a sun protective bucket hat, and UV filtering sunglasses, staying in the shade as often as possible will always minimize your exposure.

How Can I Protect My Face From The Sun?

Woman's Face in the Sun, Freckles

When it comes to UV exposure and sun damage, your face is one of the most vulnerable spots of your body. Not only is it hard (and sometimes impossible) to cover, but it can also be difficult to check your face once you leave the house. Therefore, it’s important to leave your house with all of the essentials for safely protecting your face from the sun: a hooded sun shirt, broad-spectrum sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat. Continue below to see why each is critical for protecting your face from UV damage:

Protect Your Face with a UPF 50+ Hooded Sun Shirt

Believe it or not, the first step in protecting your face from the sun starts with your shirt. Consider your typical crewneck shirt. Your neck, and certainly your face, are entirely exposed to the sun. Even a collared shirt offers little to no protection for your face. For a shirt that actually offers UV protection for your face, wear a lightweight hooded sun shirt. With the hood up and over your head, your face is actually protected from the sun at multiple angles, which is especially important between 10am – 4pm. Plus, since UV rays reflect off many surfaces, such as water, ice and sand, you’re also more protected from below.

UPF Hooded Sun Shirt in Blue

Protect Your Face with Broad-spectrum Sunscreen

The next step in protecting your face from the sun is applying broad-spectrum sunscreen. It is important that your sunscreen be broad spectrum so that it blocks both UVA and UVB rays. UVA rays penetrate deeper into the skin and are linked to skin cancer. UVB rays, on the other hand, are most directly linked to reddening and sunburn. The consequences of both UVA and UVB damage for your face can be dire, so protect your face with broad-spectrum sun lotion. Most dermatologists recommend SPF 30 lotion. This should usually be applied 30 minutes before sun exposure, and reapplied every 1-2 hours

Protect Your Face from UV Damage with Sunglasses

After you’ve generously applied your face sunscreen, grab a pair of UV-protective sunglasses. The sun’s UV rays can severely damage eyelids, as well as your eyes themselves. Prolonged UV exposure to your eyes can damage the cornea or lens and lead to cataracts or other eye damage. Fortunately, it is easy to find and identify UV sunglasses, and a quality pair can be purchased for less than $50 USD.

UV Sunglasses for Face Protection

Protect Your Face with SPF Lip Balm

One often overlooked part of your face that needs protection is your lips. Your lips are very susceptible to chapping, burning and even skin cancer. Therefore, leave nothing to chance and regularly apply an SPF lip balm (aka ChapStick) to protect your pucker!

Protect Your Face with a Wide-brimmed or Bucket Hat

Hooded sun shirt? Check. Face sunscreen? Check. Sunglasses? Check. But there’s one final piece to top it all off, literally: a UPF hat, preferably a bucket hat or one with a wide brim. Your hat’s brim (or bill, depending on your style) acts as a shield from the sun, protecting not only your head, but also your face. Make a UPF hat the fourth component of protecting your face from UV damage, and you’ll stay cool and protected for a full day in the sun.

Lastly, just in case you need more evidence about the need for protecting your face from the sun, check out this video about the hidden dangers of UV exposure and your face:

By planning ahead and using all four protective pieces above, you can ensure protection for your face. Otherwise, you risk sun damage, burns, wrinkling, early aging and, worst of all, skin cancer. Don’t leave anything to chance with your skin. Instead, build the foundation for your face’s UV protection with Rayward Apparel’s UPF 50+ hooded sun shirt.

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