All the Gear, Clothing, and Skills We Need (and Want!)!
There is no way around: we have to buy a few things before we hit the trails. But - we don't need to have multiple pieces of each kind of gear. It's enough to get one, but a good one.
Don't get into the faulty of buying cheap gear, as it can be a quite short-sighted decision. As I know very well what it means to travel on a budget, I understand the struggle.
There are things we can save on, and items we should get the best quality we can afford.
As my father used to say, "We are too poor to buy cheap", and I try to live by that. Pick and choose where I can save and where "saving" would backfire to cost actually more.
Disclaimer: This post, in addition to some awesome tips and advice, contains affiliate links to respected retailers for your convenience. It means that if you buy anything through those links, I receive a tiny commission at no extra cost to you. Thank you for your support!
Hiking and Camping on a Budget
How do I stay on a budget? I save on clothing. But not on their quality - I have don’t own many items, but they are of a good quality. I also got some second-hand, as high-end products tend to last long. I signed for multiple newsletters from outdoors stores waiting for sales and promotions.
I also save by camping instead of staying in hotels or B&Bs whenever it's possible. I don't eat out and save all year on a variety of pleasures to have money for what I think is of higher priority.
In addition, I buy the big price items in stages. In the beginning, as I simply didn’t have the money to buy only highest-quality stuff, I got some gear that was good - just a bit heavier than I wished for. I still had a fantastic time hiking! It’s just easier now, when I have lighter gear.
On this page I gather a simplified (no explanation) list of gear and clothing that I recommend. If you just want to know what kind of gear you can buy to not regret it later - you found the right place.
If you would like to learn more about some stuff - take a look at my growing library of gear reviews:
Hiking Clothing for Women
High quality underwear and socks
For the comfort and safety - only wear underwear made of merino wool or synthetics. It provides appropriate ventilation, insulation, and wicks moisture away from your skin. Additionally, merino and most synthetic fabrics are great in preventing bacterial growth, so no risk of unpleasant funk.
Pick style that fits you - bikini or boxer shorts, whatever you find more comfortable. Just make sure they are not cotton!
Taking care of your feet is absolutely crucial. Blisters are not unavoidable part of a hike - quite the opposite. For quite a long time now I haven’t had any blisters so I know it’s possible. What works for me, might not work for you - you need to experiment a bit. But I found that when I wear two pairs of socks, my feet are happier. First I put on a very thin liner - mostly made with CoolMax fabric for proper moisture management. A while ago I started wearing five-toes socks to separate them and I fell in love. My toes overlap each other and it caused blisters sometimes (or even a nail cutting into the skin of its neighbor - yuck). With that kind of socks my toes are happily separated. Over the liner I wear a pair of wool socks. I really like Bridgedale socks, but there are also other great names out there. Again - no cotton! Wool mix is best. Pick thickness appropriate for the season and the heaviness of your pack. You don’t need heavily padded socks for a light day hike.
You could wear an ordinary sports bra just make sure the straps don’t bother you under a backpack. For hiking there is no need to wear a bra made for high-bouncing sports, just make sure it is comfortable and dries quickly.
Take a look below at some great options of hiking underwear and socks for women.
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Pick carefully what you wear right next to your skin. No matter the season, it should be something that keeps your skin as dry as possible, provides insulation and appropriate ventilation. Merino wool is a fantastic fiber for any season. It keeps on insulating you even when wet. Synthetics on the other hand dry really fast so you don’t wear a cold wet blanket on your skin risking hypothermia.
Thin synthetic tops are great for very hot days, you can sweat buckets but they dry in no time. Thicker tops are great for shoulder seasons with chilling winds. Merino tops perform great no matter the weather, pick the thickness to match the exact weather conditions.
As “pajamas” or for extra insulation in winter, get merino o synthetic leggings for a comfortable sleep. If you like hiking in yoga pants - switch them to the synthetic version and you are good to go!
Take a look below at some of the options you have:
Even on a warm day, you should pack an insulating layer with you. When he hike we sweat and the moment we stop for a break, we get cold very fast. It’s good to have a jacket or a fleece close by to put on during breaks. On cold days we need more layers to put on and off according to needs.
For hikes in shoulder seasons or cold destinations, I generally have three pieces of insulating layers: a thin fleece to hike in on colder days, a thin synthetic jacket, and a down puffy for really chill nights. With that kind of set up there really is no way I could get really cold.
Below I compiled very good pieces of mid-layer to provide good insulation:
A nice, thin rain jacket will fit in any backpack. If you happen to hike in some crazy torrential rains, rain pants might also be a good idea. Pick a pair with zippers running the whole length so you don’t need to take your boots off to put them on.
If you need protection for wet and cold weather, you might also think about gaiters for better protection from mud, wet grasses, and rain, as well as waterproof mittens or gloves. I have a pair of thin mittens I can put over a pair of warm wool layers. Hiking in a bad weather while using your hands - for holding trekking poles, for example, can make your hands get cold really fast.
You may also opt for waterproof insulated gloves if you know the weather’s going to be nasty.
Take a look below for your rain protection options:
Hiking shoes and boots
It’s really hard to advise a particular pair of boots: you need to find ones that fit your feet exactly. Put them on, walk around a bit, put a heavy backpack on to see how they feel with a load on. Make sure you try them on wearing thick socks and that you have about 1 cm of room in front of the foot - if your toes hit the front, you will have problems on downhill trails. Also, our feet tend to swell so you can’t have too snugly fitting boots.
The choice between shoes or boots relates to the terrain, personal preferences, health issues, etc. I prefer hiking in boots but I choose as light as possible. For light and fast day hikes I might pick hiking shoes. In the beginning, it’s better to start with boots - especially when the terrain is harsh and rocky and/or you carry a heavier load.
Check out some high-quality trail runners and low hiking shoes below:
And now look at some great hiking boots:
In addition to the main clothing, we need also some smaller things - sun and wind protection, for example. Depending on your destination and personal style, pick a hat that will protect you from sun rays as well as rain droplets. To protect your neck from sun, wind, and bugs a neck gaiter (buff) is the best. I always have at least two and use them on neck and head in many ways.
To keep your hands warm, always have a pair of thin gloves. Even on a nice day, cold wind can make your skin miserable.
If you expect colder weather, grab a warmer hat and gloves, thicker neck protection (merino wool or fleece). When you hike in the desert or on snow it might be a good idea to have sun glasses as well.
Take a look below at some of your options:
There are a few things we need to make sure our hiking adventure is not only comfortable but also safe. There are ten essentials we should always have with us - no matter the length of our hike.
For a short day hike we might grab whatever day pack we have at home but for longer trips, we should choose our packs with more care. Badly chosen pack will make hiking a painful ordeal and might cause some muscle strains and other problems. When you try your backpack on in a store, ask for weights - any good store have them. Only when the backpack is filled you can feel how it works on your back.
A good backpack is really important - don’t get first pack you see in a store! For a day hike or a short trip from hut to hut, buy a 20 - 35 L bag. For 3-5 days trips, volume 30-45 L should suffice. For weeks-long treks, take a 50 - 60 L backpack.
For a day hiking needs you can pick one of the bags below:
Take a look for some high-quality backpacking packs for women:
I absolutely love hiking with trekking poles and I think they are a must! They helped me so many times when climbing tricky slopes or crossing snow patches. Poles help your knees and force the whole body to work - not just the legs. I use them also when pitching my tent - its “porch” uses trekking poles for a set up, saving on extra weight of designated tent poles.
I suggest using trekking poles with flicklock mechanism for length adjustment - they are more reliable. I don’t care all that much for ultralight poles but if you do - pick poles made of carbon fiber. You can also choose poles with shock absorption system (DSS) for extra protection for your joints.
Take a look below at some of the best trekking poles on the market:
Unless you go hiking on a desert, you must assume it might rain at one point, so take care of your stuff and pack it into dry bags. Have them in many sizes and colors to help you organize. Take a special care of down products and your set of dry clothes. For such soft pieces that are easy to squeeze it’s good to buy dry compression bags. They not only protect your delicate things but also save your a lot of space.
Pick one from list below:
Smaller bits and pieces
Seat pad - This one is a nice extra and not really a must, but I highly recommend it. It's light and does not take much room but it's nice to have something to sit on. The ground will often be hard, cold and/or wet so this tiny piece of luxury is highly recommended!
First Aid Kit - In addition to the regular hiking first aid items like band-aids and bandages, don't forget to carry the "space blanket" which helps to protect from hypothermia in emergency situations. I strained my ankle when hiking in Norway and was happy to have an elastic bandage with me.
Compass - Unless you go hiking on a very well marked local trail, a compass should make it into your gear setup. Learn at least basics of reading map and using compass to use when you run into thick fog or trek on a badly marked trail.
You obviously need some kind of protection for the night sleep. You can choose from tents, bivies, hammocks or tarps - depending on personal preferences and hiking destination. If you would like to have some help in figuring out what’s best for you, choose this guide to picking a camping shelter for you.
Take as light as you can afford. If you are on a budget I can recommend this lovely Vango which weighs only 2kg.
Last year I upgraded to Double Rainbow by TarpTent (read my review) - it's just 1kg! I love it. Choosing the type of tent is your personal thing but I advise getting a bigger one so you can have all your things inside, protected from the elements. I don't know how people can fit into single-person tents, I have so much stuff with me ;-)
My tent is a 2 person shelter, so I can fit myself and my backpack and all my crap and don't feel cramped.
If you are on the market for a 2-person backpacking shelter, take a look below:
Sleeping Pad or Mattress
Depending on your budget, hiking destination (terrain, weather), and personal comfort levels, you can choose among foam mattresses, self-inflating pads and air mattresses. The lightest are foam and air mattresses. Most comfortable are air mattresses and self-inflating pads. The cheapest - foam and self-inflating pads. Pay attention to the RV-factor of the product, it tells you how well insulating the pad is. If you camp in shoulder season or in cool destinations, you need a well-insulating pad to prevent losing warmth. In some areas, it’s good to combine a foam pad with air mattress for maximum comfort and warmth.
I used to have a self-inflating pad but upgraded to a lighter and more comfortable Therm-a-Rest NeoAir Xlite mattress. It’s much more expensive but weights close to nothing and provides comfort and good insulation from the ground.
Take a look below what your options are:
It is well worth investing in a good sleeping bag, as a proper night rest is crucial for the success of a whole backpacking trip. For summer, it might be a better idea to get cheaper synthetic bag, as the difference in weight between down and synthetic bags isn’t all that big. For colder nights, down bags are generally a better choice: they provide much better insulation for the weight. They require special care - when wet they simply don’t work. But they can serve you well for many years! To learn more about down bags, click on the link.
Check below for some high-quality sleeping bags for women:
Cooking stove - There are a lot of choices out there, I currently use the Jetboil MiniMo gas cooker am pretty happy with it. It boils water very fast and I have control over the flame. There is really no reason to use open fires at all - no matter the weather. Gas cookers are safer and cleaner. You have a lot of choice in alcohol, gas or solid fuel stoves. I advise to get a simple gas stove or an integrated stove (like the Jetboil) - they are easy to use, lightweight, and gas canisters are generally pretty easy to buy.
Check your options in gas stoves below:
Pot - You don’t need a whole set of pots and pans. If you use the Jetboil style of cookers, then you don't need a separate pot. If you opt for a regular gas cooker, grab one pot, max. 1L - you really don't need anything bigger than that when you hike solo. Learn all about the different pots, dishes and containers in this article.
Additional kitchen items
You don’t need many things unless you are the camping gourmet chef. For a solo hiker, there is no need for dishes - just eat directly from the pot. A spoon (or spork), a knife, and a mug should complete the set. If you like drinking coffee (like me), you might want to add a coffee dripper or other device to brew fresh coffee in the Wild. There is no need we should suffer bad instant coffee while backpacking!
Check out below if you have all you need!
Camera - You do want to have a camera on you! This year I upgraded to Sony a6300 from Sony rx100 m3 I used for a few years. I also was taking photos with my phone camera when it was raining - it's waterproof. I find taking photos an important part of the experience. Not everyone is like that - but it’s worth taking at least a few pics to have something to help the memory.
Power bank - I hate running out of juice and battery dying on your phone is not just an annoying thing - it’s a safety thing. Our phones die faster in the outdoors - cold weather, navigating apps, camera - all drain the battery. Make sure you have a power bank suitable for the needs. If you plan on hiking for a few days with no way to recharge (many mountain shelter or campsites might have no access to electricity), take a strong power bank - even if it adds quite some weight to your load.
Adapter - you might need it depending on your country of origin and destination.
Kindle - I know, it's not a must but I find it necessary. Not only to relax after a long day (and you can read with no light on because it's light so long in Norway!) but also store important information - documents with your insurance, trail guides and descriptions, flight info, bus schedules etc.
Hand-held GPS and personal safety devices - For added security and safety, you may want to consider purchasing one of these devices. They won’t be much of help on a popular, well-marked trail. But if you go into areas with no signal and high risk of bad weather, they can be of great help.
Headlight - you always have to have it when hiking. If you camp with others or stay at mountain shelters, it’s good to get a headlight with red light options, so you don’t blind everyone around.
Selfie stick or a small tripod - I often use rocks and other natural supports for a tripod, but a real one can be really helpful!
Phone with useful apps (like View Ranger) and GPS. It’s worth buying a waterproof phone or phone case.
Take a look below for some ideas:
Hiking & Camping Advice
Learning new skills is absolutely crucial - some of it we do through trial and error, to dial in our needs, what works and what doesn’t. But many things we can learn from others and save the unpleasant experiences. Why do all the mistakes if others did them before you?
Over the years I’ve created quite the library of hiking and camping tips and advice and I invite you to dive in and check them out.
Camping skills and tips:
Hiking advice and tips:
I’m sure you have your moments of doubt and are not sure sometimes if it’s even worth trying. Or maybe you worry you don’t fit with other adventurers as you see them in ads or Instagram profiles. I want to make sure you know you belong, that you are enough just the way you are. Trails are for all: no matter our age, size, skin color, sexual orientation or identity: we all have the right to enjoy Nature and reap the benefits of hiking.
Click on the links below, I hope they will put you in the right mood to start packing for your big (or micro) adventure!