A list of the  essential equipment you’ll need for a mountain hike

A list of the essential equipment you’ll need for a mountain trek

Can you hear the mountains calling to you to set off on your first trek? Here is our checklist of essential items to bring with you so that you can fully enjoy your long-distance hike.

What do you need to take with you for a long hike or a walking tour in the mountains?

Here are our recommendations for a 2-day trek:

  1. 1 Clothing
  2. 2 Equipment
  3. 3 Hygiene and health
  4. 4 Accessories
  5. 5 How to prepare your bag

Is this your first trek?
Welcome to the community!

Things to know before you set off

When you set off to spend several days in the mountains alone, you need to be ready for all possible situations: weather changes, rest time, meals, etc. Preparing your equipment is a very important part of your trek.
The main thing to remember is that your equipment must be:
- Resistant and reliable – it mustn’t let you down along the way.
- Lightweight and compact because  you’ll be carrying your bag and emptying/refilling it several times.
- Comfortable and secure  because you’ll be walking for a long time in varying weather conditions. The most difficult thing is to figure out what you need in terms of comfort and protection!

If this is your first time trekking in the mountains, it is best to make plans to sleep in a refuge. This reduces the amount of equipment you need to take with you and therefore makes your bag lighter.
Hygiene is a personal matter and some people are reluctant to go without a wash for several days. Therefore, if the refuge has showers, it can be a good option. It is important to note that most refuges require prior booking: make all the necessary arrangements before you set off!

Whatever you choose, one thing is for sure: you are going to have an unforgettable experience in the mountains!
In order to continue to enjoy the beauty of these natural areas in the long term,  it is everyone's duty to hike in a responsible manner.

Below is a list of the essential equipment you’ll need for a 2-day hike: change it to suit the levels of comfort that you’re used to, your specific needs, the duration of your trek and the weather conditions.

1. What to wear on a 2-day trek: our list of clothes to pack

>> Basics:

☐ Enough underwear
If you plan to wear the same underwear for several days, opt for Merino wool as it limits the smell of perspiration
☐ A breathable short-sleeved t-shirt to stay dry
☐ A pair of trousers and/or shorts (or zip-off trousers) depending on the weather forecast
☐ A Merino wool neck gaiter that you can also use as a  headband or a hat
☐ Waterproof boots with good grip and preferably with high tops
Although a little heavier than your usual trainers, high-top shoes provide better ankle support and safety.
☐ 2–4 pairs of long socks, so that your shoes don’t rub against your skin
When you are starting out, two pairs per day is a good amount. Why? Because if you hike in wet socks, you can guarantee you’ll come home with blisters! So plan to change your socks several times a day, and to dry your wet ones out on your backpack if it is hot.
Flip-flops or other lightweight sandals.
Ideal for giving your feet some air after a long hike or for wearing in the shower at the refuge.

>> To protect yourself from the rain and the sun

☐ A waterproof jacket (hardshell) or a poncho in case it rains
☐ A pair of category 3 or 4 sunglasses
☐ A hat or cap
Although the neck gaiter offers some UV protection, a hat or cap has the advantage of not being too warm and offers extra protection if it has a visor.
☐ Possibly some waterproof gaiters for extra protection against the rain or morning dew.

The list of mountain trekking equipment: Merino wool
The list of mountain trekking equipment: Merino wool

The essentials: Merino wool

Soft, durable and odour-resistant, Merino wool is suitable for trekking and can be worn all year round.

packing a hiking backpack

2. Trekking equipment: what you should take with you for a walking tour in the mountains

>> The backpack:

Your choice of backpack is very important, as it must be able to hold all of your equipment, and it must be comfortable so that it is not difficult to carry on long walks.

A hiking backpack must:
- be big enough (in litres) for your needs: for a trek, we recommend larger backpacks of between 40 and 90 litres.
- be suitable for your back: male or female body type, adjustable back size, etc.
- suit the requirements of your sport: resistance, appropriate accessories and compartments, weight.
It is really important that you try it out when it is full before you buy it and that you learn how to pack and adjust it correctly. Before setting off, make sure your backpack has a rain cover.

Your choice of bag also depends on the type of trek you are planning:
>> If you opt for a trek where your bags can be carried for you, by donkeys for example, a 30–40L backpack will be big enough. You will be able to pack water, as well as snacks, rain gear and a first aid kit. The rest of your belongings will be in a soft, durable bag carried by your travelling companion.
>> If you opt for a trek with an overnight stay in a refuge, a slightly larger bag will be necessary. A 40–50L backpack should give you enough room for a sleeping bag, clothes, etc.
>> If you are going on a totally self-sufficient trek and plan to spend the night in a tent, you will need more equipment, so opt for a backpack with a volume of 50L or above.

>> Equipment you’ll need for sleeping in a bivouac or a refuge

>> Are you planning to spend the night in a refuge? You will only need: a sleeping bag liner, also known as a "meat bag". Earplugs could also be very useful as you’ll be sleeping in shared dormitories and some people may snore loudly, which might keep you awake. Some refuges do not provide blankets or pillows, so check before you set off to make sure you have the right equipment (duvet, inflatable pillow, etc.).

>> Are you planning to spend the night in a bivouac? Before you set off, make sure that bivouacking is allowed in the area where you are going. In terms of equipment, you will mainly need things that are lightweight and compact:
☐ A tent
☐ A mattress
☐ A sleeping bag and possibly a sleeping bag liner for extra warmth
Cooking equipment (stove, cooking pot, etc.) and freeze-dried meals
If you want to reduce the weight of your bag and not take anything to eat, some refuges allow you to bivouac on their grounds. So you could take a shower and eat a hot meal.

>> Are you planning to sleep under the stars? You will need:
☐ A mattress with a good R-value
☐ A duvet suitable for the temperatures expected during the night
☐ A bivvy bag to protect you from damp
☐ Optional: a tarp or tarp tent and poles in case of bad weather

For more details, read our article on the complete list of equipment to bring with you for your first bivouac. Also read our tips on how to make your first bivouac a success.

Essential small pieces of equipment for hiking: poles, and hydration and visibility equipment

A pair of walking poles
No, poles aren’t just for people with bad knees: they have many benefits for all hikers.
A water bottle, and/or a water bag, so that you can carry about 2 litres per day per person (if you plan to bivouac, you should take an extra 2 litres)
If you like to drink cold water all year round, including summer, opt for a double-walled water bottle. Also, take the time to look for water points on your route where you can recharge!
A headlamp so that you can move around a refuge discreetly, light up a bivouac or bring attention to yourself in case of danger
As an extra, you can also opt for a dynamo flashlight.

Renting hiking equipment
Renting hiking equipment

Get all of the equipment you need easily thanks to equipment rental

Buying all of the hiking equipment can be a significant financial investment and, if it is only used once, it takes up unnecessary space in your cupboards. Renting is a very good alternative and gives you access to top-of-the-range equipment.
A little extra: by renting, you are also engaging in sustainable consumption!

3. Hygiene, health and safety: list of equipment to remember to pack

Toilet paper, even if you plan to sleep in a refuge.
Toilet paper is used for everything on a trek. Ideally, opt for unbleached paper (i.e. not pink) and don’t leave it lying around once you’ve used it
☐ SPF50 sun cream
Biodegradable solid soap/shampoo to avoid polluting the groundwater if you have a wash surrounded by nature
☐ A toothbrush and biodegradable toothpaste
☐ A towel, preferably a microfibre one because they are more compact
☐ A reusable survival blanket
Sterile compresses and disinfectant for small wounds
Plasters and blister plasters
☐ A repair kit
☐ Possibly: tweezers (for splinters), a mosquito repellent (if the area you are going to is high risk, but this is rarely the case at altitude), a tick-removal tool, sanitary products

4. What accessories are useful for a trek?

Accessories for finding your way

Many hikers nowadays set off with their route on a smartphone. But if you prefer "unplugged" outings, you’ll need:
☐ A compass (practice using it before you set off)
☐ A map

Having both a map and a compass keeps you on the right path if ever the trail marking is sparse or not very clear, or if your smartphone runs out of battery. So these are two accessories to have on you "just in case" to avoid taking unwanted detours...

Non-essential but useful accessories for a trek

You should only take these accessories with you if you have space and/or a specific need for them.
☐ A water filter, a filtered water bottle and/or water purification tablets. Important if there aren’t any drinking water sources on your trail!
☐ A foam cushion, useful for protecting you from the dampness of the floor when eating or preparing the meal.
☐ An inflatable pillow: a luxury item, but one that many trekkers find it difficult to go without!

how to pack a hiking backpack

5. How to pack all of your hiking equipment in your bag

A well-packed bag is easy to carry! First of all, find out how much weight your bag can hold. Place the heaviest items close to your back to avoid losing your balance.

We suggest distributing the weight as follows:
- Top of the bag / top and side pockets: items you will need during the day (snacks, map, compass, spare socks, waterproof jacket, camera, etc.)
- Down the back: heavy items (stove, tent, food, lunch box, water bag, etc.)
- Bottom of the bag: medium-weight items (sleeping gear and spare items, etc.)
If the weather forecast looks ominous, put all of your belongings in waterproof bags to keep them dry in case of rain and quickly put your waterproof cover on your backpack.

This list of equipment is only a starting point: the best list is the one that you will build up as you have more and more experiences!

A list of the essential equipment you’ll need for a mountain hike

The Forclaz editorial team

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