What to bring and how to dress on your next hike

Hello everyone, today I want to share with you my packing list when I am going on hikes for a day or for several days.

Words and photos by Mervyn Ravitchandirane

The science of layering:

In any outdoor activity, it’s very important to know how to dress up. It can even be a lifesaver! So here is a quick 3 step guide on the main functions of each layer of clothes.

The first layer is perhaps the most important of all! Its role is to keep you dry while evacuating the humidity generated during physical exertion. Avoid cotton which will retain moisture during exercise and cold during breaks. Prioritize the first layers in Merino Wool for its climate management properties in both hot and cold climates.

The second layer aims to keep you warm. Depending on the climate, you can opt for fleece type material which provides good warmth but can be a bit bulky if carried in a bag. Or you can opt for clothing such as a lightweight synthetic or a down jacket. Note that synthetic has better performance in humid climates than down. So your best choice should be according to the forecast weather. The purpose of the last layer is to protect you from bad weather i.e heavy winds, rain, snow, etc. But must also allow the humidity generated during exercise to be evacuated. That is why you should opt for a membrane with breathable characteristics such as Gore-Tex that will meet these criteria. It’s up to you to adjust according to your expectations in terms of protection, but also in terms of packing room if you plan to transport it in a bag.

These different layers are essential but can also be adjusted according to the climate. In a cold and dry climate without wind, the use of a first and second layer is sufficient. While in hot and rainy weather you can be satisfied with the first and third layer.

What I wear for all hikes:

This is my basic outfit when I am going outdoors for a day trip.

warm1 Jacket

Provides great warmth and I love the shoulder and elbow reinforcement.

equaliser merino round Neck

The best base layer to keep you cool when hot and warm when cold, all without being wet!

heavy duty Pants

My favorite hiking pants, ultra-durable and breathable.

Gore-Tex Pro Light Jacket

Or the tamok Gore-Tex thermo80 Jacket – depending on the season and activity but both provide a very good all-weather

Thin Logo Beanie

Hat or beanie depending on the climate – important to protect your head from the sun in summer or cover your ears in winter. Can also help in case of a mosquito situation.

mid weight Merino Socks

Great versatile socks. The socks are almost as important as shoes to avoid any discomfort or blisters during hikes. And a pair of waterproof hiking shoes or boots suited to terrain and weather.

35L Pack

For short day trips.

50L dri Pack

For multi-day hikes.

What I bring for all hikes:

A basic setup to be kept in your backpack, useful in every situation. Even if you want a lightweight pack, it’s important to carry safety/emergency equipment, especially in remote areas. On a very long trip, it can be a good idea to bring an extra meal in case you have to stay longer on the field. Also, don’t forget to inform someone of your trip and when you expect to be back.

  • Small first aid kit and emergency blanket – must have when going outdoors as it can be helpful for you or someone else. The kit should be composed of band-aids, blister band-aids, hygienic cleansing wipes, wound care dressing, elastic bandages, etc…
  • Duct Tape – you can fix just about everything with it.
  • Multi-tool/knife.
  • Matches or lighter.
  • A fully charged cell phone – phone coverage is now more and more reliable in most places, but signals might be weak in remote areas. Head to higher ground to get a better connection. Phone batteries drain quicker in the cold so carry your phone inside your clothing.
  • Sunglasses and sun protection – don’t mess with the sun!
  • Water – in a hydration bladder or in an insulated bottle during wintertime.
  • Food – snacks.
  • Map of the area – even if you know the area it can be really useful for example for naming the precise place you are in case of emergency.
  • Headlight – super important! If you arrive at your camp spot too late and have to set up your tent in the dark, or just to have a source of light in your tent at night.
  • Small bag for trash.

What I wear and bring for multi-days hikes:

Same as my basic outfit but with a complete spare setup in case it gets wet. Your spare outfit should be packed down in dry bags to ensure that your dry clothes are… dry. You don’t know what can happen on the way (ex: if you have to cross streams or if you have rainy weather all day long). 

It’s important to stay dry in every circumstance to avoid hypothermia; even in summer it can be cold at night, and you don’t want to be freezing on your campsite. I also wear gaiters to avoid snow or mud going inside my shoes. It can also be an extra protection when hiking in an area with snakes.

My basic setup and everything I need to be self-sufficient in the outdoors:

  • Water filtering pump – to avoid carrying too much water. In winter if the streams are frozen, melting and boiling the snow on a stove is a good way to have water.
  • Stove and cooking pot – I prefer using a multi-fuel stove to be able to use gas cans in summer and liquid fuel in really cold conditions. Don’t forget the matches to light your stove!
  • Gas can or fuel – quantity to be defined on your trip. If you plan to melt snow for water, better to take some extra cans.
  • Sleeping bags – two different types depending on the season. To be carried in a dry bag!
  • Inflatable sleeping mat – to keep you insulated from the ground and to sleep comfortably.
  • Tent – I prefer having a very roomy tent to be able to store my stuff inside.
  • Slippers or light shoes – to be able to dry your hiking boots at the campsite.
  • Power bank – to charge my phone/headlight/camera batteries.
  • Small rope – to be used to fix some stuff or hang your clothes to dry.
  • Accessories: spoon, toilet paper, toothbrush, etc…
  • Extra food and snacks.

In the bag:

Once you know what to pack, arranging these into an order is important. Of course, this list can be very different depending on how many days you plan to hike, the seasons, and your preferences. When traveling with a friend you can also manage to split the essential gear.

  • Place items in your bag correctly. Heavier items should be kept close to your body, making the load more bearable and comfortable.
  • Packing with thought also ensures that you have easy access to certain items during your hiking hours. Snacks, personal items, water, and waterproof clothes should all be easily accessible without having to unpack everything. Other less frequently used items should be placed deeper inside the pack.
  • Sleeping bag, tent and sleeping mat should be at the bottom, as you don’t need them before reaching your campsite.
  • A well-packed backpack should be able to stand straight on the ground without support.
  • Pack similar items together.
  • It’s easier to carry a backpack when the load is evenly distributed.
  • In winter when hiking with skis or snowshoes, the best way to carry your equipment is with a sled or a pulka. In the pulka, you can carry as much as twice the weight of your backpack almost effortlessly. Same as your backpack, the load in your pulka should be well distributed so that it doesn’t roll.

Pack it in, pack it out.

Avoid troublesome waste collection by removing all extra packaging that is not essential, especially from the food and snacks that you bring (cardboard boxes, plastic films, etc…), and be prepared to carry back home everything that you have carried in. Combustible waste, small amounts of clean paper and cardboard, can be burned in a campfire if you are allowed to light one. Never burn other kinds of waste such as aluminum foil or plastic packaging since it may leave a non-biodegradable residue or emit toxic fumes.

Enjoy the wilderness and remember to stay safe!

About Mervyn

Mervyn is a French outdoor enthusiast and photographer whose goal is to share what it feels and looks like to be in the remote and wild areas of the world. Working in the environment and the research fields, from the Antarctic deserts to the Finnish forests, passing the New Zealand mountains and the heat of the Indian Ocean.

Follow Mervyn on Instagram

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