Minimalist Travel

Minimalist Hiking: My Minimalist Hiking Gear List

I’ve been travelling solo for over 19 years and I managed to downsize from a 75-litre backpack to a 24-litre backpack. Moreover, I can fit less than 7kg of belongings into this small backpack and travel with it as a carry-on. I saved a ton of money from checking in my luggage!

I used the same minimalist packing principles to create my minimalist packing list for travel so it only make sense to put together a minimalist hiking gear list for day hikes.

If you have been following me, you might know that I’m a bit obsessed with packing minimally. Yup, I like to travel with as little as possible. And it’s the same for hiking. I like to only bring what I need and nothing more.

In this post, I’ll share with you everything I bring for my hiking day trip and how you can create your own set of minimalist hiking gear.

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Tips on selecting the best minimalist hiking gear

I always try to pack with a minimalist mindset when it comes to travelling and hiking. The less I bring, the most I am focused on my trip. And less weight on my back!

Every item on my minimalist hiking gear list is either lightweight, compact, collapsible or expandable and are multi-purpose.

When you are gathering your minimalist hiking gears for a day hike, follow these tips:

  1. Always select the lightest gear
  2. Choose a collapsible/foldable version
  3. Choose items that have multiple purpose
  4. Choose items that are reusable

My minimalist hiking gear list: 9 gears for a minimalist hiker

Below is a short list of all the minimalist hiking gears I bring for my day hikes. I use every single item on this list and don’t need anything more.

Here is the list. I will elaborate more on each item in the next section.

  1. 13L minimalist hiking backpack
  2. 2L hydration pack
  3. 1 tri-fold hiking pole
  4. A pair of hiking gloves
  5. Minimalist hiking accessories – carabiner, first aid kit, sunblock, sunglasses, adjustable phone tripod
  6. 1 or 2 reusable ziplock bags (with food)
  7. Smartphone
  8. A set of layered hiking clothes – tank top, short tights, long sleeve top, hat
  9. A pair of hiking shoes

1. Minimalist Hiking Backpack

An excellent start to packing all your hiking gear is to start with the best minimalist hiking backpack. Some of my favourite brands of hiking backpacks include Osprey, Lululemon and Black Diamond.

Currently, I am using the Lululemon Run All Day Backpack 13L. I prefer a smaller hiking backpack so I am not tempted to bring too many items but it is big enough for my folded hiking pole. And this minimal pack has two functional side pockets where I can put an extra water bottle and phone. And it has a back ventilation panel that keeps my back cool and dry.

Below is the criteria I use for selecting my minimalist hiking backpack:

  • Size: between 13 to 20L
  • Pockets: 2 quick-access side pockets, small zippered pocket for personal items
  • Back ventilation: folded back panel or mesh
  • Features: compartment for hydration pack
  • Material: water-repellent, ultra-lightweight

2. Hydration Pack

A hydration pack is a must for all minimalist hikers. Essentially, it is a water bladder made with a flexible rubber and has a drinking hose attached to it.

It sounds simple but it is highly functional. You can easily take a sip of water from the tube without taking the actual bottle out of your backpack. This is especially useful when you’re not able to take a water break on a strenuous hiking trail. And it minimizes the risk of losing a water bottle on a steep hill (I know because I watched my water bottle roll down a mountain).

I use a 2L hydration pack for most of my hiking trips. For hikes longer than 7 hours or on a really hot day, I fill my water bladder to the top and add an additional squeeze water bottle.

Here are some features to look for when you buy a hydration pack:

  • Size: 2-3L
  • Features: bite valve at the end of tube, detachable tube
  • Material: 100% BPA free rubber or flexible plastic

3. Hiking Poles

Not every minimalist hiker need a hiking pole. For a long time, I didn’t use one especially for the easy to intermediate hikes. But for the advanced hills, I like using one hiking pole for trekking down a steep mountain because I don’t want to injure my knees.

Yes, I said one hiking pole. Some hikers prefer using two trekking poles because they provide more balance. But personally, I don’t see the benefits of using two poles (and I don’t want to carry more than I have) which is why I only bring one hiking pole.

And I prefer the collapsible and tri-fold hiking pole instead of extendable hiking pole because it is smaller and more compact. It’s easy to either put inside your hiking backpack or strap it on the outside.

When you buy your hiking pole(s), make sure to look for these features:

  • Foldable or Extendable: easy to unfold or extend
  • Features: adjustable height, ergonomic grip
  • Material: lightweight aluminium

4. Hiking Gloves

Sometimes a pair of hiking gloves really comes in handy when you need to clamber up the hill or balance yourself while going down the mountain. And if you are hiking during cooler seasons, they can keep your hands warm too.

But honestly, you don’t need to buy a fancy pair of hiking gloves. A pair of utility gloves work just as well and it is cheaper. As long as the gloves can protect your hands when you climb up and down the hill, then it’s all good.

Here are some of the things to look for when you are searching for a pair of hiking gloves:

  • Must-have features: snug fit, breathable material, superior grip
  • Nice-to-have features: touchscreen compatible, water resistant

5. Minimalist Hiking Accessories

When it comes to hiking, every minimalist hiker will have their own set of accessories that they want to have in their hiking pack. It all depends on the type of hiking trail, the duration of the hike, etc.

For most of my day hikes, I always bring a carabiner, first aid kit, and sunblock. I might even have some other random things like hair clips, Kleenex, wet wipes and etc. And I would even take an adjustable phone tripod so I can take photos for my blog.

Use the follow list as a start to create your own list of hiking accessories:

  • Carabiner: useful for hanging items that require easy access (like hiking gloves, poles)
  • Sun protection: sunblock, sunglasses
  • Adjustable phone tripod: the flexible tripod legs can stand on uneven rocks or wrap around branches
  • Headlamp: excellent for hiking at night and exploring caves
  • First aid kit: including bandaids, mosquito repellent, after-bite
  • Other items: Kleenex, wet wipes, hair clips, hair tie

6. Reusable Ziplock Bag

Food is a big part of hiking. For short hikes, I like to bring a banana and trail mix. For longer hikes, I add a sandwich and maybe even some chocolate. And I put them into one or two reusable ziplock bags.

And the reusable ziplock bag has an additional function: trash bag. It is excellent for collecting little bits of rubbish you might accumulate throughout the day. Whether it is a Kleenex or candy wrappers, I hold onto these items and throw them away at the end of the day.

But if you already have regular plastic ziplock bags at home, that’s fine too. You can always wash it afterwards and reuse it for the next hiking trip.

7. Smartphone

Having an excellent smartphone is crucial for any minimalist hiker. The small device can replace a camera, an actual map, a compass, a guidebook, etc. It’s a powerful device – as long as it is fully charged.

I have been using my Samsung Galaxy Note 10+ Plus for the past 2 years and is one of my must-have travel items for every trip. It is excellent for work travel or backpacking around the world. And for hiking, I rely on my smartphone for these functions:

  • Camera: my phone has a wide lens camera and takes excellent photos
  • Navigation: I mostly use Google Maps to navigate hiking trails
  • Check schedules for bus, ferry, subway: either online or through an app
  • Download special hiking apps: there are special apps that can help with your hiking journey. i.e. Hong Kong has an app called “Hiking Trail HK” and it shows hiking routes that is not in Google Maps
  • Online hiking guides or blogs: if I need to refer back to the hiking guides or blogs I found during research, I have the option of checking it online while on hiking on the trail

8. Minimalist Hiking Clothes

Wearing the right type of hiking clothes can really support your activities throughout the day. Similar to how I create my travel wardrobe, I buy different pieces of hiking clothes that I can mix and match.

To start, I always select high quality hiking clothes that are made with fabric that allows for mobility, moisture-wicking and quick-drying. Most athletic wear contain Lycra fibre which is a highly breathing material that allows for shape retention and low heat retention.

Then I put together a hiking outfit that consists of several layers. The number of layers depends on the temperature, your sensitivity to heat, etc. I find that dressing in layers is the best way when it comes to hiking because you can easily take off a layer and put it back on later on.

I’ve been a fan of Lululemon’s athletic wear for many years because the quality of their clothes. Even though their clothes are on the higher end of the scale, but they last for many years. I still have tank tops from 10 years ago!

Whenever I go for a day hike, I always wear the following items:

  • Shorts or cropped leggings: must have pockets (for smartphone)
  • Tank top: fast-drying, sweat-wicking
  • Long sleeve top: zipper top, pockets with zippers, UV protection
  • Sports bra: supportive and fast-drying
  • Socks: ankle hiking socks
  • Hat: lightweight

9. Minimalist Hiking Shoes

In order to have a safe and successful hiking trip, you must invest in a good pair of minimalist hiking shoes. Some of my favourite brands of hiking shoes and boots include Merrell, Keen, Salomon and Columbia.

Currently, I am loving my pair of Merrell Moab 2 hiking shoes. The Merrell hiking shoes have durable leather, supportive footbed, and a high-performance rubber sole that has excellent traction. I am generally a clumsy person so having good traction is important to me. And I feel totally confident wearing these hiking shoes even on the most difficult trails.

And when you invest in a good pair of hiking shoes, it can last for a very long time. I read a review for these Merrell hiking shoes and he hiked over 1,200km in these shoes! Pretty impressive!

Whether you buy a pair of Merrell or other brands of hiking shoes, here are a few things to look for:

  • Hiking shoes or boots: pick hiking boots if you need ankle support
  • Must-have features: deep rubber soles with slip resistance, excellent support (especially if you have flat feet)
  • Material: ventilated/breathable

Related Post Minimalist Christmas Gift Guide: What to buy someone who doesn’t want anything

Final words on minimalist hiking gear

I’ve been practicing my minimalist mindset for many years now. It has helped me travel light, save money and focus on what is more important in life. And I use a similar mindset when it comes to packing for a day hike.

So please use this list of minimalist gear as a guideline to create your own hiking gear list. Everyone has their own personal likes and dislikes and your hiking trip may require you to bring certain items that are not part of this list. Use this list as a base and build on your own set of minimalist hiking gear that suits you. 

I hope you find this post useful for packing all your hiking gears. When you challenge yourself to pack less for a day hike, it can really pay off. And you don’t need to buy all the accessories in the world in order to have a good hike. You can spend minimally and invest in good quality accessories that can last a long time.

Let me know in the comments if this list is helpful to you or if you have any minimalist hiking tips you want to share.

Thank you for reading my post on minimalist hiking gear

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About Author

Hi, my name is Queenie, and I've been a solo traveller for 20+ years and currently based in Hong Kong. Follow me on my adventures through Instagram and my blog!

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