Hiking Beginner’s Packing List for Essentials

If you’re new to the slopes, you may want to know what to wear and pack on your hikes. This is a hiking beginner’s packing list.

Sports Scientist Shona Hendriks provides an excellent guide to preparing for a hike – scroll down to the end.

packing list for hikers

Hiking packing list

This is my guide for novice hikers, based on my experience hiking in the Drakensberg, Swaziland, Golden Gate National Park, the Polish Tatras and all around Cape Town. You can read about my experience hiking in the Drakensberg here. 

Kit? Check. Gear? Check. Snacks? Check, check.

Kit? Check. Gear? Check. Snacks? Check, check.


The Basics

Hiking pants with zips for conversion in warmer weather

Polypropylene or synthetic t-shirt to wick away sweat

Long sleeved hiking shirt for sun protection in summer

Fleece layer


Sturdy hiking boots – wear these in a few weeks before.

Sock liners and appropriate hiking socks

Rain jacket or ponchoKat says: Never underestimate the Berg. Be prepared for fast-changing weather.

Lightweight backpack Shona says: Pack as light as possible. If you don’t have a very good level of fitness, that pack gets extremely heavy quickly.

Hiking poles

Vaseline or Glide – to prevent blisters on feet

Blister plasters

Basic medical kit with small scissor or utility knife

Hand wipes or tissues

Mace/pepper spray – a preventative measure


Small torch

Small towel

Lip balm


Kinesio tape for shins and knees

Water – consider a camel pack for hands-free drinking

Snacks – dark chocolate, unsalted nuts, wine gums/jelly babies for energy boosts.

Sandwiches – use rye or dark low GI bread and a protein like ham, cheese, tuna or boiled eggs. Pineapple wedges, apples, cucumber chunks and oranges are refreshing and hydrating.

what we ate on the Mololotja pothole hike

what we ate on the Mololotja pothole hike


Training Tips from Shona Hendriks, sports scientist

  1. Build cardiovascular endurance, strength in your legs and glutes, a conditioned core and perform proprioception and balance training [Ed: with a BOSU balance board, for example] to assist with the unstable, rocky ledges.
  2. Combine your routine with a mixture of endurance and strength training. Much of this can be done in the gym.
  3. For concentration, the fitter a person is, the longer (and more effectively) they will be able to concentrate.
  4. Keep hydrated and take plenty of water.
  5. Avoid very sugary snacks. Energy bars, dried fruit, wine gums and peanuts are good. Crackers with a protein like chicken or tuna are nutritious and easy to carry.
  6. For sustained energy, consume 20-30 grams of carbohydrates every hour, especially on long hikes, rather than one big meal. Use dinner to replenish your energy stores.
  7. Most injuries for an unconditioned person occur from falling or tripping while fatigued or from uncoordinated movements. Ensure you train sufficiently.


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