Learn from a pro about hiking necessities 

By Jane Marshall



You’re in your gear room, be it the garage or basement. Pack is on the floor. The forecast is for sunshine. You think:

All I need is the essentials. I can pack light. It will be fine!

But what if it’s not?

Packing for a hike is about striking a balance. You want to be light. But you also want to be safe.

My husband Mike is always the one to throw in an extra coil of rope and a tarp. I, on the other hand, try to get away with as little as possible. Sometimes he looks wistfully at my pack with perhaps a sliver of jealousy, while other times I bum gear and comfort items off him and think, ‘how could I have forgotten to pack that?’

So what is TRULY NECESSARY when heading into the wilderness? I reached out to a professional to see what she packs, and what she advises her clients to pack.

Olivia Sofer is an ACMG certified hiking and ski guide. She takes people on guided excursions through her company Wild Trips Wilderness Adventures. With over 15 years of experience, Olivia has the perfect pack to peek into. Or should I say, peak into? (Notice the pun?)

Here we go. Unbuckling the clips. Loosening the drawstring. Here’s what Olivia carries as a guiding professional.

  • Small tarp that fits at least 6 people under it 
  • First Aid kit (suited to persons on the trip, for example if kids, then kid bandaids and disinfectant, antihistamines; if adults, then aspirin for heart attacks and tensor wraps for bad knees etc.), blister kit
  • Communication device other than cell phone for remote areas like an InReach
  • Rain jacket and pants
  • Headlamp
  • Firestarter  
  • Leatherman or other multi tool
  • Hiking pole
  • Water, at least 1.5 to 2 litres and water purification aids like tablets or filter
  • Food, lots of high energy carb rich foods for a hiking day
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Toilet paper with a ziplock bag to carry out used TP, hand sani
  • Ball cap or sunhat
  • Toque, gloves
  • Warm layer and sun layer
  • Map, compass, guidebook
  • Bug spray if needed

Thanks for sharing, Oliva!


Now time for YOUR pack.

Inspiration and Pro Tips:

If you’re a visual person, here’s a look at my pack. It’s a 40 +5L Deuter ski touring pack that I use year-round because I like its size.


A couple lightweight extras I like to bring:

  • Foam butt pad
  • Toe warmers (can be used to warm hands or core)

Note: I often bring a toque, but sometimes I rely on layers with hoods. I also bring toilet paper, though to be honest, I try not to use it!

Your turn. Happy packing, happy hiking!