The Ultimate Gear Guide For Hiking In Southern California

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I do a lot of individual gear reviews on Trail to Peak, but in this post I’ll be providing a comprehensive hiking gear guide for trails in Southern California. I will cover backpacks, clothing, footwear, accessories, electronics, cameras, nutrition, and more! We are blessed to have a variety of trail types in Southern California. Within an hours drive, I can find trails on rocky 10,000ft mountain peaks, sandy desert paths, scenic ocean bluffs, or shaded foothills. Having hiked thousands of miles on these varied hiking trails, I’ve put together what I think is an optimal kit to have you prepared for anything these trails will throw at you.

The Ultimate Gear Guide For Hiking In Southern California

*Last Updated January 2018*

Every good hiking gear list begins with the “10 Essentials Of Hiking”. Developed in the 1930’s by a group of Seattle based climbers and adventurers called The Mountaineers, the 10 essentials were developed to help prepare aspiring outdoorists for emergency situations. I’ve listed all 10 essential items below, and you will find my specific products for each essential item in the following category tables.

The “10 Essentials Of Hiking”:

1.) Navigation (Map, Compass, GPS) 2.) Sun Protection (Chap stick, Sunglasses, Sunscreen)
3.) Insulation (Warm layers) 4.) Illumination (Head Lamp)
5.) First Aid Kit 6.) Fire Starter And Matches/Lighter
7.) Repair Kit, Knife, Tools 8.) Nutrition And Food
9.) Water And Hydration 10.) Emergency Shelter And Protection

My hiking gear bag post has been broken down into the following categories:


I rotate between a few backpacks for hiking. My first choice for shorter hikes and fast days is my Ultimate Direction Fastpack 35. This pack is built like a running vest, but also packs 35 liters of storage that can be cinched down on days the pack is empty. The UD Fastpack 35 doesn’t handle heavy loads well, so when I have a little more gear, I go with my Hyperlite Mountain Gear 2400 Southwest. This pack is super light and has 40L of storage. This is also my pack of choice for light overnighters. The comfort range for the HMG 2400 Southwest tops out at around 30lbs, so if for whatever reason I need more than that, I’ll carry my Osprey Exos 48. I prefer the Exos 48 for my backpacking outings, but every now and again I’ll use it for hiking, too. The final pack in my rotation is the Osprey Poco Premium. I use this heavy beast of a pack when carrying my toddler.

Item Use Weight
Osprey Exos 48 (Review) Longer Days And Winter Hikes 40 oz
HMG 2400 Southwest (Review) Long days 31 oz
UD Fastpack 35 (Review) Fast and light days 26 oz
Osprey Poco Premium Hiking with my son 119 oz

The Ultimate Gear Guide For Hiking In Southern California

What I’m Wearing:

I have a pretty standard kit for hiking that includes a Nike golf hat, Julbo sunglasses, Nike shorts, and an Arc’teryx Motus longsleeve or Patagonia Capilene longsleeve. I’ll rotate sunglasses depending on conditions. You can read more about that on the post I did for Julbo lenses. I’ve added my cold weather clothes at the bottom of this table as well. I don’t need them very often here in California, but for high mountain peaks and hikes in the winter months, they get quite a bit of good use.

Item Use Weight
Nike Golf Hat Every Hike  2.1 oz
Julbo Bivouak Sunglasses Long hiking days, snow, ice 1.1 oz
Patagonia Capilene Longsleeve Warm weather hikes 3 oz
Arc’teryx Motus Longsleeve Every Hike 4 oz
Nike Impossibly Light Jacket All Seasons (40-60degrees) 3 oz
Buff Headband Sun Protection And Warmth 2 oz
Arc’teryx Atom LT Jacket Cold Days (0-32degrees) 13.4 oz
Marmot Precip Rain Jacket Cold Rainy Days 13 oz
Nike Freedom Running Shorts Most Hikes 3.8 oz
Outdoor Research Voodoo Pant Cold Days (0-32degrees) 12 oz
Exofficio Brief Every Hike 2.2 oz
Darn Tough 1/4 Sock Every Hike 2 oz

The Ultimate Gear Guide For Hiking In Southern California

The Ultimate Gear Guide For Hiking In Southern California


As you can see by the size of this table, footwear is my favorite category! I could have easily added a few more rows to this table given the number of trail shoes I rotate, but wanted to stick to my favorites. Two notable shoes that almost made the list but are still in the testing phase are the new Salomon XA Pro 3D and Salomon X Ultra 3.

Item Use Weight
La Sportiva Akasha (Review) Longer Technical Days 14.1 oz
Salomon Sense Ride (Review) Longer days with smooth trails 14.1 oz
La Sportiva TX3 (Review) Scrambling and rocky trails 14.1 oz
La Sportiva Bushido (Review) Heavy pack and scrambling 13.3 oz
La Sportiva Mutant (Review) Loose Or Wet Terrain 13.5 oz
La Sportiva Crossover 2.0 (Review) Snow And Ice 14.4 oz

Gear Review: La Sportiva TX3 Approach Shoe For Hiking


These are gear items that I don’t bring along on every hike, but they still find their way into my gear back throughout the year. The weights listed for the water bottles include water. I take a minimum of two liters per hike, and sometimes will take up to five. I like to mix Tailwind into my water, which you’ll see in the nutrition section below.

Item Use Weight
Black Diamond Trail Pro Poles Most Hikes  23 oz
Black Diamond Storm Headlamp Morning/Night 4 oz
1L CamelBak Bottles Every Hike  26 oz
1L Smartwater Bottles With Filter  25 oz
Sawyer Mini Filter When Needed  2 oz
Hillsound Trail Crampons Snow And Ice  15.7 oz
Homemade Tyvek Rainkilt Rainy Days  2.5 oz
Multi-Tool Every Hike  5 oz
Firestarter (cotton balls w/ vaseline) Long Hikes  2 oz
Waterproof Matches Long Hikes  1 oz
Suunto Compass With Maps Long Hikes  1.1 oz
Emergency Blanket Long Hikes  2.9 oz

The Ultimate Gear Guide For Hiking In Southern California

Electronics and Photography:

This is my standard camera and electronics set up. I take my Sony a6000 on most hikes, but sometimes will only take my phone if I’m looking to cut weight. I take my Delorme inReach on hikes that don’t receive cell service. It adds weight, but I like the peace of mind.

Item Use Weight
Sony a6000 + Sony 10-18mm Lens Every Hike 12+9 oz
Sony a7rii + Zeiss Batis 18mm Every Hike 22+12 oz
iPhone 7 w/ Bose Headphones Every Hike  8 oz
Delorme InReach Trails w/o Cell Service  7 oz
Garmin Fenix 5 Every Hike 3.2 oz

The Ultimate Gear Guide For Hiking In Southern California

Nutrition and Health:

This is my standard nutrition pack. I mix tailwind with my water prehike and drink that along the way. It adds 200 calories to each bottle. I usually take and consume two vFuel gel packs and one ProBar. I apply sunblock and chap stick before and during my hikes.

Item Use Weight
Tailwind Drink Mix Every Hike  3 oz
VFuel Gels Every Hike  1.1 oz
ProBar Meal Bars Longer Hikes  3.1 oz
Neutrogena Sunblock Every Hike <1 oz
Burt’s Bees Lip Balm Every Hike <1 oz
First Aid Kit Every Hike 2 oz

Disclosure: All product links provided in this post are affiliate links. Purchases made using these affiliate links go to support the content created here at Trail to Peak at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your support!

The Ultimate Gear Guide For Hiking In Southern California


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41 thoughts on “The Ultimate Gear Guide For Hiking In Southern California”

  1. Interesting to see La Sportiva as 3 of your top 4 shoes. I have the Ultra Raptors and love them. Makes me confident I’m not missing out when someone into trail runners as much as you are speaks so highly of them.

    • La Sportiva makes great shoes. I love the Ultra Raptor as well. Their size 47 consistently fit my feet well. The grip of their FriXion outsoles are another huge advantage. I’m really looking forward to trying the new Akyra model that comes out this Winter. It’s a mix between the Ultra Raptor and Akasha.

  2. Perfect list! It’s so important to get the little things right for hiking: boots that fit well and are well broken in, a bag to carry out your rubbish, and – most importantly – a pack that fits well.

  3. I LOVE your website!!!! I’m so happy I happened upon it, though I wish it would’ve happened sooner. I did Salkantay trek last year and am doing Ausungate trek this year… your pics and explanation make me so excited and nervous!!!

    I wonder if you have a similar list like this for women. I want to be sure I am prepared for the cold- I get cold pretty easily. Thanks!


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