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Hiking in Hawaii (Detailed Packing List)

Hiking in Hawaii (Detailed Packing List)

Planning a trip to Hawaii this year and hoping to include some hiking? Hiking in Hawaii is a must-do activity, as the eight major islands making up the state are filled with beautiful trails, jaw-dropping views, and plenty of places to swim.

Whether you’re looking for a challenging or relaxed hike, sandy beaches, or volcanic miles, there’s a trail for all abilities and interests. Regardless of which hike you choose, our 13 recommended packing list items below are absolutely essential to ensure you have an enjoyable time. 

What Should You Wear When Hiking In Hawaii?

When hiking in Hawaii you should wear lightweight, loose clothing including a t-shirt, hiking shorts (or running shorts), moisture-wicking socks, and a sun hat. You should also wear hiking boots or trail running shoes. 

Some of the hiking trails can go up to 10,000 feet, in which case you should plan on the temperatures being significantly cooler. Always check the weather beforehand (I prefer to see the weather forecast and temperatures for the exact area you’re going to hike.

For the higher elevation trails, plan to bring a warm jacket just in case.  

Many people make the mistake of going out on a hike in their swimsuit (hello, chafing), and sandals (blisters) and without other essentials like sunscreen protection, electrolytes, or food.

While many trails in Hawaii might be filled with places to take a dip, you still need to be prepared for the heat and sunshine and bring things to stay comfortable. 

13 packing list must-haves when hiking in Hawaii:

1. Backpack

You’ll need a backpack for any trail you hike to carry the other important items you’ll be bringing, including your water. The REI Flash 22 Pack is perfect for a day hike and has plenty of room for everything you need and then some.

It’s comfortable and easy to walk around in. If you’re shopping online for a pack and can’t decide which one is the best fit for you, head over to a local gear shop and try a few on to get a better idea. 

2. Sunscreen

Hawaii has a lot of sunshine. Even if it’s raining and cloudy in one spot, you could probably bet it’s sunny somewhere else. It’s always a good idea to bring sunscreen with you (and lather up before you start your hike) to make sure you have constant sun protection.

And don’t forget about your lips – I always have an SPF 15 or higher chapstick on hand and reapply it throughout the day. 

Also read: Which Sunscreen is Best for Trekking?

3. Electrolytes

All that sunshine and 70-degree or warmer temperatures mean you’re also going to sweat, losing crucial electrolytes that keep you going. My favorite electrolyte powder currently is by Skratch.

I pour this into my water during and after hot hikes and it always does the trick so that I don’t crash out there. They also sell the electrolyte powder in single-serve packets which are really easy to use on trail. 

4. Sun Hat

Ever notice how being in the hot sun for hours can completely zap the energy out of you? Protecting your face and head from the sun will help keep you feeling good, so make sure to pack a good quality sun hat.

Choose a hat that can easily fold up and packed into your suitcase, and that is adjustable so it doesn’t leave you with a headache. 

Also read: Best Hiking Hat for Sun? (7 Crowd Favorites)

pack a sun hat for hawaii hiking

5. Moisture-Wicking Hiking Socks

Moisture-wicking socks are important for your Hawaii hike to help keep your feet blister-free. I prefer socks with a lower ankle height when it’s warm outside because it helps keep my feet cooler.

Speaking of blisters, another way to prevent them in addition to wearing the right types of socks is by allowing your feet to air out when you’re taking breaks during your hike. So when you sit down for a snack, remove your shoes and socks and let your feet breathe (they’ll thank you for it later). 

6. Water Bottle

Bringing a water bottle is a must while hiking in Hawaii. However, it doesn’t serve much of a purpose unless you bring one that can hold the amount of water you’ll actually need. Consider bringing something that has the capacity to carry at least 2 liters of water or 3 liters.

Hydration bladders often have a larger water capacity compared to traditional water bottles and weigh less. They’re also easy to drink out of since you won’t need to remove the entire water bottle from your bag. 

7. Lightweight Clothing

Keeping your clothing loose and lightweight is the pro move. Wear a shirt that is quick-drying and keeps moisture away (it also prevents the shirt from sticking to your back).

Same goes for the shorts – I always wear running shorts when hiking because they’re comfortable and allow for easy movements. 

8. Swimsuit

Many trails in Hawaii have waterfalls and swimming holes, and of course, there are many beaches. Definitely add a swimsuit to your bag when you head out for your hike.

If you are heading out to a trail with water, always do your research beforehand to make sure swimming is allowed. 

bring swimsuit hiking in hawaii

9. Trail Runners or Hiking Boots

While tempting to run out the door for your hike in flip-flops, do not be that person. Just like any other hike, you’ll need supportive shoes such as trail runners or hiking boots.

Sometimes the terrain can also be muddy, depending on the time of year and location, making it helpful to have shoes with good traction. 

10. Snacks

Snacks are always a good idea to bring with you. Even if you think you’ll only be hiking for a short period of time. That way if you do end up wanting to stay out hiking longer than planned, you won’t have to turn around for lack of food.

Consider packing a variety of things, such as beef jerky or these maple salmon strips, chips, a favorite candy, and/or dried fruit. 

11. Bug Spray

If you plan on hiking near pools of water or in the jungle, you’ll probably need bug spray. The good news is if you end up not needing it after all, it’s so lightweight you’ll forget you even carried it along with you. 

12. Sunglasses

This might just be one of the items you get the most use out of during your trip to Hawaii. Polarized sunglasses will help protect your eyes from all that sunshine.

Look for ones that reduce glare (polarized), are lightweight, and will stay in place while you’re hiking around (no slipping down your nose while you’re trying to take in those ocean views).

Some companies also allow you to virtually try on their frames, giving you a good idea before you buy if they fit your face correctly. 

pack sunglasses for hiking in hawaii

13. Pee Cloth

There’s a very likely chance you’ll have to pee on trail, in which case I highly recommend the Kula Cloth – it’s an antimicrobial pee cloth that is reusable, clean, and discreet. This is one of my absolute favorite pieces of gear right now and I bring it with me every single time I head out on a hike. 

Also read: Female Hygiene While Backpacking: Everything You Need To Know

Hiking in Hawaii: Frequently Asked Questions

Is hiking in Hawaii hard?

Hiking in Hawaii has a wide variety of hard trails, easier trails, and everything in between. You can choose between 1-mile trails or 20+ mile trails. Hike on sand, dirt, or rock.

The landscape and climate can drastically change based on where exactly you’re hiking, so there’s something for everyone. How challenging you find a hike will depend on your current experience level. 

How do I prepare for hiking in Hawaii?

The best way to prepare for hiking in Hawaii is to do some research beforehand. Read about the trails you would like to hike and start putting together a list. Based on which trails you’re interested in, you can start gathering the clothing and other essential items you need for those trails. 

Is hiking in Hawaii cold?

Hiking in Hawaii can feel cold, depending on where you go. If you hike the Mauna Kea-Humu’ula Trail, you’ll reach just over 13,000 feet and that can be very cold and very windy.

However, the majority of hikes in Hawaii are warm and temperatures can be in the 70s or 80s (with slightly cooler temps in the early morning hours). Always check the weather before you head out. 

Do we need hiking boots in Hawaii?

You should wear hiking boots in Hawaii or trail running shoes, whichever you are most comfortable hiking in normally. This type of footwear will be the most supportive for your feet while providing the traction needed on the trail.

If you plan to go for a dip or swimming, you can always add a pair of lightweight sandals to your bag. 

Do you need bug spray hiking in Hawaii?

You typically only need bug spray in Hawaii if you’re going on hikes that will be in the jungle or near water. The climate in these areas tends to be humid, attracting mosquitoes, which makes it a good idea to have some bug spray on you just in case. 

Up Next:

Which Hawaiian Island is Best for Hiking?

10 Best National Park Day Hikes: Western U.S.

Top 20 Best Day Hikes in the World

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