Here's the essential clothing and gear you need — even for a day hike — in the Northeast's mountains in the spring, summer, or fall. Remember also to always check the weather and prepare for the worst conditions; make plans with your group's abilities in mind; and plan an alternate route in case of bad weather, injury, illness, or slower than expected travel time. Always be ready to turn back if bad weather threatens.

Check current local weather and NH/Maine backcountry conditions>>

Clothing Checklist
Even if it feels like summer time in the valleys, it can be winterlike on the high peaks. It’s best to wear a synthetic layer closest to your skin to wick away moisture from perspiration. Wool and some synthetics also retain their insulating properties, even when wet. Avoiding cotton, dressing warmly in layers, protecting yourself from the wind, drinking plenty of water and eating high-energy snacks are key to comfort and safety.

Read more about preventing hypothermia>>

Gear advice from the editors of AMC Outdoors magazine>>

Be sure to wear or bring the following:
  • Synthetic or wool base layer – t-shirt, or underwear tops and bottoms
  • Synthetic or wool long pants – zip off pants and convert to shorts are popular during warm weather months
  • Wool sweater or synthetic pile jacket
  • Hat
  • Gloves or mittens
  • Bandanna or handkerchief
  • Wind and rain gear – waterproof/breathable fabrics recommended
  • Extra socks (a welcome treat for the feet at mid-hike, or if you inadvertently step in a stream. They also double as mittens)
  • Sturdy boots (a must)
Food and Gear Checklist
  • First-aid kit
  • Waterproof matches
  • Whistle
  • Knife
  • Guidebook, trail map, and compass
  • High-energy food and snacks
  • Two to four quarts (per person) of water and/or treatment system if near water. Tips on water treatment >>
  • Flashlight or headlamp with fresh batteries
  • Sunscreen Insect repellent. Tips on insect repellent >>
  • Plastic trash bags serve many functions:
    • Use them as pack liners to keep your gear dry, for carrying out trash, as a makeshift rain poncho, or to fashion an emergency bivouac sac (pull one on like pants; pull the other on like a shirt and cut a hole for your face so you can breathe).
  • Consider carrying a sleeping bag in case you are forced to sleep out overnight.
    • If you're traveling in a group, carry at least one sleeping bag. It is an emergency tool that can keep an injured hiker warm until help arrives. Hypothermia is more of a threat when you sit immobilized because of injury.

AMC’s Highland Center and Pinkham Notch Visitor Center carry basic last-minute clothing and gear items, as well as guidebooks and maps. You can also find a number of items in the 10 Essentials Section of the AMC Online Store.

More Backcountry Tips