Hiking is a pretty minimalist activity. You can really wear any normal clothes that you have and head out the door for a hike.
This applies when you’re hiking on local trails at home, and it could work that way on your Hawaii vacation too!
But, if you want to improve your comfort when out on the trails, here are a few things to keep in mind when you’re thinking about what to pack for your Hawaii hikes and what to wear hiking. This can apply whether you’re on hiking trails near home or on hiking trails when you’re traveling in Oahu, Kauai, Maui, or the Big Island! And in some cases this can help with your safety when hiking in Hawaii too.
The packing list for hiking
Here’s the quick list, at minimum, for what to wear on most hikes in Hawaii (and most hikes in general) that would be best or most ideal to put on your Hawaii packing list!
- Moisture-wicking shirt like one these or like one of these
- Outdoor shorts like these
- Sunscreen! to feel the aloha 😉
- SHOES (not flip flops), preferably with traction like these
- Breathable socks like these
- WATER!!! This water bottle is popular in Hawaii (Okay, so you don’t really wear this bottle, but water is super important!)
And a few more things to wear when hiking, maybe:
- Sun hat like one of these
- Instant cooling neck towel like this one
- Bug repellent in wipe form for easy travel
- Lightweight rain jacket like one of these or a $1 disposable poncho in the camping section at Walmart
- Backpack (to carry snacks, and maybe that water) like one of these
- Hiking pants like these or outdoor capris like these
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Okay, so let’s go a little deeper into the main things of what to wear hiking in Hawaii…
What is a moisture-wicking shirt? The moisture that’s being wicked away is your SWEAT! And hiking in Hawaii, you will be sweating! That’s why wearing these types of shirts can increase your comfort on the trails. They tend to be better because they don’t absorb the water from your sweat as much, and they are made to dry quicker. If you wear cotton, that cotton material will very easily absorb that sweat.
Having some sunscreen handy so you can reapply it as necessary is a good idea. That Hawaii sun! Although it will depend on which trail you’ll be hiking. You may not need to worry as much about reapplying sunscreen if you’ll be on a mostly shaded trail. Still, it’s usually a good idea to wear sunscreen before you begin your hike at least! Feel the ALOHA with this sunscreen. 😉
Shoes with traction
There is a good chance that if you hike a popular trail in Hawaii, you will see at least a few people wearing flip flops on the trail.
This is really not a good idea, and this is one thing you really should not wear hiking in Hawaii!
Most trails in Hawaii have at least some portion with conditions in which even shoes with a good grip may cause you to slip a little. Many trails have a good portion of loose dirt and gravel. This can make for better conditions to lose your footing more easily.
When you wear regular street shoes or beach sandals on the trail, you just increase your chance of having a fall. In many cases, a slip could just end with you on the ground with an extra bruise or two, but some Hawaii hiking trails have steep drop-offs in which you definitely do not want to be slipping!
It’s just safer to have shoes or sandals with traction.
Remember that it’s important to break in your shoes before you go out and hike for several hours in them, so be sure to wear them here and there before you head off to Hawaii.
The idea behind wearing breathable socks when you’re hiking is pretty similar to wearing a moisture-wicking shirt when you’re hiking. They are meant to keep the sweat issue to a minimum. Now, socks may not work as well as shirts because your feet are more trapped than your upper body. But, don’t you want to help your feet out a little bit anyway? So be sure to wear performance socks like these to give your feet a little bit more breathing room from that sweat.
Similar to the sunscreen, this may more or less depend on how sun-exposed the trail you’ll be hiking is. Go for a sun hat with a neck cord so you have a way to keep your hat from flying away if you end up on an open portion of a trail that’s really windy. Have a look here for women and here for men.
This will again depend on what type of trail you’ll be hiking. If you’ll be hiking a more tropical jungle type of trail, or if you’re hiking after it’s rained, you may want to consider packing that bug repellent so you can wear it out on the trail. For travel-oriented bug repellent, see these wipes.
Unfortunately, wearing both sunscreen and bug spray together may not work out so well because each may counteract the other. See here for the explanation.
Rain jacket or poncho
In some areas of Hawaii, you can unexpectedly be hit with rain when you are out on the hiking trails. If you don’t want to end up wet and miserable 😉 it wouldn’t be such a bad idea tohave a lightweight rain jacket like one of these.
Or if Hawaii is the only place you’ll be needing a rain jacket, you can also try to head to the camping section of your local Walmart. You may be able to find a disposable poncho for $1. This can be a low-cost option so you can have rain protection just in case.
Hiking pants or outdoor capris
This packing list for Hawaii can work for many trails in Hawaii, but may not be for all, depending on trail conditions of any particular trail.
For example, if you’re off hiking at Volcanoes National Park on the Big Island, it could be a good idea to wear long pants that give you more coverage than shorts, as a safeguard against slipping and falling.
If you slip and fall when you’re on a majority of Hawaii’s popular hikes that are dirt trails, you might get a little dirty and a few bruises. If you slip and fall on a hike at Volcanoes National Park, or even just get out of your car to take a short walk to an overlook, there’s a chance that you can slip and fall onto lava rock, and that might hurt a bit more! The pants can give you at least a slight barrier between the lava rock and your skin.
The National Park Service says that falling on lava is like falling on broken glass! (See more safety tips for visiting Volcanoes National Park there.)
Potential accidents are also why you might want to take a travel first aid kit like this one, or pack ointment/neosporin and different sizes of bandages in a ziplock bag. Although, packing a first aid kit is good practice no matter where you’re hiking!
Whether or not you want to wear a backpack may mostly depend on how long you’ll be out hiking for. But even for an hour hike, it could be a good idea to carry a backpack. This is to be prepared in case you end up out on the trail for longer than you expected.
It could be because you came across a scenic overlook that you weren’t expecting and you lingered for a bit longer, or it could simply be because you got LOST! 😉 Really though, this is why you always want to carry with you extra water and food. You just never know what’s going to happen out there in the great Hawaiian outdoors! 😉
Save the best for last. 😉 Most important, anyway!
Now, you may not typically wear water (but you can – this is how you wear your water with a backpack!) but water is important so it’s making the cut on this list! 😉
If you want to be hands-free when you’re on those Hawaii hiking trails, it actually does make sense to wear your water. AND it can be a better way to make sure to stay hydrated too!
It may not be exactly what you would call common to see someone wearing a hydration backpack on popular Hawaii hiking trails. But it really is one of the best ways to stay hydrated (and prevent potential heat issues!) when you’re out there, even if they are easy hiking trails.
Hydration packs make it super easy for you to drink water without a second thought. This means that it makes it easier for you to keep adding that necessary water to your body. You will be sweating more than you realize, so water is SO important! There’s a good chance you’re not used to the tropical heat too, which makes it even more important!
A hydration backpack like one of these isn’t the only way to stay hydrated while being hands-free. You can also take a look at a waist pack that holds water too like one of these. Keep in mind that waist packs will hold less water than the backpacks though. When determining how much water to take, it’s important to consider how hot the weather is and how long your hike is. You also want to account for extra time on the trail, just in case something unexpected happens.
Now, if being hands-free isn’t much of an issue for you, you will probably see lots of people carrying these types of water bottles. Especially if you plan to go on shorter popular trails in Hawaii, you will probably see at least a few people with this kind of water bottle!
They are expensive though, so what’s the deal?! People hiking in Hawaii love them because of the amazing insulation. They keep cold drinks cold and hot drinks hot for longer. Have a look.
But that water bottle can be heavy too. A water bottle that’s lighter and travel-friendly is this one. You may even want to pack it in your carry-on luggage so you can fill it with water at the airport and on the plane. Otherwise, it makes it so you can easily roll it up and pack it in your suitcase so it doesn’t take up much space at all when you’re not using it. Consider it a space-saving water bottle! (And if you are looking to pack your suitcase better, these things can really help with that!)
Where to go hiking in Hawaii
Now, if you’re going to be on Oahu for your Hawaii vacation, be sure to have a look at these Oahu hikes!
HAPPY HAWAII HIKING!
More things to maybe pack for active travel!- This popular water bottle that'll keep your drinks cold, and it'll keep you hydrated and SAFE!
- OR (since that's heavy and $$$) this travel-friendly water bottle that you can fold up in your bag when it's in transit
- One of these types of chargers so you don't have to worry about your phone dying in the airport or out on the hiking trails
- These types of small backpacks so you can have plenty of snacks with you for energy!
- And these popular packing cubes can help you quickly find everything that you packed away in your suitcase luggage set! ;)
Your footwear is important too!- Walking: These types of hiking sandals. For walking in hot weather, they are more breathable than shoes, while still giving you necessary support and traction on the trails.
- Beach: These types of beach shoes. For beach walking and wading in the water, they can prevent cuts from hidden rocks under the sand or when bumping into coral reef.
see more: what to wear hiking - what to wear snorkeling
And for your beach outfits... and more!
- clothes with UV sun protection
- summer dress
- swimwear, swimsuits + cover-ups --