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Most people before they head out on a thru-hike believe they will be happy to listen to nature for the 6 months hiking on the trail, but this is almost universally not true as most people need some variability to keep mental composure so let’s dig into the best headphones for hiking on the trail.
When you are climbing hard peaks and short on energy sometimes you need a boost that only a hard rock song or something similar can bring you to grind it out and reach that peak, this means you want to have a very lightweight and easy to access set of headphones or earbuds.
I personally love bone conduction headphones as they keep my ears open to sounds I need to hear, for example, rattlesnakes, but they do produce less bass in most instances, otherwise, I carry earbuds for relaxing in camp finding the best earbuds for thru-hiking is as much personal preference as you can find in gear.
As you may notice there are no over-ear headphones on this list as most people will prefer to not have sweat magnets on their heads for 8 hours of hiking as they would cut out outside sound and also become sweat-soaked and gross in record time!
Our Best Headphone and Earbud Choices for Thru-Hiking
- Apple Airpods 3rd Gen (Best Apple Option) / Gen 2 Older Model
- Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus (Best Android Option)
- Shokz OpenRun Pro (Best Bone Conduction Option)
- Apple EarPods (Best Wired Earbuds for Apple)
- Sennheiser CX 300S (Best Wired Earbuds)
- Razer Hammerhead Earbuds (Best Budget Earbuds)
- Shokz OpenMove (Best Budget Bone Conduction)
- Shokz OpenSwim (Best Option For No Phone)
6 Best Headphones for Thru-Hiking Reviewed
Now that you have seen my list above of my top choices for headphones let’s dig into each and explain why I chose to rate them there and why they may be a perfect match for you and your long-distance hike.
- Spatial audio with dynamic head tracking places sound all around you
- Adaptive EQ automatically tunes the music to your ears
- All-new contoured design
- Force sensor lets you easily control your entertainment, answer or end calls, and more
- Sweat and water-resistant
- Up to 6 hours of listening time with one charge
- Up to 30 hours total listening time with the MagSafe Charging Case
Samsung Galaxy Buds Plus
- Exactly what you want to hear. Galaxy Buds+ are the perfect fitting earbuds to isolate you from distracting noises, so you can stay focused on what you want.
- 22 hours of serious sound. Get up to 11 hours of nonstop music on a single charge, then pop your Galaxy Buds+ in the wireless charging case and get nearly 11 more.
- Your voice, is loud and clear. Ensure you’re heard clearly. A dedicated internal and two external microphones pick up your voice and isolate it from outside noises. When you’re on a call, your voice comes through richly and confidently, even in noisy locations.
- Android and iOS are compatible. Pair with smart devices via Bluetooth. 5 Use the Galaxy Wearable app on Android and Galaxy Buds+ app on iOS to make the most of your earphones.
Shokz OpenRun Pro
- Open-Ear Comfort - OpenRun Pro features our best fit yet. Avoid the discomfort of in-ear headphones with our bud-free design. These headphones stay put during any workout. Includes Shokz headband.
- Premium Sound Quality - Experience premium audio delivered through your cheekbone with our 9th bone conduction technology. Engineered with Shokz TurboPitch technology, OpenRun Pro headset features our best listening experience with clear sound, powerful volume, and a rich bass.
- Secure Fit - A lightweight, wraparound titanium frame keeps your wireless headphones stable and in place during intense training.
- 10 Hours of Music & Calls - Enjoy ten continuous hours of music, calls and podcasts with our Bluetooth headphones. OpenRun Pro also features a 5-minute quick charge for up to 1.5 hours of battery life.
Apple EarPods – Best Wired Earbuds for Apple with Lightening
- Unlike traditional, circular earbuds, the design of the EarPods is defined by the geometry of the ear which makes them more comfortable for more people than any other earbud-style headphones
- The speakers inside the EarPods have been engineered to maximize sound output and minimize sound loss, which means you get high-quality audio
- The EarPods with lightning connector also include a built-in remote that lets you adjust the volume, control the playback of music and video, and answer or end calls with a pinch of the cord
- Works with all devices that have a lightning connector and support iOS 10 or later, including iPod touch, iPad, and iPhone
Sennheiser CX 300S – Best Wired Earbuds
- Precision german engineering ensures excellent audio clarity, so you will hear every detail of your music.
- One button inline smart remote makes it convenient to play and pause music and take calls without needing to fumble with your phone.
- Four sizes (xs, s, m, l) of ear adapters are included so you can get an individualized fit for personal comfort.
- In ear design creates a secure fit for excellent reduction of ambient noise so you can relax and focus on the music.
- Connectivity technology: Wired
- Connector type: 3.5 millimeter Jack
Razer Hammerhead Earbuds – Best Budget Earbuds
- More synchronized audio visual response for mobile gaming: Provides a more immersive wireless experience for videos and games via a 60ms input latency
- Immersive, Full-Range Audio: Custom-tuned 13mm driver technology provides deeper bass and higher frequency detail for dynamic, superior audio clarity for gaming, music, videos, and conference calls
- Secure In-Ear Fit: Comes with silicone tips for comfort and added grip
- Water Resistant Design: IPX4 rated (certified splash resistance) for active lifestyles
- Hassle-Free Auto-Pairing: Lasts up to 15 hours on a full charge and connects automatically through Bluetooth 5.0
I bought these as a fallback as bringing my more expensive AirPods always makes me worry a bit about losing them on the trail, what I found is that these are just as functional but at a third to half the cost depending on a sale!
They pair very easily with Apple or Android devices and the quality of sound to me is beyond reasonable, since they are TWS, true wireless, they can charge in a case while put away for use later and you can charge the case with them in their or not.
AfterShokz OpenMove – Best Budget Bone Conduction Headphones
- Open-Ear Design - Patented bone conduction technology delivers audio through the cheekbone, keeping you connected and aware of your surroundings. Designed to be slim, lightweight and comfortable for all-day, everyday wear.
- Versatile Headphones - Wireless Bluetooth 5.0 connectivity offers convenient multipoint pairing compatible with your iOS and Android Bluetooth-ready devices. Pairs with smartphones, tablets, Mac and PC computers and laptops.
- Durable and Sweatproof - These IP55 certified headphones repel sweat, dust, and moisture, making them the perfect workout partner for any sports, fitness or running enthusiast. Built to withstand even the rainiest weather.
- Six-Hour Battery Life - 6 hours of continuous music, podcasts and calls on a single charge. Enjoy balanced audio, optimal volume and rich bass anytime, anywhere with these premium OpenMove headphones.
- Exclusive Sticker Skin Pack - Includes 5 exclusive to Amazon sticker skins. The 5 versatile designs offer easy headphone customization.
Shokz OpenSwim – Best On Device Storage
- Open-Ear Comfort - Our open-ear design powered by bone conduction technology ensures bud-free, comfortable listening all day, in or out of the water. Includes SHOKZ nose clip.(Rebranded Version of AfterShokz Xtrainerz)
- Internal Music Storage - OpenSwim swimming MP3 has internal music storage for a library of up to 1,200 songs ready to play at the touch of a button. Supports MP3, WAV, WMA, AAC, and FLAC for device-free listening. (Not Bluetooth compatible)
- IP68 Waterproof Rating - OpenSwim swimming MP3 has an IP68 waterproof rating and can be submerged in water up to two meters deep for up to two hours.
- 8-Hours of Music - With 8 hours of battery life and easy commands such as play, skip, pause, and back-a-track, you can enjoy your music lap by lap.
- Secure Fit - OpenSwim swimming MP3 is comfortable under a swim cap or helmet and weighs just over 1oz for all-day comfort
Buyers Guide for Great Headphones For Thru-Hiking
When choosing headphones for a thru-hike, there are a few important considerations to take into account. For many weight is always a key but since headphones, in general, are lightweight as nearly any gear can be the focus turns to more technology-faced issues and considerations.
Important Considerations for Purchase
Overall you want a headphone that is going to be comfortable since you will likely be wearing them for hours on end, has great sound quality and can stand up to the elements since they will also likely be accompanying you on wet, cold, and/or muddy adventures.
The type of headphones you choose is also important as some are better at blocking out outside noise (useful in crowded hostels or shelters) while others work best for music listening only.
You want a pair of headphones or earbuds that you can wear for hours on end without discomfort. This means they should be lightweight and have soft, comfortable earpieces that won’t hurt your ears after extended use.
Bluetooth quality and connectivity matter when it comes to headphones for thru-hiking. Look for headphones that have a good Bluetooth range (30 feet or more) and are NFC compatible in case you want to use them with a phone or other device.
This is much more concerning if your phone is kept in your backpack and there is interference between it and your headphones.
Obviously, the battery is a concern as you want them to last a long time but also be able to charge fast and efficiently when in the case and connected to a charger, this is where USB-C or similar quick charge capabilities come in handy.
The range of frequencies that a particular device can reproduce can make or break some people’s listening experience. A wider range means that you’ll be able to hear the highs and lows of music better while a narrower range may cut out some of the higher or lower frequencies.
The IP rating is vital to the water defense your earbuds can provide because it rates how well the product can keep moisture and dust out. The scale goes from IP0 to IPX9. With each number, the protection gets better.
An IP0 rating would be something like a basic pair of earbuds that don’t have any water protection, while an IP68 rating means the product is completely dust-tight and can be submerged in up to 1.5 meters of water for up to 30 minutes.
Ability to Hear Surroundings
How open is your hearing to the environment when you are wearing these headphones? This can be important for safety when you are out on the trail and need to be aware of your surroundings.
Headphones that completely block out all noise can be dangerous as you may not hear vital sounds that can keep you safe from bears, big cats, snakes, or maybe even other hikers.
Some people prefer the feel and fit of over-ear headphones while others find them to be too bulky and prefer the smaller in-ear models. It really comes down to personal preference so it’s important to try out different types before making a purchase.
You also have to look at how comfortable they are over a long period of wear, if you were to wear them for 5 hours are they as comfortable as in hour one? These are what you need to think about on comfort overall with earbuds and headphones on a thru-hike.
Weight is also an important consideration since you don’t want to add unnecessary ounces to your pack. In-ear headphones are typically the lightest option but some over-ear models are also quite lightweight.