Going on a day hike but don’t know what to pack? Here is a complete list of the day hiking essentials with only the things you’ll need on the trail

There is nothing as adventurous as hiking in the outdoors. Whether it is reconnecting with nature, spending some alone time away from the white noise or you just want to hike for the sake of hiking, there are some hiking essentials you should have.

However, not every hiking adventure should be a 4 or 5 days hike, some times you just want to hike for a couple of hours to either a beautiful viewpoint that was recommended to you by a friend or to a waterfall you always overlooked in the neighborhood.

Regardless of why you’re going for a day hike, there are some day hike essentials you should never leave behind. However, if this is your very first hike, read all these essential hiking tips for beginners to be fully prepared.

So if you were wondering what to pack for a day hike, this list will give you all the practical and useful hiking essentials that I always pack for a day hike.

What to pack for a day hike: Day hiking essentials

day hiking essentials

1. Day pack

Before you go hiking, you’ll need to get yourself a good quality day pack where you’ll put all your other day hike essentials.

A good quality daypack is everything when you go hiking. A good daypack is one that is sturdy, has adjustable straps to help you carry the weight comfortably while trekking, light enough not to weigh you down and has Sternum straps which clip across your chest for maximum comfort.

It should also have a water bottle holder that is easily accessible even without taking off your day pack.

If the day pack you have doesn’t have all those qualities, then it’s time to get yourself a new one.

Some of the good quality day packs you can take on a day hike include;

Osprey Talon 22 (for men) and Osprey Tempest 20 (for women)

These daypacks are the true meaning of day hiking. With their supportive hip belts and a Sternum straps which clip across your chest, you’re guaranteed maximum comfort on the trail as almost all the weight will be transferred down instead of your back.

They might be a little pricey compared to other daypacks on the market but their durability and comfort on the back makes them worth the price.

Buy this Osprey Talon 22 (for men) from here or this Osprey Tempest 20 (for women) from here and I promise you’ll be mad that you didn’t buy either years ago.

Osprey Stratos 24 (for men) and Osprey Sirrus 24 (for women)

If you’re looking for maximum comfort while hiking, then this Osprey Stratos 24 (for men) and this Osprey Sirrus 24 (for women) are your best option.

The hip belts on both bags will easily transfer the weight of the backpack to your lower body while the inbuilt rain cover will protect them from getting wet when it rains.

Another huge plus is how they are very well compartmented to make organizing your day hiking gear much easier.

Osprey Manta 24 (for men) and Osprey Mira 22 (for women)

If your ideal day back is one that is big on hydration, then this Osprey Manta 24 (for men) and this Osprey Mira 22 (for women) are the best options on the market.

It’s not only the hydration bladder that makes these backpacks great, but they are also comfortable, simply designed but yet functional.

Other day packs that you can consider adding to your packing list list for a day hike include;

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2. Collapsible travel water bottle

One of the most useful essentials for a day hike is a water bottle. You’ll need to stay hydrated while on the trail at all times and that’s why a travel water bottle should be added on your day hike packing list.

I prefer this Nomander travel water bottle as it is lightweight and collapsible which means that it won’t be taking up a lot of space in your daypack when not in use.

3. Sun protection

Hiking in the heat of the day will not leave your skin the same and that’s why you need to protect it even when in the outdoors.

Protect yourself from sunburns by taking this Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Dry-Touch Sunscreen. Dermatologists recommend that the sunscreen you buy should have at least an SPF of 30 for better results.

Also, hiking will most likely leave your lips dry, so to prevent that from happening, throw this chapstick in your daypack for maximum lip moisturization.

On top of that, a hiking hat is also one of the other day hiking essentials that will protect you from the sun. I recommend this hiking hat as it not only has a wide brim perfect for sun protection but it also has a UPF of 50+. Also, make sure that you take polarized Sunglasses before you hit the trail.

Please note that even when hiking in winter, you’ll still need these sun protection essentials.

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4. First Aid kit

Regardless of where you’re traveling to, you’ll need a first aid kit. And since hiking in the outdoors presents slightly more risks than in the other places, a first aid kit is much more needed there. So to make sure that you’re prepared for the unforeseen, add a first aid kit to your packing list for a day hike.

You can do your DIY medical kit by adding items like plaster, gauze, safety pins, bandages, tweezers, antiseptic wipes, small scissors, etc or you can just buy yourself this fully premade first aid kit. It has everything you might need on a day hike but also small enough to easily fit in your daypack.

5. Navigation/map

One of the biggest mistakes you’ll ever make while hiking is forgetting to add a map to your day hiking essentials list.

Even when you feel like you know the trail very well, it’s always a good idea to have a map with you. You can use the usual Google maps or maps.me on your phone but I also recommend taking the good old paper map in case your phone battery runs out.

Honestly most people these days rely on maps on their phones but I still emphasize taking a paper map on your day hike.

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6. Enough food

As you pack for a day hike, make sure that you have enough food. Notice that I use the word “enough”. This means that you shouldn’t pack less or even much more but rather just enough. However, pack in a little extra than you always eat for emergencies.

Since you’re just going for a day hike, it’s very easy to plan out your meals. If it’s a full day hike, pack a sandwich for lunch and some energizing snacks.

I assume that you’ll start your hike after having breakfast, so a lunch sandwich and a few snacks should be enough.

For the snacks, I always like to pack some chocolate bars as they’re perfect for those times you’ll need some sugar to reenergize yourself. Nutrition snacks and fruits are also a good option.

You can pack your favorite snacks, just make sure that they’re energy-giving as you’ll need it on the trail as you continue burning more energy.

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7. Enough water

Adding a travel water bottle to your day hike checklist is not effective if you don’t carry enough water. The amount of water you take depends on how long your hike will be and your consumption rate.

If you’re like someone like me who likes to chug down a good amount of water in one go, a travel water hydration bladder like this one will be perfect to store enough water.

However, it’s always better to carry a little more than what you’ll need but don’t go overboard and carry too much as it will weigh you down.

8. Safety items

On top of the first aid kit, it’s important to stay safe while on the trail. So some of the other safety day hiking essentials you should take include;

  • A bug spray: Not all trails have bugs but some do. So to avoid bugs from climbing onto your pants while hiking, make sure that you carry this bug spray. And if you’re hiking in an area with bears, you might want to take this bear spray instead.
  • Water filter: On that same note, I recommend taking a personal water filter should you run out of the water you carried. A water filter will help you clean any backcountry water you might come across. However, this is not really necessary as long as you carry enough water.
  • Pocket knife: A pocket knife or this swiss army knife will be very helpful while on the trail. A pocket knife might be used as a self-defense tool and also to cut out branches that might be in the trail. And since a swiss army knife has a variety of items, it might come in handy in a number of scenarios.
  • A whistle: A small thing like a whistle is not what most hikers think about when it comes to security yet it’s very useful. Should you get lost from your hiker friends (by all means try to stick together so that no one gets lost), you can just blow it and it will be easier to be traced. I like this 3 in one whistle that comes with a fire starter and a compass.

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9. Head lamp

Wondering what to bring on a day hike? Then a headlamp is one of them. Most hikers overlook a headlamp but its pretty useful.

Imagine if you had not calculated your time well and night falls while still on the trail, a headlamp will be a perfect source of light in this scenario.

I recommend taking this one as it is strong enough to provide enough light even in the wilderness at night.

10. The right hiking clothes

Hiking is all about layering, and depending on the weather conditions in the place you’re hiking in, you need to pack the right hiking clothes.

So what clothes should you wear while hiking?

  • Merino wool socks: A good pair of socks is everything while on the trail. Socks determine whether you will have blisters and smelly feet at the end of the hike or your feet will remain as they were before. This pair of merino wool socks will keep your feet dry and warm making them one of the essentials for a day hike.
  • Tops: When choosing the tops to wear, I always take this woolen hiking tank top and add a button-up shirt. This is because as it gets hot, I just take off the outer shirt and stay with the base layer and if it gets cold, I put it back on.

    Alternatively, you can put the outer top in your daypack and just start the hike with only the base layer and if the weather gets chilly, just pull it out of your daypack and put it on.

11. Toilet paper

It’s so hard to avoid the call of nature. And we both know that it’s almost impossible to find a toilet while hiking. This means that you’ll have to improvise in the bush and that’s why you need to put toilet paper on the list of what to carry on a day hike.

Other than just taking a bush pee, toilet paper will come in handy when you need to blow your nose which is quite inevitable while hiking.

However, be a responsible hiker by picking after yourself. If you help yourself in the bushes, dig a hole and bury everything and if it’s just a bush pee, still don’t leave the paper there.

Related post: Big mistakes to avoid while backpacking

12. Trekking poles

I am honestly not big on trekking poles but I know some people can’t even hike for 3 km without them so that’s why I am adding them to the day hiking gear list.

If you’re that kind of hiker, these hiking poles are the best on the market. They are easy to adjust to your preferred height, have comfortable handles and are strong enough to support any kind of pressure.

13. Hiking boots

Before you even think of going hiking, make sure that you have the right hiking boots. Good quality hiking boots will save you from having blisters and stay comfortable while on the trail.

Hiking boots also determine the pace at which you walk. If they’re are heavy, you’re likely to be held back unlike when you’re wearing lightweight ones.

The hiking boots I recommend are these Columbia hiking boots for women and these Merrell hiking boots for men. They are lightweight, waterproof, sturdy, and comfortable.

If you were wondering what to take on a day hike, I hope this list gave you all the essentials you must have before you hit the trail.

I know a lot of people might take a bit less or even a bit more but personally, those are the day hiking essentials that I always carry.

Is there a hiking gear that you always take on a day hike that is not on the list, let me know what that is in the comment section – you never know, it might be my next purchase.

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