Gear You Need To Bring On A Day Hike

Ah, day hiking. It’s such a delight. I mean, who doesn’t love getting out into nature, exploring the mountains, with the bonus of sleeping in your own bed when the day is over!? Backpacking is amazing but it’s always nice to spend time in nature without a 40-pound pack weighing you down. But, just like any activity in the wild, there are a few things you should take into consideration before you hit the trail. In this article, I’ll walk you through everything that you’ll need. 

To make things even easier, here’s a free printable gear checklist that you can use to gear up. This checklist covers all of the basics plus the extra things you may need for longer day hikes and different weather conditions.

Before we jump into the checklist, the very first thing you need to know is that the gear you bring depends on the adventure at hand. For example, a misty fall walk in the woods is going to require different gear than a high alpine full-day adventure. To figure out the best gear for your adventure you need to know where you’re headed, how long you’ll be on the trail, and what the weather conditions will be. 

Here’s what you should know before you start gearing up:

  • Trail stats: How long is the trail? How much elevation gain? What is the difficulty rating? Is it out of cell service? 
  • Trail reports: Is the trail in good condition? Are there unforeseen issues that other hikers ran into such as wildlife, heavy bugs, etc.?
  • Weather: What is the forecast? Don’t forget to double-check this the day you head out!

Now that you have your hiking plan ready, let’s gear up! Here’s the gear that I recommend bringing along on any day hike. 

A daypack 

Use a comfortable and well-fitting pack to avoid getting blisters or chafing on your shoulders. Look for one with a hip belt for the most comfortable on trail fit. 

Several layers of clothing

This is dependent on weather conditions. For hot weather, be sure to bring a sun hat, sunglasses, and a breathable long sleeve shirt in addition to your hiking outfit. For cooler weather or rain, bring a rain jacket, fleece jacket, warm hat, and a pair of gloves.

Trail-approved shoes

Use shoes that provide good traction such as hiking boots, trail runners, or tennis shoes. 

Food and snacks

The fun part! My go-to trail food is an assortment of energy bars, trail mix, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, an apple, and some sour candy.

Water

You should be carrying along plenty of water. According to the Mayo Clinic, men should be drinking about 15.5 cups (3.7 liters) of water daily, and women should be drinking about 11.5 cups (2.7 liters). In trail terms, that means everyone should be carrying along at least three 32 oz. Nalgene bottles for a full day hike. It’s heavy but it’s better to be safe than sorry!

Toilet paper & trowel

It’s not cute but sometimes nature calls when we’re deep in the wild. Skip the leaves and just bring some toilet paper with you. Just don’t forget to bury it at least six inches deep and at least 200 feet away from any water source or area that fellow hikers will be frequenting such as trails or campsites. 

Cell phone

Bringing along a cell phone may feel a bit sacrilegious to some, but in case of emergency, it’s your best bet if you can get a signal.

For larger or remote hikes, I also recommend bringing along these extra pieces of gear. This depends on your comfort level in the wilderness. I’ll bring everything from this list along if I’ll be out of cell service, alone, or when I’m doing a hike that is over 6 miles round trip. Again, it’s better to be safe than sorry!

A navigation method

There are many options from the classic map and compass, to a personal locator beacon. If you go the map and compass route, just be sure you know how to use it!

First aid kit

You can buy these premade, or pack a small one to throw in your bag that includes the bare essentials such as bandaids, alcohol wipes, antibacterial ointment, blister treatment, ibuprofen, and an antihistamine for allergic reactions. 

Basic survival kit

If you don’t have one already, you should put together a small survival kit that includes water purification tablets, waterproof matches and tinder to start a fire, and a signal mirror. 

Headlamp 

In case you get caught in the dark, having a headlamp is a lifesaver. Just be sure to check the batteries before you head out!

Sunscreen and insect repellent

Just a small bottle of each will do. I buy the travel size versions of these to carry along on my adventures and then refill them as needed.

A knife

One, if not the most essential tool. A folding knife is perfect for day hikes and will come in handy for cutting up snacks, repairing gear, and a multitude of other tasks the trail my throw your way.

An emergency blanket or bivy

They only weigh about as much as a granola bar and they’ll turn an unexpected stay in the backcountry into a less risky experience. 

A shared itinerary 

One of the most important parts of staying safe in the wilderness is being able to be found if something does go wrong. For remote adventures, those in an unfamiliar area, or if you’re going alone, it’s very wise to create a plan of where you’re going and when you’ll return. Then, share this info with someone who will notice if you don’t show up. All you need to do is send an email, text, or make a phone call. Be sure to stick to the plan though, so that no one comes looking for you and it turns out you just decided to stay late to do some stargazing!

Fun extras

With the essentials ready to go, here are a few fun extras that you could throw in your pack to make your time even more fun when you’re on the trail.

  • An adventure journal and pen
  • Camera
  • Travel watercolor kit
  • Binoculars
  • Field guides to identify the flora and fauna you see

Once you gather your things, you’re ready to get out and explore nature. Don’t forget to check the weather one last time before you hit the trail. If you have any questions, comment down below and we’ll give you our best trail advice.

Want to listen instead of reading? Check out this YouTube video on the topic instead!

Until next time, happy trails!