What to Pack for a Day Hike – A Checklist Made by a Ditzy Hiker
June 27, 2019

A backpacker must always be prepared. Especially a restless one. This is why this checklist came to life. To teach new backpackers what to pack for a day hike and remind the experienced ones what not to forget while stuffing their backpacks.

Why a Day Hiking Checklist
is necessary

Much to my shame, I recently discovered that there isn’t much of a difference between packing your hiking backpack for the first time and the hundredth time. As the title of this article states, I can be very ditzy at times, and, if I don’t have an actual checklist next to me while packing, a lot of necessary items can and will be left behind.

So here’s what to pack for a day hike – a checklist for all restless backpackers!

Essential Day Hike Gear
You must have

Before writing this article and taking upon me the responsibility of teaching others what to pack for a day hike, I took a small walk down memory lane and tried to remember what I often forgot to pack/missed on hikes.

I also contacted a couple of friends that are as restless as I am to make sure I won’t forget to add an essential item on the list.

Clothing

Some of you may say that it’s not really possible to forget your boots or your pants when going backpacking. However, it is important what type of boots, pants, shirts, even socks you wear during a hike.

For example, while everyone loves the comforting feel of a cotton shirt, it’s actually not the best choice when it comes to hiking.

That’s because cotton absorbs your sweat, leaving you a moist, uncomfortable blob halfway through the hike. And believe you and me, it’s hard to enjoy the wild beauty around you when you’re sweaty and cold at the same time.

The same thing goes for socks. Pants policy, on the other hand, it a little bit looser (hahaha) in the sense that, if you don’t own a waterproof pair of comfortable pants that don’t restrict motion, you can always go for a pair of tights.

So, it’s better to prepare all your gear (including what doesn’t go into the backpack) in advance. That way you’ll be ready to go in the morning without having to rummage through your things, looking for THAT pair of pants or shirt. It happened to the best of us, I’m sure.

For Warm Days
Hiking backpack Hiking sandals/ shoes
Windbreaker/ hoodie Shorts
Moisture-wicking t-shirt Extra t-shirt
Hiking socks Cap/ bandana/ summer hat
Moisture wicking underwear Trekking pole(s)
For Cold Days
Hiking backpack Hiking boots
Warm jacket Thermal undershirt
Thermal leggings Warm pants
Thermal socks Extra socks
Fleece or wool hat Gloves
Moisture-wicking underwear Trekking pole(s)

Toiletries

Toiletries are an essential part of this day hiking checklist as you don’t want to be caught off guard and in desperate need of wet wipes, sunscreen or other very easily forgettable items.

Camping toiletries
Toilet paper Wet wipes
Hand sanitizer Sunscreen
Insect repellent SPF lip balm
Menstrual products

First Aid Kit

No matter how short the hike, be it a day, a week, a month, it is always best to have at least a mini first aid kit in hand. Always take into consideration the fact that nature, while extremely beautiful, can also be very ruthless.

Camping first aid kit
Bandages Alcohol or sanitary wipes
Blister treatments Imodium tablets
Ibuprofen Antihistamine cream and tablets
Iodine or disinfectant Any personal medicine

Gadgets

Usually, day hikes are planned around a short, marked trail that takes less than 10 hours (or as long as there is natural light) to navigate from point A to point B and back to the start.

An experienced hiker can (although it is not encouraged) find their way only by following the special markings. However, never leave home without a map.

Camping gadgets
Photo/video camera Cell phone
Solar power charger or external battery Map
Compass GPS

Planning Your Day Hike Tips with care

Before sprucing up the details of your next day hike, please remember to keep in mind that hiking a mountain is no walk in a park (literally) and even short trails can pose hidden dangers. Here’s a list of things every restless backpacker should keep in mind before planning their next vacation.

1. Share Your Plans with Friends and/or Family

Before setting out, share your route with a close friend and/or family member and ask them to check on you. Seeing as you’re leaving for a day hike, ask them to call the authorities if you’re not back/haven’t checked in by nightfall.

2. Always Pack Extra

I’m not saying you should pack your entire wardrobe with you, but it’s not at all pleasant (not to mention healthy) to hike in wet clothes after being surprised by a short bout of rain. Or accidentally falling in a river. Or simply sweating through your clothes. You never know when you need an extra shirt.

3. Don’t Pack Food that Spoils Easily or Emits a Strong Smell

Canned food and trail mix is the best way to go. However, exceptions can be made during a day hike if you’re not particularly fond of anything that comes out of a can (college ruined it for me).

If you want to pack anything else, opt for sandwiches with hard cheese, hard-boiled eggs, or smoked meat. However, if you do that, do keep in mind that walking in the sun can (and more often than not will) spoil food.

Also, don’t forget that you’re sharing your walk with a lot of wild animals. Some may even be attracted to the smell of that delicious baloney sandwich.

4. Respect Hiking Etiquette

There’s a lot to say here, but I’ll try to keep it as short as possible.

  • Don’t litter.
  • When nature calls, get off the beaten path and don’t leave toiletries behind. Put them in a bag and dispose of them properly.
  • Be mindful of the environment and watch your every step. You never know when you could stumble upon an egg, a very small creature, or a very fragile plant.
  • Respect other hikers by keeping a safe distance.

5. Lose the Headphones

If you’re planning a trip all by yourself, try not to use technology except when you really have to. Nature is a spectacle in itself, try to enjoy the way the sun shines through the leaves, the song of the birds, and the smell of the forest.

Also, do keep in mind that wearing headphones while hiking is the equivalent of snuffing one of your senses. And I don’t think I can stress this enough, you need to keep your wits about you while exploring the great outdoors.

Conclusion

Hiking, even for a day, can be quite the endeavor if you’re not properly equipped or prepared for this adventure. In the hopes that our little guide helped you learn what to pack for a day hike, we leave you with another challenge.

Take our quiz and find out if you’re a camper or a glamper and tell us your results in the comments section below.

Lidia Bertesteanu

Main Editor

About the Author

"When I’m on a trail, it gets quiet, it gets peaceful, I feel like I can breathe again and enjoy nature’s untouched beauty."

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