Wondering what to pack for a day hike? Packing for a day hike is easy – just grab a backpack that fits, follow our guide, and get ready to go. Here is a list of the go-to items I always keep in my daypack for all kinds of hikes!
Different people, different types of hikes, and weather conditions will determine what to include in your day hike packing list. Below is a comprehensive list of items that the pros suggest you carry in your day pack.
Day Hike Essentials for Any Hiking Trip
When I think of what I need to pack for a day hike, the list usually focuses on the more essential things like water and snacks. However, some smaller items can add comfort and convenience while out on foot.
So here is my list of hiking essentials I always bring with me on any type of hiking trip:
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What to Wear
Invest in hiking clothes that are not only comfortable but will help protect you from the elements.
You definitely want to invest in the right hiking shoes. It’s vital to have a pair of shoes that are waterproof, durable and will keep your feet secure.
Hiking boots are not only necessary for colder weather hikes, but they can also provide protection against rocks, creeks, bushes, and branches. Tennis shoes aren’t going to cut it if you stub your town on a rock or tree stump.
It’s not uncommon for stream crossings to occur while hiking, and this can be a bit of a hassle. Make sure to pack some lightweight socks in case you get wet feet during your hike.
If you’re planning on hiking in the summer, it’s important to wear a lightweight shirt that won’t make you sweat. A good option is a sweat-wicking shirt, which will help you stay cool and comfortable while hiking. Wear a lightweight sweat-wicking shirt on warm summer days to avoid getting sweaty.
Avoid wearing cotton too because cotton is not efficient at regulating body temperature, it’s best to avoid using it in cold environments. In the heat, however, cotton can trap your body’s warmth and be uncomfortable.
Hiking Day Pack
The first thing you’ll need for a day hike is a good hiking backpack. I really like my TETON Sports Oasis Daypack because it includes a water bladder and the side pockets and compartments allow for easy access to my car keys, cell phone, and snacks.
But if you want to be comfortable on the trail, something more robust is necessary. Here is a list of hiking backpacks under $100 that are worth considering!
Let’s go over the items you’ll need most, whether you’re planning for a short hike or a long day hike.
Many day packs include a water bladder but some people don’t like them. Bringing a water bottle for hydration is a given, but it’s essential to get the right water bottle. It’s recommended to bring at least one liter per person, but more is always better.
Sun protection is essential! To protect your skin from the sun while hiking, bring along a sunscreen bottle with an SPF of at least 30, and it won’t wash off when you sweat.
When you’re out on a hike and find yourself leaning over a cliff edge to get a better view, throw an extra pair of sunglasses in your pack in case they go tumbling down. It’s happened to me more than once.
Another essential for a day hike is lip balm. It will keep your lips hydrated, but a good lip balm will help protect them from the sun and wind. Chapstick or other petroleum-based lip balms should not be used, as they may leave a residue on your skin that will cause sunburn.
Bring a hat to protect your head and ears from the sun and wind. A wide-brimmed hat is ideal for blocking the sun. At the same time, ear protection can prevent snow blindness or other injuries from flying debris.
Don’t leave anything behind on the trail – even biodegradable snacks like banana peels or apple cores. A small plastic bag is a convenient way to store your leftover food and wrappings after you’re done snacking.
Make sure to bring bananas as they are a great source of potassium and vitamin C. If you’re feeling hungry after your hike, try packing some granola bars or other snacks to help tide you over.
These are the nice-to-haves depending on the type of hike you’re going on. However, some of these items are on my list of essentials because of my own personal preferences!
Pack some insect repellent if you’re hiking in areas where mosquitoes are common. Remember to apply insect repellents liberally before hiking and again after being in dense bush or under trees.
I had Lasik eye surgery, so my eyes get unusually dry on an average day. But they will definitely get dry when I’m out in the sun, or my face is sweating. Eye drops are nice to have when I want to rinse out my eyes at the end of the hike. I always bring a bottle of eye drops even on a short hike!
About to get TMI here: I sweat A LOT. Especially going on hikes in the summer or fall months in Georiga. Having a washcloth is very handy to help me keep the sweat away from my face and my eyes.
Regardless of how short the hike you are going on, you should always be prepared if you need to use the bathroom. Here’s a list of some of the most essential items to have in your toiletries packing list:
Cell Phone Protection
Your phone should be in a shockproof and waterproof case so it doesn’t get damaged in a fall or water spill. You should also keep a phone charger nearby if you need to power up quickly.
First Aid Kit
A portable and lightweight first aid kit is an excellent idea to bring hiking. While it’s unlikely you will have an emergency, having things like basic first aid supplies come in handy, in case of emergencies. Blisters and minor cuts can happen.
A flashlight is a valuable item if it becomes dark outside and you’re still on the trail. It can help you find your way, and it can also be used to signal for help if needed. So it’s a good idea to bring one especially if there is a good chance you will be hiking after dark.
If you are hiking in bear country and encounter a bear, it is vital to have a can of bear spray with you. Bear spray is a powerful deterrent that can help protect you from an attack. Make sure to pack enough bear spray for the length of your hike, and be aware of the regulations in your area related to using this product.
Comb or Brush
Is this weird? Perhaps! But if you’re like me, my hair easily gets tangled and messed up throughout the day. I usually have my hair tied in a ponytail or a bun while hiking, but it gets loose or falls out.
It’s nice to have a comb in my daypack, just in case. Sometimes I make last-minute plans to go out to eat after the hike, so it’s also convenient to have the comb, so my hair isn’t a knotted mess.
Many national parks and state parks have visitor centers where you can pick up a paper map for free. It’s essential to take the time to do this, as you’re likely not going to have cell service. Having a map will help you avoid getting lost.
For Cooler Weather
It’s critical to be prepared for cold weather, especially if you plan on hiking at high altitudes. Be sure to pack rain gear!
A lightweight rain jacket is essential when day hiking, especially in the mountains. Not only is it uncomfortable to hike in a wet shirt, but a wet body is also more likely to experience hypothermia. So a waterproof rain jacket can help keep you warm and dry!
If you’re caught in a downpour, your hiking pants will turn into soggy messes that are difficult to clean. Many hikers make the mistake of skipping rain paints, thinking their quick-drying hiking pants will take care of them. If you get caught in a downpour, your hiking pants will become soggy and difficult to clean.
For Warm Weather
It’s important to make sure you have extra water to drink on a hot day. Make sure to pack snacks and enough food for the day, especially if you’re hiking in an area with no food options along the way.
When it’s hot, your body might lose water faster than you can replenish. So be sure to bring enough water with you on your hike and drink frequently.
I really enjoy the Body Armor sports drinks.
At that time, adding a packet of electrolyte drink mix to your water will help reduce the symptoms of dehydration. Put one or two of those single-serving packets in that emergency kit zip lock bag you carry in your backpack.
Conclusion: Day Hiking Essentials
When planning a day hike, there are a few essentials that you should always pack. Here is everything you’ll need, which you can easily purchase on Amazon.
TETON Sports Oasis Daypack
This pack features a notched foam stabilizer and mesh covering to ensure that you can wear it for hours at a time.
Nomader Collapsible Water Bottle
This water bottle is sturdy and comfortable to drink from, as it rolls up for compact travel and loops around your wrist for easy carry.
JOJEN Polarized Sports Sunglasses
Sturdy sunglasses that will stay in place while you exercise!
Refresh Tears Eye Drops
Use these eye drops to lubricate and protect your eyes from dryness.
These towels are made from breathable mesh material, so it’s easy to activate them when you simply soak, wring out and air dry them.
Be prepared for anything on your hike by packing the essentials and customizing your list to fit your hiking style and type of hike. There are many items you’ll want to bring along beyond the ten essentials.
What necessities do you have on your day hike packing list? Let me know in the comments below!