Updated on October 8, 2020 by Asher Fergusson
Before you go, check out this day hike packing list and adapt these items to fit your needs based on weather and the remoteness of your destination, as well as your hiking experience. We also include a section on what to wear on a day hike, what NOT to bring and other important FAQs.
What to Pack for a Day Hike – 17 Essentials
1. Hiking Pants
An enjoyable day hike depends on the type of clothing you wear. Stay warm in cold weather, and cool on sunny days by wearing moisture-wicking clothing. Dressing in layers (and staying dry!) is key to a comfortable hiking experience. These hiking pants will keep you at a comfortable temperature and will protect your legs as you hike.
This thing is incredible! In addition to the 12 feet of military-grade paracord, it has a built-in fire starter, emergency whistle, compass and a small knife. An essential item for any day hike or camping trip. It’s fully adjustable for men, women and children and it’s incredibly affordable too.
3. Neck Wallet
A neck wallet is the perfect thing to bring with you on a day hike. It can easily be worn around your neck and beneath your clothes to ensure your valuables remain organized and secured to your person while you hike. This one’s awesome because it’s large enough to hold your smartphone, maps, cash, credit cards, and keys.
Whether you’re headed out for a two-mile out and back hike through the Redwoods, or an eight-mile loop in Patagonia, definitely consider bringing a daypack that can fit all your hiking essentials. Stay organized and ready for anything. This one even has external attachment points so that you can attach trekking poles and other gear to the outside of your pack.
Be prepared for anything by bringing along a handy windproof umbrella. No one wants to get stuck in the rain during a fun day hike, but in the unfortunate event that you do, you’ll be happy you packed a good umbrella. This one can easily fit in your daypack and is large enough to hold two people beneath it.
Especially if you plan to use your smartphone for photos, videos, music, or navigation, you won’t want to forget to pack a lipstick-sized portable charger. If your phone runs out of battery while you’re out on the trail, you can simply recharge it whenever you need to with this handy lightweight charger.
7. Wool Socks
For maximum cushion and temperature control, always hike in wool socks. They’ll keep you comfortable on the trail, and don’t sink down into your boots like regular socks. These ones are my tried and true favorite wool socks, and come in a variety of colors.
8. Blister Balm
This balm is amazing. It goes on easily and works for a very long time without the need for constant reapplication. It simply works by protecting my feet from the friction that causes blisters and this can be a massive problem while hiking. It’s been a total game changer for our family.
9. Hiking boots
Your hiking boots will become your best friends after you break them in. Be sure to get boots with ankle support, and make sure you get them in the right size. Your boots should leave enough space around your foot for you to wear wool socks. These ones are my favorite, and have taken me around the world and back. Also great for day hikes.
Staying hydrated is incredibly important while you’re hiking! You should always bring a handy Camelbak water bottle with you on the trail. You can refill it at the water spigots at your trailhead, and other water sources along your hike, if necessary. This one is awesome because you can wear it on your back and sip from the straw as you hike.
11. Trail Snacks
Keep up your energy with yummy snacks on the trail. It’s important to bring the right snacks with you while you walk. This mix of various nuts, fruits, and treats will make you a happy hiker! Snacks will prevent everyone in your group from becoming hangry and will make for the perfect treat when you stop to take in the stunning natural sights.
If your day hike is taking you more than 100 miles away from home, for example, if you’re already on vacation somewhere and decide to embark on a day hike, you’ll want to be sure to have reliable travel insurance. World Nomads is great because they’ll cover your costs if anything goes wrong.
Believe it or not, a lot can go wrong on a quick day hike. Be prepared for blisters, splinters, cuts, and other blunders with a well-stocked first aid kit. Keep this lightweight kit in your daypack so you can whip it out in case of emergency.
A whistle is your lifeline should you end up injured or stranded – sounding a loud whistle in three LOUD but short bursts will signal to nearby hikers or others that you’re in need of help. Three bursts will help people distinguish your whistling from the hoots and calls of birds in the area. Repeat your three-toot call every so often to signal your need for help!
A bandana is a multi-use hiking must-have. They serve double or triple duty by moonlighting as headbands, face masks, napkins for snacks, and more. This one comes in many different colors, so you and your friends can all match. Tie it on your daypack and you’re good to go.
Even if you’re heading out in the early morning, you never know what can happen that might leave you in the wilderness late into the evening. In case this happens, you should always have a headlamp in your pack to guide your way back. This one is fun to wear and shines super bright.
16. Quick Dry Towel
Depending on where you’re headed, you may have the opportunity to stop for a swim in a stream, lake, pond, or even a waterfall during your day hike. Be prepared with a compact, lightweight, and quick drying towel which you can use and then stick back in your daypack almost immediately to enjoy the rest of your hike.
17. Reusable bag
Give back to the earth by picking up trash during your hike! I always like to bring a reusable bag with me in case I come along any litter. Additionally, you’ll want to make sure any trash you create, like snack wrappers or empty water bottles, stays with you until you can throw it away in a proper trash receptacle.
Other day hike packing list items not to forget
What to wear on a day hike
Always wear synthetic fabrics, so that they don’t trap moisture. Trapped moisture equals bacterial growth in warm climates, a higher chance of hypothermia in cold climates, and blisters in both! A solid synthetic short-sleeve t-shirt is a good idea. If it’s chilly, make sure to bring a midweight synthetic or fleece long-sleeve top to layer on top. If it looks like it might rain, be prepared with a rain jacket that packs up small enough to fit in your daypack with your other gear. As far as pants, lightweight synthetic trekking pants (zip-offs) are good, but athletics shorts work just as well, depending on the season! Don’t forget wool socks and a sun hat.
What NOT to take on a day hike
2) Jeans – Don’t encumber yourself with stiff, inhibiting jeans. Denim and hiking don’t mix well, especially since wet jeans are the worst!
4) Anything white – If you wear white pants or a white shirt hiking, you’re just begging to fall in the mud. Go for colors or grayscale!
FAQs about day hiking
1) How can I find a cool day hike close to me?
Apps like AllTrails are amazing ways to locate nearby trails. They show you directions, trail length, pictures, difficulty rating and more. Asking around is a good idea too – locals always know the best spots!
2) How do you deal with inclement weather on a day hike?
Always dress in layers. Make sure you bring a rain jacket or poncho in your daypack, and bring a waterproof case for your map if you’re bringing one!
3) How do I choose the right gear for day hiking?
Stores like REI have professionals who can help you find just the right gear. If you’re shopping online, make sure you read lots of reviews (and double-check dimensions) before ordering anything.
4) What if i see a bear?
If you end up face to face with a bear on the trail, or at your campsite, stop what you are doing and stay calm. Back away very slowly in the direction you came. Walk, definitely don’t run, and keep your eye on the bear.