Day hikes are the perfect way to escape the rut of everyday life for, well, a day! The better prepared you are, the easier it’ll be to enjoy a stress-free day in the great outdoors.
Before you go, check out this list and adapt these items to fit your needs based on weather and the remoteness of destination, as well as your hiking experience.
What should I pack for a day hike?
1) Daypack – 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.
2) Hiking Clothes – 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 or dri fit clothing. Dressing in layers (and staying dry!) is key to a comfortable hiking experience. This dri fit shirt is a perfect base layer for hitting the trail.
3) Bug Spray – Bugs are everywhere in the great outdoors, but don’t let them ruin your fun. Keep away those mosquitoes, ticks, biting flies, gnats, and chiggers with long-lasting bug spray. This one provides up to 8 hours of protection against mosquitoes!
4) Wool Socks – For maximum cushion and temperature control, always hike in wool socks. They’ll keep you comfortable on the trail, and don’t slink down into your boots like regular socks. These ones are my tried and true favorite wool socks, and come in a variety of colors.
5) Water Bottle – Staying hydrated is incredibly important while you’re hiking! You should always bring a reusable water bottle or nalgene 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 water bottle is my favorite because of its sip-friendly spout and spill proof locking mechanism.
6) 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!
7) Handheld GPS Device – When you’re out on the trail, the last thing you want is to get lost. A portable GPS can literally save you in the event that you take a wrong trail connection or miss a landmark for turning back!
8) Multi-Tool – Maybe you need to open a bag of trailmix or maybe you need to cut free a tangle of cord from your backpack. You never know what kind of tool you’ll need while you’re hiking, so bring one that can do everything. This tool has a million uses, but packs down small to save space.
9) Sun Hat – While hiking outside, protecting yourself from the sun and its harmful UV rays is very important. A breathable sun hat is the ideal accessory for your hike. This one has an adjustable drawcord and toggle, and claims to block out 98% of harmful UVA and UVB rays, even carrying the Skin Cancer Foundation’s seal of recommendation.
10) Portable speaker – Whether you’re hiking solo, or with a big group, playing music will set the mood for a good time hiking. This one will stay charged all do so that you can play music from sunrise to sunset after just one three-hour charge. Perfect for a full-day hike.
11) First Aid kit and a Whistle – 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 one in your daypack so that 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!
12) Sunglasses – Always bring a pair of sunglasses when you’re hiking. If you’re headed in the direction of the setting or rising sun, the rays can seriously damage your eyes. Stash a pair of these athletic sunglasses in your daypack before you head out.
13) Bandana – A bandana is a hiking multi-use 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.
14) Hiking Shoes: Women’s and Men’s – Your hiking boots will become your best friend after you break them in. Make sure you get some 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.
15) Sunscreen – No matter what the temperature is, it’s always a good idea to wear sunscreen. Bring some with a good amount of SPF, and apply it every couple hours while you’re outside. Don’t let a gnarly sunburn ruin your hiking experience!
16) Headlamp – 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 on your to guide your way back. This one is fun to wear and shines super bright.
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:
1) Cotton clothing – Always wear synthetic fabrics. Sweat-wicking and quick-dry are the key words.
2) Jeans – Don’t encumber yourself with stiff, inhibiting jeans. Denim and hiking don’t mix well, especially since wet jeans are the worst!
3) Jewelry/ Nice clothing – There’s no need to impress… Nobody’s going for style points on a day hike.
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.