Do you carry a pack with day hiking essentials like emergency supplies and extra gear on your hikes? Well you should!
Whether we like to admit it or not, heading into the wilderness can be dangerous, especially if you get stuck out there without any essentials for a hike.
Hiking is actually the outdoor activity with the most search and rescue incidents per year! So it’s crucial to have a day hike packing list with the right equipment.
From water filters to fire starters, we’ve put together this Ultimate Day Hike Packing List with everything you need to pack for a day hike.
It’s a list of hiking essentials for beginners and seasoned hikers. We’re sharing all the gear we personally use, along with some equipment we’d like to upgrade to, and additional gear we’d recommend getting before hitting the trails.
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The Ten Hiking Essentials
Our hiking day pack essentials are based on The Ten Essentials. A list of equipment created by expert mountaineers that allows you to respond positively in an emergency and safely spend a night outdoors.
The Ten Essentials:
- Sun protection
- First aid
- Extra food
- Extra water
- Extra clothes
The first seven will pretty much be the same equipment on each hike, with the exception of trail-specific maps.
Meanwhile, the amount of food, water, and type of clothing will need to be adjusted based on location, hike length, and climate.
If you hike often enough, we recommend keeping your hiking pack ready to go with the first seven essentials stored in a dry bag inside of it. That way you can just throw in the water, extra snacks, and appropriate clothing and be on your way!
Day Hike Packing List
You’ll need a day pack (a backpack made for a one day hike) to carry all of the other hiking essentials. You can use any backpack, but a day pack made for hiking will be lighter and fit better, allowing you to go for longer hikes without any discomfort.
Look for a 15 to 25 liter pack that’s lightweight, water-resistant, and fits your torso length. It should have adjustable shoulder straps, hip straps to distribute weight properly, and a padded, yet breathable, back. Also make sure it has a water reservoir pouch and side pockets for a water bottle.
We love Osprey backpacks because they have multiple sizes and versions designed specifically for women, including an extra small size for 5’4″ ladies like me.
Most importantly, all Osprey packs come with an incredible lifetime guarantee that repairs any damage free of charge!
So how much water do you need on a hike? Well, it depends on your activity level and the climate. The drier the climate the more you’ll need.
But in general, you’ll want to bring around 1 liter for every two hours of hiking. That’s about 3 liters of water for a six hour hike.
We prefer hiking with a hydration reservoir instead of a water bottle. It’s much lighter than our reusable metal bottles, slides easily into our packs, and it has a sipping tube that attaches to your shoulder strap so you don’t even have to stop walking to rehydrate!
Osprey Hydration Reservoir
You should always pack a water filter to make river or lake water safe to drink in case you need more water.
Even if you don’t consider yourself a snacker, remember that you’ll be burning more calories than usual, so you’ll need to bring some food.
Make sure to bring some extra food just in case you stay out longer than expected – either on purpose or by accident.
And don’t forget to pack out any trash, including fruit peels!
Always take extra protective and insulating clothing to match the local climate and cover any unexpected weather changes. That means bringing a UPF shirt even though it’s overcast or a rain jacket when there’s not a cloud in sight.
You never know what the weather can bring so layer up and be prepared!
Long Sleeve UPF Shirt
This long sleeve UPF shirt is our go to shirt on hot, sunny days. It’s made with UPF 40 (like SPF but for clothing) moisture-wicking fabric. It also has pockets, buttons to roll-up the sleeves, and an opening in the back for airflow.
We both have these shirts (here’s the men’s version) and we always throw them in our hiking packs to cover up when the sun’s rays get too strong.
Columbia Tamiami II Long Sleeve
Any pair of sunglasses will do as long as they’re polarized! Polarized lenses are crucial for protecting your eyes from getting damaged by UBA & UVB rays.
After a failed attempt at backpacking in a baseball cap that resulted in sunburned ears, I now use this packable wide-brim hiking hat on long hikes and backpacking trips because it covers my face, ears, and back of the neck really well.
We have these packable rain jackets that we’ve used for hiking, backpacking, camping, traveling in both hot and cold climates, and an outdoor concert at Red Rocks in the pouring rain.
My favorite thing about this jacket are the zippers under the arms for increased ventilation in humid climates.
A rain jacket also serves as your outer layer in case it starts raining or snowing to keep your puffy jacket dry.
Marmot PreCip Rain Jacket
A warm jacket is a true essential in colder climates! This packable puffy jacket is doesn’t take up much space, but can literally save you from freezing.
Michael loves his jacket because it’s super lightweight (8oz), water-resistant, and made from 100% recycled textiles and sustainably sourced down.
Mountain Hardwear Ghost Whisperer
This is so important that it deserves its own category. There’s nothing worse than hiking in the sun while your skin is burning to a crisp because you forgot the sunscreen!
Get an eco-friendly sunscreen (and lip balm) that’s at least 30 SPF and will stay on when you sweat. Don’t forget to reapply every 2 hours!
A lot of people rely solely on their phones for navigation when hiking, but this shouldn’t be the case.
It’s always best to bring a paper map with you. Yes, you can also use your phone’s map but that doesn’t replace having a physical map that won’t run out of battery in an emergency.
Make sure to store the map in something that’ll keep it dry if it rains, like this waterproof map case.
Don’t just throw this in your bag and forget about it. Learn how to use it first!
Get a compass with a mirror that can also signal for help in case of emergency.
With the right apps, your smartphone can function as a map, GPS, and altimeter for the trail.
You might want to bring a power charger and charging cable to make sure the phone’s battery doesn’t die.
Another option is to get a Garmin inReach Mini, a satellite communicator that fits in the palm of your hand. It allows you to send and receive text messages and send an SOS alert, amongst other things.
Bring a flash light or headlamp to light the way in case you get stuck outside at night or you unexpectedly stay out too long. It’s also useful if you find any cool caves or cenotes to explore on your hike.
We always pack our headlamps (and extra batteries) because we prefer to have our hands free when fumbling around in the dark.
Remember to check if the lamp works before your hike and lock it so it doesn’t accidentally turn on inside your backpack.
Black Diamond Spot Headlamp
Inevitably you’ll have to use the bathroom one day when hiking and when that time comes you should be prepared and responsible for your sh*t. Nobody wants to see your dirty toilet paper (or worse) hanging out on the side of the trail.
You’ll need a trowel to properly dispose of human waste. Why? Because you need to bury it!
We pack this ultralight trowel that we also use for backpacking.
Make sure to dig a hole 6 to 8 inches deep and stay at least 200 feet from any water source. And check the rules before you go because some highly impacted areas require human waste to be packed out instead of buried.
The Deuce Trowel
Bring some unrolled toilet paper from your bathroom. Also bring a disposable bag to pack out the used toilet paper.
Biodegradable doggie bags work well for this or you can reuse a plastic bag from food packaging.
Use this in lieu of washing your hands after using the “bathroom” and before eating to avoid getting sick.
If there’s a clean water source nearby, we like to rinse our hands in the water first and then use some hand sanitizer. But never do it the other way around because you’ll contaminate the water with sanitizer.
Pack a multi-tool or small pocket knife for emergencies. Michael loves his and uses it all the time for random things like cutting up our hiking snacks.
Kershaw Leek Pocket Knife
Check price: Amazon
First Aid Kit
You’ll need a first aid kit for everything from medical emergencies to blisters. Also bring any medications you may need.
This hiker’s first aid kit has everything you need for a day hike, including moleskin blister pads and repair tape for your gear.
Adventure Medical Kit
An emergency shelter may sound like overkill, but it can literally save your life when the temperature drops. You can just pack a heat reflective space blanket, but a waterproof emergency bivy sack is ideal.
SOL Emergency Bivvy
Bring some duct tape and Tenacious Tape for minor repairs like ripped jackets, holes in your backpack or broken sunglasses.
Take a small strip and wrap it around a pen to save space!
Lighter & Matches
You’ll need a lighter and some matches to build a fire. The fire helps you stay warm and its smoke helps rescuers find you quickly.
The matches are a backup in case the lighter doesn’t work. These stormproof matches come in a watertight container and are both windproof and waterproof. They even stay lit underwater!
Additional Day Hiking Gear
These aren’t really hiking essentials, but you might want to add some of them to your day hike pack.
- Insect repellent
- Bear spray
- Warm hat and gloves
- Trekking poles
- Bandana or buff
- Dry bag
- Pen and paper
How to Pack for a Day Hike
A mix of stuff sacks and dry bags make everything fit easily inside your hiking day pack and keep it organized for easy access.
Put all of the emergency and backup items in a dry bag that you keep stored inside the day pack when not in use:
- Extra Snacks
- Water Filter
- First Aid Kit
- Emergency Shelter
- Lighter & Matches
- Repair Kit
If you’re hiking in colder climates, you’ll probably need to bring more clothes than say hiking on a tropical island in Vietnam. Use a stuff sack to compress everything down if your clothing doesn’t pack down small enough to fit inside the pack.
You might want to keep some comfort items in your car for after your hike. Things like an insulated bottle of ice cold water, a change of shoes and/or socks, a change of clothing, and some more food.
We hope this list of hiking day pack essentials gave you a better idea of everything you need to pack on a day hike.
What are some of the things you like to pack for hikes? Let us know in the comments below.