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8 Essentials For Your Hiking Pack

hiking backpack ice lake basin trail

Being prepared for a day hike can make you more comfortable and save you in case of an emergency out on the trail. But before you lace up those hiking boots and head out the door, there are a few things you need to know. This is our comprehensive guide on day hiking essentials, where we’ll take you through everything you need to make your trek a memorable, safe, and enjoyable experience.

Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or taking your first steps on the trail, our guide will equip you with the knowledge and gear necessary to embrace the beauty of nature with confidence. From choosing the right clothing to mastering navigation skills and understanding the importance of hydration and nutrition, we’ve got you covered.

So, if you’re ready to embark on a journey filled with stunning vistas, fresh air, and a sense of adventure, join us as we delve into the must-haves and must-knows for day hiking. Let’s ensure your next hiking adventure is not just a walk in the woods but an unforgettable exploration of the natural world.

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1. Plenty Of Water:

Water is one of the most important items to have on a hike. It’s smart to bring extra water in case you get lost or the hike is more strenuous than anticipated.

We suggest carrying at least a 1/2 liter per mile. But it might also stronger depend on the weather and difficulty of the hike.

We find the best way to continuously stay hydrated on the trail is with a water bladder. That way you can take a sip every time you need water, instead of stopping along the trail and having to pull your water bottle out of your day pack.

Every hiking trail varies in terms of its difficulty level. Therefore, conducting research on the trail’s difficulty rating can assist you in gauging your water requirements more accurately.

Obviously, if you are hiking in warmer climates, you will want to bring more water to account for increased perspiration.

If you’re an avid hiker we suggest having a backup system for treating water. We suggest either a Sawyer Squeeze Mini, Lifestraw, Water Purification Tablets, or a LARQ water bottle. A water filter is a great backup in case of emergency, or for very long hikes you will be able to restock if there are suitable water sources such as streams or lakes.

2. First Aid Kit:

There are several common injuries that happen on the trail, so it’s good to be prepared to treat them. The most common injuries are cuts, bruises, sprains, splinters, and illness.

It’s important for someone in your hiking group to have a first aid kit. You can buy one, or make your own, but be sure it has adhesive bandages, sterile alcohol wipes, antibiotic ointment, gauze, medical/athletic tape, pain relief medicine, Imodium pills & tweezers.

If you have asthma or severe allergies, make sure to bring your inhaler or Epipen. 

To save on weight, we recommend repackaging things.  For example, you won’t need an entire bottle of Tylenol on one hike, so take a few out and put them in a plastic bag. Then just refill your kit as needed. And if you do have different medicines in the same bag, just make sure you remember which ones are which.

3. Emergency Kit:

Space Emergency Blanket

This should contain a lighter/waterproof matches/firestarter, an emergency blanket, and a pocket knife. Depending on the remoteness of your hike, these may be overkill. But I find the weight almost negligible, so I just keep them in my First Aid Kit regardless of the hike.

And if you often find yourself on longer hikes, it might be wise to travel with an emergency shelter. This Go Time Gear Life Tent Emergency Survival Shelter can be the perfect item to throw into your hiking backpack.

4. High Energy Snacks:

Emily packing trail mix in her backpack which is one of the essentials for your hiking pack

Personally, one of my favorite day hiking essentials is making sure we have some tasty snacks. We always have some combination of trail mix, beef jerky, sandwiches, fruit, and some high energy bar (Clif bar/ Larabar). If you are going on a long hike, it is a good idea to pack extra food in case the hike takes longer than anticipated or you get lost.

Check out the best hiking snacks to fuel your next adventure.

5. Clothing Layers: 

This will depend heavily on the climate you are hiking in, but a good mantra is “plan for the worst, hope for the best.”

I always have a lightweight rain jacket in my pack, in case it starts raining or for extra warmth. Weather can change fast, especially when hiking at elevation, so it’s always good to bring at least one layer for comfort.

You can always have a lightweight emergency poncho in your bag in case the rain catches you unexpectedly on the hiking trail.

Jake and I’s personal preference for hiking layers are wool clothing because it is breathable, sweat wicking, and lightweight.

Emily’s Favorite Hiking Layers

Jake’s Favorite Hiking Layers

6. Sun Protection:

Having sunscreen on a hike is essential for protecting your skin from the sun’s harmful UV rays. While enjoying the great outdoors, sunscreen acts as your shield, preventing sunburn, skin damage, and reducing the risk of skin cancer.

It ensures that your hike is not just enjoyable but also safe, allowing you to focus on the breathtaking scenery and the adventure ahead without worrying about sun-related health concerns.

So, whether you’re trekking through forests, climbing mountains, or strolling along a trail, applying sunscreen is a small but crucial step toward a healthier and more comfortable hiking experience.

7. Map or GPS:

Depending on the difficulty of the hike, you might want to have a paper map of the area, a GPS tracker, or download maps for offline use.

Emily Wearing The ust Gear Brila 580 Dual Power LED Headlamp which is one of the essentials for your hiking pack

We like to use the app AllTrails on our cell phone to GPS track us while we hike. When you have cell service or wifi, you can load a map using the free version of AllTrails. Once you have the map downloaded then it will use GPS tracking while you are offline to locate you and show where you are on a trail. Or you can purchase the app to get full access to their content offline.

You can always opt to get a Satellite messenger in case of emergencies. A popular choice is the Garmin InReach Mini.

8. Light source or Battery Source: 

Another important day hiking essentials is a light source. It’s a good idea to have a headlamp or small flashlight in your pack in case your hike accidentally (or intentionally) keeps you out until after sunset.

If you don’t want to bring a headlamp, you could use a smartphone flashlight, but you may want to have a backup portable charger.

We love our Sunjack portable power bank that always comes with us and has plenty of power to charge several devices.

Other Great Day Hiking Essentials:

Trekking Poles

Trekking poles have become our favorite items to take on longer day hikes and even challenging short hikes. It can be a game changer for your knee joints when coming down steep trails, and even help push you up the mountain.

Jake and I have been using the Trail Buddy Hiking Poles for years now and they are awesome!

Toilet Paper

When you gotta go, you gotta go! I always pack a little TP in my pack for emergencies or simply for going #1 out on the trail. But please follow Leave No Trace Principles and pack out your toilet paper.

Hand Sanitizer

Another great item to have in your day pack is a travel size hand sanitizer. For the reason listed above, it can be nice to clean off your hands after the deed. Or for rinsing your hands off before eating a snack.

Bug Spray

Insect Repellent is always in our pack for when the bugs get bad. They can especially be bad in late Spring, early Summer. So having a way to protect yourself from getting bite by mosquitos or other pesky bugs can be a life saver.

Check out our comprehensive guide for the best bug sprays for camping and hiking adventures.

Lip Balm

Another great item to have in your hiking pack is lip balm. I encourage you to find an SPF lip balm to also protect your lips from sunburn.

Bear Spray

If you find yourself hiking in bear country, then it’s wise to carry bear spray along on the hike. This can save you if you encounter an aggressive bear. But most bears will scare off easily and don’t necessarily charge humans. Read more about Bear Safety.

Water Resistant or Waterproof Hiking Shoes

Many of the best trails usually cross a creek or two. Therefore, having a good pair of shoes that won’t get soaked if you find yourself crossing a creek can be a game changers.

Persoanlly, Jake and I are huge fans of the Altra Lone Peak RSM hiking boots. They have a wide toe box so you don’t get blisters on the side of your toes, and are a zero drop shoe so they are super comfortable. We wear these on nearly every hike, and love them so much!

And in warmer weather, you might consider a great pair of river hiking shoes.

Duct Tape

Doesn’t Duct Tape solve just about anything? While this might not make it on the day hiking essentials list, but it can definitely be useful in emergency situations. Say the sole of your shoe falls off, or your hiking pole snaps. Boom, Duct Tape to the rescue once again!

And while you probably don’t want to pack the whole roll because it is heavy and bulky, you can grab a travel size small roll of Duct Tape.

Related Posts To Day Hiking Essentials:

Now that you are all packed for an epic day hike, now it’s time to make sure you have everything for a successful backpacking adventure. Check out our Ultimate Backpacking Checklist Guide for everything you would possible want on a backpacking trip.

Also, now you need to figure out where to go hiking! Look into our hiking blog for some of our all-time favorite places to hike.

We also have a great post highlighting How To Find The Best Hiking Trails near you.

And if you don’t have all the right day hiking essentials yet, here are some of the Best Websites To Buy Hiking Gear. Or some awesome Resources For Finding USED Hiking Gear.

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