Ready to conquer an epic day hike, but not sure what’s going on your packing list? One tricky thing about hiking is you’ll need to carry everything on you. For that reason, there should be a mix of must have items, and also some incase of an emergency. After completing some of the best day hikes in the world, we started to realize that we always carry the same things in our bag. So whether you’re planning your first full-day hike or just looking for ideas for what to pack, we got you covered. Join us as we breakdown 10 day hike essentials to pack on your next climb!
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Packing For A Day Hike Essentials
It’s important to stress that our day hike essentials are based on items that we always put in our own bags. The trails we hike are often popular to the area, and range from a short one hour hikes to ten hour crossings.
Our day hike packing list is more for basic outdoor adventurers, not extreme remote hikers! You obviously would want to be more prepared if you’re heading out on multi-day treks.
1. Finding the Right Backpack
First things first… You can’t start packing for a day hike without your backpack! While most people already own some type of lightweight backpack, a good one can make a huge difference.
Things to look for in the best day pack is the size, if its water resistant, pockets, and weight. We also tend to buy ones that are folding and packable so they don’t take up a lot of room while traveling.
2. Enough Water
The key word here is enough. You need a significantly different amount of water for a quick hour hike vs. an 8 hour crossing. If there are streams available we like to bring a filtering bottle, too.
For example, when we did the famous Tongariro Alpine Crossing in New Zealand it is well known there are no rivers or lakes to gather water from.
That means carrying our Grayl purifying bottle would have been a waste of space in the backpack. In this situation you should carry enough water for the hike. Additionally, we like to carry electrolyte tablets that we can pop into our water bottles to stay extra hydrated.
3. Food & Snacks
The length of your climb will often determine how much food you’ll need to add to your day hike packing list. Even for short hikes make sure to throw in a snack or two!
We like to make easy sandwiches with whole grain bread filled with local meat and cheese. For snack ideas bring nuts, small natural juice boxes, apples (or other fruits), mixed nuts, granola bars, chips, and dark chocolate.
4. Small Medical Kit
The medical kit can be a little of a tricky when packing for day hike. In other words, you want to stay prepared without having to carry around a million things you’ll never need.
Buy a small first aid kit, or make your own so it only includes day hike essentials. Some of the basic staples we always carry are Tylenol, Neosporin, band aids, Tums, Imodium, hand sanitizer, EpiPen, and medical tape.
Time to layer up! This means even in the summertime, or when you’re heading out on a perfectly clear day. You can never truly predict what will happen with the weather.
Also, if you’re taking on a hike with a dramatic elevation the temperature can be completely different the higher you go. Think base t-shirt, long sleeve, and waterproof shell. While hiking in fall or cooler months you will have to consider the weather and quality of your gear for additional layers.
In Patagonia we had a warm spring day when we left and happily hiked in our t-shirts. Hours later we quickly bundled up as the wind picked up to over 20 miles an hour. Then what came next? It started too lightly snow! Thankfully we had packed more than enough layers for our hike, but when heading out that morning we didn’t think we would all of them.
Our outer layer is always a waterproof jacket. This can be layered for the cold, block you from wind, or of course come in handy when an unexpected rainstorm hits. Jake has had a RAB jacket that he traveled with for seven years! A nice jacket can be expensive, but it’s worthy investment.
6. Sunblock, Sunglasses, & Hat
Sunblock isn’t going in a medical kit, it deserves its own mention. Unless you’re taking on a deep jungle trek in Brazil or exploring caves in Vietnam, you’ll most likely be spending a lot of time in the direct sun. While hiking in the warmer months try to get an early start. If that means waking up at the crack of dawn to be the first on the trail, then so be it!
High strength sunblock should be applied before your hike as well throughout the day no matter the season. Even on cloudy days the sun can be deceptively strong. Also, sunglasses, a hat, or both are needed to protect your eyes and face.
On the Cambodian Islands we hiked to one of the most beautiful beaches ever on the far side of the island. After completing the hike in sweltering heat then walking for miles on the beach, we were burnt and worn out from the hot sun.
Thankfully, we hired a boat back to town so we didn’t have to make the hike back through the jungle after sunset. Which brings us to the next of our day hike essentials below!
7. Cash & Small Bills
If you’re hiking in the middle of nowhere you’d think there is probably no reason you’d need money… Think again! As mentioned above, if we didn’t have local currency we would have been in a bit of trouble. It’s best to not simply rely on credit cards depending on where you’re visiting. The best thing you can have is small bills in most places around the world.
Not convinced? Here’s a couple other cases where we’ve needed cash while hiking. In Albania we went for a stunning coastal climb and found a small beach serving drinks and snacks.
Before heading back we enjoyed the beach for hours, and it ended up being one of our favorite days in the country. One Patagonia hike we had to stop into a small hotel, and ask them to call us a taxi. This ended up being cash only so we were glad we had some bills on us.
For a one day hike it’s not normally something you’ll need, but always good to have!
8. Phone with External Charger & Sim Card
In today’s world there probably isn’t anywhere you would travel without your phone. I mean it’s gotta already be on your day hike packing list! While having a local sim card can come in handy we often used it in a different way traveling. The first reason is strictly for a map.
We always have an offline map of the area downloaded using an app like Maps.me. This can especially come in handy when the trail isn’t well marked. Besides this your phone can be utilized without service for a light, compass, to tell the time, and take awesome photos.
It’s always a good idea to have an external charger no matter what the situation is. Being caught with a dead battery in the woods is not ideal! We’ve used the Anker Portable Charger for the past few years and loved it.
9. Personal Locator Beacons
Depending on what type of hiking you’ve done you may not be familiar with locator beacons. They’re more common with multi-day opposed to one day hikes, but still worth looking into. In many popular hiking destinations (such as Patagonia and New Zealand) you can rent them by the day from local stores.
This is the one item on the list we don’t always have on us, but is one of the best day hike essentials around. For our next hiking adventure we plan to make the investment and buy one instead of renting!
10. Photography Gear
As travel bloggers its important for us to always hike with our cameras and other photography equipment. Without great photos our articles wouldn’t be nearly as exciting! Since many people use the phone on their camera this might not relate to you. Yet, if you’re the type to hike with a camera, GoPro, or drone here’s some things to double check.
- Fully charge electronics the night before. Also, make sure you actually take the battery out of the charger and put it back into your camera. Yes, we’re embarrassed to say that we’ve made that mistake before!
- Check your memory card. It doesn’t matter if you’re taking photos, videos, or whatever else. Nothing is worse than going to snap the perfect photo only to see that your memory card is full.
- All the extra parts. Before you leave see that you’ve packed whatever you need. From extra lenses to batteries, or a tripod.
Where in the World Are You Hiking?
There are other necessary items that vary based on where in the world you are. Consider your surroundings, and when in doubt ask others who have hiked in the area.
After you’ve completed your day hike packing list be sure to let a family member or friend know where you’re going. Some places you can register online with the park directly, or inform your accommodation in case of emergency.
Have any questions about our basic day hike packing list? How about sharing what you always carry in your bag? Let us know in the comments below.
Brigitte & Jake
Where in the world are we? Follow our daily adventures on Instagram @nothingfamiliar!
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