Everything You Need to Pack for Day Hiking


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Everything You Need to Pack for Day Hiking


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Welcome to your guide to day hiking! I know that outdoor gear can be overwhelming so I’m so excited to break down what you need so you can hit the trail and be prepared!

If you’re just getting into hiking, try to use what you have or borrow from friends. There is no need to invest in all this gear below right away. It took me years to add to my outdoor collection.

I would just ensure you have the items that will keep you, your friends and other hikers safe—and that is the Ten Essentials.

Navigation, headlamp, sun protection, first aid, knife, fire, shelter, extra food, water and clothes! Don’t worry, every item is included them in the list below.

Let’s jump right into it.

A note from Angela:

There are affiliate links in this post, Day Hiking Checklist, and I may earn a small commission if you choose to purchase an item (at no additional cost to you). These funds go right back into creating content just like this and supporting my small business. If you do choose to purchase something, thank you for your support!

What To Pack for Day Hiking

Day hiking backpack:

You can totally use what you have but if you know you are going to go on a lot of hikes, I suggest investing in a supportive and comfortable day hiking backpack.

There are a few things I look for when it comes to day hiking backpacks:

  • 20- 30L in size would be best. Depending on the hike, I have a 20L, 30L and 36L day hiking bag. I like to bring my bigger backpacks as I have a lot of camera gear and like to bring a lot of extra food and layers, but 36L is probably much bigger than what the average person needs.
  • Make sure there are supportive thick waist straps. I’d stay away from day packs that only have a string for waist support. You want to have good waist support so the weight is on your waist and not on your shoulders.
  • A spot for a hydration pack will make your life a whole lot easier when day hiking!
  • A sternum strap, or a strap that goes across your chest, will help keep the bag in place.

Here are some of my recommendations:

Hiking Poles:

Hiking poles make you more stable, balanced and help with energy. You’ll want your hiking poles to collapse in size and be lightweight.

The Black Diamond Trail Trekking Poles (REIBackcountryAltitude Sports) are great.

Hiking Boots:

Boots are hard to recommend because everyone is different, so what may work for me, may not work for you. Here are the boots that I have tried and loved:


I like to hike with a long-lined sports bra with a top that is moisture wicking and quick drying—use what you have!

Don’t wear cotton while day hiking because it cannot wick sweat and is very slow to dry which can lead you to getting cold.

I personally start with a short or long sleeve on then take it off and only hike in my sports bra depending on the temperature and exposure to sun.

Here are my favorite sports bras/tanks:

Here are my favorite short sleeves:

And my favorite long sleeves:

I like to bring a cozy long sleeve with me that I will change into when I get to my destination like this Free People yellow long sleeve!


I choose shorts or pants depending on the weather. I tend to look for shorts and pants that have a belt to adjust the waistband.

I also prefer shorts with an 4-5″ inseam and pants with a 27-29″ inseam because I’m 5’4.

Here are some of my all-time favorite shorts:

PS. That yellow long sleeve is by Free People and I love it!!

And below are my favorite hiking pants:

Insulated Layer:

No matter how high the temperatures are you need to bring an insulated layer with you! Weather can change quickly!

I bring a fleece and puffy with me on every day trip because I’m type-a, but one is sufficient.

Here are my favorite fleeces:

And my favorite insulated layer/puffies:

Outer Layer

Just like an insulated layer, I always pack a rain jacket incase the weather turns for the worst.

This also helps with wind which can come out of nowhere.

Everything Else (Clothing Wise):

A hat can go a long way while day hiking! I love the Patagonia Trad Cap and Fjallraven Helags Cap.

You also need to pack sunglasses, sunscreen, and SPF lip balm—my lips always get burnt!

Even if it’s not sunny outside when you start your hike, the weather can change on a dime so having these items is really important.

Water is essential when day hiking. Always have a water bottle/reservoir, a way to filter water (I like water tablets for day hikes) and electrolytes:

It’s super important to bring food, and extra food in case of an emergency and you’re outside longer than you intend to be.

I love high energy snacks like energy bars, energy chews, candy, waffles, dried fruits etc. and like to shop at REI and MEC (Canada).

If you want something fresh, I suggest bringing fruits and vegetables that won’t get squished—so stay away from nectarines and kiwis (unless you make sure they are going to be safe) and go for apples and oranges.

You can also bring a small bag for trash if you’d like. I bring way more food than I think I need so don’t skip out here.

There are a few things that I like to keep in my day hiking pack at all times and they are items that might save my life.

It’s easier if you have all of these items in a small Ziploc so you can keep them all in one place.

  • First Aid REIBackcountryMEC
  • Moleskin for blisters REIBackcountryMEC
  • Whistle (might be on your backpack stap)
  • Emergency Shelter REIBackcountryMEC
  • Pain medication (like Tylenol, Pepto, etc.)
  • 1-2 lighters and/or waterproof matches
  • Bear Spray (store in an easy to access spot while hiking not in with the items above) — REIBackcountryMEC
  • Multi-tool or knife REIBackcountryMEC
  • Small gear repair kit (with items like duct tape, tent pole sleeve, etc.)

Do not hit the trail without downloading an offline map on apps like AllTrails, Gaia, or Strava.

You likely will be out of service and having an offline map may save your life. I always put my phone on airplane mode when I day hike and I know how long it can last for. I have the new phone though which has great battery life.

You can always bring a portable power bank to ensure your battery doesn’t run out!

I will forever, and ever, and ever, recommend having a satellite communication device, like the Garmin in Reach Mini.

This required a monthly membership and is pricy, but it allows you to talk to your loved ones and friends, press a SOS button for emergency help and has a compass.

A light source is incredibly important and takes up an extremely small space in your day hiking bag.

Always bring a headlamp with you (and make sure it is charged or has charged batteries).

I love the BioLite headlamp. You can snag it at Backcountry here and MEC here.

You probably will need to use the bathroom when you’re on your day hike so be prepared, no matter how long the hike is!

It’s also important to bring bug spray (natural or with Deet) in the times the bugs are out and about. I always pack:

  • A mall towel
  • Bathing suit
  • Camera and batteries
  • Is it cold and rainy? I’d bring extra socks, extra layers like rain pants, gators, and a camp stove and camp mug to make hot water or coffee!

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