Check out our day hiking packing list. Find out the essentials to bring on your hike, plus optional hiking gear that may make your hike more comfortable.
If you’re new to hiking, it can be difficult to know what to pack and what to leave at home. I’ll never forget the time I saw an ill-advised tourist hiking in the Canadian Rockies – wearing gumboots!
You can’t make this stuff up! Apparently, someone had told him it was going to rain, so he thought gumboots were the solution. Unsurprisingly, his feet were covered in blisters. I gave him some Compeed for the worst ones – ouch! He clearly hadn’t read my day hiking packing list essentials.
I’ve also ran into hikers who begged for water on numerous occasions. In each case, they had attempted a long hike with not enough water.
That’s when things start getting scary. If you get lost and end up spending the night in the mountains, you can die from hypothermia. It’s not uncommon for temperatures to drop below freezing in the mountains overnight – even in summer! Don’t worry, that’s not going to happen to you. Once you know what to pack for a day hike, it’s easy to stay safe and not overpack.
Who Designed This Day Hiking Packing List?
My name is Laurel and I’ve been hiking almost every weekend for over 20 years, plus at least one multi-day hike every year. I also offer hiking tours and advise clients on what to pack for their hikes.
My day hike essentials have evolved over time and continue to do so as new products and technology come out. When I first started hiking, fleeces were really thick and bulky. I’m so glad to see how hiking gear has evolved to become lighter without sacrificing warmth.
As I hike almost every weekend, sometimes doing multiple hikes on a weekend, I’ve learned what to pack and what to leave at home.
Day Hiking Packing List:
When hiking, it’s essential to layer so that you can easily add or take off layers as you sweat or as the temperature changes.
The three essential layers are:
- Base layer: for wicking sweat off your skin. I LOVE Merino wool as a base layer but quick-drying polyester will also work and is cheaper. Never wear cotton, you’ll be too hot or too cold.
- Mid-layer: this is for insulating and helps your body retain heat. I always bring a mid-layer even in summer, since temperatures can drop very quickly. I have a lightweight one for summer and a warmer fleece for winter.
- Outer layer: this is a shell to protect you from wind and rain. I always bring an outlet layer, even on sunny days. Weather can change quickly, and it can often be cold and windy at the summit.
I wear this in winter, spring, fall and sometimes even in summer on a cool day. I highly recommend wool. IN summer, I wear a short sleeve version of this.
Don’t worry you can get wool that’s actually soft and not scratchy. It keeps you warm, and best of all, it doesn’t stink afterwards!
These are my favourite essential item of hiking gear. They are full length pants that zip off at either just below the knee and/or also zip off above the knee, turning them into shorts, depending on the style. I almost never hike in regular shorts. These are much more practical should the weather change.
Related Reading: 18 Best Leggings for Hiking
These are worth buying and then you can assess before each hike whether or not to bring them. If rain is in the forecst, then obviously bring them.
If the forecast is for sun, I don’t usually bring mine for day hikes of 4 hours or less, but will bring them on longer day hikes.
Socks are one item you don’t want to cheap out on. A good pair of socks will help prevent blisters by wicking the moisture away. They’ll also help regulate your foot temperature. All it takes it getting a bad blister once for you to be convinced of the value of a good pair of socks. Trust me, don’t learn the hard way.
These are always in my backpack and are an essential in my opinion if you’re doing difficult hikes with scree. Howeverif you’re hiking at lower elevations on a wide path, you probably don’t need them. Having said that they’re great in snow and mud for keeping your legs warm and dry. They’re also good in summer on scrambles. They keep tiny rocks from getting in your boots. Besides, even in summer, you may encounter mud, or even snow higher up! They also add another layer, so can be used if you’re cold.
You’ll want to invest in a good pair of hiking boots. Your feet will thank you for it. I always buy a 1/2 to 1 size bigger, since your feet swell after a day of hiking. I recommend trying them on near the end of a day, when your feet are already swollen.
If you have weak ankles, I’d definitely recommend hiking boots over hiking shoes for extra support.
Related Reading: The Best Hiking Footwear For Every Hiker
This size will cover you for day trips. Look for one that has a built-in rain cover. It will fit better than if you buy one separately. Also, buy one that has space between the pack and your back to prevent back sweat. It can be uncomfortable and can have a huge impact on your body temperature. I’m a big fan of Deuter backpacks.
Related Reading: Best Hiking Backpacks: Our Top 13 For Every Budget
Day Hike Essentials: Hydration & Food
On a longer day hike it is always a good idea to take an extra bottle. Depending on where you’re hiking, you may want one that can purify water so that you can collect water on the trail if needed. The Life Straw purifies water so you don’t have to worry abut bacteria and other impurities from water sources along the way.
Always bring more water than you think you’ll need. Yes it’s heavy, but it’s free. You may go through more than you think you will. I bring a minimum of 2 litres on everyday hike, and sometimes up to 4 for longer hikes, or if it’s hot. You may be able to find a stream or lake to drink water from, but don’t count on it. And remember, if you do, you’ll need either purification tablets or a filter.
Safety Items for Your Day Hiking Packing List
Day Hike Essentials for Avoiding Blisters When Hiking
The two best ways to avoid blisters when hiking are:
1) have hiking boots/shoes that fit correctly. See the tips above under hiking boots for how to find the right size.
2) wearing breathable socks that wick moisture away helping to prevent blisters.
If you do feel that you’re starting to get a blister, treat it as soon as possible by applying Compeed Anti-blister stick. Don’t wait. And if it does develop into a blister then apply a Compeed blister cushion.
Navigation Essentials For Your Day Hike
Miscellaneous Items for Your Day Hiking Packing List
Related Reading: Gifts That Hikers Will Love
Optional Items for Your Day Hiking Packing List
Related Reading: The Best Trekking Poles.