8 Essential Things to Pack for a Day Hike

Heading outside for a day of hiking is a great way to get some exercise and explore the outdoors. Since you’ll be away from civilization for a few hours, it’s a good idea to have all of your essentials packed before you head out. Use the following information as a day hiking checklist for what to pack for a day hike.

Sun Protection

Bring sun protection in your day hiking backpackImage via Source

One of the most important items on your day hike packing list is sun protection. If you get above the tree line when you’re hiking, there’s nothing protecting your skin from the scorching sun. Sunscreen, lip balm, and a hat all guard your skin from dangerous and painful sunburns. Sunglasses are also very helpful, especially if you’re hiking in the winter and want to prevent temporary snow blindness. If you have very fair skin, you might want to consider wearing sun-proof clothing as well.

Water to stay hydrated

Another must-have on your day hiking checklist is water. Not drinking enough water does more than just make you thirsty. It also increases your chances of getting altitude sickness or hypothermia. Along with packing a few bottles of water, you should also consider bringing a filter or chlorine dioxide tablets. If you have a reliable storage method, you can safely fill up when you come across a lake or stream. This also helps keep the weight of your backpack down, making it easier to carry during your hike.


Even though you might plan on being out for a few hours, any number of things could happen to delay your return. You could spend more time sightseeing than you thought, go slower because of difficult terrain, get lost, or suffer an injury. That’s why it’s important to include snacks on your day hike backpack list. As you work your way through your day hike backpack list, make sure you add healthy snacks that include a good balance of protein, fat, and carbohydrates.

Navigation device that doesn't rely on a cellphone

While many hikers include a cell phone or GPS unit on their day hike packing list, these aren’t always reliable forms of navigation. Cell phones don’t always get service and batteries die. On the other hand, if you include a map and compass as part of your day hike essentials, you can figure out where you are if you get turned around. Not only can these tools show your location, they can also point you toward water, roads, and emergency services if you’re hurt.

A flashlight or headlamp

Even though you’re only planning to hike during the day, you never know when you might get delayed and end up out after sunset. A flashlight or headlamp will help you see your map, walk after dark, or even give you light to set up your camping gear if you decide it’s better to stay put. Make sure you test the light before you leave for your hike so you know it works. Even if you put fresh batteries in right before leave, it’s always a good idea to pack an extra set for when you have to use your light longer than you thought.

First Aid Kit

A first aid kit is an incredibly important item on your day hike gear list. You never know when you or someone you’re hiking with might have an injury or emergency, and you’ll be glad you have the right tools to help. You can buy a ready-made first aid kit or you can put together your own. Regardless of which option you choose, make sure your day hike gear list has the following items:

  • Single use packs of ibuprofen, an antihistamine, and aspirin
  • Hydrocortisone cream
  • Athletic tape
  • Adhesive bandages in varying sizes
  • Liquid bandages
  • Sterile gauze
  • Antiseptic ointment
  • Latex gloves
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Tweezers
  • Small knife or scissors
  • Safety pins


Fire Starter

If you unexpectedly have to spend the night outside, you’ll be glad you included a fire starter on your list of what to take on a day hike. You can pack matches, but if you do, consider keeping them in a waterproof container since they won’t work if they get wet. Another option you can pack is a fire starter that includes a striker and flint bar that will create sparks. The advantage of this device is that it works at any altitude, in rain, and in windy conditions.


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