Hiker with a Day Pack

10 Day Hiking Essentials to Keep in Your Pack

Do you know what gear to bring with you for a day hike? Let us help you become a pro at preparing for your next outing. We’re breaking down the 10 essential items to keep in your pack for any day hiking excursion. But before we get started, it’s important to always consider the specific details of your trip. The location, season, and local trail regulations are just a few examples of factors that will impact the gear you choose. If you’re looking for some guidance on those choices, reach out to our friendly team of gear specialists. We’re happy to help you select the best gear for your needs.

Now, onto those 10 day hiking essentials! Watch this helpful video and read on to discover what gear you should be adding to your daypack when you’re heading out on the trail.

Essential Day Hiking Gear Checklist:

Hydration

One of the most important essential items you should bring on any hike is water. Having adequate hydration is key, but you should also plan to bring extra water and a way to filter water in an emergency. There are plenty of lightweight filtration options on the market that can easily be slipped into your daypack for peace of mind. If you need some help choosing the backcountry water filter that’s right for you, we’ve got some expert advice for that too.

Nutrition

Even if you’re not planning to be out for long, be sure to bring some extra food. This is essential for situations when you get stuck out for longer than intended, or when you need some extra fuel to finish the hike. We recommend protein calorie dense foods, like energy bars or trail mix. Check out our favorite trail mix recipes here.

Closeup of trail mix on map background

While you may be planning on an easy loop hike or a trip in a familiar location, you never know what might happen, so it’s essential to have some kind of navigational tool for your hike. Options include a handheld GPS unit, a personal locator beacon, or a good old-fashioned map and compass. Plus, it’s best to always have a backup method, so we recommend choosing two navigational options for your trip. Whichever you choose, just be sure you’re familiar with how they work so you’ll be ready to use them in a backcountry scenario. We also suggest carrying some kind of signaling gear like a mirror or a whistle, which is often built into the sternum strap of your pack.

Whistle on a backpack sternum strap
Shown here, a safety whistle built in to the pack’s sternum strap buckle.

Sun Protection

Even if you’re anticipating a cloudy sky, sometimes the weather can surprise you. Sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat are a great place to start to keep you protected from harsh rays. Some folks might also choose to use a lightweight trekking umbrella or long-sleeve sun protective apparel to further this coverage.

Lighting

Speaking of planning for the unexpected, you’ll want to make sure you always have some form of illumination on your hike. While you might expect to only be hiking during daylight hours, you never want to be caught outside without a headlamp or flashlight to light the way in the dark. Before you leave be sure to charge or replace your batteries if needed. For long hikes or trips in remote locations, consider bringing backup batteries. Interested in finding the perfect headlamp for your next adventure? We can help you choose.

Explore Lighting Options at Enwild

Emergency Shelter

Day hiking implies that you aren’t planning to spend the night outside. But, unforeseen circumstances or a bout with foul weather could leave you scrambling for a protected space out of the elements. Having an emergency shelter, tarp or bivy is a great idea.

Hiker with Emergency Blanket

Insulation

Bright sunny days can turn to less ideal weather quickly, especially in alpine environments. Be sure to bring insulated layers and emergency rain gear, even if you don’t expect precipitation. Getting caught without enough insulation or rain protection will take the fun out of any adventure, so don’t let it happen to you.

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Knife

camper cutting kindling with Knife

Another hiking essential you should always keep in your bag is a knife. Having a sharp knife can come in handy for a lot of different scenarios, such as creating kindling or repairing your gear.

Browse Knives & Tools at Enwild

First Aid

This one might seem like a no brainer, but it’s important to remember. A first aid kit is an essential item for day hiking. It doesn’t have to be extensive or super bulky, but it should cover the basics. Tailoring your kit to the location you’ll be visiting as well as your own individual needs is recommended. For instance, if you need glasses to see your way around, taking a backup pair is a good idea.

Fire Starter

Lastly, you’ll want to bring along some kind of fire starter. A fire key, lighter, or matches stored in a watertight container are all perfectly good options. Having the ability to create a fire is important in emergency scenarios because you can use it to cook food, provide warmth, signal rescuers, and provide light.

The Takeaway

This information covers the 10 day hiking essentials, but there might be more unique gear that’s necessary for your trip. Some parks or hikes will require specialty items like snowshoes, goggles, or a backcountry permit, so be sure to research your hiking destination ahead of time. Got more questions before you head out on the trail? Contact us today! We’re real people with real experience in the outdoors, here to help you get the most out of every adventure.

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