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The ultimate day hike packing list

After years of regular hiking in BC and I’ve just about memorised everything I need to take with me when packing for a hike. However, having my own day hike packing list written down just so I don’t miss anything when packing for hiking is definitely useful, especially when I was first starting.

I fully understand it can be confusing to know what to pack for a hiking trip, which is why I’m here to help!

It’s so easy to forget something when you’re packing for a day hike.

For me, it’s usually my headlamp I forget and I find out when I return home that I left it charging!

Luckily, this is something on my packing list for hiking I don’t always need to use but it is important to take it with you since it’s one item of the 10 hiking essentials list for safety.

If you’re struggling to keep tabs on everything you need or are wondering what to pack for a day hike, then be sure to check out the rest of this post.

It’s useful to run through this every time you’re packing for a hiking trip. Whether you’re looking for essentials for beginner hikers or are an experienced hiker who just hates packing for hiking, this day hike checklist is here to help.

Looking for a multi day hike packing list? Here’s my Berg Lake trail 3 day hike packing list.

Day hike packing list

packing for hiking

Everyone has their own personal thing they like to add (maybe it’s a beer for the summit or your camera of choice), but these things focus on the day hike essentials and hiking gear for day hikes.

Use this checklist to make sure you’ve got everything if you’re wondering what to bring hiking.

No one wants to have to call Search and Rescue and doing so is often easily avoided by making sure you’ve planned and prepared well before going on your hike and making sure you don’t forget these things to bring on a hike.

hiking packing checklist

Where to buy hiking gear?

If you’re just starting out and not sure whether you’ll be into hiking, then the best hiking gear is what you already have.

You’ll be doing shorter hikes and having the latest backpack or fancy hiking pants isn’t a big deal. You should always have your 10 essentials though!

However, if you’ve been hiking for a while and are ready to move up to the next level, then here are some of the best places you can get new (or new to you) hiking gear.

  • MEC: If you live in Canada then chances are you’re familiar with MEC. This one-stop shop for outdoor adventures is one of my favourite shops to visit. I love browsing all the new outdoor gear and MEC has a great returns policy so if something doesn’t work out quite how you hoped, you can (usually) return it.
  • REI: REI is the American equivalent of MEC but some would argue it’s even better. When you become an REI member you become part of a cooperative and get money back on everything in the form of dividends. Online shipping to Canada is available apart from some brands but REI will let you know if it’s not possible.
  • AlpineTrek: In the UK, AlpineTrek is a great online store that sells loads of good brands at great prices.
  • Valhalla: Valhalla is fairly new to me but I love their stores too. Similar to REI, you can also get money back on your purchases and their Squamish store in particular is super well stocked. Online shopping available too.
  • Decathlon: Big in Europe, Decathlon does have a presence in North America too (though no physical store in western Canada!). Their prices tend to be a little on the lower end compared to other outdoor stores, especially if you’re not buying the big brands.
  • Other great options: Atmosphere, Amazon, and specific brand stores
  • Thrift stores, Facebook marketplace and Depop second-hand apps.

Backpacking Essentials: The Hiking 10 Essentials

The most important part of going hiking is making sure you come back safely. The ten essentials for hiking include gear that will help keep you safe if your hike takes longer than expected.

While you can go budget on hiking clothes, these hiking essentials for beginners, experts and everyone in between shouldn’t be missing from your pack.

Perhaps the sunset quicker than you thought or you couldn’t tear yourself away from that sunset and now you’re hiking in the dark.

Or, maybe you’ve heard your ankle and can’t walk and it’ll be a while until Search and Rescue can come help.

With the ten essentials, you’ll be much better prepared for instances like these and have a much greater chance of survival if something bad happens to you.

Most of them can be picked up pretty cheaply too, so there are no excuses.

Whether you’re wondering what to pack for a short hike, or what to pack for a multi day hiking trip, these 10 items should be included for both.

For more information on all the 10 essentials read this post!

In addition to the items below you should also make sure you leave a trip plan with a friend. Let them know where and when you’re going, and what time you expect to be back so that they know when to raise the alarm should they not hear from you.

AllTrails is my go-to hiking app for finding, planning, and navigating while I’m out on the trails. With offline maps on AllTrails+ you can be confident you’re still on the right track, even without mobile signal.

hiking compass

No matter how well-tracked or marked out you think the trail is going to be, you must take some form of navigation with you.

Ideally, this is a compass and map of the area you’re in so you’re not relying on data and battery power. Having said that, usually a GPS app like AllTrails will suffice.

I’d recommend putting your phone on aeroplane mode so that the battery doesn’t run out on you

Check out my list of the best hiking apps.

If you do take a map & compass, make sure you know how to use them. I attended a free session at MEC a while back to refresh these skills and found it super useful.

If you live in the US, I’m sure REI do similar courses. Or, you could find plenty of Youtube tutorials too.

Sun protection

Fair-skinned or not you’ll want to take sun protection with you. Being out in the sun will make you more tired and can lead to heat exhaustion and sunstroke both of which are really going to ruin your hike.

When considering things to bring on a hiking trip, sun protection means taking sunblock as well as a hat and sunglasses. They’re all day hiking essential items come sun or snow!

sunbum mineral
hat what to wear when hiking in hot weather
sunbum lip balm
goodr sunglasses

Insulation – warm layers for hiking

The weather in the mountains changes super quickly and often when you least expect it. Even on a hot day, it can be windy and chilly up at the summit or by a lake, that’s why this is one of the important things to take hiking.

Take extra layers with you that are easy to strip on and off as needed. If you do end up getting stuck overnight, having some extra layers could literally save your life.

I like to take my Patagonia fleece and my Patagonia puffy jacket in my day pack.

better sweater
insulated jacket

Illumination / Headlamp

black diamond headlamp spot 400

A headlamp takes up a small amount of room in your day pack but is an important item to take on a hike.

I’m currently using a Black Diamond headlamp that’s rechargeable, but battery ones are fine too. Just make sure to include a headlamp in your day hiking packing list.

Fully charged rechargeable ones are useful for day hikes as long as you make sure they’re not going to switch on in your pack!

If you have one using batteries, take on battery out, or put it in the wrong way to make sure that the batteries don’t run out before you need to use the headlamp. It’s a good idea to take spare batteries, or a battery pack and charging cable for rechargeable headlamps too.

Hydration and nutrition

The ultimate day hike packing list ir?t=thatadven 20&l=am2&o=1&a=B07MDL7SDMPerhaps the most important thing needed for hiking is a water supply.

I take my 2L Platypus bladder with me on every hike no matter how long it is. Some backpacks come with built-in backpack hydration so you won’t need to buy something separately, but it’s more common that they don’t.

If I’m going on a particularly long day hike in the middle of summer, I’ll also throw my Nalgene 1L bottle into my pack.

My first aid supplies include water purification tablets so that I can purify water from a stream or lake on the go if I really need to. Recently I’ve switched out to using my Sawyer Squeeze water purifier more but since the tablets take up very little space and weight I’ll still pack them when packing for hiking.

hydration bladder
nalgene water bottle
sawyer squeeze

Make sure you’ve packed plenty of snacks too and more than you’ll need for the hike. Including a couple of Clif bars, some GoMacro bars or Honey Stinger waffles are a good idea as they’re great things to bring on a hike.

go macro bar hiking nutrition
cliff bar
honey stinger

I also love taking dried mango on hikes for a nice little energy boost and something sweet. Snacks are definitely one of those top hiking essentials!

And, if you’re hiking for 4 hours or longer you’ll want something more substantial so be sure to back some lunch. Lunch for me on a day hike is usually a sandwich with a small pack of crisps (and the snack bars along the way!).

Basic first aid kit

adventure medical first aid

Another of the essentials for hiking is a basic first aid kit.

You can buy these “ready-made” or you can make up your own.

I bought this small, lightweight adventure first aid kit and then added a few bandaids, antiseptic cream, water purification tablets and some blister plasters too.

Emergency shelter

emergency blanket

If you’re doing an overnight backpacking trip or a multi-day hike then you’ll be packing some form of shelter with you –most likely a tent.

However, if you’re packing for a day hike, you should really take an emergency blanket.

I take an emergency blanket that should keep me warm enough overnight should I end up stuck somewhere.

You can get these pretty cheap and they don’t take up much space in your pack.

Something to make fire with

If you’re stuck outside overnight, the ability to make a small fire to keep warm is going to make things a lot more pleasant. The easiest way to make a fire is to bring a couple of small lighters, a few stormproof matches and a few small fire starter blocks.

You can also use a knife to make some kindling from larger branches you find on the ground.

Since backcountry fires in BC and elsewhere are often prohibited, especially during the summer months due to wildfire risk, this should only be done in real emergencies.

stormproof matches
firestarter blocks
camping knife

Pocket knife

camping knife

A knife, like a Swiss Army knife, or just a knife, is an important survival tool. It can be used for building shelter, breaking down firewood to start a fire and numerous other things.

An emergency whistle

emergency whistle

A whistle can increase your chances of being heard or seen. It takes much less energy to blow a whistle than it does to yell, and the sound carries more.

These days, a lot of day bags will have a whistle attached to them, but it’s a good idea to get a separate one as they tend to work better.

Somewhere to store everything – A hiking backpack

hiking murrin lake provincial park

When you’re getting together everything for your packing list for a hiking trip, you’re going to need somewhere to put it all. A good hiking day pack can make or break your hike. You want to be comfortable while still having plenty of room for your gear, layers (& snacks!) in your hiking bag.

The size of your hiking back pack will depend on hike length and how much you plan to carry. Backpack capacity is measured in litres, based on the volume held in the body of the bag.

For a day hiking pack you should get a backpack, not a crossbody, or messenger bag. With a backpack you’ll be hands free and it’s just a lot more comfortable too.

My day hiking backpack is a 20L backpack which I use for pretty much every day hike. This is generally considered quite a small hiking backpack.  Something between 15 – 30 litres will be sufficient for the majority of day hikes.

A high-quality backpack made for the outdoors is important ie. not one of those ones that can’t be adjustable! 

I switch between my Lowe Alpine backpack, but my ski touring bag is Osprey and I find that super comfortable. If I need to upgrade, I’ll likely go for an Osprey backpacking bag as my camping backpack.

When buying a day hike backpack or backpacking backpack, a few things I’d consider essential are:

  • comfort, you won’t want to use it if it’s not comfortable!
  • the ability to add a hydration bladder, most bags will have a separate compartment and toggles to put the tube through so it’s not flapping about
  • chest and waist straps to distribute weight away from your shoulders
  • easy-to-reach compartments for snacks or your camera/phone.

It’s important to go to a store if you can and try on backpacking bags.

Some brands make hiking backpacks for women, some are unisex. It typically depends on the length of your torso and your size.

You can try REI backpacks in-store, and the same with MEC and other outdoor shops.

Backpacks are all made slightly differently and you won’t know what’s best for you unless you try them on!

if your backpack doesn’t come with a rain cover, you may like to purchase one separately to keep all your food and spare layers dry in case of rain or snow.

northface backpack
osprey pack

Day hike pack list – hydration

This is covered a bit more above, but it’s super important so I’m mentioning it again.

I’d always recommend taking at least 2L with you.

If you’re hiking in the desert or on a sun-exposed trial in summer you’ll probably want double this.

You can usually find out if there are water sources along the way before you go and plan accordingly. But since most water you find alongside the trail needs to be treated, I always pack my Sawyer filter when going on a day hike.

As I said, I like to use my Platypus 2L bladder and an extra Nalgene bottle or two if it’s a particularly long hike.

I also highly recommend getting a cover for your platypus to avoid it getting covered in dust and dirt. Yes, I learned this the hard way and it’s now one of my most valued pieces of equipment for hiking!

sawyer squeeze
hydration bladder
platypus bite cover
nalgene water bottle

Day hiking gear – footwear

When it comes to what to take hiking, having the right footwear will make your hike so much more enjoyable; wet feet and blisters make you miserable and ruin the day.

This gear for trekking and hiking will help keep your feet pain-free.

Hiking boots, shoes and socks

When it comes to hiking footwear, there’s no one answer as to whether you should use hiking boots or hiking shoes.

I’m currently using these Keen Pyrenees Boots which are great for muddier or winter hikes where conditions are more slippery and wet. In the summer I tend to use hiking shoes. They were even my wedding shoes since we did a hike on the day of our wedding!

Danner hiking boots are also super popular.

The best thing to do is head to an outdoor shop like MEC or REI and try on several different pairs to see what works for you.

keen boots
danner boots

If I’m hiking in the summer, on an easier trail or want to go a bit faster than I can in hiking boots, I’ll wear trail running shoes instead. The Saucony Peregrines are my favourite, but many people love Hokas.

hoka speedgoat trail running shoes
peregrine

With socks, you want something long-lasting that will help prevent blisters. Outdoor shops do good own-brand pairs and Stance hiking socks are another great option.

You’re looking for something with some extra cushioning and that has moisture-wicking qualities.

hiking socks women
stance hiking socks

Microspikes

yaktrax microspikes

In winter, and the shoulder seasons, you may find you need some extra traction underfoot.

Even in June and July, there’s often snow and ice at higher elevations and so it’s a good idea to pack some microspikes just in case.

I use Yaktrax to prevent me from slipping over and consider them a hiking gear essential.

Hiking clothes

The most important thing to know when it comes to hiking clothes is that it’s all about layers.

You want lightweight, quick-drying layers that are easy to take on and off to regulate your temperature.

Cotton is often considered to be a no-go since it takes a while to dry but, if it’s all you have, don’t let that stop you from getting out hiking!

Here’s a list of hiking gear which includes what I currently wear and pack hiking for hiking clothes.

Hiking underwear

Sports bras are better for hiking than normal bras since they have sweat-wicking properties.

Wearing a lightweight bralette like this one from Organic Basics is super comfortable and feels like it’s barely there but it isn’t sweat-wicking. I either wear that or a Lululemon Energy Bra.

When it comes to underwear, I’ve recently leaned towards hiking in underwear from Lululemon that I was fortunate to get on sale so they weren’t quite as expensive.

It’s moisture-wicking, doesn’t roll up or down and stays in place while you’re hiking too. 

organic basics bra what to wear when hiking in hot weather
lululemon energy bra
lululemon underwear what to wear when hiking in hot weather

Hiking tops

Moisture-wicking tops, or merino wool tops, are great for hiking. They’ll wick away the sweat to keep the top drier and you warm or cool as needed.

They also tend to smell a lot less than your standard cotton t-shirt which is always an added bonus!

You can wear long-sleeve tops, short-sleeve hiking tops or tank tops. It doesn’t matter as long as you’re dressed appropriately for the weather conditions.

If you’re stuck about what to wear hiking in hot weather you can read more in my guide to how to dress for hot weather hikes.

rei tank
rei long sleeve
sweatty betty short sleeve

Hiking bottoms

Chose hiking bottoms based on whatever you’re comfortable in. If that’s workout leggings, great! If it’s hiking-specific trousers, also great! I usually wear leggings, or bike shorts in the summer.

Get leggings made for running as they’ll usually have some sweat-wicking properties, rather than those used for yoga. I’ve put together a guide on the best leggings for hiking if that’s what you prefer to wear.

If you’re going for hiking trousers, something with some zip-up pockets is always super useful. You can also get ones that zip off at the knee or roll up to turn into shorts in case it’s hotter than you expected or if you’re hiking in summer and aren’t sure what to wear.

old navy leggings
lululemon bike shorts
fjallraven pants

Baselayers (for hiking in cold weather)

If you’re hiking in the winter, or in a particularly high location then it might be cold when you get started or come to the end of your hike.

In this case, you should take baselayers so that you can stay warm even when the weather gets chilly.

Base layers made out of merino wool are great, but you can get good synthetics now too. I still prefer merino since it seems to not smell for longer, but it’s a personal choice. Some of my favourite baselayers which I pack as part of my day hike packing list are below.

kari traa baselayer top
kari traa pants

Gloves & a hat

Again, if you’re hiking in cold weather, somewhere windy or earlier or later during the day, the temperatures can get cold, especially in the mountains.

For these types of hikes, I highly recommend packing a woolly hat, some gloves or mittens and perhaps some hand warmers depending on just how cold it’s likely to get.

I like to put hand warmers inside my mittens as I suffer from very bad circulation!

handwarmers
bobble hat
ski mittens

Hiking outerwear

You should always prepare for wind and rain when going on a hike. Weather in the mountains changes quickly, even if the forecast calls for sun and no rain.

Therefore, you should always pack a lightweight waterproof jacket and an insulated layer too.

The insulated layer can be a puffy jacket or a fleece. It doesn’t matter too much, as long as you’ve got something that’ll keep you nice and warm.

My day hike gear changes a little depending on the time of year and weather, but I’ll usually have some fleece type top and always a waterproof layer/rain jacket too. When it comes to rain jackets, look for Goretex as that offers the best protection from the rain.

arcteryx raincoat
better sweater
patagonia down sweater jacket

Misc. items to include in your day hike packing list

A few other things to pack for a day hike and add to your hiking supplies list and hiking checklist include the following.

Toilet paper & a trowel or a Kula cloth

While some of the most popular hikes in Provincial and National Parks will have toilets periodically along the trail, not all will and it’s important to not leave waste on the trail.

This is for numerous reasons but predominantly because it’s bad for the environment and the wildlife in the area.

If you’re taking toilet paper, also take a zip lock bag or something similar so you can pack it out with you.

Yes, I know it sounds kinda gross but do you know what’s more gross? Walking along and finding someone else’s used toilet paper on the trail.

kula cloth

If you don’t want to carry out toilet paper then use a Kula cloth.

If you’re pooping, remember to bury it using a small trowel. I highly recommend reading “How to Shit in the Woods” for more information on how to, well, shit in the woods!

A buff

buff

Buffs are such a useful piece of gear to throw into your day-hike packing pile.

They can keep your cheeks and chin warm in windy weather while hiking, help keep your hair out of your face or just be used to wipe your sweat off you.

They’re super lightweight so there’s no reason not to bring one.

Hiking Poles

hiking poles

Hiking poles or trekking poles can also be a good idea, particularly on longer hikes when your legs get tired. Or for hikes where there is steep terrain.

They’re super useful for coming downhill just giving you that extra stability and helping prevent sprained ankles.

While I don’t always pack my hiking poles for day hikes, I’ll always have them on backpacking trips!

Gaiters

gaiters for hiking

While I don’t personally own gaiters, I know people who swear by them. For some hikes in muddy/snowy areas, these will likely be at the top of your list for what to take on a hike.

Gaitors wrap around your lower leg and the top of your boot or shoe to help prevent water and mud from getting to your feet.

If you’re hiking in winter, or know there will be snow and mud on the trail, you may like to take some gaiters with you to keep your feet dry.

Camera gear & electronics

I’ll usually add some form of a camera to my hiking equipment list, even if it’s just my phone. When it comes to what to bring on a hike, chances are you’ll want some way of capturing the views and your memories.

Sure it’s not essential, but it’s always nice to have good photos from a hike.

I like to take my GoPro because it’s so small and lightweight, but if I’m going on a hike I know I really want to get good photos on, I’ll take our big camera.

Some other good things to pack for hiking are a battery pack and cable with you too in case your phone runs out while you’re hiking.

Bug spray

bug spray

Another thing to add to your hiking gear list is bug spray! Whether you’re a mosquito target or not, bug spray is another item that can make your hike a whole lot more enjoyable.

It’s also a good idea to take some afterbite in case you do get bitten. It helps relieve the itchiness and/or any pain and is a must on my list of what to pack for a hike.

Garmin inReach

garmin inreach mini 2

Packing a Garmin inReach is an important addition to your day hike packing list. It provides a reliable way to communicate and call for help in case of emergencies, even in remote areas without cell service.

It’s a good idea to take this with you every time you hike and especially if you’re hiking solo.

Be sure to always tell someone where you’re going and what time you should be back by too!

Money & ID

This is an easy one to forget when it comes to what to pack hiking, but it’s useful to remember.

If you need to stop for petrol, or want dinner/beers out at the end of the hike, you’ll need some money!

Hand sanitiser

Don’t expect taps or stocked-up hand sanitiser at pit toilets along your hike. It’s easy to forget but a must on a list of things to bring hiking.

In popular areas, pit toilets might have hand sanitiser but don’t count on it. It’s always best to take your own small bottle along with you.

Quick-dry towel

quick dry towel

If you’re doing a hike to a lake, adding a quick-drying towel to your hiking packing list might be useful to dry off after a mid-hike swim.

One of my friends always goes swimming in cold lakes and rivers so I know this is on her what to pack for hiking checklist.

Bear Spray

bear spray

Finally on this list of things to bring when hiking, if you’re hiking in bear territory, bear spray is a MUST.

Bear spray is an essential when it comes to what to pack on a hike in much of North America.

Make sure you’ve got a holster or an easily accessible side pocket to put it in since it’s no use if it’s at the bottom of your bag.

Take a read of this post for other bear safety tips.

Final thoughts on these day hiking essentials

When preparing for a hiking trip, it’s important to pack the right gear to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience.

One essential item to bring is a backpack to carry the other essentials, such as water, food, and extra clothing. The 10 essentials also include a map and a compass for navigation, a first aid kit, sunscreen, head lamp, a way to make a fire in case of emergency, and a signaling device.

These items can help you navigate, stay safe, and be prepared for any unexpected situations you may encounter on the trail.

By packing smart and bringing these key items, you can have a successful and safe outdoor adventure.

hiking packing checklist

FAQs about what to pack for hikes

What can you not take on a day hike?

When going on a day hike, it’s important to pack wisely and avoid bringing items that could be unnecessary or even dangerous to have on the trail. Some items that should be left behind on a day hike include heavy or bulky items that could weigh you down, non-essential electronics including Bluetooth speakers and glass containers.

What should I pack for a day hike?

You should pack all of your 10 essentials plus appropriate hiking gear for the season you’re going hiking in. This hiking day pack list includes everything you need.

Last Updated on October 31, 2023 by Hannah

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