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What to bring on a day hike to hit the trail prepared

28 June 2023

There is something magical about hiking. It’s as if you’re teleported into a different world. Not only is hiking a great way to explore the beauty of this world, but it is also a great way to take care of your mental and physical health. If you’re new to hiking or someone who wants to learn more about it, you’ve come to the right place!

The essentials

The day hiking essentials are items you do not want to go hiking without. These items are not only helpful to have, but they will come in very handy in case of an emergency. Luckily, they won’t weigh much, and if you do need them, you will be glad you had them.

What size of backpack you need to bring will depend on how much you need to bring. A great tip is to lay everything out before you choose your backpack. That way, you can see more easily how much space you need.

Clothing - what to wear and pack

Moisture-wicking base layer: Wear a lightweight and soft base layer to help keep you dry and comfortable by wicking sweat away from your skin. Depending on the weather, a base layer may be a light long-sleeve or short-sleeved top.

Hiking trousers: Choose trousers made of durable, quick-drying material that allows for freedom of movement. Depending on where and when you hike, a pair of hiking leggings, shorts, or convertible trousers could also be good alternatives.

Insulating mid-layer: A fleece or down jacket provides warmth on cooler days and can be removed if you get too warm.

Waterproof and windproof jacket: Jackets with a technical membrane protects you from the elements and keep you dry in rainy weather. Wear it, or choose a lightweight and packable set that does not take up to much space in your pack.

Hiking boots or shoes: Look for shoes that support and protect your feet while hiking on uneven terrain.

Synthetic or wool socks: Good socks keep your feet dry and prevent blisters. Remember to bring an extra pair!

Hat: A hat is highly recommended during all seasons. The extra layer of protection that a hat offers will help reduce the impact of harmful UV rays. In winter, a beanie can help regulate your body temperature.

Gloves: Gloves are required for hiking during the winter season, but many people don’t know that you can also get hiking gloves for the summertime. Summer hiking gloves are a lightweight, durable option to manage tough terrain and scrambling sections, preventing your hands from getting injured.

Sunglasses: Sunglasses protect your eyes from the sun and reduce glare on bright days.

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Gear and accessories

Backpack rain cover: Protect your pack from getting wet during heavy rain with a pack cover. It’s often lightweight and easy to pack.

Navigation: One of the key components of hiking is navigating the trails effectively. A GPS is required to ensure you always know where you’re going. Not only will it help with direction or in case of an emergency, but it will also allow you to let your loved ones know your whereabouts and inform them that you’re safe when you don’t have cell service.

Headlamp: Your day hiking checklist should definitely include a headlamp. Even though you’re only exploring for the day, you never know what may happen, and if you need to spend the night, you must be prepared.

Trekking poles: ​​These are a game-changer! Using trekking poles, especially on downhill sections, reduces the burden put on your knees and ankles, which in the long run, is a lifesaver. Plus, they help you to maintain a good balance and to get through tough areas, such as creek crossing or slippery sections, with more stability.

Sit pad: A sit pad will come in handy on hikes without a comfortable place to sit. They are also great for cold or damp areas since they insulate you from the ground.

First aid kit: A first aid kit is required for the day hiking essentials. In fact, every person in your group should have their own medical kit. Ensure you include blister prevention and treatments. Your feet will thank you!

Multi-tool or knife: Bringing a multi-tool or knife when day hiking can be helpful in many situations, such as cutting or slicing food, opening packages, or repairing gear. It can also be used for emergencies, such as cutting rope or fabric in the event of an injury.

Sunscreen and lip balm: Sunburns and dry, chapped lips can be painful and potentially dangerous. Sunscreen protects your skin from the sun's harmful rays, while lip balm keeps your lips moisturised and protected.

Insect repellent: Insects such as mosquitoes and ticks can carry diseases and cause discomfort. Insect repellent helps keep bugs away and reduces the risk of insect bites. Remember to apply the repellant after your sunscreen, or it will not be as effective.

Phone and portable charger: In case of an emergency, a phone can be a lifeline for communication and getting help. A portable charger ensures that your phone stays charged in case of a prolonged emergency.

Toilet paper and trowel: It's important to properly dispose of human waste to minimise environmental impact and prevent the spread of disease. Toilet paper and a trowel are essential for properly burying waste. Remember to pack your toilet paper in a ziplock bag and practice Leave No Trace principles when disposing of toilet paper in the wilderness.

Hand sanitiser: Proper hygiene is essential to prevent the spread of germs, especially in the outdoors, where access to soap and water may be limited. Hand sanitiser helps keep your hands clean and germ-free.

Food and hydration

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Water bottles or hydration system: Staying hydrated is important while hiking, so carrying water bottles or a hydration system is necessary to keep yourself hydrated.

Energy bars, nuts, and dried fruits: These snacks provide a quick energy boost while hiking and are lightweight and easy to carry. Additionally, they are not as affected by rain and are easy to snack on on the go.

Sandwiches or lightweight, easy-to-prepare meals: Having a meal or a sandwich while hiking will give you enough energy to complete your hike. Make sure the meals are lightweight and easy to carry.

Reusable utensils: Using reusable utensils reduces waste and is eco-friendly. A spork is multifunctional and does not take up much space, and there are also lightweight sets of utensils designed for hiking and camping that are easy to pack.

Trash bag: Leaving no trace is crucial while hiking. Carrying a trash bag to pack out all waste helps keep the environment clean and preserve it for future hikers.

For the car

Itinerary under the car seat: It is important to inform someone of your hiking plans and leave your itinerary in your car as a safety measure. This information can be helpful if you do not return on time or become lost, as search and rescue teams can use it to locate you. Your itinerary should include details about your planned route, estimated arrival time, and other important information

Clean clothes and comfortable shoes: After a hike, it's pleasant to switch out of your damp or sweaty hiking clothes and boots. To do this, keep a fresh set of clothes and an extra pair of shoes in your car for when you return.

Extra water: It's a good idea to have an extra water bottle in your car for when you finish hiking. Dehydration is common during hikes, so it's essential to replenish your fluids.

Cooler with extra food: Keeping extra food in your car for when you return from a day hike is important because unexpected delays can happen, and you may find yourself returning later than anticipated. Having non-perishable snacks or a meal in your car can help prevent hunger and keep your energy levels up for the drive home.

Additional items for different types of day hiking adventures

For day hiking in remote locations

Whistle: A whistle is a great tool when day hiking in remote locations because it can be heard from far distances and can be used as a signal for rescue teams if you are lost or injured.

Water purification method: In remote locations, bringing a water purification method to replenish your water supply without getting sick from contaminated water is essential. A water filter or tablets can remove or kill harmful bacteria and viruses.

Firestarter: A way to light a fire is essential in case of an emergency or if you need to warm up. Matches or a lighter often work just fine, but a fire starter tool can be a better choice in damp and windy conditions.

Emergency shelter: It's important to be prepared for unexpected weather changes or injuries when hiking in remote locations. An emergency shelter, like a space blanket or bivy sack, can protect from wind, rain, or cold temperatures.

Personal locator beacon: A personal locator beacon (PBL) is a GPS device that sends a distress signal to emergency services. This is an essential tool to have in case of an emergency, especially when hiking in remote areas where cell phone coverage is limited or non-existent.

For day hiking in the rain

Waterproof trousers: When going on a day hike, a waterproof jacket is usually enough. However, if the weather forecast predicts rain, it's a good idea also to pack a pair of waterproof trousers. You don't have to wear them the entire time, as you can bring a lightweight and easy-to-pack pair in your backpack.

Gloves: Wearing lightweight gloves during rain can help protect your hands and keep them from getting too cold due to the cooling effect of the rain.

Extra socks: It is essential to always bring extra socks when hiking. This is because having dry socks can help reduce the occurrence of chafing and blisters.

For day hiking in the snow

Insulated jacket: An insulated jacket is essential for keeping your core warm in cold temperatures. But even though you have an insulated jacket, you should always dress in layers to more easily regulate your body temperature.

Traction devices: Traction devices such as microspikes or crampons provide additional grip and traction on slippery and icy surfaces.

Warm socks: Warm socks will help keep your feet dry and comfortable, preventing frostbite and hypothermia. Wool socks are excellent insulators and retain heat even when wet. They are also moisture-wicking and have antimicrobial properties. Overall, wool socks are a perfect choice for winter hiking.

Gloves or mittens: Gloves or mittens keep your hands warm and protected from the cold and wind.

Base layer pants or lined hiking pants: Base layer pants or lined hiking pants will provide extra insulation for your legs and help keep you warm and dry.

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