Essential Day Hike List

Here is my essential day hike list for the beginning hiker.  Because of my busy schedule, day hikes are all I can fit in right now.  They are also the easiest to plan.  In addition, the amount of gear necessary for a successful hike is limited.  Because day hikes are so varied, from 1 mile on a paved trail to 16 miles up 4,000 rocky vertical feet and then back down again, I will stick to the basics and let you fill in the necessary additions.

Also, your hike can be during the summer, winter, spring or fall.  It can be along a beach, in the desert or on a mountaintop.  All of these hikes require different types of clothing and can require more or less gear.

What I am saying here is to plan accordingly.  Just because you are going to be on the trail for a short time, take the time to:

  • Get the weather report
  • Check all of your gear before you leave; is it clean (hydration pack), is it damaged, if it is electronic, are the batteries good?
  • Make sure to have the right map
  • Review the trail at any number of online places (including this website for a host of trails)

So on to the day hike list:

  1. Water – This is always number one on my list.  I start with 2 liters (quarts, 32oz)  and work up from there if the weather is going to be hot or if it is a longer hike.  Water Bottles, hydration packs or canteens all work.  Hydration packs are the easiest on the trail, but are more work after the hike.
  2. Food – Do I sound like I live for eating and drinking?  Well, I do enjoy a good meal.  High energy is what we are going for here.  Energy bars, Tuna, peanut butter, GORP (Trail mix) are all good choices.
  3. Flashlight – This can be a small LED flashlight, a headlamp or a crank flashlight.  Since this is supposed to be a short day hike, I would opt for one that is lightweight.  Remember to check the batteries and a spare set would be great to have.
  4. Map and Compass – This could be optional if you are just going 1 mile on a paved trail, but most trails are not paved and that short.  Know how to use both before you leave home.
  5. Knife / Leatherman tool – You never know when you might need it.  The Leatherman has 1,001 uses.
  6. Matches / Lighter / Fire starter kit – These are lightweight anyway and it is better to have to carry them and not need them than to not have them at all.
  7. Small First Aid Kit – First aid kits vary in size and the number of items.  Everyone has their recommended first aid kit equipment that must be carried.  If you are going on a day hike, I recommend a small kit; Pain reliever (make it your favorite), moleskin, band-aids, sterilizing pads, bandages and tape.  You can add as many items to this as you like, but these are the basics.
  8. Sunscreen – Winter, summer spring and fall, it doesn’t matter.  You can get sunburned anytime of the year.  Don’t let it happen.  Also include to this, lip balm.  Oh, and sunglasses.
  9. Sun Hat /Wool Cap / Rain Hat – Well, I didn’t want to go into clothing, but a hat is very important for different reasons for each season.
  10. Daypack / Fanny Pack / Waist Pack – You have to have a place to put all this stuff.

I just can’t stop at 10, Here are more items that you should have on your day hike list:

11. Plastic bags – For trash.

12. Facial Tissues – for cleaning up after…you know.  (remember to pack it out)

13. Bugspray – Only necessary sometimes.

14. Drivers License or I.D.

15. Money / Credit Card

16. Whistle

Well, what about non-essential stuff?  Here are some optional items:

  • GPS – Nice to have.  Know how to use it and check the batteries before you leave the house.
  • Raingear – Weather appropriate.  You never know in the mountains when a storm will brew.
  • Jacket – Weather appropriate.
  • Extra Socks – some people carry a pair on every hike.
  • Emergency blanket – these are lightweight and could be carried all the time.
  • Trekking Poles

I could go on and on, but I think you get the idea; pack according to the needs of the weather, terrain, length of hike and your physical abilities.  This day hike list is really just to give you an idea of what to think about carrying to make your adventure successful.

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