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What to Take Hiking – Day Hiking Essentials Checklist

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Estimated reading time: 7 minutes

Hiking can be a fun way to exercise, sojourn with nature, and even make new friends. Knowing what to take hiking makes the whole experience even more wholesome.

Like with every activity, being adequately prepared and equipped for your next hiking trip will fill you with the confidence to take on whatever the trail may throw at you. However, as a beginner, knowing what to take hiking may prove challenging since there’s so much to consider.

Will you need a sun hoodie? How about trekking poles? What about shoes? Should you wear hiking boots or hiking shoes, and what’s the difference?

These are just a few of the questions that will probably plague your decision-making as a new hiker trying to make a comprehensive list of the best backpacking gear for hiking.

With this list, we have highlighted some of the most important day hiking essentials for your next big trip outdoors.

How to Determine What to Take Hiking

Every hiker is different, and so is every hiking excursion. Some people like to take on the Appalachian Trail regardless of the time of year, while some only want to go on a short hike to their local hiking trail in the middle of summer.

Summer hiking and winter hiking are two very different beasts, and what you bring on one won’t necessarily be what you bring on the other. So, while compiling a list of what you need to bring on your hiking trip, you must determine what kind of hiking trip it will be.

For this discussion, let’s assume that, as a hiking beginner, you aren’t going to take on Mt. Everest on your first attempt. In this case, you are probably gearing up for a simple day hike with friends. As such, you will need the essentials for a day hike, including sunglasses, comfortable clothing, a camera, and a lightweight daypack.

With that in mind, here is a more comprehensive list of what to take hiking.

A Day Pack

Probably one of the most essential pieces of hiking gear, a day pack will make your hiking experience more comfortable and convenient. While you can use any bag as a day pack, when it comes to hiking, the best option would be a backpack.

How big this backpack is will depend on how long you intend to go hiking and how much gear you intend to carry. Day hikes usually call for backpacks under 30 liters like this TETON Sports Oasis 18L Hydration Pack with a free 2-liter water bladder. This is often big enough to carry some essentials and a thin outer layer.

If you intend to carry a lot of snacks, maybe a huge camera or binoculars, you might be better off going for something in the 35 to the 40-liter range. Something like this Maelstrom Hiking Backpack is perfect. Not only is it big enough (40 liters), but it also comes with plenty of pockets and comfortable straps that won’t dig into your skin.

Maelstrom Daypack Backpacks, D:Green, 40L

Here are some factors that you should consider when looking for the right day backpack for hiking:

  • Plenty of easy-to-reach outer pockets
  • Lots of interior pockets for gear organization
  • Mesh paneling at the back allows for breathability
  • There are lots of clips that you can use for your helmets and hiking poles
  • A sleeve for your water bladder

The 10 Essentials for Hiking

Hiking is like most other hobbies; you will personalize the list of essentials as you go along. However, if you are just starting out, there are some hiking essentials that you must have with you regardless of the distance. This list is often referred to as the “10 Essentials”.

Here’s a list of the 10 essentials you must bring when hiking.

First Aid Kit

Since you will be in the great outdoors tackling all kinds of hazards on the trail, it’s often best to be prepared in case of any accidents. Always bring a first aid kit with you.

This Adventure Medical Kits Mountain Series Hiker Medical Kit is an excellent option because it’s specifically designed for hiking accidents.

It’s a compact and lightweight first aid kit conveniently packed for ease of use. It has an external map showing you where everything is inside the pack and see-through pockets to protect the supplies from any dirt or moisture while keeping them within easy reach.


Water is an essential part of hiking, regardless of the location. Most day packs come with a sleeve for your water bladder, like this 3-liter Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir or water bottle. You need to pay close attention to how much water you can comfortably carry and how much you might need, especially if you are hiking in hot and arid places such as the Grand Canyon.

Osprey 3l hydration bladder

The simple rule of thumb would be to carry at least 0.5 liters of water for every hour you intend to hike. If you are going on strenuous hikes, you might want to double that amount.

A good trick that veteran hikers use is to pack a water filtration device such as this LifeStraw Personal Water Filter for Hiking. It’s lightweight, easy to use and saves you all the hassle of carrying around liters upon liters of water, which will add to the weight of your day pack. With this filtration device, you can make almost any kind of water safe to drink.

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter for Hiking, Camping, Travel, and Emergency...

Emergency Shelter

Unless you go hiking in your backyard, you should always be prepared for the eventuality that something might go wrong, and you might need to find an emergency shelter or use an emergency blanket.

With something like this SOL Emergency Bivvy with Rescue Whistle and Tinder Cord, you won’t have to scramble should the need arise.

Not only is this bivvy exceptionally convenient in emergency situations, but it’s also extremely lightweight and smaller than your fist, making it easy to carry. It’s also quite warm.

S.O.L. 70% Reflective Escape Bivvy, Orange


Make it a habit to carry a physical map on your hikes, even if you are hiking in familiar territory. If you don’t have a physical map, the next best thing would be to take a picture of the trail map that can usually be found at the start of the trail or entrance to the hiking area.

The problem with this approach is that your camera or phone could run out of charge, which brings us back to the physical map.

If you rely more on technology, this Garmin InReach Mini will do just fine. It’s lightweight, small, and compact and has an interactive SOS feature just in case you get lost or have an emergency that needs rescuing.

Garmin 010-01879-00 InReach Mini, Lightweight and Compact Satellite...


You may need some illumination when you explore dark caves or inadvertently get delayed until it’s dark out. While your cellphone flashlight can work, it’s not always the most convenient illumination because your phone battery might die, and it doesn’t leave your hands free to do other things.

A hiking headlamp is, therefore, the better option. It is lightweight, leaves your hands free, and most can last up to 10 hours.


You must carry something to eat when you go hiking. The activity alone will deplete your energy reserves, and you never really know what could happen on the trail.

As such, you should be prepared for any eventuality. You can carry some Powerup Trail mix, energy bars, fruits, and even a sandwich if you aren’t going to be gone for too long.

Power Up Trail Mix, Protein Packed Trail Mix, Non-GMO, Vegan, Gluten Free,...

The other essentials that you must carry include:

  • Identification and money: You should always carry some form of identification and money with you. Credit cards are a good idea, but cash is always welcome. You never know when you might need it.
  • Repair kit and some tools: Hiking gear tends to rip, and having some way to repair or, at the very least, hold your gear together is advisable. Something like duct tape and a Swiss Army Knife is always an excellent idea to have on you when hiking.
  • Firestarter: You’ll probably never need this on a day hike, but a firestarter could be a lifesaver if you ever have to spend the night in the wilderness. As such, you should make it a habit to carry one or maybe some stormproof matches.
  • Extra layers: Even on a hot summer day, it’s always prudent to carry a light rain jacket and some extra layers. The rule of thumb is to carry clothing items for all three layers, even if you don’t think you will need them.

Finally, make sure you have some sun protection and a positive attitude. Sometimes, things might go wrong on the trail, but as long as you keep the spirit of adventure, you can adapt and overcome as necessary. This comprehensive day hike packing list will prepare you for any eventuality.

Last update on 2022-12-08 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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