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What To Pack For A Day Hike

Essential Gear For The Trail

 Day hikes are hikes that you can easily manage in around 10 hours or less. Any trails that are three hours away or less by car are a great option for a day hike. Some bus lines also run from cities to National Forests and Parks, so if you don’t have a car, you can look into getting to the trail by public transportation.

Pros: No sleeping outside involved! Day hikes are an excellent option for those who want to be out on the trails, but don’t want to or have time to stay overnight

You can do day hikes from your home, hotel, car camping site, or you can backpack into a more remote site and do day hikes from there. Another perk is the light pack. With only a day’s supply of food, water, and gear, you can travel easier (and faster) on foot. 

Cons: It can be difficult to see very much of a region or trail system when you’re limited to daylight hours and have to return to the place you started. Trails can be crowded because day hiking is so accessible—though there are less crowded day hike options, you’ll need to do more research to find the hidden gems.

Essential Gear

This list is specifically for warm-weather adventures (temperatures around 50 degrees F and above). It’s useful to keep some of the smaller items in your backpack, so you can save time on packing and be ready to head out on short notice.

  • Water and reusable bottle or bladder
  • Food that’s lightweight and high in protein, fat, and fiber
  • Cash/debit or credit card
  • 2 pairs of shoes–one for hiking and another to wear in camp or on the drive home
  • Insulated jacket
  • Rain coat
  • Sun hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Mosquito/tick repellant or a bug net
  • First aid kit including: band aids, gauze, antiseptic wipes, antibacterial ointment, painkillers, tweezers, insect sting treatment, medical tape
  • Headlamp
  • Map (downloaded or physical)
  • Wool socks
  • Hiking pants/shorts
  • Hiking top 
  • Day pack (size: between 20 and 35 Liters)
  • Trekking poles
  • Trowel and toilet paper

Nonessential Items

These items aren’t required but can make your trip more comfortable or fun!

  • Hydration tablets
  • Camera 
  • Headphones
  • A beverage for the summit

Do you know the 7 Leave No Trace Principles? If you’re new to hiking, brush up on these easy principles to minimize your impact, preserve our outdoor spaces for generations to come, and stay safe while you’re at it.

Now that you have all your equipment ready, you can choose a trail, pack up your bag and hit the road. It’s time to get hiking !


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Bethany Clarke has her MFA from the University of New Hampshire. She lives in Portland, Maine with her partner and their two cats. You can find her art and outdoor adventures on Instagram @bethanymclarke.