Day Hiking: What to Take

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Going on a day hike is a great low-maintenance way to get out of the city, but it still requires some thoughtful preparation. Below is a checklist of all the gear you’ll need. When you’re deciding what to take, consider the particulars of your trip — season, weather, location, individual needs — and customize this list accordingly.

Just print out this list and check items off as you pack them. If you want a more specialized list, you can copy and paste this article into a Word document on your own computer and add your personal essentials.


  • Daypack (with good padding on the back panel and shoulder straps)
  • Drinking water (about 20 ounces for every hour you’ll hike, depending on how much you sweat), and some extra in case you get lost
  • Wilderness first-aid kit
  • Map of the area
  • Pocketknife
  • Waterproof matches
  • Compass
  • Sunglasses
  • Sunscreen
  • Insect repellent
  • Whistle (to call for help in an emergency)
  • Small plastic bag for trash
  • Cell phone and GPS
  • Identification

Clothing and Outerwear

  • Sun hat or baseball cap
  • Quick-drying swimsuit (if you’ll be near a lake or swimming hole)
  • Breathable, lightweight jacket
  • Rain gear


  • Hiking socks
  • Extra socks
  • Hiking boots or shoes suited to the terrain


  • Energy bars
  • Gorp (short for “good old raisins and peanuts”) or trail mix (nuts, seeds, or dried fruit), enough to last a day or two in case of emergency
  • Raw veggies or fruit

Personal Items

  • Toilet paper
  • Handkerchief or bandanna
  • Lip balm (with sun protection)


  • Hiking staff
  • Gaiters (to keep loose stones or snow out of your boots)
  • Gloves
  • Camera and film
  • Binoculars
  • Flashlight with fresh batteries (if you think you might be out after dark)
  • Reading glasses
  • Watch
  • Moleskin (for blisters)
  • Field guide (to vegetation, wildlife, terrain, etc.)
  • Money


American Hiking Society, “Hike Smart: Playing it Safe on the Trail.”

Berger, Karen. “Hiking and Backpacking: A Complete Guide,” W.W. Norton & Company, New York, 1995.

The Lightweight Backpacker. “The 14 Essentials!” 1996.

Mayo Clinic. Water: How much should you drink every day? April 2008.

By Benj Vardigan

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