“Of all the paths you take in life, make sure a few of them are dirt.” – John Muir.
I love that quote! I truly believe time in the wilderness recharges the mind, body and soul. I love to get out and hike when I can- lately it is with the family, with our little man in the backpack. However, when I can go on my own- I have the contents of my daypack down to a science. It’s lightweight and I feel prepared after simply checking the weather to assess what layers to bring.
I created this “inventory” of what I typically pack.. to share if you are thinking of a day hike anytime soon and maybe unsure of what to bring- or maybe just looking to update what you currently carry…
- Pack– Camelback Hydration Pack. I have been carrying this pack for a while. It is very lightweight, and for its size, it has a surprising amount of storage. I will say, for hikes later in the season (i.e.:fall) it doesn’t have enough storage for a ton of layers. I am looking to upgrade soon – possibly something with overnight capabilities, maybe Gregory or Osprey- check back soon for potential reviews!
- Pack Cover or Trash Bag.- You don’t have to buy a fancy pack cover, but i do recommend carrying a trash bag. This way if it rains, you can cover your gear- or even yourself- the easiest and cheapest poncho ever made- simply cut out your head and arm holes, and keep going!
Hydration and Food
- Hydration Resevoir – Platypus Resevoir 3L. Always overpack your water. Make sure you have enough hydration for your length of travel, plus a little extra- you never know when you might need to rinse your hands, a fork or even share with a friend. This is absolutely essential as dehydration can have severe side effects.
- Electrolytes – Along with Water, I like to bring Electrolytes. Most people tend to sweat A LOT when they are hiking. Therefore it makes sense to replace the salt in our bodies lost through sweat with some electrolytes. You could bring a bottle of gatorade or you can bring something like NUUN tablets – which you can add to water. I’m a big fan of the Berry Energy as it as a subtle effervescence and a little green tea extract for a caffeine boost
- Water Treatment– You can carry Iodine to treat your water which is probably the cheapest water treatment. Or you can invest in a fancy filter. I try to make sure I always have enough water with me for the duration of my hike, but to be smart it always makes sense to carry some sort of water treatment in case you run out and need to source some un-treated water. Giardia is no joke, I know a few hikers who have been unfortunate enough to be exposed- and the repercussions of drinking untreated water can be miserable, and even deadly. There are tons of filters and methods of purification on the market now, such as the Steripen, Gravity Filters, hand pumps and chemical treatments. For a day hike – I simply carry Katadyn Micropur Tablets – as they are lightweight and easy options – You use the tablets to treat the water, wait the recommended amount of time – and then you have treated drinkable water.
- Snacks! – Hiking burns a LOT of calories. You will be hungry. Bring a snack. In fact bring a few, heck- bring some doughnuts. You never know who might show up unprepared. Beef jerky, trail mix, chocolate- proteins, and fats are typically what you will be craving after burning a ton of calories. You may also want a beer- and that’s okay too.. If you don’t mind carrying the extra weight, go for it.
- Meals– It seems obvious- But a lot of times people will bring snacks on hike, but not plan for a meal- even though they are hiking throughout most of the day. I always bring a ton of food- that is probably because I like to eat a lot- but also for emergencies. I like to bring some “non-perishable” items, as well as what I plan on eating that day.
Essentials and the Oh Sh*t Kit
- Head Lamp– Petzl Tikka – It doesn’t have to be super fancy, but being caught in the woods at night without a light, is not fun. Trying to hike down technical trails in the dark, can be a recipe for disaster. I typically carry my headlamp, and occasionally on longer hikes a flashlight as well.
- Knife – CRKT 10KS Tanto Black Serrated Pocket Knife– Whether it’s to cut up your apple, or slice some rope, or protect yourself- bring a knife. I’ve had this fancy schmancy knife forever- and it always comes in handy.
- Multi Tool – Leatherman Skeletal or a Swiss Army Knife- A boy scout once told me, “always be prepared.” Having a multitool, helps. You never know when you might need a pair of tweezers, pliers, or a screwdriver.
- Lighter– I carry a Zippo windproof lighter. It’s more of a pocket torch than anything. Just remember to double check the fuel fill level before you start your trip.
- Fire Starter – I have a MSR Magbar fire starter- It is simply a magnesium stick, you scrape down with a sharper tool or knife on to some dry tinder, and then use a striker tool to spark a flame. It’s a simple way to have a back up for your lighter. Another tip for starting a fire, is to use birch bark- because it will always light, even when it is wet. (Keep in mind, you do not want to strip trees bark down, unless it is absolutely necessary, leave no trace is an important principle of keeping our Parks and forests WILD.)
- Duct Tape– You can use it to cover blisters, act as a bandaid or repair ripped clothes or gear. A mini roll of duct tape, is always handy. Remember… if you can’t duct-it…f***-it. Hiker Tip – Wrap your duct tape around your trekking poles for one less item to carry on your back.
- Ibuprofen/Aspirin/Allergy Meds– Especially the allergy meds, you just never know when someone might get a bite or sting and some Benadryl can make the difference between an irritating situation and a more life threatening one.
- TP/Wipes– For the obvious.
- Trekking Poles– Not 100% necessary, and admittedly I do not carry them on every hike… however, they can be hugely helpful in steep descents or feeling stable. I carry a pair of Leki trekking poles I have had forever. You can also find some good old hiking sticks right there in the wild ;).
- Ziploc Baggy with..
- Cell Phone/Camera – Navigation, if you have service can be helpful. I leave my phone off or on airplane mode for hikes, as Im trying to not spoil my time in the wild, but for obvious safety reasons, its not a bad idea for SOMEONE in your party to have a phone.
- AA Batteries- For incase electronics like headlamp or flashlight run out.
- Cash/Credit Card – A $20 and a Credit Card for Emergencies. Maybe you pop out of the trail at the wrong place, or find yourself at a Hut and need a snack. It pays to have cash.
- License- Again for emergencies.
- 2 Extra Ziplock Baggies- to help keep your feet dry, to store items of value, the list continues.
- Sunscreen – I carry Coola sunscreen in the sport version- as it is sweat proof and doesn’t irritate the skin.
- Sunglasses– My favorite brand of sunglasses are SunCloud Optics. They are relatively inexpensive for polarized lenses and have a lifetime warranty. They are very durable and perfect for outdoor excursions.
- Map/Guidebook– Know where you are going, and have a plan to get there. Attempting to hike something without any preparation is generally not a great idea. Have a guidebook or map of the trails in the area.
- Compass – Just like above. Plan ahead, but just in case…
- Whistle – A whistle can come in handy if you get lost, encounter wildlife, or end up in an unsafe situation. Plus a whistle will always be louder than a yell- and if you get lost, you want to be heard.
Layering & Warmth
- Rain Jacket– My rain jacket is a Patagonia Torrentshell I bought on sale for about $60. It doesn’t have to be a fancy jacket, but it is definitely nice to have in case of inclement weather- or to wear as a shell. Although a poncho or even trash bag like I mentioned above are definitely helpful.
- Layering Pieces – One of my favorite pieces to layer with is a Lole Zip Up I have had for YEARS. It is incredibly warm, and sweat wicking which is exactly what you want on top of a mountain after a long hike. You may also want to pack pants if you are wearing shorts, and other layering pieces depending on the temperature of your hike. It can take a while to really figure out how to pack these properly, but again- rather safe than sorry.
- Hat & Gloves – Depending on the weather, I carry either a baseball hat, or winter hat. Same lies true for the gloves… Always check the weather before you leave!
For When You are Done…
- More Water- For the obvious reason of continued hydration.
- More Food- I generally keep a stocked cooler in the car with some food for post hike treats, or usually plan to stop somewhere for a delicious burger or steak.
- Change of Clothes- Shoes, socks, underwear & more layers!
- Deodorant – Well, ’cause you know…
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