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Day Hiking Gear Checklist

Day Hiking Gear Checklist

Day hiking is great fun: great for the body and great for the soul. Make sure that you, your friends, family, and pets are properly equipped for your hike by referring to the following gear checklist before heading out. (Printer-Friendly Version PDF)

This checklist is deliberately comprehensive so you don’t forget something. Start by packing up the 10 Essentials and then refer to the items below for other things that may be necessary for your intended route, weather, or companions.

10 Essentials

Here’s the basic gear you should carry for any hike to stay safe, comfortable, and remain self-sufficient.

1. Navigation (paper map at a minimum, plus compass, GPS, or GPS phone app)
2. Sun Protection (hat with visor, sunglasses, suntan lotion)
3. Extra Clothing (warm hat, fleece or wool sweater, rain jacket or windbreaker)
4. Illumination (headlamp, flashlight, extra batteries…your cell phone light is not sufficient)
5. Basic First Aid Kit (pain relievers, antihistamine, band aids, blister pads)
6. Fire Making Kit (waterproof matches, accelerant like vaseline and cotton balls)
7. Multi-tool and Repair Kit (swiss army knife, duct tape, safety pins)
8. Food (salty snacks, food bars, dried fruit, sandwich)
9. Hydration (water or fruit drinks, aim for 1L per person for every 2 hours up to 3L)
10. Emergency Shelter (emergency blanket, bivy, or tarp)


Footwear should be very well broken in before hiking with it to prevent hot spots and blisters.  There’s a high probability that you’ll get blisters if wearing shoes for the first time on a hike.


Always check the weather forecast before a hike to make sure you’re bringing the correct clothing. Higher elevations are usually colder and windier than valleys. Avoid wearing cotton clothing except in desert conditions because it takes longer to dry than synthetics or wool.


Pet Gear

Dogs are great hiking companions, but when starting out it’s important that you equip your pup properly and prepare them for an environment where they’re likely to encounter wild animals, other people, and dogs. Be sure to protect their paws and bring plenty of food, water, and gear to keep them comfortable, safe, and their tails wagging.

Other Recommended Items

Updated 2020.

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  1. +1,000 for Chris’ “Bring your brain” comment.

    For heavily used trails: take a disposable plastic bag, and gather up the Gu and Clif bar wrappers, soda cans/bottles, fast food bags, and other trash, for disposal in the trailhead parking lot trash can.

    • I pick up trash on any walk or hike I take. I want to leave the area cleaner than I found it. I often take two bags, one for trash and the other for recyclables.

  2. Friar Rodney Burnap

    When did Electronics become a necessity? You could save over a pound most people anyways if you would leave your electronics at home… you’re in the woods you don’t need Electronics in the woods don’t carry the weight of electronics…

    • Point taken, especially if electronics are used for entertainment.
      I often carry a tablet because I have Ebooks on it such as plant identification or animal identification keys loaded as a PDF. For me this is much lighter than packing 3 or 4 books like I used to carry.
      I also always carry a stand alone GPSr because there aren’t any trails in my area and I sometimes get disoriented (lost).

  3. Your Brain, properly prepared.

    Seriously. Most ‘problems’ in the back country (or just about anywhere for that matter) all come back to a bad decision or poor prep and planning.

    The Scouts use the STOP method

    S- Stop – Just that. stop moving, reading, gathering, sleeping, etc. Focus on the issue at hand.
    T-Think – What are your alternatives? When is dark? What condition is your group in?
    O-Observe – Not only what is around you, but what resources and skills you have.
    P-Plan – decide your course of action and make sure everyone is aware. Be prepared to STOP again.

    It doesn’t matter what the “problem” is. Most of the time, the best action is to take no action until you’ve given the matter some thought and made a plan. There are very few situations where instant action is the best action.

    As I tell the Scouts, “Be Prepared” isn’t just what you have, it is what you know. Packing gear is great, but packing your mind is just as important if not more so. If you lose your map, its nice to have studied it a bit before so that you can recall major landmarks and directions. Having read the names of trails will make the signs familiar.

    So, no matter what gear you choose, make sure your mind is equally well prepared.

  4. This is an excellent and very comprehensive article.

    I may inadvertently have overlooked its’ reference, but I saw nothing about having the “paper map” in a zip-lock bag as protection from rain. In the absence of a zip-lock baggie, hikers should obtain “water-proof” maps, preferably topographical maps and know how to read them. Once a paper map becomes wet and soggy it tears to pieces and then your map is “gone.” So, if a paper map is all one has, place it in a zip-lock plastic see-through baggie with the map side showing the route that you will be taking. That way, if it is raining, one can pull the zip-lock plastic bag containing the map out and observe the map route protected inside the baggie should it be raining.

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