What to Bring on your Day Hike: Gear Guide

Whether you’re going on a short walk through the park or an epic day-long trek, it’s important to be prepared. You never know what kind of weather conditions you’ll be met with on the trail or if today’s the day you’re going to find yourself injured. You could get lost, hurt, or your hike might just take longer than you expected. Either way, I know how important being prepared is and I’ve created this guide to let you know what we bring on our day hikes in 2022!

This list was based on The 10 Essentials, a list established in the 1930s by a Seattle outdoor adventures group called The Mountaineers. Our up-to-date list includes specific items that are adopted for Canadian weather but can be useful everywhere in the world.Packing the 10 Essentials on your hiking adventures is a good habit and you’ll need to check this list every time you’re leaving for a hike to making sure you have everything before you go. You may not use everything on this list, but there is a lot of value that comes with being prepared.

This list was made for emergency situations as well as items to make your hike more enjoyable, and like I said above, you may not always need this kind of gear. I’ll go further and expand on this list below, so keep reading for our 2022 Day Hiking Gear Guide!

Hiking Boots

Women’s Windriver Thunder 2 Hiking Boots, Men’s Timberland Hiking Boots.

My first tip would be to invest in proper hiking boots. I wear my hiking boots on all of our adventures, and they’ve lasted me 3 hiking seasons so far. Not only do you get proper support from your boots, but you’ll most likely get a pair that are water-resistant and will keep you dry. I’ve tried hiking trails in running shoes and it’s NOT the same. I always wish I had brought my boots instead. Others opt for hiking shoes but I prefer the extra ankle support.

Proper Clothing (Weather Appropriate)

Women’s Lululemon Align Leggings, Lululemon Wunder Train Leggings, Lululemon Invigorate Leggings.

Following up on hiking boots, it’s also a must to wear appropriate clothing on the trails. By choosing pieces that will keep you comfortable you’ll enjoy the hike so much more. For proper clothing on hikes I would include bringing a jacket for sudden weather changes, choosing exercise/athletic wear instead of cotton t-shirts, wearing leggings or joggers instead of jeans, and wearing sunglasses or a hat to protect you from the sun.

Women’s Helly Hansen Puffer Jacket, Men’s Helly Hansen Rain Jacket.

I also pack extra clothes in case it gets cold in addition to my waterproof/breathable jacket. I choose between the waterproof jacket and the lightweight puffer jacket depending on the weather. I always pack a fleece sweater, an extra pair of socks and gloves, and a warm toque. You never know when the weather is going to change and you may find yourself getting rained on and suddenly very cold!

Extra Food & Water

Nalgene 1L Wide-Mouthed Water Bottle at MEC.

There’s not a lot that beats having your lunch at the top of a hike, and we always bring plenty of food on our adventures. On our day hikes we typically pack a lunch item like a sandwich along with plenty of snacks. Some of our favourite snacks include trail mixes (nuts, granola, dried fruit), energy bars (Clif bars, Lara bars), fresh fruit (apples, oranges), beef jerky, and chocolate covered coffee beans. We usually throw in extra bars just in case of emergencies.

It is SO important to stay hydrated on your hikes and we’ve learned the hard way that you need to bring plenty of water. We’ve made the rookie mistake of not bringing water or only packing plastic water bottles and I’m here to save you from our errors. We both typically bring our Nalgene water bottle (each) filled with water for our day hike. If it’s an especially hot day we would bring our 2L water reservoirs (each) and we always bring backup water purification tablets.

Navigation & Communication

Garmin InReach Mini at MEC (Canada) & Backcountry (USA).

Our next big purchase and addition to our backpacking gear is going to be a GPS. It’s so important to know where you’re going, so if you’re like us and don’t have a GPS yet you need to download a map on your phone (or bring a handheld map of the area), and a compass. You need to do your research before-hand and know what to expect on your hike.

In an emergency, you need to be able to call for help. Make sure that your phone battery is fully charged before you hit the trails, or bring a portable charger like us. You should be letting someone know about you hiking plans BEFORE you go, and let them know when they should expect a text from your return. An example message looks like this: “Hey! I’m going on (name of hike) today and I should be back at 7PM tonight. If you don’t hear from me, please call for search & rescue! Thanks.”

We do not yet have a satellite messenger but it’s a fantastic idea for longer hikes. We always carry our whistle, not only to scare away potential predators but also to signal for help in emergencies.

First-Aid Kit & Sun Protection

Lightweight First-Aid Kit at MEC (Canada) & Backcountry (USA).

All hikers should be carrying a small first-aid kit! This is so important to have in your day hiking pack, and I recommend getting yourself a small, lightweight first-aid kit that is pre-made and adding any extra items you think you’ll need. Our first-aid kit contains enough items for 2 people and has different sized band-aids, rolls of gauze, tape, a splinter/tick remover, alcohol and anti-septic swabs, after-bite medication, and emergency “stop-bleeding” tools.

It’s also extremely important to protect yourself from the harsh sun, so we pack a small tube of sunscreen, sunglasses, and a baseball cap each. We also pack bug-spray, hand sanitizer, and toilet paper for when you have to go. It’s important to “go” off the trail, away from any water sources, and to dig a 6-inch hole to bury it.

Safety & Emergency Items

Petzl Actik Core Head-Lamp at MEC (Canada) & Backcountry (USA).

It is SO important to be prepared for emergencies, and we make sure to pack these essential items just in case. Our headlamp is the number 1 emergency item that we use the most. We bring it with us on every hike in case we decide to stay after sunset and end up hiking in the dark. In emergencies, a headlamp is extremely necessary. Jake also brings a small back-up flashlight.

We carry bear spray on every single one of our hikes. During the Spring – Fall months there’s a chance of running into a bear and it’s best to be prepared for an encounter. Here’s a link to a quick bear safety course that Jake and I did. We also carry a knife in our backpack for protection and to cut up sticks or branches for emergency fires. We always make sure to carry a small pack of matches and a lighter to start a fire, and we bring toilet paper to use and to make a fire if we need it.

A few extra emergency items in our pack are a whistle to make noise, an emergency space blanket that you can buy for $3, and some rope/cord. We’ve never had to use these items but it’s nice to have them in the bottom of your pack for emergencies! Even on a short day hike, you never know if you’ll have an accident and need to be rescued.

Comfortable Backpack to Carry it All!

Osprey Tempest 20L at MEC (Canada) & Backcountry (USA). Osprey Talon 20L

I completely believe that a good backpack can make or break your hiking experience. The two of us have hiked with some of our old casual backpacks, a professional camera backpack, a 20L day-hiking pack and a 50L camping backpack. You can absolutely get away with bringing a casual backpack but we prefer to not. They’re just not as comfortable and not designed for the activities we do.

It’s important to be able to pack all of your gear as well as pack extra layers and have space to remove your layers, and another important note is that you should be packing away any garbage you bring out to the trails. Having a backpack makes this so much easier and makes you much more prepared for your hike!

We typically both bring our 20L Osprey Tempest & 20L Osprey Talon backpacks on all of our day hikes. I think that 20L-30L is the perfect size! There’s plenty of room for Jake’s camera gear (packed away in a camera cube) and all of our essential gear. Since I like to bring extra clothes for when it gets cold and shed my layers when I get too warm, it’s nice that we both have our own backpacks. Plus, Jake tends to carry the heavier items for me. This is an investment I definitely recommend you make.

Bonus: Packing for your Furry Friend

Ruffwear Approach Pack at MEC (Canada) & Backcountry (USA), Ruffwear Pack-Out Bag.

We LOVE to bring our dog out on our hikes, so it was important for me to include this section! Not only does our dog have her own backpack (Ruffwear Approach Pack) for longer day hiking, but we also make sure to keep her in mind and bring the essentials to keep her comfortable on the trails.

It’s important to bring extra food and water for your dog as well. Our dog (Rosie) likes to cool herself off in the streams or lakes on the trails, however, there are some areas where the water is NOT safe for dogs to drink. We do our research beforehand to know if the water is going to be contaminated and do our best to keep her away from it. This means that we have to bring extra water from home for our pup and she carries her own foldable food/water dish.

Ruffwear LED Safety Light, Ruffwear Trail Runner Dog Bowl.

Nobody wants to see poop bags on the trail, and nobody wants to accidentally step in your dogs waste. We know it’s important to pack out her poop and we ALWAYS bring an extra roll of poop bags to make sure we clean up after her. We have 2 solutions to carrying out her waste. We obviously don’t want to smell it while we hike, so we either bring a designated Nalgene bottle (with a dryer sheet stuffed inside) to put her poop bags inside and carry, OR we use her Ruffwear Pack Out bag and let her carry it herself. It fits nicely in her backpack and we don’t have to deal with it until later!

Finally, I want to mention that Rosie wears small bells on her collar to make extra noise and warn people or predators that she’s coming. We also have a small LED light that attaches to her collar so she can be seen at night by us and other people. We have extra first-aid items like tweezers and vet wrap. Some dog owners suggest getting boots for your dog, but so far Rosie doesn’t need it.

Final Thoughts

It is SO important to be prepared whether you’re a beginner hiker or casually exploring some trails. Having this packing list guide will help you to make sure you have everything you need on your hike and avoid common mistakes. The two of us have had experience without these items and we feel so much better when we’re prepared, and want you to feel the same!

If our Day Hiking Gear Guide has helped you at all, make sure you check out our Ultimate Backpacking Guide for more advanced hiking. Feel free to leave me a comment if you think I’ve missed anything important and if you have additional suggestions! You will be more than prepared by following this list, and remember to always follow the leave no trace principles and respect the outdoors.

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