What Kind of Gear Should I Take on a Day Hike?

Sep 7th 2023

What Kind of Gear Should I Take on a Day Hike?

Prepare for every hike with the essentials–plus a few extras.

Whether you love day hiking or longer backpacking trips, hiking is a great way to get exercise, challenge yourself and enjoy the great outdoors. Day hiking is perfect for any experience level, allowing beginners to hone outdoor skills and experienced hikers to maintain fitness on longer or more challenging trails.

Planning your day hiking gear is just as important as any long trek. Mother Nature is known for unpredictable weather, wrong turns can extend your hike and accidents do happen, so it’s best to be prepared. This guide is designed to help you know what kind of gear to take on a day hike.

Must-have day-hiking gear

Day hiking is something you can do year-round. When preparing for a day hike, there are 10 essentials that should be in your hiking backpack regardless of the season or how long your hike is. The ten-essentials list varies a little bit depending on the resource you’re referencing, but we like this 10 Essentials guide from the National Park Service (NPS).

Here’s a quick overview of the NPS 10 Essentials list:

  1. Navigation - map, compass, GPS device
  2. Sun protection - sunscreen, sunglasses, hat
  3. Insulation - thermal underwear, jacket, rain shell, hat, gloves
  4. Illumination - headlamp, flashlight, lantern, batteries
  5. First-aid supplies - first-aid, adventure medical kit
  6. Fire - matches, lighter, fire starters
  7. Repair kit and tools - duct tape, knife, screwdriver, scissors
  8. Nutrition - food
  9. Hydration - water, water reservoir or water bottle, water filters and treatment supplies
  10. Emergency shelter - tent, space blanket, tarp, bivy

One thing not included on the list? Bathroom supplies. After all, when nature calls, you’ll be glad to have a few toilet essentials handy. This could be as simple as a small, resealable bag with clean, dry toilet paper and an extra resealable bag to pack out waste per Leave No Trace Principles. Additional items could include:

  • Small shovel - to dig a cathole for liquids or solids (but no toilet paper!)
  • Pee funnel - for women who want to pee standing up
  • Kula Cloth - a reusable, antimicrobial pee cloth
  • Cleansing wipes - makes cleaning up a cinch
  • Hand sanitizer - to keep hands fresh and ready for trail snacks

This might seem like a lot to pack for a day hike, but in the event of weather changes, minor injuries, longer hikes or wrong turns extending your hike, having items from each of these categories will help. It’s better to have extra stuff and not need it than to need it and not have it.

You can get creative, too. For example, trekking poles, duct tape and a space blanket can be a makeshift shelter in place of carrying a tent. Or a spare trash bag can double as a rain cover for your pack (or a rain jacket for your friend who didn’t bring their 10 Essentials).

Gear for summer hiking

Summer is a popular time of year to hike thanks to sunny days, warm temperatures and less chance of precipitation. Because summer hiking comes with its own set of challenges, there are a few extra pieces of gear we recommend to make your hike more comfortable.

Hiking shoes or trail running shoes are lighter and can be more comfortable in summer months. Don’t forget to wear a high-quality pair of athletic socks to prevent heavy sweating, hot spots and blisters.

One of the 10 Essentials is sun protection, and hats are included in that category. What about a hat with UV protection built in? Our UV Protection Running Hat (men’s | women’s) are ideal for sunny days because they’re lightweight, quick drying and feature 50+ UPF protection from the sun’s damaging rays.

We also recommend bringing a TrailHeads Multiband. These versatile multibands can be worn as a headband, gaiter, face shield, doo rag and more. One of our favorite things to do is roll ice cubes up inside and wear it around the neck with the ice laid over the back of the neck for extra cooling power on ultra-hot days.

Gear for spring and fall

Spring and fall are a great time of year to hit the trails thanks to cool mornings or evenings and warm afternoons. However, spring and fall can also have unpredictable or wet weather, and you do need to pack extra gear and layers to be ready for anything.

We recommend a hat with a brim to keep sun or rain out of your eyes. Our new Traverse Series Hats (men’s | women’s) are great any time of year because they’re lightweight and dry quickly. They’re engineered with REPREVE® fabric made of recycled plastic bottles, so you can trek knowing you have a lighter footprint on the planet.

On cool mornings, slip our Running Headband with moisture-wicking fabric over your hat to keep ears warm, and easily take it off when temperatures rise.

Gear for winter hiking

Hiking in winter is a totally different experience from the rest of the year, and is magical in its own way. Trailheads are quieter, and the trails themselves can be slick with water, snow or ice. We recommend wearing waterproof and insulated hiking boots in winter, paired with a nice pair of Merino wool socks. Merino wool continues to insulate even when wet, so you can get water or snow inside your boots and still have warm toes!

Thermal layers are designed to help trap heat close to the body while moving moisture away, keeping you dry and warm. Our Trailblazer Hat and Neckwarmer gift set (men’s | women’s) offer warmth for your head, ears and neck. The hat features a built-in ear band that you can fold up and flip down as needed. The Trailblazer Hat comes in hunter orange, which is ideal for areas where hunting is common.

Wearing proper winter gloves is essential for preventing frostbite and prevents heat loss, helping keep your body temperature balanced. For ultimate flexibility, our Convertible Mittens (men’s | women’s) feature fingerless gloves with a versatile mitten flap that can be tucked away in a built-in storage pocket when you need fingers handy for taking photos or texting friends and update about your hike.

While not every hike needs a heavy pack full of gear, bringing the essentials ensures you’ll be prepared for anything. As you accumulate miles and experience on the trails, you’ll figure out what your personal essentials are and how to streamline packing for a day hike.

Check out our blog for more tips to help you take the trail less traveled.