“What should I pack for a day on the trails?!” You ask. Truthfully, it depends on where you’re hiking, the weather and how long the hike is. But these are things I have on hand every time I go out for a day, give or take a couple things! Just because this is what I take, doesn’t mean it’s everything you may need to take. These are my go-to items I feel confident and comfortable with and I hope that maybe you can use it as a guideline for your own needs! Keeping your hiking gear organized and stored properly will help you pack quickly and efficiently:
First, you want to wear weather appropriate clothing. A few quick suggestions: avoid denim and cotton as they take a very long time to dry if they get wet. Stick to synthetic materials like UnderArmour and DriFit or my personal favorite; merino wool (Icebreaker, SmartWool or a more affordable 32 Degree Heat or Cool.) These types of clothing will wick away moisture from your body. I highly suggest the same for socks…stay away from cotton, since sweaty feet = wet cotton = friction = blisters. Make sure the shoes or boots you will wear fit well and are broken in.
Before every hike, the night before we will spray our clothing, packs, and hats down with Permethrin. (Permethrin is meant to treat clothing and fabric ONLY!) Ticks are pretty awful around here beginning in April and still keep active through October. I find Permethrin to be very effective in preventing tick bites. Even if we see one crawling on us, it tends to fall off very quickly when exposed to our clothing. Make sure you are proactive in tick preventatives & treatments! Permethrin is HIGHLY toxic to cats when wet, but safe when fully dry, so make sure you spray your things in a well-ventilated area and allow them to dry completely. Your clothes will stay treated for up to 4-6 washes.
What I bring:
– A backpack! I either use my REI Trail 25 or my Osprey Comet. I like them both equally, but the Osprey is a little roomier! Most people tend to stick with 18 – 36-liter backpacks for day trips but I have definitely seen some hikers carrying bigger packs.
– A physical map copy picked up at the trailhead or a screenshot of the trail map on my phone. (It’s wise to take a screenshot in case you couldn’t get a printed map and don’t have a signal in the woods!)– First aid kit – tweezers, antiseptic wipes, blister care, ibuprofen, antibacterial ointment, small scissors, safety pin, a Bic lighter with a couple feet of duct tape wrapped around it. I love my Hart Outdoor First Aid Kit!
– Chapstick, sunscreen, hand sanitizer and a small can Picaridin spray or lotion. We may treat our clothing prior but at the trailhead, before we set off we find success in using one of the two skin safe repellents. I haven’t had luck with naturally based bug sprays, unfortunately. As much as I prefer the safety (and scent) of eucalyptus, peppermint, and lemongrass – I had incidences of attached ticks the few times I used them. To me, exposing myself to effective chemicals for a short time is worth preventing tick-borne illnesses that can last a lifetime.
– Headlamp – in case we run behind and end up accidentally hiking after dark.
– In cooler months, an extra warm layer – either a fleece pullover or my puffy coat. In rainy weather, my rain jacket. – A hat and/or bandana, sunglasses.– Snacks – this varies from full-on lunch break; such as a tuna packet with black olives, tortillas with natural peanut butter, beef jerky and sharp cheese or for a quick snack when we don’t stop for a break I like a Honey Stinger Waffle, Honey Stinger Energy Chews or a Quest bar. I also like almonds and cashews on the go!
– Water – I remember the first and only time I was ever dehydrated on a hike. I started to get very panicked, exhausted and did not at all enjoy the last few miles. We did 8 or 9 miles total and I only brought 32 ounces of water with me. I was much more inexperienced at that time and underestimated the time and the energy that went into a moderate hike like that.
These days I carry 2 liters of water in a bladder no matter what and either a 32oz Nalgene filled with an electrolyte drink mix or I’ll buy a SmartWater on the way to the trailhead for backup. I do not mind extra weight on a day hike and would rather be safe than sorry when it comes to staying hydrated! I have learned I drink about one liter of water every 2 1/2 miles. I now always keep my water filter or my Purinize drops in my pack. (Click HERE and use code: HBFOUTDOORS for 20% off!) I use a Katadyn Hiker Pro for any filtering.
– My camera (Canon RebelT6 or my Sony A5100 with a couple lenses) and my iPhone X. I usually keep my phone in airplane mode while hiking so my battery doesn’t drain quickly.
– If I have one or both dogs with me I bring an extra bottle of water for them, plus a collapsible bowl I clip to the outside of my backpack. I also fill a ziplock baggie with some treats and keep a roll of poop bags packed in case we need to pick up after them. Sometimes Cash himself even gets thrown into a backpack! There you have a list of tips and things I like to take with me! If you don’t want a heavier daypack, you don’t need to heed all of my advice! Truly 1/3 of my pack weight is probably not necessary but it’s tweaked to my preferences. I enjoy stopping for photos so I wear a fanny pack with my extra lenses and batteries for easy access. I carry a lot of water to ease my dehydration anxieties. If you want to get a second opinion – you can use REI’s handy list!