Last updated: May 22, 2023
We love a good checklist to help us prepare for a trip – even if we’re just going out for a day hike. A list adds a ton of efficiency to the process of getting ready, and we love knowing we’re not forgetting something important in the rush to get out the door.
Use this Day Hike Checklist every time you hit the trail to make rounding up your gear quick and easy.
Day Hiking Checklist
You won’t need all the items on this list for every trip, but it’s worth thinking through each of them as you gather your gear. Grab the basics first, then use the categories at the end to tailor your gear list to your specific needs.
- Call ranger station for trail conditions & regulations
- Apply for any required permits
- Check if trailhead requires a parking pass or cash/card for pay station
- Check current weather
- Charge electronics & check batteries
- Study topo map/take photos of guidebook pages
- Download GPS phone app & appropriate maps or GPS area
- Download driving directions for offline use (we use maps.me)
- Leave an itinerary with a friend & under your car seat
Based on your pack choice, choose one or more of the following to keep your stuff dry:
TOOLS & ACCESSORIES
- Wallet (containing cash, ID, credit card, insurance card)
- Phone in protective case
- First aid kit & prescription Rx
- Sunscreen & lip balm
- Poop kit (toilet paper, hand sanitizer & trowel)
- Light pocket knife or multitool
- Ultralight chair/sit pad or hammock
- Trekking poles
Choose one of the following to carry your gear:
Some worn, some packed. Layer clothing based on season and weather conditions. For fabrics – think lightweight and quick-drying (no cotton).
- Hiking pants (men’s/women’s), leggings, or shorts (men’s/women’s)
- Quick-dry underwear
- Shirt (sun shirt, base layer, or short sleeve/tank)
- Jacket(s) (rain, down, fleece, windbreaker – possibly a combo)
- High-quality socks
- Gaiters (for talus, sand, snow, or fast/long trips)
- Hat(s) (warm or for sun)
PACK IN CAR
FOOD & WATER
ADDITIONAL GEAR FOR SPECIFIC TRIPS
RAIN & SNOW
- Rain jacket
- Rain pants
- Rain mittens
- Warm socks
- Traction devices or snowshoes
- GPS/phone app (for route finding in snow)
MOSQUITOS & TICKS
LONG HIKES / REMOTE LOCATIONS
- Extra food for emergencies
- Duct/Tenacious Tape (for repairs)
- Small lighter & fire starters
- Water filter or treatment pills
- Collapsible water containers (for carrying lots of water in dry locations)
- Satellite Messenger/PLB
- Emergency blanket/shelter
GRIZZLY BEAR COUNTRY
Backup photos, clear storage, and clean lens.
DSLR or Point-and-Shoot
- Holster or camera clip
- Remote shutter
- Microfiber cleaning cloth
- Rain cover / dry bag
- Extra battery
- Extra camera card
For the trail
- Food & collapsible bowl
- Extra water (you carry)
- Treats & treat pouch
- Dog boots / Musher’s Secret Wax (to protect the paws)
- Poop bags & gallon Ziploc or OPsak (to pack out waste)
- Dog backpack
- Dog jacket (for dogs with low cold tolerance)
- Foam pad (to insulate you and your dog from the cold/wet ground during breaks)
- Dog first aid kit (or add stuff to human first aid kit)
- Collar light (check battery pre-trip)
Leave in car
Day Hiking Tips
FINDING A BALANCE OF PACK WEIGHT & PREPAREDNESS – A lightweight backpack is far more comfortable to carry.This will help you conserve energy so you can hike further and enjoy your time outdoors more. That said, we never advise skipping essentials like a map, rain jacket, and a basic first aid kit when venturing into the backcountry. Our hope is that this checklist will help you remember to take what you need to stay safe, but also help keep you on track so your load doesn’t get too heavy. Learn more about ways to reduce your pack weight here.
BACKPACKS – Most people use a daypack or hydration pack (comes with a bladder) for day trips since they have the perfect midsize gear capacity, they’re comfortable to carry, and they have plenty of convenient pockets to keep gear organized and easily accessible. Daypacks come in a variety of sizes, but we prefer those that have about 20-30L of gear capacity. Fanny packs are also a great option for small gear loads or for extra capacity in addition to a daypack.
WHAT TO WEAR FOR HIKING – The clothing you wear and pack for a day hike will change slightly depending on the conditions you expect to encounter on specific trips, but the basics remain the same. Wear layers made with quick-drying fabrics so you can stay comfortable no matter the weather. Lightweight, breathable footwear and high-quality, non-cotton socks also make a huge difference in reducing fatigue and avoiding blisters. Get specific recommendations on the best down jackets, rain jackets, hiking pants, base layers, and more on our Gear Guide Homepage.
If you enjoyed this post, you’ll probably like the CleverHiker Gear Guide as well. Here are some popular resources to check out.
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