Monday, July 12, 2021

What gear to pack for a day hike

Planning a day hike? Here's what you should pack.

Preparation is key for any kind of outdoor adventure, whether a multi-day backpacking trip or a hike into the woods for a couple of hours. The more prepared you are... the more fun you can have, the safer you can be, and the further you can venture into the wilderness without fretting the intimidating what-ifs. I hope this post encourages you to reconsider how you approach going about on a day hike and reexamine what belongs in your daypack!

Since 2018 I've used a great daypack from Boulder Pack Co. that's proved to be a durable and lightweight (at 11.2 ounces) vessel for hauling around the necessities for whenever I plan a day hike. It can carry 28 liters worth of gear, is comfortable to wear, and compacts easily. There's a front pocket with a further zipped pouch for stashing away smaller important items, two mesh nets on the sides with clip straps, a carabiner, and a main pocket for the larger stuff. Unfortunately, in doing some research while writing this blog post, it appears Boulder Pack Co. might be out of business. But I could be wrong. In need of a solid daypack? Check REI, The Clymb,, or your local gear store for one, as $40-$70 should buy you a solid daypack that's 20 to 40 liters in size.

So what's in my own daypack? Here's the rundown.
  • Headlamp. Sometimes hikes take longer than expected and you may be out on the trail right as the sun starts to drop beneath the horizon. My go-to is one of my two headlamps from Black Diamond, and obviously, make sure the batteries are charged or fresh.
  • Compass and map. Bring a paper map, folks. Regardless if you know the area. Cell phones lose service, can break unexpectedly, or die. Learn basic navigation with a compass (I have a basic one from Silva) and master to use one hand-in-hand with a map so you don't get lost. Topo maps, like ones from National Geographic or printable ones via, are key when you're really in the backcountry.
  • Rescue beacon. I often like to go solo in the outdoors and a rescue beacon or PLB (personal locator beacon) is an easy piece of gear that can save your life should you run into an emergency. I've relied on a SPOT Gen 3 satellite messenger with GPS position tracking and a dedicated SOS should a search and rescue need to be orchestrated. Even on a shorter day hike, this is a worthy piece of extra insurance to have.
  • Bug spray. Mosquitos suck and ticks do too, so I always spray on with repellant from Ben's. 
  • Knife. Again, a simple piece of gear that could prove handy in a pinch. I pack Sheffield's 12870 Moab knife with a 3.5-inch blade. You don't need a full-on machete, a strong little survival knife.
  • First aid kit. This is mandatory and small first aid kits for hiking are super cheap! From thorny cuts, trips over rocks, bees, wild parsnip stings, or worse situations...spend the cash and buy one from American Medical Kits.
  • Water. I usually lug with me one or two heavily stickered Nalgene bottles. Keep them full and drink often.
  • Rain jacket or outer shell. Weather of course is unpredictable, so it's smart to stow away a light waterproof jacket or outer shell to shield you from the elements. I have a hooded breathable rain jacket from REI's own in-house Co-Op brand that works perfectly too as an extra layer should temperatures fall or the winds pick up.
  • Journal. A travel journal and pen are a must for me. Unleash your inner Edward Abbey or Henry David Thoreau, or John Krakauer.
  • Camera. I typically unplug and leave my cell phone either shut off when I depart on a day hike. That's when the Sony A6000 comes out to play. I like smaller point-and-shoot cameras or a mirrorless SLR. Channel that inspiration from Ansel Adams, yo.
  • Snack. My daypack menu is usually a bag of granola, however, a mason jar of fresh snap peas or carrots or an apple does the trick too. Avoid the fake, processed crap though. Bonus trail snacks like black raspberries are the best, just give them a quick splash of water first.