A day hike is a great opportunity to get some exercise and to clear your mind. However, not everybody knows what to bring on a short hike and, more importantly, how to organize them. Today we are going to have a look at what to pack for a day hike and how to avoid clutter in your backpack.
What to Pack for a Day Hike Checklist
1. Map and Compass
One of the hiking essentials for beginners and not only is a map. You need to take with you a map of the area where you want to hike. Learn how to use it to find your location. Practice this skill since it might come in handy. First, locate north, then find your own location. Of course, you can rely on GPS receivers or cell phones, but they may fail you.
2. Protection from the Sun
Bring a hat, lip balm, and sunscreen. Even if you’re going up in the mountains, the sun can still cause you some burns. Use sunglasses and even sun-proof clothing if you’re very sensitive.
The level of insulation you need depends on the location of your hiking (backcountry, city), the temperature (at day and night), and the odds you have for remaining outdoors at night. Consider bringing an insulated sweater, jacket, gloves, hat, and a sit pad.
4. Lighting Sources
Always carry with you a headlamp or a flashlight, together with extra batteries. You must include these items on your list of what to pack for a day hike just in case you need to come back home after dark. Moreover, you should consider the possibility of camping for the night.
5. First-Aid Items
Whenever you decide to go hiking, you should carry with you some first aid supplies. Whether you take them for yourself or for other people that join you, they’re essential. Luckily, there are personal first aid kits that are ready-made and cost around $17. But if you don’t want to pay that much, you can make your own.
6. Fire Starters
It may happen that you stay overnight in a camp or somewhere in the woods. There are plenty of accidents that might happen and you might need to start a fire. Ideally, you should practice making a fire beforehand. Moreover, you should also know how to relight one if the situation requires it. The most reliable solution is a fire steel. This is a device that looks like a flint and throws lots of sparks. Add a fire-starter, such as cotton balls covered in Vaseline. Don’t forget to bring matches, but keep in mind that they might get wet.
7. Tool and Repair Kit
If you don’t know what to pack for a day hike, don’t rush to get a big knife with you for repairs. Instead, choose scissors, a swiss army knife, duct tape and safety pins. A leatherman style multi-tool is also great.
When you’re hiking you’re exercising, which means you need to eat more to keep going. Bring healthy snacks with you, snacks that have a good level of carbohydrates, fat, and protein. If you’re going to climb that hill or mountain all day long, add a sandwich in there. There are special trail mix snacks that offer you the necessary energy.
The most important thing from the list of what to pack for a day hike is water. Staying hydrated helps you feel better, so don’t wait to be thirsty to drink. If you know there are no reliable water sources around, bring a water filter or a Chlorine Dioxide tablet to purify stream or lake water.
Among the overnight hiking essentials, you will also find an emergency blanket, bivy, or a sleeping bag cover. Remember that you may need to camp out in an unexpected manner. Avoid sitting right on the cold ground since it takes the heat out of your body. Instead, bring a foam sleeping or sit pad on which you can lie. You can even consult a camping gear list to see what you might need for a night in the forest.
How to Avoid Cluttering
With all these items to check off the ‘what to pack for a day hike’ list, your backpack may get cluttered. For this reason, we are going to see how to organize the backpack and thus to avoid clutter. One important thing to keep in mind is that a pack that is well-loaded feels balanced on your hips. As you hike, it won’t sway or shift. The following guide is suitable more for a longer hiking period, but you can adapt it to a one-day trip as well.
There are three main zones for packing, together with some peripheral storage, as follows:
- Bottom Zone;
- Core Zone;
- Top Zone;
- Accessory Pockets;
- Tool Loops and Lash-On Points.
1. Bottom Zone
This area is perfect for bulky gear and items that you aren’t going to need until you camp. Here you need to include camp shoes (or down booties), the sleeping bag, a sleeping pad (it’s great if it can be further folded), and any layers you might sleep in. This also helps with creating a system for absorbing any shocks for your back and the pack.
2. Core Zone
Useful for heavier, denser items that you still don’t need during the hike. Store food stash (not the snacks), a cook kit, stove, the water reservoir or the bottles. You can wrap some items around the bulky gear to make sure they won’t shift, such as tent footprint, tent body, extra clothing or rainfly.
3. Top Zone
Here you need to stack your essential items, such as the first-aid kit, the water purifier or filter, toilet supplies, rain jacket, insulated jacket or pants.
4. Accessory Pockets
Even though not all backpacks have the same structure, most likely you have some accessory packets. Here you can store the lip balm, sunscreen, sunglasses, GPS, map, compass, bug spray, headlamp, rain cover, car keys, IDs, cash, and snacks.
5. Tool Loops and Lash-On Points
Among the items that can be strapped on the outside of the pack, you can find a climbing rope, ice ax, crampons, trekking and tent poles, a large sleeping pad, and a camp stool.
Going for a day hike is not as easy as everybody thinks. However, this article can help you decide what are the essentials you need, as well as how to organize them inside the backpack.