Packing for a day trip hike takes less gear than overnight backpacking. Regardless, the right gear can make or break your hike. This post will include what I pack when I am solo hiking on a short day hike. My day hikes don’t last more than 8 hours so I can pack pretty conservatively, but I also like to include items I may need if I get hurt, lost or hike longer than I planned.
For starters, I use a Camelbak. I really like the pack I have but it is small. Since I am a small lady, not a lot bigger than some children, this bag fits my frame comfortably. I am for the most part a minimalist hiker and have learned to use the pockets in this bag to their capacity and I even hang things from the straps. This bag allows for me to take everything I need and a few supplies in the case of emergencies.
Water Bladder, Bottle, and LifeStraw
This camelback has a 2 liter bladder reservoir but I like to take more water than that, especially if it is hot. So I take an extra water bottle and put it in one of the open pockets. I use a LifeStraw Bottle. This water bottle comes with a filter that you can use in the bottle or remove and use independently. I put the life filter in my bag because you never know if you might need to use it. A LifeStraw Filter allows you to drink untreated water from creeks on the trail by filtering out the microbes and contaminants. I have never had to use this, and I hope I don’t, but I do like to keep it with me just in case.
I also like Collapsible Water Bottles and will take one of them instead if I am not worried about water availability. They come in all kinds of colors, prices, and various ways to fold up. This bottle also works great in my purse to refill at airports or wherever. Last year when we went to Greece we used these and did not buy any bottled water. I saved money and didn’t use plastic!!
I love carabiners. These little guys are fantastic for hanging items on the side of my bag or on my straps. Since the bag is small, this helps me take more of what I need. I also like to put some things up front for easy access and therefore it works great to hang them on my straps.
Kind of an odd item but I love my bandanas when hiking. I tie it to my bag and then use it for many things. Mainly on hot hikes, I dunk it in water and tie it around my neck to keep me cool. It’s amazing how much it helps. A bandana can also be used as a tourniquet if needed.
I hang a whistle on the front of my straps in case of emergency. Someone told me years ago that if you slip down an edge and can’t be seen, blow a whistle so someone can hear you and more easily find you. Sure you could scream for help, but a whistle will use less of your energy.
I carry electrolyte packets to replenish my body’s balance. Hiking takes a lot out of you, especially if it is hot and you are sweating. There are many brands and types of electrolytes. I like Propel Packets. They are tasty and one packet is perfect for my water bottle.
I never hike without a headlamp attached to my bag in case the hike takes longer than expected and I have to hike in the dark. It also comes in handy if I run across a cave I want to explore. Extra batteries are a good idea as well. There are so many different lights that it is hard to say what is best. Just get what works for you.
When packing for a day hike, I take a very abbreviated first aid kit. Actually it’s a zip lock with essentials, Bandaids, antiseptic ointment, antibiotic ointment, pain reliever, Benadryl, my inhaler, cortisone cream, bug repellent and an ACE wrap. Other than the ACE wrap, these items takes up very little room. I take the ACE wrap because sometimes on difficult down hill hikes, I wrap my knee if it starts to bother me. I also like having it in case I sprain my ankle. In addition, it can double as a sling for an injured arm if wrapped right.
Carrying a trail map is always important to me in case I get lost. It hasn’t happened yet, but it could. Even if I am packing for a short day hike I make sure I have a trail map.
Can’t forget the food! My favorite trail snack is simple trail mix. Salty snacks are a great way to keep your sodium in check. I also like cheese, beef jerky, homemade energy balls, apples, peanut butter, crackers and high protein healthy type bars.
Empty Zip Lock
I always take an empty zip lock baggie for my trash. When hiking it is so important to carry out everything you carry in. A zip lock works great for wrappers, banana peels, apple cores, or whatever else needs thrown away once you are back to where there is a proper trash can. It is also a great way to add a good deed to your day, if you see trash from someone else, toss that in your bag as well.
And Other Stuff
Miscellaneous things I take are my iPhone for taking photos and sometimes as a compass if GPS is working. I have taken a compass before in case I am lost, but I have never used it. Tissues are always a good thing to pack in case something is bothering my allergies. I hate having a runny nose and not having a tissue. I also take sunglasses. Last but not least, I hang pepper spray on the front of my bag. I have never come across any bad guys on the trail, but this is a form of protection. Not sure how well it would keep someone away, but I would hope it would give me a running head start!!
These are all tried and true items I like to take when packing for a day hike. I am sure everyone’s list varies. I would love to hear what others pack as I am always looking for new ideas!
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