We all have different preferences when it comes to packing for a day hike. Some of us are minimalists while others like to bring a full first aid kit and gear for every season.
I reached out to people who love hiking to find out what their number 1 must-have on a day hike is.
WikiLoc phone app
Jane from Fun things to do in Melbourne has introduced me to a new app called WikiLoc that she uses to track her hikes. It’s worth checking out if, like me, you love poring over your path post hike.
My absolute must-have when hiking in the Australian bush, or overseas, is my WikiLoc phone app. I have tried a bunch of different apps for tracking our hikes and most failed miserably, but the WikiLoc App is fantastic.
When first turned on, there is a big red button to ‘Start Recording’, so it’s really easy to get going on recording a bushwalk (as we Australians call a hike). Hikes can be saved and also uploaded to the Wikiloc app for others to find and use.
Along with good gear to keep you comfortable when hiking, an app to track your progress is ideal too.
You can also find Jane on Facebook
If you’ve never tried hiking poles before, you are missing out. Maria from EuropeUpClose has improved her downhill speed and avoided many slips on loose pebbles while hiking with poles.
Hiking poles make hiking so much easier and can be a lifesaver on those endless downhill slopes, so they are a must for every hike.
I have high-end hiking boots, but I kept on slipping on the small pebbles on the downhill. I never fell, but I had too many ‘almosts’ to count and one day I just had enough.
I bought some fibreglass hiking poles and it was a true game changer.
The first few hikes, I wasn’t so sure about them and felt a little silly to use them. After a few miles, I found the most comfortable way to hold them and got into a comfortable rhythm. I will never go back out there without hiking poles.
Since I got them, I have cut my ‘downhill time’ on my favourite hike in half, because I can walk faster and don’t second guess each step.
Hiking poles are a must for me, just like water, good shoes, and my phone when I go out on the trails.
We love getting out into nature with our family. From walking the dog each day to venturing off into the national and state parks. Our son’s ability to hike further gets better each year. Now snacks are even more important to keep the little guy fuelled and motivated.
We pack snacks that are lightweight, easy to carry and eat on the go. We always pack some fruit such as bananas and sliced apples in a small container.
If we plan to be hiking over a few days, we trade out the fresh fruit for dried fruit. Favourites include mango strips and dried apples. We also bring nut mixes and energy bars. We like the combination of healthy fats, carbohydrates and protein to fuel us for the trail. So make sure you grab some healthy snacks before hitting the trail, I promise you’ll thank us!
The Lillebaby Carrier
Erin from Little Miss Kate says her dog and the Lillebaby Carrier are her two hiking must-haves. If you have a toddler, we recommend checking out the Poco range from Osprey for toddler backpack carriers when your baby outgrows their carrier.
For our family, our absolute must-haves when hiking are the Lillebaby Carrier and our dog, Nala. My husband and I have always loved to hike with our dog Nala, but this summer with a 6-month-old, we also loved to use our Lillebaby carrier for our daughter.
The carrier was so lightweight and has mesh, which makes it breathable for her and for us, and allows us to face her inwards or outwards, which is a great option.
Nala the Labrador loves to go on hikes, and is a professional stick carrier from all of her hiking experience. Being active and outdoors is part of our family lifestyle and there is no better way to hike than with the whole family including baby and dog. We are lucky that our local area of Brampton, Canada has lots of amazing trails to choose from, so we try our best from May to October to get out and explore nature. For local hikes in our area check out Hiking with a Baby.
Small first aid kit
I always take a first aid kit when hiking. You never know when you’ll need it. Rachel from Adventure and Sunshine agrees. Mine is a bit bigger than Rachel’s though, with different types of bandages for snake bites or sprains. Take a peek at what’s in my first aid kit.
Since I started hiking with kids I tend to overpack when hiking. But one thing I will always find room for is a small first aid kit.
You just never know if and when you will need first aid supplies. Unfortunately accidents happen and I would rather have them on hand than be left wanting.
The essentials in my first aid kit are plasters (bandaids), tweezers, small scissors, paracetamol, some saline or iodine and adhesive tape. If we are hiking a more remote trail we will also carry a pencil and notepad, triangular bandage, lighter, safety pins, regular bandage and some larger dressings.
It sounds like a lot, but most items are lightweight and small and together they all fit within a small pouch that goes down the bottom of the pack.
I am fortunate the only items I have ever used from my first aid kit when hiking are plasters, iodine and tweezers. But having it in my pack gives me the reassurance I need in case we need to patch someone up while hiking.
Bag for collecting litter
Do you clean the trail while out walking? I will pick up rubbish when I see it, but most of the trails I hike tend to have zero rubbish anyway. Rebecca from Innate Moves always brings a spare bag for collecting trash on a hike.
I bring at least one extra bag along when hiking to store my own trash and to pick up litter along the way. Whether I’m hiking on a popular path or exploring hidden areas, I almost always find some trash along my way. I hate the thought of leaving litter, but also hate the thought of putting someone’s dirty wrapper in my backpack! Bringing a bag for litter also doubles as something to pick the litter up with (by using the inside of your bag to touch the litter and not your hands!). When I have plastic sacks from a store I often use them for hikes. Reusable waterproof cloth diaper bags are great to use too. They normally zip or attach shut so your trash won’t leak out into your backpack (or smell). Since they are reusable, you don’t have to worry about the environmental impact of using plastic bags – just wash it regularly!
Veme from Kayaking Fisherman never goes hiking without his phone. I have to agree with him.
One of the ONLY things I pack on a day hike is my phone (water is the other). I use it for capturing photos and have it in case of an emergency. Other people also like to have them for counting steps or distances, but those are the least of my worries. It seems like it was just such a short time ago when renting a satellite phone was not unheard of for a lot of wilderness hikers and it is nice to have the luxury to have cell coverage in a lot of the backcountry now. I cannot imagine not taking my phone with me anymore and it is so much lighter than my SLR camera that I used to pack in my backpack.
Mel from TravelingMel.com always uses a waterproof backpack while hiking.
I go for a lot of hikes and one of the things I always bring a waterproof backpack or a waterproof pack cover. A backpack is obviously useful for carrying everything you need on a hike and leaving your hands free. Having a waterproof version means your stuff stays dry on rainy or snowy days or when walking through wet vegetation.
Most daypacks aren’t totally waterproof – you wouldn’t want to dunk them in a lake—but some are very water resistant. That means the material is waterproof, but there is still possibility of water getting in through the zippers or other openings. That’s fine. Unless you are swimming or rafting with your pack you don’t really need it to be 100% waterproof.
L.L. Bean and Arc’teryx both make good waterproof daypacks, as do other companies. If you already have a pack you love, a rain cover is a great addition to keep in your backpack and pull out when the skies look ominous. If you really want to DIY it, simply line the inside of your daypack with a plastic trash bag.
Do you burn to crisp in minutes like David from Paid Surveys?
I’m the sort of person that can get burnt even when the sky is overcast, therefore the one thing I absolutely must have when I hike is sunscreen. I’m also the annoying person that encourages my friends to do so as well, but the last thing you want after a long hike is a painful, damaging sunburn. I like to apply it about an hour before hiking and every 2 hours or so thereafter to make sure I’m well protected. The annoying thing about applying sunscreen while hiking however the combination of sweaty skin with greasy sunscreen. I’ve found using spray on and roll on sunscreens to be most effective for hiking. As always, a high SPF is essential. I’ve found anything lower than 30 SPF simply doesn’t work, although having said that I haven’t found anything over 30 SPF to be anymore effective. Even so, I go for an 40 SPF sunscreen to be on the safe side.
Sunnies and lip balm
Oooh yes. Hiking under the Australian sun demands more than a decent sunscreen – you also need to protect your lips and eyes as well. Jean from Traveling Honeybird has this one covered.
Without a doubt, the two things that I never go on a day hike without is lip balm and sunglasses. Ain’t nobody got time for burnt lips and squinty-eyed photos. It doesn’t matter if we are hiking in summer, winter or any of the odd seasonal weather days in between. I even carry a basic pair of sunglasses in my day pack in case I lose or smash my good pair. And let me tell you it’s happened before. Living in Australia, the sun’s rays are super-packed with nasty UV rays which have the potential to cause serious damage to delicate eyes. And I also like being able to see where I’m going. It may seem like a rather vain thing, lip-balm, but I always make sure it has SPF in it and is a firmer variety that isn’t going to melt in my pocket. At a very basic level burnt lips, whether from sun or wind, is painful and unnecessary. A good quality lip-balm will set you back less than $5. So why not drink one less coffee and pack yourself a decent lip balm and keep those lips silky smooth.
I’ve been caught out without a headlamp or a torch and it was a NIGHTMARE. Michelle from The Wandering Queen had a similar experience.
One of my must-haves for a day hike is my headlamp. It doesn’t seem like an intuitive item to bring with you in your daypack, but, I think it’s necessary. There may be times where you underestimate how long it takes you to complete a hike, and when that happens, it can be difficult and dangerous to get back to your car or campground. I personally had an experience in which when I hiked in Yosemite, and we severally underestimated our time to complete. We believed the hike would take us a fours hours, but in fact, it took us 8 hours. We did not bring our headlamps so proving a big mistake. Once the sun set, the trek back down back pretty treacherous due to the uneven trail. In the end, headlamps take up minimal space, and they usually weigh under 100 grams. So, throwing them into your daypack backpack before a hike shouldn’t break your back. It is an item one should always have, just in case.
My one absolute must-have for a day hike is bottled water. It is essential to not only replenish the stores that we lose from hiking but also take in additional water to supplement this. You can easily go through twice the amount of water you normally would on a hike, and sometimes even more. I recommend investing in a large water bottle or two, depending on the length of your hike, that can hold a lot of liquid. There is one downside to taking a lot of water, and that is that it’s likely to be one of the heaviest things you take with you on your hike. But it’s also the MOST essential thing, and something you’ll definitely use, so don’t skimp on it!
Baby travel backpack
Oooh, I do like the sound of these backpacks Jolene from WanderLust Storytellers mentions, even though I don’t have a baby anymore! The compartments and pockets sound awesome.
As we are a family of five, taking a good backpack for hiking is absolutely essential. And my favourite type of backpack is, believe it or not, a baby travel backpack. Don’t worry though, they look like normal backpacks.
These kinds of backpacks are perfect for hiking, because they are specifically designed with a tonne of easy to access compartments and pockets. These backpacks are usually well padded, spacious and made from very durable weatherproof materials.
The best thing about hiking with a backpack like that is knowing that everything that you have packed has its own place and it is quickly accessible.
There are pockets for water bottles, clean wipes and other small pockets for things like the first-aid goodies. The backpack also comes with large compartments, which are great for things such as raincoats and camera equipment.
So, get yourself a good hiking backpack and keep all your must-haves for a day hike in one place!
Portable USB charger
Asher from Asher & Lyric always brings his portable USB charger on a hike. What a great idea! No more worries about your phone’s battery dying mid-hike.
When my family and I go on a day hike, we always bring this nifty little lipstick-sized portable USB charger. It’s an incredibly useful gadget for when you lose charge on your cell phone (think emergencies) and/or your camera (think epic Instagram opportunities). There is nothing worse than running out of charge on a device when you really need it – we know from experience! Additionally, it’s capable of giving you a full recharge on your phone, weighs next to nothing and easily fits in a small backpack pocket. After my wife and I discovered this on Amazon one day, we have never ventured on a day hike or day trip while travelling without it. It’s one of our absolute must-haves!
Our son is a big fan of binoculars. They would his number 1 hiking must-have. Christa from Expedition Wildlife agrees with him.
Getting outside is the best way to experience the natural world around us, and there’s so much to see and explore. Big and small, on the ground or in the trees or sky, all kinds of wildlife can be seen out on a hike, especially with the help of a good pair of binoculars. Discovering nature at a closer vantage point can teach us even more about biology and how creatures interact with their environment – wildlife watching is also a peaceful pastime! For most wildlife watching, adults will appreciate a pair of 8×42 binoculars, such as Nikon Monarchs, and possibly a 10×42 pair for those interested in the defining details of small and faraway birds, for example. Shockproof, lightweight binoculars are perfect for kids, such as those by Kidwinz, and allow young ones to get even closer to the world around them. Don’t forget to pick up a local wildlife guide!
Find out more about Expedition Wildlife’s Facebook page.
Teresa from Wounded Bird Ministry says her number one must-have for a day hike is a pair of good hiking boots.
My grandparents owned a piece of property called Parramore up in Northern California tucked away in the mountains. While we had cabins to stay in, they were all one bedroom affairs with wood-burning stoves; electricity was not an option. Visiting Parramore in the summers are some of my fondest childhood memories and spawned a love of hiking in me.
One thing I learned from my experiences is that hiking boots make a big difference in my ability to enjoy a good hike. Running shoes or standard tennis shoes simply don’t have the grip necessary to navigate some of the more challenging trails (and especially when breaking a new trail). In addition, the ankle support found in a good pair of hiking boots gives me confidence when navigating fallen trees and slippery rocks. Lastly, my hiking boots are waterproof, which has saved me grief more than once when wading through a shallow stream was unavoidable.
Now, I bring my hiking boots on even small or easy hikes. The difference they make is undeniable.
What is your number 1 hiking must-have?
Last modified: March 3, 2019