When it comes to hiking, being prepared is key. Having the top day hike essentials with you makes all of the difference. 

Whether your next hike is a casual one or a challenge, carrying the right gear with you is essential. If things go wrong, having the right day hike essentials can save the day. Whether you’re a first timer or a backpacking sage, we’re here to make your lives a little easier. That’s why we compiled a list of our top must-have items for the next time you hit the trail.

Here Are Our Picks for the Top Day Hike Essentials

1. Water

day hike essentials - Water

This should be a given but a lot of people forget the basics. We get it. When you’re in a rush and eager to get outside, it’s easy to do. But we’re not just talking about bringing a disposable plastic bottle. Plastic poses a huge threat to the environment and when left in the sun, these bottles can leak carcinogens into your water. To stay healthy and keep the earth clean, consider investing in reusable water bottles or a hydration pack.

Another good habit to get in the practice of bringing is a portable water filter. In the event that you run out of water or get lost, you can use these handy little accessories to get clean drinking water wherever and whenever you need to. Talk about your day hike essentials!

2. Healthy Non-Perishable Snacks

day hike essentials -  Non-Perishable Snacks

Keep that blood sugar up and your energy with it. Nothing is worse than being miles from civilization with a hungry stomach. Plan ahead and bring some healthy non-perishable snacks that you can enjoy on the go. Some of our favorite day hike essentials are Clif bars, granola, trail mix, and jerky. Besides, having some food (or even stopping for a picnic) when you reach the summit is a great reward. Hiking burns up a lot of calories, so make sure you’re replenishing that energy reservoir along the way.

3. The Right Backpack

day hike essentials - Right Backpack

Don’t just bring your Jansport. Hiking isn’t the time to cut corners on gear. Having the right backpack is so helpful. Get one that offers enough storage space for all your gear. Day hike backpacks will be spacious enough for an extra t-shirt or two, snacks, water, sunscreen, your phone, and any other little accessories you might need along the way. Don’t forget to pack your day hike essentials like sunglasses and a small first aid kit too. You never know when you might need them.

4. Trail-Ready Shoes

day hike essentials - Trail-Ready Shoes

Whether you’re going on a day hike or a long one, don’t try to wear regular sneakers. Converse and Vans don’t cut it when you’re trekking up a mountain. You need shoes that will provide arch support, shock absorption, good treads, and protection from the elements. Before you buy trail-ready shoes, you can narrow down which types you’ll need by the expected intensity and duration of your hike.

Are you going on a day hike or a longer one? Is the trail easy, moderate, or difficult? What season are you hiking in? After you answer these questions, you can decide if you want lightweight shoes or some with more bulk to them. Depending on what season you are hiking in, you might want to opt for sandals, waterproof shoes, or ones with good treads for snow. Check out our list of the best hiking shoes for men and for women

5. A Fully-Charged Phone

day hike essentials -  Fully-Charged Phone

We can’t overemphasize how important it is to have a charged phone when you hit the trail. Before you go on your hike, it’s good practice to tell a few people (friends and family) how long you plan on being gone and the location of your hike. Having a charged phone is important so they can get ahold of you and check in on your way back. Always play things safe and communicate before you head out on a trip. This is one of the most important day hike essentials.

6. The Right Clothing

day hike essentials - Right Clothing

Make sure to check the projected forecast before you head out. In the heat, you’re going to want to wear dry synthetic layers that won’t lock heat and moisture in. While they are not the most fashionable, cargo shorts are always a good choice for men and women. Plus, having a few extra pockets is never a bad thing, right? If you think temperatures could be a bit chillier, consider layering with thermals underneath your cotton outer layers. We always bring some comfortable hiking socks (wool ones are generally the best), a moisture-wicking shirt, and a backup rain jacket with a hood just in case.

7. Sunscreen

day hike essentials - Sunscreen

As much as we hate to admit it, we all burn. And it doesn’t always turn into a tan. To avoid looking like a lobster, lather up beforehand. As a general rule of thumb, SPF 30+ is a good way to go. If you know it’s going to be a particularly bright and hot day, you can adjust that suggestion accordingly. Bring at least one bottle with you and spray it on before you hit the trail. Give yourself plenty of time for it to dry (ten minutes or so) before you put on your clothes. That way, your t-shirt won’t absorb what you need to be wearing. Waterproof sunscreen will keep you safe even if you sweat a little.

8. Navigational Tools

day hike essentials - Navigational Tools

When it comes to day hike essentials, this one is a must. Even if you skimp out on some of the other items on this list, don’t skip your navigational tools. An up to date map of the area and compass are essential when packing your day hike essentials. Make sure you know how to use both of the items above too.

Some people aren’t the best at reading a map or using a compass. But when you have no cell service, you have to work with what you’ve got. We also recommend keeping your maps safe in a dry bag so they won’t get ruined by rain or any water spills.

9. Illumination

day hike essentials - Illumination

Did you read this in the Despicable Me minions voice? Us too. But in all seriousness, bringing a headlamp on your hike is smart. You never know when you might get stuck on a trail a little longer than you’d expect. We’ve all been there, right? Who knew heading back down the mountain would take that long? Make sure to test your headlamp batteries before you head out. It doesn’t hurt to bring a few spares too… Just saying.

10. First Aid Supplies

day hike essentials - First Aid Supplies

You don’t have to bring an extensive, all-encompassing pack. The basics will do. When you’re traveling into backcountry regions, you should always carry a standard first aid kit. Right along with your navigational tools, this is one of the top day hike essentials. As you begin to gain more experience on the trail, you can decipher what you will need and what you don’t. Whenever you use something from your kit, make sure to replace it when you get home.

11. Tools to Build a Fire

day hike essentials - Tools to Build a Fire

Do you know how to build a fire? We only recommend doing so in cases of emergency. If you’re not in a designated area and the situation is not an emergency, do not build a fire. But with that said, it is good practice to have the tools with you. You never know when you might need them. To make a fire as easily as possible, bring two small Bic lighters, some stormproof matches, and some small firestarter cubes. Fire starters should only be used when you really need them but they make your life a lot easier – especially in wet conditions.

12. Hand Sanitizer

day hike essentials - Hand Sanitizer

Having dirty hands is the largest cause of sickness when exploring the backcountry. Many hikers leave proper hygiene habits at the door when they hit the trail. But that doesn’t mean you have to. Avoid that pesky week-long cold and travel smart. Being sick is an issue that’s easy to avoid when you’re in the great outdoors. Bring a travel-sized container of hand sanitizer before preparing meals, for bathroom breaks, and when you accidentally touch someone’s wad of gross chewed up gum.

Print Out This List of Day Hike Essentials for Your Next Trek

Alright, that’s it. We’ve covered the basics. As you become more experienced on the trail, you will be able to decipher what you need and don’t need to bring. This list of day hike essentials will help you keep safe, happy, and energized on the trail. Happy hiking!

Related Article: The Best Hiking Shoes For Men: Durable, Lightweight Picks