This article was updated for accuracy and relevance on December 24th, 2021.
If you want to explore the outdoors, get a fun workout in, or snap some pictures for the gram, hiking is an awesome way to do so. Most notably, hiking gives you a chance to disconnect from our increasingly fast-paced world. There’s something magical about watching the sunset from the top of a mountain or listening to a babbling creek as you navigate a forest trail.
Whether you’re visiting a national park or a local hiking path, it’s important to bring the right things with you. So grab your sports tote bag and learn what ten essential items to add to your packing checklist.
What to Bring on a Day Hike
Thanks to nature’s uniqueness, no two hiking trails are the same. As a result, your hiking gear list will vary depending on the following factors:
- The length of your hike
- How remote your hiking location is
- The weather forecast for that day
- Whether or not you intend to camp overnight
Naturally, multi-day hikes in remote locations will require a more robust set of gear.
In this article, we’re going to focus on 10 essentials to bring on a short, day hike. While we’ll be focusing on which items to add to your packing list, don't forget about all of the stretches to do before working out, as one of the benefits of yoga includes injury prevention.
#1 Navigation Tools
These days, many of us rely heavily on our smartphone’s GPS to navigate new places. While this may work in the city or suburb, relying solely on your phone in the great outdoors is a risky move.
Why is this? Well, many beautiful hiking trails don’t have reliable cell service. Additionally, your phone could die or get lost on the trail.
In turn, it’s important to bring a compass and topographic map of your chosen trail. These old-school tools may come with a small learning curve, so make sure to brush up on your navigation skills before you hit the trail.
We recommend Gaia GPS. This GPS is a hiking essential if you end up getting lost or hurt on a trail and even lets others see your location.
#2 Sun Protection
Getting out in nature forces you to face the elements. While there are many benefits of sweating, all experienced hikers understand the power of the sun’s rays, and therefore, the importance of sun protection.
Regardless of whether you’re expecting overcast clouds or clear skies, you should always pack what you need to protect your skin. Cloudy days can still let through harmful UV rays that cause painful sunburns.1
Here are some sun protection items to add to your hiking checklist:
- Sunscreen (make sure to apply a good base layer)
- SPF lip balm
- Polarized sunglasses
- A brimmed hat
- UV protective hiking clothes
#3 Comfy Hiking Trip Attire
Even if your motivation for taking a hike is to take some Instagrammable photos, you still need to dress appropriately for the trail.
What Should I Wear for a Day Hike?
During a day hike, you should wear clothing that dries quickly and wicks moisture away. Quick-dry, synthetic fabric will help you manage your perspiration and keep you cool, even if you work up a sweat.
For the same reasons, you should also avoid wearing any cotton or denim clothing. These types of fabrics take a long time to dry and aren’t very breathable. In turn, they’ll make your hiking experience a lot less comfortable.
When you’re traversing the wilderness, weather conditions can change on a dime. Thus, it’s important to bring an extra layer of insulation in case it gets cold. A light puffer jacket or windbreaker are great options. If the weather forecast suggests a possibility of rain, throw in a rain jacket, or some sort of waterproof jacket as well.
#4 Sturdy Hiking Footwear
During a strenuous hike, you’ll most likely have to walk across rooty, rocky terrain. As a result, you should make sure your feet are properly supported with some sturdy hiking shoes.
Look for a pair of trail runners that has:
- Shock-absorbing outsoles
- Comfortable insole padding
- Adequate traction
- Ankle support
- Waterproof upper
You can do your future self a favor by breaking in your hiking shoes or hiking boots ahead of time. Also, don’t skimp on your hiking socks. Wearing comfy, moisture-wicking socks can prevent you from developing painful blisters (we personally love wool socks for cold weather). Don't forget to bring a pair of hiking sandals to change into if you expect to go through any water crossings.
During a hike, it’s crucial to stay hydrated. You can bring water in bottles or a hydration bladder. Hydration bladders are more convenient, since they let you sip hands-free as you trek along the hiking trail.
If your hiking location is near any streams or lakes, you can also bring a small water purification device. Purifying water as you go will allow you to carry less without sacrificing your hydration.2 Just make sure you read up on how to use the filtration device in advance.
How much water should you bring on a hike?
For a day hike, a good rule of thumb is to bring half a liter of water per person for every hour of the hike. It never hurts to bring extra water or a hydration pack.
If you don’t want to become a hangry hiker, you need to pack some snacks.
When selecting food for your hike, it’s helpful to pack calorie-dense items. This way, you can save on space and weight without sacrificing nutrition. Some hiking-friendly snack options include:
- Protein bars
- Fresh fruit that doesn’t need to be refrigerated
- Dried fruits
- Trail mix
If you're hiking over lunchtime, don’t forget to pack a more substantial meal too. Sandwiches, bagels, and pasta salads are all viable options. Just make sure you keep perishable items fresh and cool with an ice pack or small cooler.
It’s also a good idea to bring a little extra food in case you’re out on the trail longer than expected. If you are traveling with a child, baby bottle bags help prolong the coldness of your baby’s drinks.
#7 Insect Repellent
Some of the most beautiful places in nature can get quite buggy, especially in the summer. If you’re a mosquito magnet, make sure to pack some strong bug repellent. It will keep the mosquitos away and protect you from ticks, midges, and other insects.
#8 First Aid Kit
Packing a first aid kit for a short hike may seem like overkill, but you’re always better off safe than sorry. You never know if you’re going to get cut or scratched on the trail. Basic first-aid items can help you clean your wound and keep dirt out of it as you complete your hike.
Here are some key items to include in your first aid kit:
- Hand sanitizer
- Cloth bandages
- Antibiotic ointment
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Allergy medication
- Tylenol or Aspirin
You can also purchase a pre-packaged first aid kit that comes with everything you need to treat mild ailments on the go.
#9 Safety Items
In addition to your first aid kit, you may also want to consider packing some basic safety items, such as a:
- Headlamp – If your hike is taking place before dawn or after dusk, you may want to bring a headlamp. This tool can help you navigate the trail when it’s dark out. Even if your phone has a flashlight, a headlamp is a more reliable option that won’t drain your phone battery.
Portable phone charger – Speaking of phone batteries, it’s important to have a way to charge yours in an emergency. For example, you may complete your hike, only to find that your car won’t start. Or maybe you get injured on the trail and need to call someone for help.
In situations like these, a charged phone can be a lifesaver. A portable phone charger can give you the extra juice you need to revive your phone’s battery on the fly.
Whistle – A whistle can keep wild animals away and help you capture nearby hikers' attention if you need their assistance in an emergency. It's also a good idea to keep a pocket knife handy for added safety.
Trekking Poles – Hiking poles can help keep you safe on slippery ground or rocky terrain.
You may not end up using any of these tools on your next hiking adventure, but having them in tow can bring you some much-appreciated peace of mind.
#10 Hiking Bag
Once you’ve gathered up your hiking gear, you need a bag to store everything in.
A great hiking backpack or bag will fit all of your items without adding unnecessary weight to your load. It should also be comfortable and easy to organize.
Here are a few stylish, sporty options to check out:
- BÉIS Sport Tote Bag – The BÉIS Sport Tote Bag can be worn as a tote or a backpack. This multi-use bag is made of lightweight nylon. It can fit all of your hiking essentials. It stands out for its super-comfy, adjustable backpack straps. Thanks to its large exterior pockets, interior zip pockets, and key-leash, it’s also easy to keep organized.
- BÉIS Sport Pack – This adorable fanny pack was designed with hikers in mind. It gives you quick access to all of your small hiking essentials. You can wear it around your waist or sling it across your chest. It also comes with a handy water bottle strap, several pockets, and a stylish braided shoulder strap. Most importantly, it’s incredibly lightweight.
- BÉIS Water Bottle Sling – Lastly, if you only want to carry a few items, you can opt for the BÉIS Water Bottle Sling. This small bag has enough space for a 32-ounce water bottle, phone, keys, and credit cards. It’s ideal for a short hike or a stroll around the neighborhood.
What Should You Not Take on a Hike?
Now you know what to bring on a hike. But what about the things that are best left behind?
Here are a few items you shouldn't bring on a hike:
- Expensive jewelry
- Other valuables
- Too many extra layers of clothing
- Folding chairs
Items like these will either weigh you down or ruin your hike if you misplace them. As a result, leaving them behind is often the best option.
BÉIS: Get Moving in Style
Now that you know what things to bring on a hike, find a beautiful trail near you and start gathering up your essential hiking gear! Getting outdoors will do wonders for your body and mind whether you're day hiking or going on a longer hike.
If you’re looking for the perfect bag to take out on the trail, BÉIS has you covered. Our Moves Collection was created with the sporty fashionista in mind. In turn, our sports tote bag is stylish, lightweight, and easy to organize—everything you need to enjoy a seamless hiking experience.
- CDC. Skin Cancer. https://www.cdc.gov/dotw/skincancer/index.html
- American Hiking Society. Water Purification. https://americanhiking.org/resources/water-purification/