10 Essentials to Carry on a Day Hike

Whether you are out on a casual hike to your favorite waterfall or bagging a difficult summit, bringing the right equipment is essential.

When things go astray, as they often do, this means the difference between a minor inconvenience and an unfortunate result. For first-timers and veteran travelers alike, bringing vital day hiking gear is a crucial aspect of any pre-hike preparations. 

In this article, we will discuss some of the essentials that you must bring during your next hike.

1. Navigation

Man with hiking pole and backpack in woodlands

A trusty compass and map are two navigation components that you should bring on any trip.

These are reliable, durable, lightweight, and guaranteed never to run out of charge. They can keep you from getting lost or help you find your way again.

However, they won’t do any good if you don’t know how to use them. So make sure you learn how to use a compass and a map and how to keep from getting lost before going out on your next trip.

Also, it is crucial to keep your sheets in a clear, waterproof map sack to keep them dry and protected. 

Though not technically a component of the 10 Essentials List, GPS devices and phone apps are excellent tools for supplementing a map and compass.

If you choose a GPS regularly, you may want to carry a USB power bank in case your device runs out of power. While GPS tools can be convenient and useful on the hike, they should not fully replace or substitute for your compass and map.

2. Insulation

Weather can suddenly change while you are on a trip, so it is recommended that you bring extra protection clothing layers even on warm-weather trips.

A simple layering, quick-dry system will ensure that you are warm and safe when the temperatures drop. For instance, you can pack rain protection and a hooded jacket for your hike regardless of the forecast. 

When it comes to clothes, you will want to make sure that you avoid cotton linen as they take longer to dry and absorb heat from your body.

You should instead wear quick-dry, synthetic clothes and manage perspiration to prevent your clothing from soaking through with sweat. Wet clothes will make you feel cold when you stop hiking. 

3. Sun Protection

Getting sun protection gear is an integral part of any trip when the weather looks sunny. Makes sure to bring an SPF lip balm, sunscreen, a brimmed hat, polarized sunglasses, and protective clothing.

Cracked lips, bad sunburns, and snow blindness can be incapacitating if you don’t bring proper sun protection gear.

4. Illumination

GearLight LED Head Lamp - Pack of 2 Outdoor Flashlight Headlamps w/ Adjustable Headband for Adults and Kids - Hiking & Camping Gear Essentials - S500

When going for a hike, bring a reliable headlamp even if you have no plans of being out at night.  Sometimes, a hike can take longer than expected, and getting lost in the dark can lead to a bad situation.

If you ever find yourself unexpectedly caught up by night, you will be glad that you brought a headlamp as it will help you find your way home.

You can also take your phone with you and use their built-in flashlight as a backup light source. You should always check the batteries of your headlamp before the hike.

Similar: Top 3 Best Solar Camping Lights

5. First Aid Supplies

When going on any trip, you must carry a complete first aid kit. Most people buy pre-packed first aid kits, as they provide a dependable setup for minor ailments and other assorted injuries.

As you gain more experience, you will be able to add or remove some items from your first aid kit based on your needs. It is vitally important that you replace anything you use as soon as you return from your trek.

Similar: Outdoors: 8 Items To Have Close By In Case Of An Emergency

6. Fire Starters & Matches

Melt Candle Company Fire Starter - Pack of 160 Charcoal Fire Starters for Campfires, Chimney, Grill Pit, Fireplace, BBQ & Smoker - Water Resistant and Odorless

Learning how to build a fire in unfavorable weather can be a life-saving hiking skill. Making a fire is quite easy and possible. You only need matches and fire starters to be able to ignite the fire.

Of course, the quality of the wood you’re using is also important to keep your campfire going for longer.

Something like fire starter cubes make building a fire much easier because they help to maintain the initial flame to ignite the wood you’re using.

If you intend to go more survivalist style, you can bring a small fire flint. Also, some hikers make DIY fire starters – these are cheap and easy to make, but it is preferable to go with accessibility and ease of storage of what you bring. 

7. Nutrition

When preparing for a trip, you will want to ensure that you bring enough calories to sustain your energy for a long day of activity.

You can bring snacks such as bars, nuts, dried fruits, and jerky. For a more substantial lunch, you can pack sandwiches with hard meat and cheese.

If you are going for a long hike, it is recommended that you bring food with extra calories, just in case the hike takes longer than expected.

8. Hydration

Motivational Water Bottle with Straw & Strap, 32oz Water Bottles with Times to Drink, BPA Free Reusable Sports Water Bottle with Sleeve Carrier for Hiking, Travel, Runing or Fitness (Dark Black)

It is vital to remain well hydrated while out on the trail. Water is essential as it helps maintain all critical systems in the body and keeps them running properly. Water will help your body to cool down when hot, warm up when cold, and ensure that your joints and muscles are working well to avoid injuries while you hike. 

As such, it is essential to bring sufficient water to last you the length of the hike. You can bring a lightweight water purifier and have an idea of where water sources are located within your trail.

For a 24-hour water supply, 4 liters is recommended for one person. The water should be freely accessible through the bottle or hydration bladder so you can freely drink as you like.

It is important to remember that while water is quite important, it can also be one of the heaviest things you carry on your hike. Therefore, you should avoid taking extra water. Instead bring lightweight, dependable water purifiers so that you can refill your water as often as needed. 

9. Repair Kit and Tools

LEATHERMAN, Wave Plus Multitool with Premium Replaceable Wire Cutters, Spring-Action Scissors and Nylon Sheath, Built in the USA, Stainless Steel

When you go hiking, take with you a lightweight multi-tool and basic repair equipment. Things such as a knife will come in handy in various situations. Tenacious tape and duct tape are also excellent tools for repairing gear in the field, so bring small amounts of each. 

Firm sticking tape is ideal for fixing sleeping pad punctures, sleeping bag rips, tent fabric tears, puffy coat holes, and other similar things.

Duct tape, on the other hand, is ideal for most types of repairs that you may encounter while hiking. It can be used to repair sunglasses or broken tent poles. It can also prevent blisters when you feel a hot spot on your feet. 

10. Emergency Shelter

Man hiking in the woods with camping gear

If you are on a multi-day hike, this probably means that you already have some sort of shelter in your pack.

But when it comes to day hiking trips, it is recommendable that you bring a small, lightweight emergency shelter, just in case you suddenly have to spend a night outside.

Items such as emergency bivy sacks and blankets are affordable, lightweight, options that could be a lifesaver if you are in a really bad spot. 


While these ten essentials cover the majority of what you should use for daily hiking, there are several more tools that you can add to the list depending on the weather and terrain you’re dealing with.

Proper-fitting hiking boots, supportive backpacks, and bug spray are just a few other items to consider before going on that long hike.

For additional tips, I have a post showing the ideal ways to pack your backpack for different hiking styles. You can read it here: How to Pack a Backpack for a Hike.

Max Peters

Hi! I'm Max and I am passionate about off-grid solar technology and adventure! I'm using my knowledge of solar generators, solar panels, and everything in between to provide you with the best tools to keep you powered while off the grid. Read more about me here: About Max Peters."

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