Day Hiking Gear Checklist

A day hiking gear checklist will help you ensure that you bring the right gear with you on your daytime hiking trips.

It’s important to pack the right stuff. When you don’t pack the right gear, and when you need it the most, it can ruin your hike. Sometimes, it might even create dangerous conditions that could have been prevented with the right gear.

But there is so much hiking gear on the market that it’s hard to know what to get.

That’s where my checklist comes into play. I’ve been hiking for more than a decade. I’ve discovered the best hiking gear that everyone should add to their day hiking gear checklist.

And now, I want to share this list with you so that you’ll be prepared. I’m also breaking this down into two hiking categories. That includes regular day hiking, which includes all of the gear, and ultralight day hiking which includes some of the gear to save weight.

Let’s jump right into this day hiking gear list.

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Day Hiking Gear Checklist

This list includes a checklist for regular gear and an alternative checklist for ultralight hiking gear.

Day Hiking Gear Checklist

Clothing and Footwear

Having a good clothing and footwear day hiking gear list is essential to ensure that you can be comfortable in all elements during your day hike.


Regular Hiking Checklist

  • Hiking boots or shoes (waterproof is heavier and hotter during warmer months)
  • Hiking pants (full-length or convertible-which can turn into shorts)
  • Hiking leggings or half-tights (men and women options available)
  • Hiking shirt (button-up or athletic-type shirt)
  • Hiking socks (crew, knee, or ankle-make sure you get the right length for footwear choice)
  • Hiking jacket (insulated, puffy-down, or windbreaker)
  • Hiking hat (baseball cap or beanie)
  • Hiking underwear (look for quick-dry types)
  • Hiking layers (synthetic base layers or wool types)
  • Hiking gloves (glove liners are also a good idea in colder climates)
  • Sunglasses (or safety glasses)
  • Gaiters (to keep debris out of your footwear)


Alternative: Ultralight Hiking Checklist

  • Trail runners (lightweight)
  • Joggers or tights (men and women options)
  • Running shorts, two-in-one shorts, or half-tights (men and women options)
  • Athletic shirt (tee for summer/insulated for winter)
  • Waterproof socks or running socks
  • Lightweight jacket or windbreaker (puffy coats also work well if colder)
  • Beanie
  • Hiking gloves
  • Sunglasses
  • Gaiters


Hiking Backpacks

You must choose the right kind of backpack for your day hiking adventure. There are many different packs to choose from.


Regular Hiking Checklist

  • Daypack (holds more pending liter size)
  • Hydration pack (holds less)
  • Waist pack (holds less)

Alternative: Ultralight Hiking Checklist

  • Hydration pack (water bladder and room for some supplies)
  • Fanny pack (some have built-in water bottle holders)


Tools and Accessories

Adding proper tools and accessories to your day hiking gear checklist is always a good idea because you never know when you’ll need them the most.


Regular Hiking Checklist

  • Headlamp or flashlight (bring extra batteries)
  • Wallet with ID, credit cards, cash, and medical ID card
  • Protective waterproof case for your phone
  • First Aid Kit and Medication Box
  • Sunscreen and lip balm
  • Poop kit (TP, shovel, hand sanitizer, and Ziploc bag)
  • Pocketknife or multi-tool with knife attachment
  • Small folding saw
  • Lightweight folding chair (for taking a break)
  • Trekking poles
  • Gear Repair Kit (Duct tape, sewing kit, paracord, and zip ties)


Alternative: Ultralight Hiking Checklist

  • Headlamp (no extra batteries, turn batteries wrong way until use to prevent accidental turn-on)
  • Money clip with cash and ID
  • Sandwich bag for the phone and some first aid supplies in it as well
  • Travel-sized sunscreen and lip balm
  • Poop kit (minified)
  • Small knife
  • One telescopic trekking pole only if you need it


Rain, Snow, and Waterproofing

When the weather is bad, you need certain items to protect you from the elements and keep your gear from being ruined.


Regular Hiking Checklist

  • Backpack rain shell
  • Waterproof stuff sacks
  • Ziploc bags
  • Rain jacket
  • Rain pants
  • Waterproof gloves
  • Umbrella
  • Rain poncho (pocket-sized for emergencies)
  • Extra socks
  • Crampons (snow cleats)
  • Extra layers
  • Battery powered hand warmers


Alternative: Ultralight Hiking Checklist

  • Trash bag as a waterproof liner
  • Lightweight rain jacket
  • Ziploc bags
  • Hand warmer pouches (air activated)


Navigation Equipment

Navigation is an important part to add to your day hiking gear checklist. You want to ensure that you don’t get lost and can find your way out of the woods.


Regular Hiking Checklist

  • Topo maps
  • Map bag (waterproof)
  • Compass
  • Watch
  • Dedicated GPS unit
  • Phone with map/GPS apps
  • Phone charger and power brick
  • Personal Locator Beacon (PLB)
  • Whistle (for signaling if you get lost)
  • Signal mirror (to signal aircraft if you get lost)


Alternative: Ultralight Hiking Checklist

  • Topo map (waterproof paper for less weight)
  • Plastic compass
  • Watch
  • Phone with map/GPS apps
  • Small power brick with phone charger
  • Whistle (your pack may have one built-in to the sternum strap’s clasps)


Food and Water

Keeping yourself hydrated and fueled during your hike is essential to your safety and well-being.

Regular Hiking Checklist

  • Large bottles of water (Smart Water bottles are great for these and reusable)
  • Hydration bladder (can go to 2.5 liters)
  • Canteen and holder
  • Water filter
  • Water purification tablets
  • Freeze-dried meals
  • Trail snacks (bars, jerky, and trail mix)
  • Fuel gels and gummies
  • Electrolyte powder mix packets
  • Instant coffee/tea packets
  • Pocket rocket stove
  • Fuel canister
  • Cooking cup
  • Spork
  • Travel coffee/team mug


Alternative: Ultralight Hiking Checklist

  • Hydration bladder for the hydration backpack
  • Water purification tablets
  • Snacks (bars, jerky, and mix)
  • Fuel gels and gummies


Extra Items for Longer Day Hikes

If you plan to go on a longer hike, make sure you add more to your day hiking gear checklist to be safe.


Regular Hiking Checklist

  • Extra food and water
  • Lighter and fire starter kit
  • Emergency blanket
  • Oversized poncho (for emergency shelter)
  • Personal hygiene items


Alternative: Ultralight Hiking Checklist

  • Extra food and water
  • Lighter
  • Oversized poncho
  • Personal hygiene items


Mosquitoes and Ticks

Tick and mosquito prevention is critical to your health and safety. Ensure you take appropriate actions to prevent bites and attachments of these pests.


Regular Hiking Checklist

  • Pre-treat clothing, footwear, and gear with permethrin
  • DEET-based or lemon-grass-based mosquito repellant
  • Head net
  • Therma cell
  • Tick tweezers
  • After-bite ointment
  • Sting wipes


Alternative: Ultralight Hiking Checklist

  • You can use permethrin on synthetic clothing such as spandex and polyester
  • Small spray bottle filled with repellent
  • Head net
  • Individual packages of alcohol wipes


Bear Country Items

You might need the following extra gear if you’re in bear country (Shawnee National Forest Bear Information).


Regular Hiking Checklist

  • Bear canister
  • Bear spray
  • Bear bell


Alternative: Ultralight Hiking Checklist

  • Sometimes, the gear is required and recommended even for ultralight hiking.


Pets: Additional Items

If you hike with your pet, make sure you add extra pet-scare items to your day hiking gear checklist.


Regular Hiking Checklist

  • Harness with leash
  • Food and water collapsible bowls
  • Food and water meant for pet
  • Treats
  • Pet boots (to protect their feet)
  • Poop bags (don’t be a jerk and leave it behind!)
  • Pet clothing (for layering in the cold)


Alternative: Ultralight Hiking Checklist

  • Pet backpack for them to carry their own gear (if the pet is strong enough to)


Children: Additional Items

Taking your kids on a day hiking adventure is a great way to keep them healthy and help them fall in love with nature right by your side. But extra items will be required to keep kids happy while on the trail.


Regular Hiking Checklist

  • Extra food, water, and snacks
  • Toys
  • Books for IDing things in nature
  • Age-related needs (diapers, etc.)


Alternative: Ultralight Hiking Checklist

  • Kids’ backpacks to carry their own gear (if they’re strong enough to)


Specialized Gear

This is for the extra day hiking gear checklist items that you might need to make your trip more of an adventure.


Regular Hiking Checklist

  • DSLR camera with interchangeable lenses
  • Video camera
  • GoPro camera
  • Camera bags
  • Camera holster
  • Tripod
  • Remote shutter
  • Extra batteries
  • Extra SD cards
  • Camera light


Alternative: Ultralight Hiking Checklist

  • Smartphone (the camera on it should be all you need for photos and video)


Items to Leave in the Car

Make sure you have the following items waiting for you in your car when you return.

Car Checklist

  • Parking pass
  • Itinerary information (for emergency responders if you don’t come back)
  • Clean clothes and shoes
  • Towel
  • Extra water, food, and snacks
  • Cooler with ice
  • Blanket


The day hiking gear checklist above should help you have a better hiking adventure. You can use the ideas above for regular hiking or ultralight hiking – whichever is your thing. If you’ve enjoyed this article and want to see more checklists, please share this with others, especially on social media. You can also make a small donation to me for my efforts or start donating as little as $3 a month as a Patreon of Hiking with Shawn. Be sure to subscribe to my free monthly newsletter for even more day hiking resources and events.

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Thanks again for checking out another one of my articles and until next time, I’ll see you on the trail!

Shawn Gossman

Shawn Gossman

Founder, Hiking with Shawn

Howdy folks! My name is Shawn Gossman and I founded Hiking with Shawn. I’m an avid hiker, cyclist and outdoorsman here in the Shawnee National Forest. I was born and raised in Southern Illinois and never want to leave. Click here to learn more about Shawn Gossman

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