Saturday, March 26, 2011

10 Must Have Items for your Day Hike

When going for a hike, there are some essentials that you must have.  You can scale back, or add more of any one item depending on the length of your hike.  So here is my top 10 items to take on a day hike:

1.) Water - Bring at least 2 quarts, but for a warm weather hike, 3 quarts or more would be better!  I suggest getting a pack that has a hydration pack.  It makes it easier to pack, you won't have the weight of the plastic bottles, and access to the water is near immediate through the attached tube/bite valve.

2.) Food - Energy bars are a great lightweight item to toss in your backpack.  Eat a good bit of carbs the day before the hike, giving you sustained glycogen storage.  This is especially important for longer hikes so you don't hit the "wall".  The idea is to keep glycogen reserves from running out, so eat simple carbs. Some people like beef jerky, but the high sodium (will make you thirsty) content steers me from this food. 

3.) Knife - Buy a good lightweight knife that you have quick access to from your pocket.  I prefer a knife with
a clip to hold it firmly in my pocket.

4.) Fire starter - Waterproof matches, but have a magnesium fire starter for emergencies.

5.) Flashlight - An extra battery would be good to take as well.  Some people prefer to have a light they can
attach to their hat.  My flashlight has a pocket clip which will allow me to attach it to my hat, freeing my hands.

6.) Map/Compass - Of course knowledge of how to use it is very important, otherwise they are pretty useless.  A hand held GPS would work as well...however you are relying on a battery and a good signal.

7.) Hat - A must.  Protection from ticks, sun and rain.  Don't go without it.

8.) Hiking pole/stick - I recommend this, but not everyone agrees.  I like it because it helps save your knees on a long hike, ascending and descending.  It is also great for crossing streams to help maintain your balance.  Finally, if you find that you have an emergency have have to overnight, you can use it to help create a impromptu shelter with your heat blanket (#10).

9.) First Aid kit-  At least a small kit.  I have a small kit in a waterproof container.  Make sure you include
some pain killer (I suggest ibuprofen which is good for pain and inflammation).  You can also pack your prescription meds in this waterproof container as well.  If you have prescription meds, pack enough for at least 2 days in case of an emergency, and you have to stay in the woods for an extended period.

10.) Heat shield/blanket - Hypothermia is miserable.  Even in the Spring when weather is getting really warm during the days, the evening temps can still hit around freezing.  If you have to stay overnight in the woods, this blanket could save your life, yet is extremely light and adds nearly no weight to your pack.  I suggest packing 2, so you can use one for your make-shift emergency shelter with your hiking pole (#8).

Is there anything you would change on your top ten list?  What would you include in your top 15?


  1. Something I would add to my top 10 list (or 15)
    :-) would be insect repellent (natural for me) - I like Burt's Bee's Herbal Insect Repellent -

    I would also add a light weight long sleeve shirt - as I use one for sun protection along with a wide brimmed hat in lieu of sunscreen!

    Great list!

  2. 100% agree with the insect repellent! I have a repellent/sunblock mix -, but I need to get a stronger SPF for the upcoming summer months! It is a MUST, you are so right!

    I need a shirt that you can zip the sleeves off of, like my Columbia hiking pants!

    Thanks for posting!

  3. love this list, i have to carry repellent too for my hubby, he gets eaten alive and they never touch me. we can't figure it out, anyways.....thanks for the post because i was needing to get ready for my trip home and this is ONE list i don't wanna forget about!

  4. I'm glad you like the list and that it is helpful! I need to create a PDF file with a list of items for each hike...I tend to remember better with a list ;)

    Another item I would add to my top "15" would be chap stick! It's a comfort item, but for me, if my lips are dried out...nothing drives me more crazy!!

  5. Did somebody get inspired? :)

    Lots of good things to take with you on a long hike. For the short one or two hour jaunts in well-traveled areas, it may be a bit too much.

  6. Yes! You did inspire me! Thanks! ;) I agree, for a short hike, this load would be overkill. There are a number of short urban hikes in my area where very little is needed. This list is more for a long day hike in a more "remote" area.

    Thanks for commenting!!

  7. I'd add a communications device, i.e. cell phone. If it's a day hike it's probably not so remote that you don't get cell coverage and a cell phone provides the ability to contact outside help in the event of an emergency.

    Good list though.