A perfect packing list with the best hiking products for the day hiker – you only bring what’s essential so your backpack remains lightweight and efficient. These recommendations also make a perfect hiker gift guide.
A day hike packing list
I have packing anxiety – whether it’s a long weekend or two weeks traveling abroad. As a result, I tend to overpack. However, when I’m day hiking (as in not scaling mountains), I’m typically solo. And solo day hiking means I’m the only one who’s going to be lugging around my stuff. So I pack light – but efficiently – on my day hikes. I only bring what I will definitely use and a few just-in-case items. Here are my top recommended day hike products I never leave home without when hitting the hiking trails for the day.
First, I must fully disclose what happens if you click on any of the links to products and services in this post. While you will not accrue any additional costs to support my blog, I may – as a marketing affiliate – receive compensation if you link to or purchase products and services from places such as Amazon, Bluehost, Constant Contact, It’s a Lovely Life, HotelsCombined, Rakuten, Aunt Fannie’s etc.
Day hike packing list: The best day hiking products
Here are my favorite and recommended products to pack on a day hike.
Note: Although the broken-link gremlin likes to say my links to some of these products are broken, they’re not. You can safely click on them to access Amazon (which I am an affiliate – which means if you happen to purchase any of my recommended products to pack on a day hike, I may receive compensation – which means you are supporting a writer. So thank you!).
Lightweight, waterproof and packable backpack
My favorite backpack to take on a day hike is the lightweight, waterproof and packable backpack from Arkadia. The Sea to Sky 24L Pack model also comes with a safety whistle.
Water bottle and carrying strap
I love my teal and white 24-oz Hydro Cell stainless steel water bottle with straw – it also comes with a standard lid. You’ll also find these fabulous water bottles in a variety of sizes and colors.
And we also love the Waterfit paracord carrier strap with safety ring and carabiner that attaches to my water bottle and backpack easily (or can carry easily as a handle). This pair makes a perfect addition to your day hikes.
DEET-free mosquito repellent
I love Aunt Fannie’s DEET-free mosquito wipes; they smell good and work! And in most states – especially Minnesota, you will find some fierce mosquitos on the hiking trails so make sure you apply before you hike. They are so effective, I only had four bites last summer – and they happened in my house and when I didn’t apply to my leggings.
Sunscreen with zinc
My dermatologist recommends sunscreen brands that contain zinc all year-round, yes even on winter hikes and especially when hiking in the summer. The zinc-based sunscreen goes on a little thicker, but so worth it to protect your skin.
Hiking boots or trail shoes
I personally love Columbia’s Outdry waterproof hiking shoes for day hikes for three of the four seasons. For winter snow hiking and chasing frozen waterfalls, I highly recommend these Columbia Women’s Bugaboot Plus IV Omni-Heat Snow Boots. I live in Minnesota and it gets pretty cold here with lots of snow. These boots are perfect for those harsh winter days. I love these so much, my husband now has a similar pair of Columbia snow boots (pictured) for when he joins me on my winter hikes.
The Santorini Greek fisherman’s wool cap from Tenth Street Hats was gifted to me in exchange for an honest review. And I highly recommend Tenth Street Hats to find the right hat for you from their fall collection.
The Santorini cap is suitable for a fall day hike on and off the trail. Tenth Street Hats also offers a variety of your more traditional hiking hat styles for both women and men for all seasons and more strenuous hikes. And the Santorini cap is packable! Makes for a perfect gift for yourself or the day hiker on your Christmas or holiday list.
My Bad Hair Day hat and I have hiked quite a few miles together on my mission to hike at all Minnesota state parks. I love this hat so much, I ordered two – one in olive green (pictured) and one in black (below).
Lightweight packable rain jacket
Even if the weather app isn’t protecting rain, I still always bring a lightweight packable rain jacket with me when day hiking – and have needed it more than once.
Sunglasses with UV protection
Make sure to bring sunglasses with UV protection / sunglass readers with UV protection. See my related post: Top 5 things you need to know about UV eye protection
Remember to pack a face mask even on your day hike. Pictured is my niece, Anyse, who is a fashion designer. She was all set for her dream trip to Italy earlier this year right when the pandemic hit. So while she put that trip on hold, she started designing and donating face masks for health care facilities and seniors. And she is now selling her face masks to the general public for only $5. They are not medical-grade; however, they are perfect for day hikes or running inside a public place.
Waterproof / snowproof mobile phone pouch
Portable phone charger and power cord
Freezable lunch bag
PackIt Freezable Lunch Bag with Zip Closure: I absolutely love mine; no ice packs required. You freeze the lunch bag overnight and it seriously keeps everything cold all day long – and I was hiking all day this past summer in 90* (F).
These freezerable lunch bags come in a variety of colors (I chose desert plain). And it’s compact – folds up for freezer use, fits in my lightweight backpack and also comes with a strap to attach to my backpack.
Healthy snacks like LivBars
Make sure to pack some nutritious snacks on your day hikes, like LivBars. Not only are these organic nutrition bars good for you, they are good for the planet. LivBar manufactures their products at their own solar-powered facility, and their nutrition bars feature the industry’s only home compostable wrapper. Every bar is USDA-certified organic, low-allergen, plant-based, made with superfood immunity-supporting ingredients, and baked, giving it a crunchy and chewy texture. While I was gifted a sample box of these delicious and nutritious LivBars, I only recommend what I would use or try myself.
Spibelt no-bounce waist pack: It’s a more modern and tasteful fanny pack – perfect for trail running or day hiking when you don’t want to carry around a backpack or if you don’t have slash pockets in your hiking shorts or hiking leggings. And this waist pack is water-resistant – perfect for carrying your smart phone.
Headlamp / head lantern
Sure, you have a flashlight on your mobile device, but a head lantern is hands-free and won’t use up your phone battery. Head lanterns are perfect for day hikes or camping.
Toilet paper is definitely an essential item for day hiking. Many state parks have reduced staff so they recommend bringing a roll of toilet paper since the restroom or biffs may not be fully supplied.
To help you leave no trace while out day hiking, I recommend this TP kit from On the Go. This toilet paper kit includes five 2-ply jumbo-size tissues and two wet cleaning wipes. All contents in the resealable packet are 100% biodegradable. Lightweight and compact, they don’t take up as much space in your backpack as a roll of toilet paper.
You may also want to keep them in your vehicle for any of those camping or road trips – and they’re small enough they can fit in your pocket while out on a run. Because when nature calls these will come in pretty handy. While I received a complimentary TP kit, all opinions are my own.
Emergency whistle is always a good idea to have with you especially when day hiking solo.
Bear spray: I saw a lot of black bear warning signs while hiking this past summer and fall at state parks so added bear spray to my list. I’ve never encountered a bear, but did read that you should always be a little noisy so you don’t surprise bears – the clinking of my metal link on my water bottle can be a little annoying, but hoping it’s effective.
I also read this tip about bears: Brown – Lay Down; Black – Fight Back. But most of the time, experts say they will avoid you. I hope I never have to experience this encounter – at least not up close.
Travel first aid kit
It’s always a great idea to pack a travel first aid kit with you when hiking or at least keep in your vehicle.
Ticks are rampant in Minnesota and throughout the rest of the country. Did you know that they are even waiting to latch onto you in February? If you’re like me, you may have grown up believing the best way to remove a tick was with a lighted match. Nope. Don’t do it. There’s a better way with TickEase tick-removal tweezers. Compact, they fit easily into your day hiking backpack. I was gifted a set and while I fortunately haven’t had an opportunity to remove one, I’ve got peace of mind knowing I have a better way to remove ticks while camping or hiking.
Microfiber towels are super absorbent and dry fast). My son took microfiber towels and face cloths to Africa and they worked great. I always bring one with me while hiking especially in the summer. And, honestly, I also keep one on me when I’m at home because I’ve discovered that I touch my face way too much.
Sweatband and wrist bands
Winter face mask and gloves / mittens
When day hiking in the winter, pack a winter face mask (the kind that keeps your warm, not for social distancing)
Also recommend hiking mittens or gloves for colder months. I personally prefer mittens so I can move my fingers around to keep warm; and make sure they are the longer ones so no bare skin shows.
Hand warmers: As a hockey mom of 12 years, these are the best for all cold-weather activities such as day hiking in the winter. I also prefer the hand warmers for my feet also; I don’t find the toe warmers very effective.
Walking / trekking poles
As a day hiker at 34 state parks (so far), I discovered several trails where I wish I had trekking poles. I just purchased these trekking poles in green and love them! They’re lightweight, adjustable and collapsible, yet sturdy. And they come in some funky colors.
Compact binoculars are optional rather than essential on your day hike.
Day hiker packing list at-a-glance
Here’s the compiled list of things to pack and bring on a day hike. See below for printable day hike packing lists for spring/summer and fall/winter.
- Lightweight, waterproof and packable backpack
- Water bottle and carrier strap
- DEET-free mosquito repellent
- Waterproof hiking boots or trail shoes
- Lightweight packable rain jacket
- Waterproof, snowproof mobile phone pouch
- Portable phone charger and power cord
- Emergency whistle
- Snacks such as trail mix or protein bars
- Sunscreen with zinc
- Sunglasses with UV protection / sunglass readers with UV protection
- Hiking hat
- Hand sanitizer / Travel-size antibacterial wipes
- Freezable lunch bag
- Nutrition bars like LivBars
- Waist belt
- Toilet paper
- Headlamp, head lantern, flashlight
- Bear spray
- Microfiber towel (super absorbent and dries fast)
- Sweatband and wrist bands
- Face mask
- Cold-weather face mask
- Travel first aid kit
- TikEase tick-removal tweezers
- Walking poles
- Compact binoculars
- Hand warmers
- Hiking mittens or gloves for colder months
Perfect gifts for the day hiker on your Christmas list or holiday / birthday list
All of my top-ranked hiking products for day hikers also make great gifts. Yes, even the mosquito wipes – perfect stocking stuffers for those who love the outdoors!
This may sound like a lot to pack for a day hike, but if I can carry this stuff, anyone can. (I’m that one on the plane who requires assistance to put my carry-on in the overhead bin.) And you can prioritize and edit your day hiking packing list based on your own preference and where and when you plan to hike.