Bridge in a forest

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.

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Day hike packing list: The best day hiking products

Backpack, lunch bag, mosquito repellent wipes and water bottle sitting in grass

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

backpack in grass in front of yellow foliage

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

Teal water bottle with straw and cord handle in the grass
My entire family loves these Hydro Cell water bottles – they keep things cold during your entire hike even when hiking in 90+ degrees. I’m sure I’ll put it to the test when it comes to keeping things warm this winter.

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

Box of DEET-free mosquito repellent wipes
The best day hiking products: Aunt Fannie’s mosquito repellent wipes – biodegradable, compact and they work!

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.


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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.

Hiking hat

Navy Greek fisherman's cap sitting on a black post outside
How cute is this hiking hat from Tenth Street Hats?

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.


Woman wearing a baseball hat that reads Bad Hair Day standing on a bluff overlooking Mississippi River
My all-time favorite hat for day hiking in the spring and summer: the distressed Bad Hair Day baseball cap comes in several colors.

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

Face mask

Girl wearing a red face mask
Day hiking tip: Even if your plans are all outdoors, most places require face masks inside their visitor centers, parks, restrooms – any public buildings.

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.

Hand sanitizer


I keep a larger pump of hand sanitizer in my vehicle and pack smaller bottles or travel-size antibacterial wipes in my backpack or in my slash pockets for easy access while day hiking.

Waterproof / snowproof mobile phone pouch

Protect your mobile device with a waterproof, snowproof mobile phone pouch on your day hikes. You may or may not fall in the Mississippi River like I did at Itasca State Park.

Portable phone charger and power cord


If you take hundreds of photos of trees on your day hike or use hiking apps, then packing a portable phone charger and power cord are essential.

Freezable lunch bag

Black and white lunch box sitting in grass
Top day hiking products: Freezable lunch box that fits inside a backpack – no ice packs required and comes in several colors.

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

LivBar hiking protein bar snack for a day hike

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.

Waist pack

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

Toilet paper TP kit for day hikes and hikers and campers
On the Go TP Kits are not only convenient for day hiking, camping, boating, running or road trips, the tissues and wet wipes are lightweight, portable and 100% biodegradable.

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

Emergency whistle is always a good idea to have with you especially when day hiking solo.

Bear spray

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.

Tick-removal tweezers

TikEase tick removal tweezers for day hiking and camping

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 towel

Purple eco friendly beach towel at Lake Marion
Pack a Microfiber towel like this super absorbent (and super cute) Akumal 2.0 beach towel from Wildhorn Outfitters. I was gifted this ecofriendly towel and love it especially since it dries so quickly! And this eco-friendly beach towel is made of 75% recycled bottles! It also comes with a convenient storage bag that can hold shower necessities when using campsite showers (or does double duty as a beach bag if you go kayaking or swimming on your day hike).

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

Sweatband and wrist bands are practical and convenient especially on hot and humid summer day hikes. These are inexpensive and they work great – especially if you touch your face a lot like me.

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

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

Compact binoculars are optional rather than essential on your day hike.

Snacks

Snacks such as trail mix or protein bars – Lara bars are my favorite (avoid any with chocolate during the summer) – are good ideas to bring along during 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.


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.


Pin it for later: What to pack on your next day hike

Lunch bag, water bottle, backpack and mosquito wipes sitting on the ground

boardwalk leading to a lake


Author

Twin Cities-based blogger sharing memorable emptynester, solo, family and girlfriend-getaway adventures, as well as my day hiking adventures (including all 66 Minnesota state parks), latest book reviews, and updates on my quest for the best adult mac and cheese. Also two WIPs: historical fiction and psychological thriller

72 comments

    1. Thank you! I avoid saying where I’m heading as a precaution. I love the AllTrails app as I can send my family the exact trail where I am.

  1. I am a big hiker! These are great things to pack for sure! I think those mosquito wipes would be a nice addition to my bag!

  2. This is a great resource. I always feel like I forget something or take way too much. How have I not heard of the mosquito wipes? Mosquitoes are terrible in Georgia!

  3. great list of things to pack. I always forget something. Even checking my list twice, I will always manage to forget something. I will try your list though.

  4. I need those deet free mosquito wipes! The bugs were somethin’ fierce up here in Yellowknife, NT this summer, way worse than usual. I’ve used non-deet producte before with varying success, as i don’t like all the chemicals. Do these work well?

    1. Mosquitos love me, but I haven’t had any bug bites when I’ve used Aunt Fannie’s. Huge fan! I just purchased the pump spray so will try that on my next hike.

  5. I haven’t tried the hydrocell bottles yet – I will have to check them out! We love the packit bags – I have a small one that I send to school with my daughter’s snack!

    1. Huge fan of the packit and they hydrocell bottles are awesome. I believe they’re the most popular on Amazon – we each have one now.

    1. I hadn’t heard of the mosquito wipes before either. A friend of mine introduced me to them during a hike and I couldn’t believe how well they worked. And I love that these mosquito repellent wipes are DEET-free and they smell good.

  6. Great information. I tend to forget bug spray and really regret not having it once on a trail. The wipes would be a great alternative to a bottle.

    1. Thanks. I’m a huge fan of the wipes. You can keep them in your pocket and I actually reuse the same wipe later in the day if hiking more than four hours and still works.

    1. Thank you! The freezable lunch bags are awesome! I love that they fold up and they don’t require ice packs and keep everything cold all day.

  7. I have recently gotten back into walking and hiking. I really enjoy it. So this is a perfect post and very helpful. I especially like the mosquito wipes – what a cool thing. Like the list – a great list of reminders. Thanks for this information!

  8. Great ideas here Karen. I have not come across the freezable lunch bags but am going to search them out now! I wonder if those mosquito wipes are effective against the Scottish midge? 🤣

    1. Thanks! The freezable lunch bags are awesome! I had to look up the Scottish midge – they look and sound just as annoying as mosquitoes. The mosquito wipes contain citronella, lemongrass and peppermint that are effective in repelling mosquitoes so they may work with your pests as wells.

  9. I pack way in advance. Not sure if it’s anxiety or excitement. I used to overpack but managed to cull a lot of things. This is a great list. I love my microfibre towel too.

    1. Thank you so much! I was skeptical about the mosquito wipes as I haven’t had much luck with the DEET-free products, but these – at least for me – are very effective.

  10. Great tips! I live in Colorado and always forget something. This is a great, full list. Also, I too am passionate about mac n cheese 🧀😂

  11. This is a great list Karen. I’d never think about taking an emergency whistle. And those freezer zip bags sound so practical for a day hike!

    1. I wasn’t in the habit of taking one until I started hiking solo more and realized that it would be so easy to fall down one of those steep and heavily treed ravines. And I love my freezable lunch bag…it keeps everything so cold especially on those hot days.

  12. Great Packing List!! I love the mosquito wipes! I think its so important to be prepared when you go hiking. I always forget that one thing! lol

    1. Thank you! I absolutely love the mosquito wipes – I can’t stop recommending them (so now I’m hoping they’re just as effective for other people as they have been for me).

  13. Great list! I never thought of bringing some small binoculars on a hike, but that must be amazing for when you see wildlife on the trail.

    The only thing I’d add is a light/headlamp. We always carry one just in case we end up being out longer than we planned…

      1. Yay! I went to a talk from our local search and rescue and they said that having a light was the top thing they’d like hikers to carry. Mostly as not having light is the main reason people get into trouble out in the back country.

        1. I don’t plan to hike at night, but sometimes plans don’t go as planned so a light is a great idea. Especially since you probably don’t want to wear down the battery in your phone using its flashlight.

  14. Great packing list for a day hike, thanks for sharing. I’ve never heard of mosquito wipes, I usually use spray. I’d love to give the Auntie Fannies wipes a try!

    1. I highly recommend that you do! I don’t normally go so fangirl on products – but have to share because I’ve found them to be so effective!

  15. Great post, Karen! I discovered hiking only this year and have been to 4 hard hikes since then and I love it so much. Nothing can compare to spending time in nature. Thank you for sharing this packing list. I always forget to bring sunscreen though 😀

    1. I hadn’t heard of mosquito wipes before either – not until my friend gave me one to try. I couldn’t believe how effective this little wipe was…no bites!