Don't let other sites be condescending and tell you to bring food and water on your day hike. These 9 essentials are a mix of out-of-the box thinking and good reminders to have.
1. A Water Filter
This is the number one most crucial item to have on a day hike. I'm not even trying to save your life with this - I'm trying to let you enjoy your life by bringing this.
Sure, a water filter can be necessary if you run into an issue but it's main purpose here is so that you can carry less water and drink from amazing backcountry water sources safely.
With my Sawyer Squeeze filter I've drank from glacier streams, waterfalls as blue as the sky, and underground springs that run so cold they'll give you a brain freeze in the summer.
These Sawyer Squeeze filters are the most common filter in backcountry hiking and backpacking and only require a light squeeze to filter, it's not only a life saver, it's a necessity!
2. KT Tape
Throw out your first aid kit! You heard that right, the first aid kit is dead and duct tape is the 90s fix-it-all tape. The new age shit is KT Tape.
KT Tape has more hold than duct tape, is impossibly elastic, and won't give your skin a waxing when used.
I've used KT Tape for several ligament injuries when required, it has made strong patches in sleeping bags and jackets on the go, and is a great band-aid. There are countless other uses but those are some that I've used while hiking in the last year.
3. Trail Runners
Hiking boots are also dead and if you are using them your feet might be dead too. For over a decade trail runners have become the most popular hiking shoes among backpackers hiking the Appalachian Trail, Pacific Crest Trail, and Continental Divide Trail. Nearly 10,000 miles of trail across the US that professional hikers are choosing trail runners over hiking boots for.
It's not a coincidence. There is no cool factor. The only truth is the comfort, cushion, and agility this type of footwear poses.
If you're not sold - the next time your feet comeback from a hike blistered up at least take a look into trail runners. I'm not saying these are perfect by any means, but you'll be a day hiking pro and gripping vertical rocks with the grip tracks these are made with.
4. A Headlamp
This is probably on some other 'Day Hiking Essentials List' but I'm not talking about your standard headlamp. If your headlamp is 100 lumens you might as well strap your iPhone to your head if you get caught hiking out at night.
Get yourself something at least 300 lumens and if you really want the high beams to make it look like day time during your night hike go with the Actik Core 450 Lumens.
These Petzl Headlamps are rechargeable but also have the ability to run on batteries for any untrusting folk out there.
5. AllTrails & Gaia GPS
Get a subscription to a GPS service on your phone. They're like $30 for the year and make your hikes a breeze. There's no more looking for where you are on the map because it tells you where you are.
Both of these have free versions but do yourself a favor and pay for the subscription so that you can download the map. You're not day hiking hard enough if you still have service at your furthest location!
Use AllTrails for standard day hiking and Gaia GPS for backcountry hiking.
6. A Battery Pack
Since we're likely not printing out paper maps at home anymore before the day hike, we should at least be bringing a back up phone charger and battery in case we run low using GPS functions, music, searching for service, snapping Insta stories, you know all the regular battery crushing activities on limited service.
Any battery pack will do, I prefer Anker for their reliability and large charging capacities.
7. A Dry Bag
This is good practice to have and self-explanatory. You're carrying tons of electronics when you hike and if you're in the mountains a thunderous and unpredicted storm passing through is not supernatural.
A dry bag isn't a - maybe things will stay dry bag - it's a bet your ass that new battery pack and headlamp won't see a drop of moisture.
Brand of choice here is Sea-to-Summit and the 8L bag should be big enough for two peoples electronics. They cost around twenty bucks and are superb quality.
8. A Puffy
Okay, you know to bring layers if your hike includes some altitude so I'm not trying to belittle you with putting 'Bring a Jacket' on this list. I consider a puffy jacket to be more than a jacket, almost a sleeping bag shirt or Snuggy if you will.
I bring a puffy with me anytime I go outside, even if it's 80-degrees. Temperatures fluctuate so much at elevation and in the backcountry that this will keep you comfortable during the most unexpected of times.
If you're deciding between a long-sleeve and a hoodie when going through your 'layers' for a hike it's time to invest in a quality puffy jacket.
9. Hydration Packets
I've only needed a hydration packet a couple times during summer months. Once when dehydration was coming on strong, the other when I had full blown heat exhaustion.
The reality is that water alone isn't going to get you up and going when you have a severe dehydration issue happening. The electrolytes and minerals in Propel, Gatorade, and Liquid IV packets are going to work much faster and much more effectively in one of these emergencies.
They're also amazing when it's not an emergency and take up next to no room or weight!
Pro Tip: Having a bag of candy salad (multiple types of candy mixed into one Ziploc bag) is an incredible energy and happiness booster on long strenuous hikes.
Ultimate Pro Tip: Pack a cooler of cold beer, soda, and Gatorade to leave in your car for when you get back from a day hike. If you're not entirely sold on this, still do it and I'm sure you'll be thanking yourself coming down the mountain on mile twelve.
There's a reason Cheryl Stray writes about her cravings on the PCT of pink and yellow Minute Maid Lemonade so vividly in her book Wild. It's simply a fact of hiking hard and not having the immediate access to a fridge that makes us crave.
Do yourself a favor and get a cooler that will actually keep your drinks cool in the 120-degree car in the parking lot being baked in sun all day.
If you found anything on this list useful or have any other great tips for day hike essentials drop me a comment below!
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