Essentials to Pack for a day Hike

All right today we’re going to talk about what to pack for a day hike.  Many hikers I see on the trails carry a bottle of water or less.  I admit, I used to be one of those hikers. 

Now a days I carry a day pack because I like to be prepared and let’s face it being prepared is WAY more fun than being unprepared.  I also like having victory beers at the summit of my hike which makes it essential that I have a pack to carry them in.

Day hiking is one of the BEST ways that you can explore an area, be in nature and still be able to get a good nights rest in your own bed.  It’s also a great way to stay in shape while you travel.  

If you are new to hiking I’ve put together a checklist of what to pack for a day hike. These are basic items that are always in my bag.

What to Pack in a day pack when hiking with I'm Jess Traveling

For full transparency, I have sprinkled some affiliate links in this post which gives me a small commission at no extra cost to you if you decided to make a purchase. As always, I would never recommend a product or service that I didn't truely believe in. If you find this post useful, you can also treat Jess to a cup coffee by clicking the icon on the bottom of the page. This will allow me to continue to create more content for you to enjoy ☕️. 

day hiking essentials checklist

optional day hiking items

Depending on where you are hiking or how far you are will decide if you carry these items or not.  For example if you were hiking in Maui where I live I would leave these items in my car as most hikes on Maui are not that long.  If I were hiking in Colorado that would be a different story, I would pack these items.

Finding the Best Day Pack

You’ll want a sturdy, light pack that can carry your essentials yet still remain compact.  I use the front zip-off daypack from the Osprey Fairview 40 Women’s Travel Backpack.  I absolutely LOVE this pack!  It’s perfect for camping, hiking, road trips or long term backing trips.  

The Osprey Fairview is small enough that it meets most airline carry on requirements, opens from the front and has a zip-off daypack.  The day pack is my favorite feature.  It is large enough that it fits my laptop, external hard drive, wallet/passport, charging cords, pashmina, socks and even snacks.  (My boyfriend carries the camera so that also saves space.). 

This makes the actual act of traveling easier.  I wear the day pack with all of my important items on my back and I carry the main pack as a duffle bag because the straps can get zipped away. 

This pack would be a good investment if you plan on long term travel in the future or go camping often.  If not here are a few other day packs that I recommend. 

What to Pack for a day Hike

Okay so you found your perfect day pack.  Now the hiking essentials you shouldn’t leave home without. 

Water Bottle

Like most people I know, I never leave home without my hydro flask, let alone go on a hike without one.  I prefer carrying a hydro flask because it keeps my water colder but if you’re strapped on space opt for a collapsible water bottle.  This is perfect for hiking and traveling. 

Reef Safe Sunscreen

Sunscreen is important anytime, anyplace.  It took living on Maui for the majority of the last decade for me to learn the importance of sunscreen.  Overcast or not the sun is very powerful and damages your skin.  I apply reef safe sunscreen every morning because I care about the reef AND my skin.


I have always carried a bandana with me (even before this whole crazy pandemic).  They are perfect to wipe sweat, blow your nose, to clean out dirt from your eyes or between your toes…the list could go on and on. They also can spruce up a picture.  Better yet, bring a couple different colors. 


Okay I admit it, I’m addicted to chapstick.  BUT that’s okay.  It has SPF in it and it smells and feels good.  I have multiple chapsticks on my person all the time.  At extreme places like a top of a mountain or sea level, your lips get chapped.


Snacks, snacks, snacks.  I always pack at least 2 CLIF BARS for Joe and I and whatever else I can shove into small spaces of my pack.  No one has ever complained and who doesn’t like snacks. If you’re on a longer hiking trip or on a low-carb or keto diet these snacks are great and keep your pack light

Face Wipes

Just like with the bandana, the face wipes can do virtually anything and you’ll be happy that you brought them.  Hikes get muddy, sweaty, and itchy.  Being able to quickly wipe off is a game changer. 


A lighter takes up no space and could be the matter of life and death in a survival setting.  Carrying a lighter with you only benefits you.  You can even creative and hodgepodge them like I have many times before. 

Pocket Knife

Ever read the book 72 hours?!?  If you haven’t its the one about the guy from Colorado who gets wedged between a boulder and a hard place and has to “cut” his arm off.  A pocket knife is always a good idea.

Victory Beers 

Who doesn’t like to enjoy a summit or finish of an epic hike with a victory beer?!?!  I never end a hike without a victory beer.  Life’s about compromise after all.


Most people now a days have a smart phone of some kind.  Your IPhone has a compass which will be suffice especially on a day hike.  If you want to be uber prepared bring a physical compass with you. It will benefit you.


Ever hike up the mountain for sunset only to realize that you forgot your headlamp and have to hike down with an iPhone light?!  Just me?  Head lamps are necessary for those sunrise hikes.

First Aid Kit

A first aid kit is never a bad idea when deciding what to pack for a day hike.  Just saying.  Life is cray.

Rain Jacket

Carrying a rain jacket/shell was a life savor the whole entire time I explored Costa Rica.  It also is always necessary in Hawaii.  I always carry a shell that is small and I can throw over a long sleeve.  I do most of my hiking in warm climates.  Depending on the climate will depend on the type of rain jacket. 

Water Filter

Ideal for camping, hiking and emergencies.  The LifeStraw is compact and easy to use.  You never know when you’re going to need clean drinking water.  It takes up little space.  It’s a no brainer.

Enjoy this Post?!?! Pin in for Later ↓

Day hike packing essentials
Day hike packing essentials