BushLife - Day Hiking Hero

Day Hiking 101: What to Bring and Why

Have you ever ventured out on a day hike and found yourself unprepared for the unexpected? Maybe you were caught in a sudden downpour or realized you didn’t have enough water halfway through your trek. Preparing your day hiking essentials may seem tedious, but it’s necessary for a safe and enjoyable experience.

This post will cover the basics of day hiking gear, from clothing and footwear to food and water, shelter, and safety equipment. You’ll learn why each item is crucial and how to choose the right one for your needs. So whether you’re a novice or need a refresher, let’s dive into Day Hiking 101.

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Clothing for Day Hiking

Not only is day hiking beneficial to your health, but it also opens you up to a whole new world of nature’s offerings. By wearing the correct attire and being comfortable, we can take pleasure in the beauty of our surroundings.

First and foremost, think about the weather. A moisture-wicking, quick-drying top and bottom will keep you dry and comfortable, even if you sweat. Look for fabrics made from polyester, nylon, fleece or wool. Avoid wearing cotton as it absorbs your sweat, leaving you feeling cold in the cooler months and sweaty during the hot months. Dressing in layers is the key. It allows you to adjust your clothing to changing temperatures. You want to be comfortable and protected from the elements, all while also being able to hike freely.

In the summer, some hikers prefer shorts, while others opt for pants with zip-off legs that can convert into shorts. Whatever you choose, ensure they are durable enough to withstand the rough terrain. Before you reach for those shorts, consider your hiking spot. Hiking trails covered in tall grasses, overgrown with brush, or game trails risk exposure to poison ivy, brush cuts, bug bites and ticks.

Without notice, the weather has a way of wreaking havoc on our plans, and the only thing you can do is, be prepared! To ensure comfort, consider packing a waterproof, breathable, lightweight rain jacket and pants in case of unexpected rain or wind. For in-between seasons, pack a packable puffer jacket and a fleece jacket. Let’s move on to footwear.

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Day Hiking Footwear

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Wearing hiking sandals for a summer hike

When day hiking, proper hiking footwear is essential. You’ll want to choose a pair of hiking boots or shoes that provide comfort and good support for your feet and ankles. Avoid flip flops as they lead to accidents, such as twisted ankles, trip-ups or slip-outs from sweaty feet. Consider purchasing hiking sandals if looking for footwear to keep your feet cool.

It’s vital to ensure that your footwear is broken in before your hike, as blisters can derail your plans. If hiking in wet or muddy conditions, consider investing in waterproof footwear to keep your feet dry. As to the colder months, insulated Gortex hiking footwear will provide you with much-needed warmth and comfort. Ensure you pair your footwear with hiking socks that are moisture-wicking. Your socks should be tall, the appropriate thickness for the weather and comprised of wool.

Pro Tip!

Always pack a spare pair of socks! If yours gets wet, you can switch socks and dry out your wet pair.

In addition to your footwear, don’t forget about other accessories that can enhance your experience on the trail. Depending on the weather, you may want to bring a hat, sunglasses, and gloves to protect yourself from the elements. Choosing the proper clothing and accessories for your day hike is about being comfortable, prepared, and protected.

Of course, proper footwear and accessories are just one piece of the puzzle. Now let’s cover the importance of bringing enough food and water for your day hike.

How Much Water and Food Do I Need for a Day Hike?

BushLife - Day Hiking Water
Water break while hiking

Every year we come across tragic stories of hikers being unprepared. No matter how athletic you are or how much knowledge you possess, not bringing enough water, food, or clothing can cost you your life.

Proper preparation is the key to completing a day hike, and a crucial element of that preparation is bringing enough food and water in your day pack. A general rule is aiming for at least one litre of water, for every two hours of hiking, along with a mix of snacks and meals to keep you fueled and energized throughout the day.

When hiking and enjoying the wilderness, you do not realize how much time has passed. Nor do you know how much water you have lost during your day hike. Plan your route and pack enough water to endure your trek until your next refill opportunity.

Investing in a hydration bladder or water bottles that allow you to drink on the go can be a great way to stay hydrated without slowing down your pace. Additionally, consider packing a hydration tablet or electrolyte powder to help replace the nutrients you lose through sweat.

Food

BushLife - Hiking Food
Having a nutrious snack while hiking

In terms of food, you’ll want to bring a mix of high-energy snacks and meals that are easy to transport and won’t spoil in the heat. Trail mix, energy bars, and jerky are popular choices, as are fresh fruits like apples and oranges. If planning on stopping for a midday meal, bring ingredients that can be easily prepared and eaten on the trail, like sandwiches or wraps.

Of course, no matter how well you plan, unexpected situations can always arise, such as bad weather, an accident, or getting lost. As such, it’s crucial to pack a few extra snacks and an emergency ration, just in case. Not only can these help keep you going in case of delays, but they can also provide an extra psychological boost when you need it most.

Remember, proper nutrition and hydration are essential for any successful day hike. Once you have your food and water sorted, it’s time to think about shelter and safety equipment, which we’ll cover in the next section.

Trail Maps

AllTrails helps you find your way outdoors, with detailed maps, offline maps, wrong-turn alerts, extra planning features, reviews and inspiration from a community of over 60MM.

Shelter and Safety Equipment for Day Hiking

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What I carry in my pack for a day hike

Proper preparation is the key when it comes to day hiking. Although you may only be out for a few hours, it’s imperative to consider the possibility of unexpected situations. That’s why packing the appropriate shelter and safety equipment can make all the difference.

First and foremost, it’s crucial to carry a reliable map and compass. Even if you think you know the trail like the back of your hand, it’s always better to be safe than sorry. These land-navigating items will help you veer back to safety if you get lost or deviate off course. Don’t forget to bring a whistle or signalling device.

RELATED: Land Navigation Survival How To’s That You Need to Know

First Aid Kit

Another must-have on any hike is a first aid kit. Whether you get a blister, scrape, or cut, it’s critical to have the necessary supplies to treat any minor injuries that may occur.

You may also want to consider upgrading to a trauma kit or at least adding a pressure bandage, which can aid in stopping major bleeds. Some pressure bandages may double as a tourniquet and can also be utilized as a makeshift splint.

RELATED: Emergency Medical Kit: Surprisingly Life and Death is 9 Items

Shelter

As to shelter, a lightweight emergency blanket can be a lifesaver if you happen to get caught out in the cold or wet weather. This simple piece of equipment can help keep you warm and dry until help arrives.

RELATED: Emergency Blankets: Unscrupulous Myth or Life Saving Miracle?

Headlamp, Flashlight

Lastly, carrying a headlamp or flashlight is essential, even if you don’t plan on being out after dark. You never know what might cause a delay, and being able to see in the dark can help prevent accidents and keep you safe.

Being prepared for the unexpected is crucial to any successful day hike. By packing the appropriate shelter and safety hiking equipment, you can enjoy your adventure with peace of mind.

Fire

From boiling water to make it safe, cooking food, or warming up. A fire kit is a must for ANY outdoor adventure, let alone a hike. Don’t just carry these items, learn to master your fire skills if you haven’t already. You can even make fire in the snow!

A Final Thought to Day Hiking 101

In conclusion, day hiking is an excellent way to disconnect from the bustle of everyday life and reconnect with nature. However, without proper gear, your experience may be less than ideal. Invest in high-quality clothing, footwear, food, water, shelter, and safety equipment. Leave no trace behind; pack for the weather and terrain, and always prioritize safety. With these tips, you can confidently hit the trails, knowing you have everything you need for a safe and enjoyable day hike.

Comment below what type of gear do you carry in your day pack?

Share with a fellow hiker who could use a friendly reminder of what to bring when day hiking. Thank you!

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Katherine Widziak
Katherine Widziak

Fuelled by the boundless energy of my two adventurous children, my diverse repertoire extends beyond the realms of an ordinary mother. As a seasoned graphic designer, master of social media content, and savvy marketing strategist, I've sculpted my own entrepreneurial journey. My passion for the great outdoors defines me - from igniting fires to setting up camps, my skills are diverse and practical. Skilled in ATV riding, possessing sharpshooting accuracy, and a knack for out-fishing just about any man - even my husband, though that's our little secret.

When not working away at something creative, you'll find me enjoying the outdoors in one form or another. Hopefully, I can inspire many women and men alike to pursue their outdoor goals and embark on new adventures.

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