It’s never fun to discover you’ve left the sunscreen at home midway through a hike. What’s worse is having no band-aids when a blister is developing.

A simple hiking gear checklist is a surefire way to avoid situations in the wilderness that range from inconvenient to life-threatening. Keep reading to discover what to bring, or click the printable download below and stick it on the fridge.

What do I need to take for a day hike?

  • Hiking backpack
  • Map and GPS device
  • Compass oil filled
  • First aid kit
  • Analog watch
  • Suitable clothing
  • Sunscreen and sunglasses
  • Hat
  • Water and food
  • Headlamp or flashlight
  • Multi-tool or pocketknife
  • Notepad and pencil
  • Whistle
  • Matches, lighter, or flint
  • Toilet paper and trowel

Depending on the length of your hike and weather conditions, you may need additional layers like rain jackets and pants.

Having all these items checked off on your list will make sure you are well-prepared for whatever nature throws at you during your hike. You should customize this list depending on trail difficulty and hike duration.

Experienced hikers never leave anything to chance when it comes to safety outdoors.

An illustration of what to take on a day hiking expedition

Essential Clothing

Moisture-wicking base layers are worth adding to the pack, even if they’re not needed at the trailhead. These are typically made from synthetic materials that wick sweat away from your skin, keeping you dry and comfortable throughout your hike. A long-sleeved shirt, pants, and leggings made from these materials can help regulate temperature while protecting against sunburn or insect bites.

A good-quality rain jacket is well worth packing if wet weather is possible. Even if rain isn’t in the forecast, temperatures can drop quickly at higher elevations, so keep one with you in an emergency.


Choosing the right pair of shoes or hiking boots can make a massive difference in terms of comfort and safety on the trail. When selecting footwear for hiking, it’s essential to consider terrain, weather conditions, and personal preferences. For longer hikes or more challenging terrain, sturdy hiking boots with ankle support and good grip are a must.

Make sure footwear is a good fit before heading out hiking. Poor-fitting shoes cause blisters and other unpleasant foot injuries that can quickly derail your hiking plans.

Try on several brands before deciding on a pair to buy. Also, wear them around the house or on shorter walks to break them in before hitting the trail.

Food and water

Ensuring you have enough food and water for the trip is super important. It’s best to pack high-energy snacks that are easy to eat on the go. Granola bars, nuts, dried fruits, and jerky are all excellent options.

If you plan to stay overnight, consider packing light meals such as instant noodles, oatmeal packets, or dehydrated camping meals. Remember utensils like sporks and bowls if necessary.

Ensure all food is kept in sealed containers or resealable bags, so they don’t attract animals.

Navigation and communication

Navigation and communication are two items you really can’t do without. Getting lost in the wilderness can be a scary experience all by itself. Having no way to navigate or communicate your whereabouts can get terrifying fast.

A map of the area and a compass is all you need to find your way home. Of course, you’ll need to understand how to use the two first. 

A fully charged cell phone is helpful but unreliable in remote areas with limited coverage. Consider investing in a personal locator beacon (PLB) or satellite messaging device that can send out distress signals in case of an emergency.

First aid kit

Safe and enjoyable hikes are always the goal, but accidents happen. A well-stocked first aid kit will address minor injuries. When packing a first aid kit for a hiking trip, include items such as band-aids, gauze pads, adhesive tape, antiseptic wipes, and pain relief. These items can help you address cuts, scrapes, blisters, and other common hiking-related injuries.

In addition to the basics, it’s also important to consider the specific risks associated with your hiking destination. For example, if you’re hiking in an area known for poison ivy or ticks, pack additional supplies such as anti-itch cream or tick removal tools.

Take a decent-sized bandage in areas where snakes or poisonous spiders are prevalent. This precaution will allow you to apply the Pressure Immobilization Technique (PIT), which should buy enough time to get the victim to a hospital.

Sun protection

Sunscreen is a must-have when going on a hiking trip. The sun’s rays are harsh, and sunburn is the last thing you want at the end of the day. Make sure it’s at least SPF 30, and choose a waterproof formula that won’t sweat off easily. If you’re planning to hike during peak sunlight hours, be sure to include a sunhat.

Optional items

Optional items may be overlooked when creating a hiking essentials checklist, but they can greatly enhance your trail experience. One of these items is a trekking pole which offers extra stability and support. It is beneficial when navigating uneven terrain or steep slopes. It also takes some strain on your knees and hips, making long hikes less taxing.

Another optional item that hikers may want to consider is a portable water filter. While bringing enough water for your journey is always important, unexpected circumstances could cause you to run out early. A water filter allows you to safely drink from streams or other natural sources, giving you greater flexibility in planning your route.

Final words

Preparing and carrying the necessary gear will ensure a safer, more enjoyable trek. A hiking essentials checklist should always include a first aid kit, navigation tools, sufficient food and water, and extra clothing layers for changing weather conditions.

Be aware of your physical limits and choose trails that match everyone’s fitness levels. Overexertion leads to exhaustion or injury outdoors. It’s important to research the route beforehand and understand its terrain to know what to expect.