Planning to spend the day on the trail but not sure what to take? This day hike packing list will help you pack like a pro and pick the right hiking clothes too!
Whether it’s a short hiking route for an afternoon or a gruelling 24-hour ascent, day hiking gives you the best of both worlds. You can still experience many of the most beautiful hiking trails in the world but don’t have to worry about the extra planning and heavy rucksacks that come with multi-day hiking options.
Because of this, day hikes are sweet for last-minute trips or as the perfect introduction to hiking for beginners!
Despite the shorter time, your packing list is still CRUCIAL. Whittle your pack down to the day hiking essentials and you’ll stay safe but won’t feel weighed down – perfect for making the most your time outside.
This guide explains exactly what to bring on a hike with only the best outdoor essentials, including a detailed packing list and expert tips on what to wear hiking in summer and winter.
We’ve included options for men and women and, as usual, all of the day hiking gear is vegan-friendly and picked with sustainability in mind.
In this guide you’ll find…
- Tips for day hike packing
- Hiking essentials (the stuff you should always take with you)
- Hiking clothes for summer and winter
- Day hiking emergency kit and medical gear
- Hiking food and hydration
- Day hiking Q&A
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Do you NEED any of this hiking gear?
Your hiking checklist should be determined by your destination, the geography, time of year, hiking infrastructure etc.
If you’re planning your first hike in a populated area that you’re familiar with and the forecast is reliable, don’t feel like you need to purchase lots of specialist outdoor equipment.
Instead, go in comfortable activewear that’s suitable for the weather with a good pair of shoes and just get outside. Once you’ve caught the outdoors bug (which I’m sure you will!) then think about upgrading your gear if you need to.
If you’re planning on hiking in new or remote regions, through potential weather extremes or on your own, it’s VERY important to go with the right equipment.
Our advice on gear…
Outdoor gear can be expensive so unless you’re rolling in cash it’s best to prioritise the most important bits of kit. We’ve listed Hiking Essentials! which you should strongly consider always having on your hike checklist and it’s also worth spending more on them and saving on the others.
You’ll find our recommended day hiking packing list for summer and winter hiking trips below so you can then pick the right gear for you.
Super Useful Hiking Resources
- A Beginner’s Guide to Hiking
- Hiking Tips for Newbies
- Finding and Buying Ethical Outdoor Gear
- Gear Maintenance and Repairs
- All the Best Vegan Hiking Foods
- The BIG Adventure Planning Guide
And before we get onto the good stuff, if you want to find more hiking content, insider tips and discounts then sign up for our mailing list!
A Few Day Hiking Packing Tips
- Pay attention to the Hiking Essential! – they’re what you need most
- Spend more on Hiking Essential! and save on others
- Check the local weather just before leaving to make sure you bring the right day hiking gear
- Don’t overpack! Nobody like hiking with a heavy rucksack
- Go for a test run with new hiking gear before heading into the wild
- Pack heavier items towards the bottom of your hiking rucksack and things you’ll need easy to access at the top
- Even if rain isn’t forecasted, take a waterproof rucksack cover
- If you’re expecting crappy weather, save weight and leave your camera at home
- Trail and error – keep testing out different options until you get the best hike packing list for you!
1. Day Hiking Essentials
As mentioned above, consider taking these essentials on every trail – they don’t weigh much but they will keep you safe. Our advice, keep them stored together so they can’t be forgotten and you’re more prepared for last-minute adventures!
Hiking Backpack (W. Rain Cover) – Hiking Essential!
We recommend: Jack Wolfskin Kingston 30L (UK)
The best daypack size is around 20 – 35 litres, with enough room for all your essentials but without any unnecessary weight. It should evenly distribute weight across your back and shoulders whilst being comfortable for long days, even with heavy loads.
The Kingston comes in a variety of sizes with an impressive size to weight ration, adjustable strapping to suit your body type and padded hips for extra comfort.
It’s reasonably priced, hardwearing and has an inside hydration compartment for water bladders – everything you need for a day hiking backpack.
You’ll find plenty more options in our Guide to Sustainable Rucksacks.
Money/Wallet – Hiking Essential!
Keep your money, bank cards or wallet safe in an inside compartment of your bag and make sure it stays dry. You’ll find waterproof drybags for this further down the packing list.
USEFUL: Planning a hiking trip abroad and not sure how to handle your money? We wrote a Guide to Travel Debit Cards
Phone – Hiking Essential!
We recommend: Motorola G6/G7/G8 – they’re really tough!
The ideal phone for hiking should have good reception for emergency calls, be sturdy and also strong battery life if you’re using GPS. Oh, and a fancy camera is always good for hiking photos!
Hiking Navigating system (GPS/map and compass) – Hiking Essential!
It’s recommended to have two forms of navigation, particularly if you’re hiking in remote areas you don’t know. You can use a GPS app on your phone (like Maps.Me) and then a map and compass or GPS system.
For handheld hiking GPS machines, you can’t go wrong with the Garmin eTrek 22. It’s a cost-effective topographic map and tracking system you can follow routes and upload your own GPX files to keep on track.
NOTE: a GPS for hiking is advised if you’re getting off the beaten track or going out in difficult conditions. If you’re planning a hike in populated areas that you know then you can probably skip this one.
Penknife – Hiking Essential!
We love the Leatherman Wave. It’s a real lifesaver in the outdoors, doing everything you could need in a nice handy size and comes with a lifetime warranty. Keep it in an easy to access part of your backpack.
Outdoors Headtorch – Hiking Essential!
Even if you’re not planning on moving at night it’s best to take a hiking headtorch just in case. This Black Diamond Storm is waterproof, 350 lumens (BRIGHT!) and one tough cookie. Keep it in your rucksack!
Wristwatch – Hiking Essential!
We recommend: Cheap and cheerful Casio!
Knowing how many hours of daylight you have is important so you don’t end up needing that headtorch. The Casio is cheap with no thrills but does exactly what you need it to do and will last. It hasn’t let us down yet!
Medical and safety gear – Hiking Essential!
We’ll get more into this a bit further down, but make sure you pack it!
Hiking snacks and water – Hiking Essential!
We recommend: Our guide to vegan hiking snacks!
Without doubt, this is a seriously important aspect you shouldn’t neglect. Always take ample food and water, even if it seems like it’s going to be an easy hiking trail. We get on to this properly further down, so keep reading!
We recommend: Fujifilm X-T30
It won’t save your life but if you enjoy photography like us you’ll probably agree it should be included in the day hike essentials.
Fujifilm’s X-T30 is lightweight, has good battery life for a mirrorless camera and takes absolutely beautiful photos straight from JPEG. It’s a joy to use and the perfect way to document the wonders you find.
READ MORE: Preparing for a photo-based hike? You might want to read this guide
2. Day Hike Packing List: What to Wear Hiking in the Summer
Unless you’re going out in extreme heat, you can be slightly more relaxed with your summer hiking gear, just as long as you know the weather won’t turn.
As a general rule, try to avoid cotton and make sure your hiking clothes are lightweight, loose-fitting and moisture-wicking. This will help your body regulate its temperature by quickly drying and removing moisture from your skin. This helps to stop chafing too, the summer hiker’s arch-nemesis!
If you want more tips on hiking it hot conditions, here’s our handy guide!
Lightweight hiking shoes – Hiking Essential!
We recommend: Merrel Agility Peak Flex 2
A good pair of hiking shoes will keep you steady on unsavoury terrain and should be your first consideration when thinking of what to wear hiking.
In warmer temperatures, a good option are low ankle hiking shoes or trail runners, which are often lighter with better breathability. We whole-heartedly recommend the Merrel Agility Peak Flex, they’re 100% vegan and have barely been taken off since buying them
You can read our review of these awesome outdoor shoes here
For men we recommend – breathable lycra undershorts are cheap but can be a godsend as regular boxers don’t allow air to ventilate properly. This can also cause chafing you don’t want to chafe there, believe me!
Good hiking underwear for women depends on your trousers/shorts but something like well-fitted synthetic or spandex briefs that avoid chafing and a fitted sports bra. Cotswolds and REI have heaps of good options.
We recommend: Bridgedale hiking socks
These socks are hardwearing and breathable which helps stop chafing, athletes foot and heat rash.
Lightweight hiking shorts/trousers
The zip-off North Face trousers are very versatile, lightweight and durable. The shorts and trousers option is useful if the weather looks unpredictable, so you can change according to the weather. Another item I rarely take off!
For women, hard-wearing but breathable leggings or lycra shorts are also good.
Moisture-wicking longsleeved baselayer
We recommend: thin, synthetic baselayer
You want one that’s lightweight, well-fitted and importantly moisture-wicking to help you feel comfortable in the heat. There’s no need to spend a bomb, ours cost £10 each and have lasted years.
Temperatures drop with a breeze or at higher altitude so it’s good to pack a lightweight hiking fleece or top. Get one which is moisture-wicking and warm enough for your hike. These from Berghaus are pretty fairly priced but are a good piece of kit.
Waterproof – Hiking Essential!
We recommend: Mountain Hardwear Thundershadow
The right hiking waterproof will be lightweight, well ventilated and can be used to protect you from wind, rain and other elements. Even on a warm day, you can end up uncomfortably cold if you get caught in a shower and your clothes get wet.
It’s a good idea to keep your waterproof with you just in case the weather changes. I love the Thundershadow and the ventilation slits under the arms mean it’s still comfortable to wear when it warms up.
Sun hat & sunglasses
We recommend: Decathlon sun hat
The hat can help prevent heatstroke and the glasses are helpful on dusty trails.
Shield your head from the sun, hold back your hair or cover your mouth and nose in dusty conditions. A buff can also provide a surprising amount of warmth when used as a scarf around your neck. Being so light and cheap it’s worth keeping one in a compartment of your rucksack in case you need it.
3. Day Hiking Clothes for Winter
When it comes to hiking in the winter you DO need to be more careful about your gear. Conditions can change quickly, temperatures plummet and snowy conditions intensify quicker than you’d think.
A few important tips for the winter hiking:
- Plan your day hike properly and check the weather forecast so you know exactly what to expect.
- If you are thinking of hiking in snow or extreme cold then assume it’s going to be colder than it is. In bad conditions, it’s always better to have it and not need it than need it and not have it.
- To stay warm you need to stay dry so waterproof layers are crucial if it’s wet. Also, make sure all of your inner layers are quick-drying and moisture-wicking to help keep your body dry. In cold weather, any moisture on your skin will have you feeling ice cold!
- Cover as much exposed skin as possible. This means full-length arms and legs, gloves, hats and neck warmers.
Waterproof hiking boots – Hiker’s Essential
It’s worth investing in the best quality pair of hiking boots possible. You’ll have them on trails for years to come, rather than finding a cheaper pair you might need to replace every year. Mine were bought second-hand and have still lasted me for years!
MORE INFO: Want more vegan-friendly hiking boots? Check out this guide
Thermal underlayers (long-sleeved top and trouser bottoms) – Hiking Essential
Get the right thermal underlayers and you won’t have to worry about hiking in big coats, which can be tiring and slow you down.
These thermals from Sub Sports are best when fitted tightly but are lightweight, affordable and really keep you warm, even in extreme cold. You can get short versions but for maximum warmth go for long ones.
We recommend: Bridgedale Socks
Unfortunately, finding vegan-friendly thermal socks ain’t so easy to come by. When it gets really cold we’ll tend to double up on these synthetic ones.
Waterproof/insulated hiking trousers
In colder weather we’ll typically wear similar hiking trousers (North Face convertibles or leggings) and then a pair The Deluge waterproof trousers. They’re light, warm and waterproof whilst still allowing lots of movement and breathability. If things get really cold then you can also opt for insulated hiking trousers which have a thermal lining.
Moisture-wicking longsleeved baselayer
We recommend: Thicker synthetic baselayer
Very similar to the one mentioned in the summer hiking gear, just go for a thicker, warmer one you can wear on top of your thermal underlayers. You can also wear more than one if it’s really cold.
We take the same fleece but you could opt for a thicker warmer one.
Insulated jacket – Hiking Essential!
We recommend: Arc’teryx Atom LT
Getting a good insulated jacket is definitely something worth investing in, especially if you want to get out on the trail in all conditions. They’re designed to give maximum warmth with the smallest size and weight. They also keep warmth and allow movement but still have ventilation so you don’t overheat when active.
The Atom LT is one of our favourite pieces of gear as it’s super reliable, versatile and is synthetic. This means it’s 100% vegan-friendly and still insulates when wet. An essential piece of hiking gear that will likely become your best friend!
Winter hiking coat – Hiking Essential
We recommend: Mountain Hardwear Thundershadow
There are two options:
Firstly, you can go for a regular waterproof outer layer to keep you dry and add more inner layers for warmth (e.g more baselayers, fleeces).
Secondly, you can go for an insulated waterproof coat which will keep you dry and warm.
However, insulated waterproof coats are often heavy and can be too warm. If you get too hot and want to take it off you then don’t have a waterproof layer.
We go with option 1 as you’re more agile and it’s better suited to changeable weather.
Warm hat & Insulated gloves
We generally pick up hats second-hand and make sure the gloves are waterproof.
This will help you to stop losing body heat at the neckline of your layers/jackets etc. You can tuck it into your baselayers and have it covering your mouth, nose and face which really helps for warmth.
Unless it’s really cold we’ll stick with our regular Buff, then go for the Polar version when it gets serious!
We recommend: Forclaz 500
Hiking gaiters are attached between your shoes and trouser leg to provide waterproof protection. If you’re hiking in the snow or heavy rain on a cold day then these are a must to keep your feet dry.
Make sure to take additional layers!
Always keep additional warm layers with you in your rucksack, just in case the weather turns.
4. Day Hiking Medical and safety gear
All of this section is small and lightweight but should be considered a Hiking Essential that you take on every hike. If you’re going hiking abroad the most important thing for health and safety is getting comprehensive travel insurance!
First aid kit – Hiking Essential!
Pick a first aid kit which has:
- Antiseptic/antibacterial wipes or ointment
- Assorted bandages and gauze pads
- Hand sanitiser
- Medical tape
- Blister relief
- Antihistamine/bite relief
- Non-stick pads
- Butterfly bandages
- Emergency foil blanket
- Safety pins
Then you can add in extra health products, like:
- Rehydration salts
- Personal medication and prescriptions
- Insect repellant
- Toilet roll
Hiking emergency gear – Hiking Essential!
Again, these are small, cheap products that could save your life if you get into a difficult situation.
- Emergency whistle
- Lighter and flint sticks
- Emergency food and water supply (more info below)
5. Day Hiking Food & Water
Besides being able to have lunch in a beautiful location, taking enough food and water is an important safety factor. Even if you’re planning a simple outing, plans have a habit of changing so it’s best to be prepared
We recommend: our guide to vegan hiking foods
Make sure you take enough food to keep you filled with energy. The best foods for hiking have lots of calories and carbohydrates, you’ll also want to take something salty to replenish your electrolytes. You can find more information on vegan hiking foods on the link above.
Remember to take extra food!
This water bladder is weight-efficient and slides conveniently into your backpack, allowing you to drink whilst you’re on the go through the extended mouthpiece that attaches to the strap of your backpack. For £10 it’s a bargain and makes staying hydrated much easier.
Water purification system
Use these to clean natural water sources (from rivers or streams). It’s very useful if you’re not around drinking water and means you don’t have too much water at one time.
We’re pretty big fans of the Sawyer Squeeze. It’s lightweight, reliable and pretty quick too!
6. Day Hike Packing List Extras
They don’t have to be on your hiking gear list but they can take a lot of weight from your knees really help when you’re going along rough terrain or at a steep incline/decline. These ones are lightweight and can be strapped to your rucksack easily.
The Joby tripod is perfect for hiking photography as it’s small and robust. The adjustable legs mean you can attach it to trees, posts or uneven ground and still get the perfect shot.
Waterproof dry bags
Use these to keep all of your valuables/camera safe in your bag – very important!
This book is a survival essential and if you like the outdoors, likely the best thing you’ll ever buy. It’s pocket-sized and has all the info you’d need to deal with any disaster situation and survival skills needed if things go wrong on the road.
Day Hike Packing List Q&A
Q. Are there any specific hiking essentials for beginners? Not specifically but it’s more important to take the essentials, emergency gear and take safety precautions if you’re not confident.
Q. How about what not to bring on a hike? If you’re packing for a day hike then it’s much more comfortable with a lighter hiking rucksack. Just try and stick to things you’ll need and go with the right gear.
Q. Is this day hike pack list very different from a backpacking checklist? It’s fairly similar, you’ll just need to add cooking and sleeping gear which you’ll find here.
Q. How do I plan a day hiking trip? You’ll find lots of information about this in our Beginner Hiker Guide.
Q. Is a bigger or smaller hiking backpack better? This is completely down to your preference and requirements. Personally, we’d prefer to have more room than needed rather than be short of space.
Did our day hike packing guide tell you everything you need to know? Drop us a Q in the comments with you want some more advice!
Day Hike Packing List: Outdoor Clothes, Gear & Hiking Essentials
You should now be able to pack like a pro for your next day hike! As we mentioned in the article, pay close attention to the Hiking Essentials, these are the things which will really make the difference on the trail. You can deal with a cheap base layer if you’re hiking in the summer but a good pair of shoes are invaluable.
Most importantly though, get out there and explore!
As long as you’re safe and comfortable then go get hiking and slowly build up your hiking gear – don’t let it hold you back!