When planning a day hike, you will need to consider the probable terrain and weather conditions. Obviously, you will need a day pack or backpack. A day pack is simply a pack people use for toting books or gym clothes. A backpack designed for hiking is sturdier, and some models are even water-resistant. It can also have air mesh netting and padding on the back that helps ventilate back and prevents sweat from accumulating there.
There are some other things that you will always need for a day hike, such as the following:
1) Appropriate footwear
When hiking, you will need close-toed shoes that provide both support and protection. Trail shoes can work for short hikes with a light pack on easy trails with few or no obstacles. If you’re going on a longer hike with a heavier pack and more challenging terrain, you need hiking boots.
2) Navigational tools
Navigational tools include a map, compass, and a GPS. If you bring the latter, make certain to keep extra batteries handy. Since GPS devices may not always work in the woods, bring a map and a compass as back-up. Not only can the map and compass help you find your way if you get lost, they can help you find a water source.
3) First Aid Kit
No matter how careful or skilled you are accidents happen. Many outfitters sell pre-assembled First Aid Kits, and you can also assemble your own. Medications do expire, so check your kit at least once a year to see if you need to replace anything. Similarly, you should check to see if you are running low on something. When stocking the kit, consider the likely trail hazards of your day hike. For example, if there’s a lot of poison ivy, you will need calamine lotion.
4) Emergency gear
Emergency gear includes a whistle, a flashlight or headlamp, and a fire-starting kit. The noise of a whistle travels a lot further than the human voice. You blow three short blasts to signal that you need help. If you get lost and end up still hiking towards sundown, you will need a headlamp or flashlight to light your way. A fire-starter kit lets you make a fire to prevent hypothermia and ward off animals.
Always bring water on a day hike. The exact amount you need will depend on the terrain, climate, humidity, and wherever there are water sources along the way. While water is admittedly heavy, it is better to take too much than too little. Keep your water within easy reach and not buried at the bottom of the pack. Some backpacks come with “hydration reservoirs” built into them, so you can sip on a small hose while you hike. Others have stretchy side pockets for carrying water bottles. Bring a water purification kit if you think you might take advantage of natural water sources like a pond.
6) Foul weather gear and extra clothing
Weather is notoriously changeable, and that nice sunny day can quickly devolve into a wet and/or cold afternoon. A cool morning can also give way to a hot afternoon. So, dress in layers so you can take clothes off or put them on as needed. Don’t wear cotton clothing, for it absorbs moisture and will eventually stop providing insulation. Synthetics and wool provide more insulation. Bring rain gear.
Hiking involves a lot of exercise, so you will work up an appetite. You are going to want nutritious food that is easy to carry, tastes good, and is non-perishable. Trail mix is a popular option, for it contains dried fruit, nuts, and seeds. They are all tasty, nutritious and easy to carry. Granola bars, sandwiches, and some cheeses are all good choices for a day hike.
You are going to want insect repellent to keep mosquitoes and other pests away. You will also need sunscreen, sunglasses, and SPF-rated lip balm to protect your skin and eyes from the sun’s rays.
9) Multi-purpose tool or knife
Something like a Swiss Army knife can help you fix broken eyeglasses or other gear. Depending on the model, a multi-purpose tool can include items like scissors, screwdriver, can opener, fish scaler, tweezers, and a variety of other tools.
10) Emergency shelter
Sometimes things go very wrong and you end up having to actually camp out. You should not lie directly on the cold ground in this situation, for it will suck out your body heat. A bivy, also known as a bivouac or bivy sack, is an emergency shelter that resembles a smallish sleeping bag. It is made of tough, lightweight, and waterproof materials. Some models can even reflect your body heat back to you.