Ultimate Day Hiking Checklist

Top-down view of day hiking gear

We love a good checklist to help us prepare for a trip – even if we’re just going out for a day hike. A list adds a ton of efficiency to the process of getting ready, and we love knowing we’re not forgetting something important in the rush to get out the door.

Use this Day Hike Checklist every time you hit the trail to make rounding up your gear quick and easy.


DAY HIKing CHECKLIST

DOWNLOAD OUR PRINTABLE CHECKLIST

You won’t need all the items on this list for every trip, but it’s worth thinking through each of them as you gather your gear. Grab the basics first, then use the categories at the end to tailor your gear list to your specific needs.


TO DO

  • Call ranger station for trail conditions & regulations

  • Apply for any required permits

  • Check if trailhead requires a parking pass or cash/card for pay station

  • Check current weather

  • Charge electronics & check batteries

  • Study topo map/take photos of guidebook pages

  • Download GPS phone app & appropriate maps or GPS area

  • Download driving directions for offline use (we use maps.me)

  • Leave an itinerary with a friend & under your car seat

A hiker looking down from the summit of a mountain with their arms spread like a bird

Be prepared for changing weather conditions every time you go hiking in a remote area


ESSENTIALS


WATERPROOFING

Based on your pack choice, choose one or more of the following to keep your stuff dry:

TOOLS & ACCESSORIES

NAVIGATION EQUIPMENT

PACK

Choose one of the following to carry your gear:

CLOTHING

Some worn, some packed. Layer clothing based on season and weather conditions. For fabrics – think lightweight and quick-drying (no cotton).

A woman hiking in the desert in the HOKA Anacapa Boots

Good shoes and High-quality socks are absolutely essential for day hiking

PACK IN CAR

FOOD & WATER

A day hiker wearing a rain jacket on a waterfall hike

Carrying a rain jacket on every hike could save your life if you’re out longer than expected or conditions change


ADDITIONAL GEAR FOR SPECIFIC TRIPS


RAIN & SNOW

MOSQUITOS & TICKS

LONG HIKES / REMOTE LOCATIONS

GRIZZLY BEAR COUNTRY

A day hiker in Glacier National Park

Do some research pre-trip, so you can prepare to face mosquitos, snow, bears, etc.

PHOTOGRAPHY

Backup photos, clear storage, and clean lens.

DSLR or Point-and-Shoot

Smartphone

DOG

For the trail

Leave in car

Dogs need a few things to be comfortable on hikes too – check out our 14 Tips for Hiking with a Dog post to learn more


OVERNIGHT TRIPS

Prepping for a multi day adventure? We also have checklists for backpacking, camping, and winter camping.


We also have checklists for backpacking, camping, and winter camping

Day Hiking Tips

FINDING A BALANCE OF PACK WEIGHT & PREPAREDNESS – A lightweight backpack is far more comfortable to carry.  This will help you conserve energy so you can hike further and enjoy your time outdoors more. That said, we never advise skipping essentials like a map, rain jacket, and a basic first aid kit when venturing into the backcountry. Our hope is that this checklist will help you remember to take what you need to stay safe, but also help keep you on track so your load doesn’t get too heavy. Learn more about ways to reduce your pack weight here.

Carefully consider every item you put in your daypack to keep your load light & non-cumbersome

BACKPACKS – Most people use a daypack or hydration pack (comes with a bladder) for day trips since they have the perfect midsize gear capacity, they’re comfortable to carry, and they have plenty of convenient pockets to keep gear organized and easily accessible. Daypacks come in a variety of sizes, but we prefer those that have about 20-30L of gear capacity. Fanny packs are also a great option for small gear loads or for extra capacity in addition to a daypack.

A woman wearing the Osprey Tempest fanny pack on a day hike

THE OSPREY TALON (MEN’S) & TEMPEST (WOMEN’S) ARE COMFORTABLE FANNY PACKS WITH PLENTY OF STORAGE FOR A DAY HIKE

WHAT TO WEAR FOR HIKING – The clothing you wear and pack for a day hike will change slightly depending on the conditions you expect to encounter on specific trips, but the basics remain the same. Wear layers made with quick-drying fabrics so you can stay comfortable no matter the weather. Lightweight, breathable footwear and high-quality, non-cotton socks also make a huge difference in reducing fatigue and avoiding blisters. Get specific recommendations on the best down jackets, rain jackets, hiking pants, base layers, and more on our Gear Guide Homepage.

Learn more about what to wear hiking on our Backpacking & Hiking Clothing 101 blog post

More Information

If you enjoyed this post, you’ll probably like the CleverHiker Gear Guide as well. Here are some popular resources to check out.

A female hiker with a daypack walking down a path in the woods

We hope this guide & our printable checklist simplify packing for your next day hike!



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