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Hiking Essentials- Angels Landing- Zion National Park

Table of Contents

Are you planning a great day hike but not sure what hiking essentials you need to pack?

I’ve been there and it can feel overwhelming. That’s why I’ve created this comprehensive list of 75 hiking essentials that will equip you with everything you need to conquer the great outdoors.

Hiking Essentials- Angels Landing- Zion National Park
Zion National Park

Hiking adventures, especially in national parks, are exciting and offer a unique opportunity to connect with nature and forget about the 9-5 daily grind. It’s invaluable for your health not only to be out in nature and breathing in the fresh air but also to challenge your personal limits and build confidence.

So, lace up those boots, and let’s start packing these great hiking essentials.

Related: 5 Best Hiking Sandals For Women In 2023: All-Terrain Comfort

Posing in front of waterfall in Hawaii

What Do Beginner Hikers Need?

A checklist of the top ten essentials for any beginner or experienced hiker:

  • Backpack
  • Hiking Shoes (boots, trail runners, hiking sandals)
  • Proper Clothing (depends on weather- always choose moisture-wicking)
  • Food- high-carb portable snacks
  • Water- lots of it
  • Multi-tool and/or Knife
  • Emergency Supplies (medications, first aid kit)
  • Navigation (map, compass, downloaded offline trail map)
  • Sun Protection
  • Safety Essentials (whistle, light, fire)

75 Hiking Essentials for a Day or Extended Hike

1. Hiking Backpack

A sturdy and comfortable backpack will be your saving grace. It’s your trusty sidekick that is the number 1 most important hiking gear item you’ll need. It carries all your essentials and provides comfort on the trail. Basically, it’s your best friend.

Pictured: REI Co-op Ruckpack 18 Recycled Daypack
Great Sand Dunes National Park

2. Hiking Shoes or Trail Runners

Invest in a pair of reliable hiking shoes that provide ankle support and traction. This is the second most essential hiking gear purchase you’ll make. Trust me, I’ve spent several miles on tough hikes and many days in my favorite hiking boots and I still loved them afterward. That’s when you know you’ve landed on some amazing hiking footwear.

Woman taking a break at Zion National Park
Take a break before tackling Angel’s Landing- Zion National Park (Pictured: KEEN Women’s Voyageur Mid Height Breathable Hiking Boots)

3. Water Bottle or Hydration Reservoir

Hydration is key, so pack enough water bottles to keep you fueled and energized throughout the hike. The most important item on the day hiking essentials list is water. No matter if it’s a short hike, a long hike, or a cold weather hike, having easy access to water is crucial. Take special note of this, especially during demanding hikes in hot and dry environments.

It is recommended to bring a minimum of 0.5 liters of water per hour of hiking, and this should be doubled for strenuous hikes in high-temperature conditions. For hands-free hydration, a CamelBak is recommended, or a water bladder that fits seamlessly into your backpack. My favorite water bottle is this one because it keeps drinks cold all day even in the dead of summer.

4. Collapsible Water Container

For longer hikes with limited water sources, a collapsible container helps carry extra water. It will allow you to stay well-hydrated without adding significant weight to your backpack. Its collapsible nature saves space when not in use, making it an efficient and practical hydration reservoir for varying trail conditions.

5. Water Purification Tablets

Water purification tablets are crucial for hiking as they provide a lightweight and compact solution to ensure access to safe drinking water in the wilderness, preventing waterborne illnesses and offering a reliable source of hydration when natural water sources may be contaminated.

6. Collapsible Water Filter

A collapsible water filter is a lightweight and efficient way to purify water on the go.

7. Sunglasses

UV protection sunglasses enhance visibility and safeguard your eyes from glare. It also helps to keep dust and wind from drying out your eyes. Pick up a pair of inexpensive ones like these and add a sunglass holder so you don’t lose them on the trail.

RIVBOS Sunglasses for Men Women Polarized UV Protection Sports Fishing Driving Shades Cycling RB833

8. Hiking Socks

Invest in moisture-wicking, comfortable, seamless socks to prevent blisters and keep your feet happy. Don’t just settle on some regular everyday type of sock. Merino wool hiking socks should be considered essential gear and rank highest on your list of hiking investments.

It may seem silly to spend $20+ on one pair of wool socks but trust me, your feet and body will thank you. Among all the choices out there, the Smartwool brand is my absolute favorite because it comes in small sizes (I wear a size 6 shoe.) These socks are perfect for hiking, running, or even cuddling on the couch.

9. Extra Pair of Hiking Socks

As an extension of your essential hiking footwear, sometimes it’s nice to include an extra pair of wool hiking socks. This is great after spending all day hiking. It’s a refreshing reboot for a mid-hike when your feet are super sweaty.

10. Compression Socks

Compression socks are essential for hiking as they enhance blood circulation in the legs, reducing fatigue and muscle soreness during long treks. Additionally, they provide crucial support to the feet and ankles, minimizing the risk of injuries such as sprains.

11. Hiking Sock Liners

Hiking sock liners are necessary for preventing blisters and enhancing overall foot comfort by wicking away moisture and reducing friction. They serve as a lightweight, breathable barrier between the foot and the hiking sock, promoting a blister-free and enjoyable hiking experience.

Hiking Essentials Checklist

12. Snacks

Portable snacks like energy bars and trail mix keep your energy levels up during the trek. These foods need to be high in calories to help fuel your day hike. Hit the trail with extra portions in case you end up hiking a full day or add a long hike to your afternoon. Don’t be afraid to consume extra carbs when tackling long hikes.

13. Plastic Utensils

Plastic utensils are indispensable for hiking as they offer a lightweight and convenient solution for meal preparation and consumption on the trail. Their disposable nature minimizes the need for cleaning, reducing the environmental impact and simplifying the overall camping experience.

14. Energy Gels

Energy gels are vital for hikers as they provide a quick and easily digestible source of carbohydrates, boosting energy levels during strenuous portions of the hike. Their compact packaging makes them convenient to carry, ensuring a readily available energy boost when needed.

15. Electrolyte Tablets

Electrolyte tablets are especially necessary in warmer climates, as they help replenish essential minerals lost through sweating. Since you can’t hike with electrolyte-infused sports drinks, it’s best to carry these convenient tablets for replenishment. By maintaining proper electrolyte balance, these tablets prevent dehydration, muscle cramps, and fatigue, contributing to overall stamina and well-being on the trail.

16. Hiking Pants or Shorts

Choose weather-appropriate, moisture-wicking bottoms for your day hike. Proper hiking pants or shorts are crucial for providing comfort and flexibility on the trail. Designed with durable and breathable materials, they protect against abrasions, keep you cool in warmer weather, and often feature multiple pockets for convenient storage of essentials.

Depending on the situation, sometimes a thick pair of leggings (like these high-waist leggings by 90 Degrees) are just what you need. Or, for cold weather hikes, these fleece-lined winter pants for men are my husband’s favorite. For me, my all-time favorite ones to slip over my leggings are these fleece-lined winter cargo pants for women. I wear them over top of leggings which provide warmth and versatility.

Marymere Falls
Marymere Falls Hike (Pictured: Fleece Slim Cargo Snow Ski Hiking Pants (WOMEN))

17. Hiking Hat with Neck Protection

A wide-brimmed hat or a baseball cap shields your face from the sun and keeps you cool. It also helps to protect your scalp and neck from getting sunburned. In addition, keep the hair out of your face and mouth if it’s windy. I always bring a hat on all-day hikes and it’s usually a souvenir from a favorite national park.

18. Rain Jacket

Hiking in the rain is inevitable. Stay ahead of unexpected weather changes with a lightweight, waterproof rain shell. Make sure the jacket is breathable and waterproof, not just water-resistant. A packable lightweight rain jacket will be a lifesaver when dealing with the consistent daily drizzle of Olympic National Park or spending the day exploring Seattle.

19. Rain Cover for Backpack

A rain cover for your backpack is useful when hiking because it protects your gear, clothing, and equipment from unexpected rain. Try something like this waterproof rain cover for your backpack. Be sure to choose one that fits the size of your backpack.

20. Extra Clothing Layers

Pack extra layers to adjust to temperature changes throughout the day. This is essential for adapting to changing weather conditions during a hike. As temperatures fluctuate throughout the day, having additional layers allows you to stay warm in cooler moments and easily regulate your body temperature, ensuring a comfortable and enjoyable hiking experience.

21. Gaiters

Gaiters serve as a protective barrier, preventing debris, snow, and water from entering your boots. Especially beneficial in challenging terrains, gaiters keep your lower legs dry and shielded, enhancing overall comfort and minimizing the risk of discomfort or injury during the hike.

22. Gloves

Protect your hands from cold, rough surfaces or unexpected weather conditions. Gloves are indispensable for hand protection during hiking, particularly in colder weather when temperatures drop or in rough terrains. They guard against abrasions, provide insulation in chilly weather, and offer a better grip on equipment and surfaces, ensuring your hands remain functional and comfortable throughout the journey.

23. Trekking Poles

Trekking poles are essential for hikers as they contribute to stability and balance, especially during ascents and descents. By reducing strain on your knees and improving overall posture, trekking poles enhance endurance, prevent fatigue, and decrease the risk of injuries, making them a valuable asset for any hiking adventure.

Man Trekking Aline

24. Map and Compass

These timeless navigation tools are your fail-safe guides, helping you stay on the right path. I know it may seem like overkill especially if you’re just going out for a day hike. However, a simple paper map from the national park entrance or visitor center can be your saving grace. Sometimes, hiking trails can get confusing or may not be marked properly. Getting lost with no cell service would not make for a happy hiking trip.

25. Map Case

Keep your maps dry and readable with a waterproof map case. This can be something as simple as a Ziploc bag.

26. First Aid Kit

A compact first aid kit comes in handy for minor injuries, ensuring you’re prepared. Expect the unexpected. Taking a class to gain knowledge about first aid and how to use a first aid kit or how to administer CPR can also be super helpful.

27. Repair Tape:

Quickly repair gear or clothing with durable, weather-resistant repair tape.

28. Knee Brace

For hikers with knee issues, a knee brace provides support and reduces strain.

29. Duct Tape

Duct tape is the handyman’s (and a hiker’s) secret weapon for quick fixes on the trail. Don’t bring an entire roll or anything. Just enough to get you by should the need arise.

30. Hand Sanitizer

Maintain hygiene on the trail with a pocket-sized hand sanitizer. It’ll provide a quick and convenient way to disinfect hands after restroom breaks or handling trailside items like snacks or a first aid kit. It helps prevent the spread of germs, ensuring a clean and safe environment during the hike.

31. Wet Wipes

Stay fresh on the trail with biodegradable wet wipes for quick clean-ups. Wet wipes are indispensable for maintaining personal hygiene on the trail. Offering a refreshing and efficient way to clean hands, face, and body, they provide a quick solution for staying fresh and comfortable, especially when access to water is limited.

32. Headlamp or Flashlight

When the trail gets dim, a reliable light source will add comfort and ensure you can navigate safely. Even for day hikes, it’s a good idea to throw a headlamp or a flashlight in your day pack just in case dusk comes sooner than expected. Pay attention to where you are on the hike. Even though the sun is technically still high in the sky, hiking in the mountains affects how much sun you actually get.

33. Multi-tool or Swiss Army Knife

A versatile tool or knife is essential for various tasks, especially if there’s an emergency. Invest in a multi-tool or Swiss Army Knife that is compact. It’ll prove to be invaluable in various situations during hiking. From cutting rope to fixing gear, its multiple functions make it an essential tool for handling unforeseen challenges and ensuring you’re well-equipped for a range of tasks on the trail.

34. Compact Trowel

A compact trowel is useful for digging a cat hole when nature calls. This is especially important to not contaminate freshwater sources. The protocol for burying human waste properly is to go at least 200 feet off trail and to dig a cathole 6-8 inches deep and 5 inches wide at a minimum.

35. Toilet Paper

When nature calls, you gotta go! Pack a small Ziploc bag of clean eco-friendly toilet paper. Also, pack another garbage bag to place the dirty toilet paper in. Respect nature and leave no trace behind.

36. Compact Binoculars

Enhance your nature-watching experience with a pair of lightweight binoculars. It allows you to appreciate the details of your surroundings, from wildlife to scenic views. Binoculars bring a little more excitement to the outdoors. You can even incorporate a game of eye-spy throughout your day hike.

37. Whistle

A safety whistle is a compact, loud signaling device in case you need to attract attention. It’s one of the best and cheapest hiking gear items you can invest in for survival.

38. Sunscreen

Protect your skin from the sun’s rays with a high-SPF sunscreen to avoid sunburn. Regardless of the temperatures, weather, cloud coverage, or season, extra sun protection is essential day hiking gear.

39. Bug Spray

Keep pesky bugs at bay with a reliable insect repellent for a comfortable hike. The wilderness can get pretty buggy and come out of seemingly nowhere. Be prepared so you don’t get eaten alive. A travel-size insect repellent spray or cream will be plenty for a day hike.

40. Emergency Shelter

Depending on how long your hike is, a compact emergency shelter can be a critical component of your safety gear kit. From unexpected weather changes to emergencies, it can provide protection when you need it most. Be sure that it is lightweight and easy to set up. This crucial refuge will shield you from rain, wind, or extreme temperatures and ensure your safety in unpredictable outdoor conditions.

41. Emergency Blanket

Stay warm in unexpected situations with a compact, reflective emergency blanket.

42. Fire Starter Emergency Kit

A reliable fire starter is a must for emergencies and warmth in unexpected situations. Plus, they are usually small enough to just keep in your backpack no matter how long you plan to hike. Check out this cool all-in-one fire starter emergency kit.

Outdoor Fireplace during Nighttime

43. Personal Locator Beacon

In remote areas, a personal locator beacon can be a literal lifesaver in emergencies.

44. Solar Charger

Charge your devices using renewable energy with a portable solar charger.

45. Cell Phone

Capture memories and navigate with the help of your cell phone. Just be sure it’s fully charged before you hit the trail.

46. Power Bank

Ensure your devices stay charged with a portable power bank for longer hikes. This extra battery life is a must for all travel situations.

47. Portable Bluetooth Speaker

Enjoying the sights and sounds of nature is what makes a day hike therapeutic. If you must, you can bring a portable Bluetooth speaker. Although, the hiking community does not encourage it and neither do I. The extra weight and excess noise are not what I would add to a day hiking essentials list. But, to each their own.

48. Photography Equipment

Love taking beautiful photos and want to really enhance your hiking experience? Bring along lightweight photography equipment to capture and immortalize the breathtaking landscapes and memorable moments along the trail.

Hoh Rainforest

49. Emergency Contact Information

Carry a list of emergency contacts and relevant medical information. If something happens, you will want other passersby to be able to make contact with your friends or family.

50. Identification

Carry a form of identification in case of emergencies or unexpected situations.

51. Ziploc Bags

Waterproof your essentials by storing them in Ziploc bags within your backpack.

52. Garbage Bags

Leave no trace by carrying out your waste in sturdy, compact garbage bags. Always respect Mother Nature.

53. Compact Towel

A small, quick-drying towel is useful for wiping sweat, drying off from playing in a waterfall or stream and even using it as a small picnic blanket to lay food on. My favorite travel item is this amazing microfiber travel towel by Wise Owl from Amazon. It is so versatile, super lightweight, and dries fast.

54. Biodegradable Soap

Stay eco-friendly with biodegradable soap. By using soap that breaks down naturally, you can wash up at water sources along the trail, maintaining personal hygiene while minimizing your ecological impact. It’s a win, win.

55. Watch

Keep track of time and pace your hike with a reliable, water-resistant watch. Having a resource like an Apple Watch that tracks your heart rate, calorie burn, distance, and elevation helps to boost confidence and motivation on the trail.

Apple Watch Series 9 [GPS + Cellular 41mm]

56. Repair Kit

Carry a mini repair kit for on-the-go fixes to gear or equipment.

57. Trail Guidebook

A trail guidebook is a lovely companion, offering valuable insights into the terrain, flora, and fauna, enhancing your understanding and appreciation of the hike. Providing essential information on landmarks, difficulty levels, and points of interest, it acts as a knowledgeable guide, contributing to a more informed and enjoyable hiking experience.

58. Trail Marking Tape

Trail marking tape is a practical tool for hikers to navigate unfamiliar routes, ensuring you stay on the right path. By using brightly colored tape to mark key points, intersections, or hazards, you enhance your trail awareness, reduce the risk of getting lost, and contribute to the safety of both yourself and fellow hikers.

59. Portable Water Purification System

While water bottles are commonly included in hiking essentials, a portable water filtration system is often overlooked. This compact device allows hikers to safely and conveniently purify water from natural sources, providing a continuous supply of clean drinking water during the journey.

60. Compact Lightweight Hammock

A compact, lightweight hammock is an unexpected addition to the essentials list, offering a comfortable and elevated resting spot during breaks or at camp. Easy to set up between trees, it provides a cozy and relaxing way to enjoy the surroundings, making it a unique yet valuable item if you want to chill out on the trail.

Tourist hammock hanging between old trees

61. Solar-Powered Lantern

While flashlights are commonly included, a solar-powered lantern is a sustainable and often overlooked lighting solution. Harnessing solar energy during the day, provides a reliable and eco-friendly source of light at night, enhancing visibility around the campsite and reducing the need for disposable batteries.

62. Multi-day Permit (if applicable)

Some of the most incredible hikes are in remote areas where you’re only allowed to venture into if you have a permit. These usually require a lottery process. A multi-day permit is also a necessity for hikers embarking on extended journeys, ensuring compliance with regulations and allowing access to specific trails or protected areas.

63. Lightweight Sleeping Bag (if applicable)

For overnight hikes, a compact sleeping bag keeps you warm without adding bulk.

64. Compression Sack for Sleeping Bag (if applicable)

A compression sack specifically designed for your sleeping bag is a space-saving gem. By compressing it, you optimize backpack space, making room for other essentials while keeping your gear protected and easy to carry.

65. Sleeping Pad (if applicable)

Enhance your sleeping comfort with a lightweight, compact sleeping pad.

66. Emergency Food Rations (if applicable)

For unexpected delays or emergencies, pack compact emergency food rations.

Donte in front of fire pit

67. Camp Stove (if applicable)

For hot meals on longer hikes, a compact camp stove is a game-changer.

68. Fire-Resistant Gloves (if applicable)

For handling hot cookware or fire-related activities, wear fire-resistant gloves.

69. Cooking Utensils (if applicable)

Pack lightweight cooking utensils for preparing meals on the trail.

70. Collapsible Silicone Bowl and Mug Set (if applicable)

A collapsible silicone bowl and mug set is a space-saving addition that proves handy for enjoying meals and hot beverages on the trail.

food with coffee cup and sunset

71. Ice Traction Cleats (if applicable)

If planning to be out in cold weather, traction cleats provide added grip in snowy or icy trail conditions.

72. Bear Canister (if applicable)

In bear-prone areas, a bear canister is essential for storing food and scented items.

73. Bear Spray (if applicable)

In bear country, carry bear spray as a precautionary measure for encounters.

74. Lightweight Camp Chair (if applicable)

Rest your weary legs with a compact, lightweight camp chair for breaks.

75. Positive Attitude

Lastly, a positive attitude can turn challenges into confidence-building triumphs on the hiking trail. Remember, being outdoors and in nature is supposed to be fun and relaxing. Embrace every moment.

Final Thoughts: What to Bring on a Day Hike

Remember, the key to a successful and enjoyable hike lies in careful planning, respect for nature, and being equipped with the right tools. Gear up, stay safe, be aware of your surroundings, and embrace the wonders of the great outdoors on your next hiking expedition.

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