While hiking gear can change from trail to trail, and from season to season, the following items will serve you well on every hike. They are a fleshing out of The Ten Essentials (the absolute bare minimum you should pack for every hike). This hiking gear list focuses on day-hiking.
Quick Tip: I used to leave one thing behind pretty regularly. So I started using my phone’s notes app to keep track of what I need to pack. I have the following hiking checklists in a single note so I can quickly tap off items. It’s a great way to make sure I’ve packed everything I need.
I keep most of these items in easily-accessible pockets and pouches, so I don’t have to take off my backpack to reach them. I keep my water close, and my candy closer.
- Water (2.5 liter reservoir, full)
- Frozen Gatorade (summer)
- Sandwich / Apple
- Chocolate / Candy
- Napkins, Alcohol Swabs, Toothpicks (these little things make a big difference)
Standard Hiking Gear
These items are packed down low, or in side pockets. This is the stuff I need infrequently, rarely, and maybe never.
- Printed Map, Compass, Pen
- Reading Glasses
- Headlamp, Flashlight, Spare Batteries
- Bug Spray, Face Towel, Tissues
- First Aid Kit, Benadryl, Aspirin, Tick Twister
- Swiss Army Knife, Multitool
- Zip Ties, Duct Tape
- Lighter, Fire Starter, Matches
- LifeStraw, Aqua-Tabs
- Emergency Protein Bar & Candy
- Rain Gear, Spare Socks, Spare Hat
- Hand Warmers, Thermal Blankets, Bivy Sack
- One Large/Small Carabiner
- 40′ of 1″ webbing (working load 300lbs)
- 48′ of 550lb Type III Nylon Paracord
- Multiple Small & Large Plastic Bags
- Aluminum Trowel / Toilet Paper
I carry an old Canon EOS T1i (500D) with two lenses. Photography-wise, my iPhone XR does most of the heavy lifting — but I love having a long lens, and I sometimes use a wide-angle lens for landscapes. It’s not the most compact set-up, but I got a great deal on the Canon body so it’s just how I roll.
- Camera & Lenses
- Extra Batteries
- Monopod (for low light/small aperture shots)
Fully loaded with food, kit and water, my backpack weighs about 20 lbs (9 kilos). Some people prefer lighter, around 15 lbs. Some hikers have pared down their backpack to a magical-sounding 10 lbs. In which case, I have questions. On the other hand, I tend to over-prepare and over-pack. But I don’t mind carrying a little too much — what doesn’t kill me, makes me stronger.
- Garmin Watch
- Plastic Whistle
- Bear Spray (sometimes)
Okay, those are my regular hiking checklists. Now…
Always check the weather forecast for the trail you’ll be hiking — and make sure you are fully prepared for sudden changes in weather.
More Hiking Checklists
I have several additional lists in my note, but they’re for specific situations beyond the typical Catskill day-hike.
- I’ve written about my Winter Hiking Kit.
- I put together a Camping Checklist for my first overnight camp, based on a ton of research. It was so helpful, and I think it might be useful for other camping noobs.
- I also have a Trail Maintenance Checklist so I don’t forget the few extra tools I need for doing my trail work.
- I made yet another list for my first hike in the Adirondacks this summer, because the length of that hike meant some tweaks geared to the extra time and extra wear-and-tear…
Final Door Check
With everything in my pack, I’m still not done. After all that, the number of times I still forgot something basic! Now, I stand inside my front door and check off…
- Phone, Wallet, Shades — yup!
- Hiking Poles — sometimes, I just bring one
- Gaiters — can’t recommend them enough
- Ice Box with 1 Cold Soda — a fantastic post-hike treat in the warmer months
- Shoe/Sock Change — another absolutely brilliant post-hike hack