This post contains affiliate links.

Whether you’re a seasoned hiker or a first-timer, we can all find new trails to discover and delight in in our own home states.

With our new #HikeYourHomeState series highlighting the best hikes in all 50 US states, choosing the next one to cross off your bucket list will be difficult, but there’s no reason why packing for it should be! 

Every hike is different and so is every season, but there are always some essentials you can rely on in you basic day hike packing list. These are the 13 things I never hit the trail without!



1. Sunscreen

Even if you’re the queen of packing sunscreen and never putting it on like me, it’s still a day hike essential, especially if you’re hiking at high altitude. Remember you can get burnt even in the winter or on cloudy days too! I was born and raised in a family of redheads so I’ll use SPF 100 ’til my dying day. 



2. Sunglasses

I can’t believe I lived the first 25 years of my life without sunglasses, because now it’s drives me crazy to go outside without them!

Not only is hiking in sunglasses more comfortable, they also protect your eyes from sun damage. If you already wear them, don’t forget them, and if you don’t, it’s time to start.



3. Hand Sanitizer

I have a serious problem in that I must pat every stray dog or cat that I cross paths with. Because of that, adding hand sanitizer to my essential day hike packing list is always a must.

If you don’t feel the same compulsion I do, it’s still useful for riding buses or public transport to and from the trail and cleaning your hands before eating. 



4. Toilet Paper / Napkins / Paper Towels / Hand Wipes

I eat a lot of Cheetos and Doritos so something to clean my hands with on a hike is always a must. Yet, this is probably the item that I forget to pack the most on my day hikes.

If you bring it, you won’t need it, and if you forget you’ll always find yourself in a situation where you regret it. Such is life.



5. Water Bottle(s) 

It depends on how long and hard your hike is, but I bring two water bottles at least half of the time and probably more often than that.

Water is the one thing you never, ever want to run out of. Plus there are so many interesting water bottles on the market today I love an excuse to buy more than one! 



6. Snacks and a Packed Lunch

More snacks = more happiness on the trail, it’s as simple as that! I try to bring some healthy fruits and foods with protein (peanut butter crackers are a personal fav) but I’ll never turn down gummy bears or Cheetos either. 


7. Cash Monayy

This one comes from years of experience hiking in foreign countries where using a credit or debit card is unheard of once you leave the city limits.

They’re much more widespread in the US but I really believe having just $10 or $20 in your bag in cash is always a good idea – just in case. 



8. Extra Layers and Cold Weather Apparel

This one depends on the hike and the season, but it’s something to keep in mind even when you’re packing for a day hike. How much elevation change will there be? What are the chances of rain?

I almost always pack an extra jacket or cardigan to be safe, and if you’re in the mountains you should seriously consider a hat, gloves, and scarf as well even if you think you won’t need it.


9. Phone 

I know the odds of you not packing this are basically zero, but I’m adding it to keep this day hike packing list thorough.

Make sure it’s fully charged before you set out, and remember to download music to it and an offline map of your destination if you think you may lose service during your drive or hike. 



10. Portable Charging Block 

Being out of range can kill your battery fast if you forget to put your phone in airplane mode to keep it from searching for a signal. I always bring a portable charging block if:

  • It’s a long drive and I know I’ll use a lot of power streaming my fav travel playlists
  • It’s a long walk and I know I’ll use a lot of power on GPS
  • Or if it’s a beautiful hike and I know I’ll kill my battery taking photo and video 



11. Camera

This is entirely optional.

I photograph everything with my iPhone 8+ (although I really do want to upgrade) but Dan usually brings his Canon Camera along for the ride.

If you’re into photography, the #HikeYourHomeState challenge will take you to the most beautiful natural places in your state!



12. Hiking Boots

I used to wear the Timberland Flume Boots until they got discontinued (RIP) and now I hike in the Timberland White Ledge Boots.

There aren’t a ton of great hiking boots out there for women and I think Timberland has the best quality and most aesthetically pleasing pair (I’ll be dead before I wear a pair of Merrell boots).

Men have more options on the market because the outdoors industry is still kind of sexist but Dan uses and loves Timberlands as well. 



13. Osprey Day Pack

Ok, you know exactly what to include on your day hike packing list, but what should you pack it in?? I wholeheartedly use, love, and swear by Osprey bags.

I have the Osprey Farpoint 55, which comes with a large overnight /backpacking bag (the size of a carry-on) and a small zip-on day pack that you can use for day hikes.

I’ve been living out my large Osprey bag for years now as a digital nomad and have taken the small day pack on hikes around the world – it’s never served me wrong yet. Osprey is pricey but comes with a lifetime guarantee and I promise you won’t regret it. 


Ready to hit the trails?

There’s no need to go abroad when you can find adventure in your own backyard! Plan a day trip to the top trails near you with the #HikeYourHomeState series, or browse Airbnbs for a spontaneous weekend away to explore a new corner of your old stomping grounds!


 Like it? Pin it!

day hike packing list Pinterest pin


Did you know every time you read an article on Slight North, you're also planting trees in the Andes? Start here to learn more about our mission and how to get the most out of the site!


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *