Day Hiking Essentials & the Amazing Things You’re Forgetting to Pack for a Hike

Deciding what to pack for a hike can be a daunting experience, especially for beginner hikers trying to compile a day hike essential packing list for the very first time, so we’ve done the hard work for you. This packing guide contains the most inclusive day hiking essentials you will ever need, including the famous 10 essentials for hiking list (first compiled way back in the 1930s) as well as 14 unique items you likely don’t know about or are forgetting to pack for a hike. We’ve also included detailed info on what to wear on a hike, what food to bring on a hike, what to pack for a rainy day hike, what to pack for a winter hike, extra luxury items to pack for a hike, tools to bring on a hike, what to bring on a hike to make your photos and videos look amazing, and tips for beginner hikers.

Note: This post contains Amazon affiliate links. If you choose to purchase one of the products listed below, I may earn a small commission for qualifying purchases.

What to Pack for a Day Hike

What to Pack for a Hike

In this guide to the essentials of day hiking, you can expect to find both a quick-reference and detailed packing list reviewing all the items any beginner hiker might need on any type of trip or trail, including:

Table of Contents

  • Day Hike Packing List – Quick Reference List
  • The 10 Essentials of Hiking
  • Clothing Essentials – What to Wear While Hiking
  • Electronic Devices and Accessories to Bring on a Day Hike
  • Tools to Bring on a Day Hike
  • Best Day Hiking Essentials to Have Ready and Waiting in your Car
  • What to Pack for a Hike to Make your Photos 10x Better
  • What to Pack for a Hike During Winter
  • What to Pack for a Rainy Day Hike
  • Luxury Hiking Items to Pack for a Day Hike
  • Day Hike Essential Tips for Beginner Hikers
  • Beginner Day Hike Essential Things to Remember (That Could Save Your Life)
  • 14 Amazing Unique Things You’re Forgetting to Pack for a Hike

Quick Reference Day Hiking Essential Packing List

Day Hiking Essentials Checklist for What to Pack for a Hike and What to Pack in Your Daypack - this is an image graphic hiking packing list containing the 10 essentials for hiking

This is just a quick list of some important items (you’ll find a more detailed guide on what to bring hiking below).

Sturdy but Comfortable Backpack or Daypack

The first, most obvious thing you’ll need to pack for a hike is a good, sturdy backpack or daypack. We’ll talk more later about how to choose the best daypack that’s right for you, but for now we’ll focus on what to pack inside it. Most importantly, you’re going to want to pack only what you can carry. So it’s best to stick with only the essentials. And be aware that what feels light right now might not feel light after 3 miles into your hike. So pack as light as possible.

These are the day hiking essentials you’ll want to pack in your daypack:

Essential Clothes to Bring Hiking

  • Comfy clothes with lots of pockets / moisture-wicking clothes
  • Comfy and sturdy waterproof shoes or boots (details below)
  • Moisture-wicking socks / waterproof socks
  • Extra change of clothes (in case you get muddy or wet or cold)
  • Compact and Folded Emergency Poncho
  • Optional Fanny Pack or Travel Belt
  • Optional gloves (for winter or climbing)
  • Optional winter jacket
  • Optional thermal wear
  • Optional raincoat and rainboots
  • Optional Heat-Generating Hand Warmers

Essential Hydration to Pack for a Hike

  • Bottled water (+ extra water!)
  • Oral rehydration solutions and electrolyte drinks
  • Reusable, Collapsible water bottle (optional)
  • Just-add-water electrolyte drops
  • Life Straw (optional)
  • Water purification tablets (optional)

Essential Food and Nutrition for Hiking

  • Protein bars
  • emergency calorie bars
  • Optional Lunch

Sun Protection Essentials for Day Hiking

First Aid Essentials for Day Hikes

  • First Aid Kit
  • Extra Tylenol, Antacids, and Benadryl
  • Insect Repellant
  • Optional Liquid Bandaid (like these here)
  • Hand Sanitizer
  • Any personal medications you require (plus extra)

Navigation Essentials to Pack for a Day Hike

  • Physical map (free from state and national parks!)
  • GPS device
  • Optional hiking apps for android or iphone
  • Compass
  • Optional Altimeter Watch
  • Optional PLB or Satellite Messenger

Illumination Essentials to Bring on a Day Hike

  • Headlamp (for hands-free lighting)
  • Emergency flashlight with extra batteries (don’t just rely on your phone’s flashlight)
  • Battery-free flashlight (these do not get very bright though and should only be packed in addition to a regular flashlight or headlamp)

Fire Starter Essentials for Day Hiking

  • Matches
  • Lighter
  • Dry Tinder
  • Optional portable mini-stove

Emergency Shelter Essentials for Hiking

  • Compact, Emergency Space Blanket or Bivvy (No, this is not the same as a blanket you’d have in your house; it’s ultralight and, when folded, is barely larger than the size of your hand. More details below.)

Essential Tools and Resources for Hiking

  • Pocket Knife
  • Gear repair kit (duct tape, cord, safety pins, super glue or fabric glue)
  • Toilet Paper or toilet paper tablets
  • Phone (for camera, GPS, and hiking apps)
  • Power bank (for recharging phone without electricity)
  • Paracord bracelet with emergency whistle, knife, flint, and bottle opener
  • Optional GPS Hiking Watch / FitBit or Exercise Watch / Health Tracking Watch
  • Optional Trekking Pole or Hiking Stick
  • Optional Bear Spray (when in bear country)

What are the 10 Essentials for Hiking?

If you’re a beginner hiker, you may have heard mention of a universal list of 10 hiking essentials and are wondering what that is and where it came from. The original Ten Essentials list was first created in the 1930s by a Seattle-based organization for outdoor adventurers–The Mountaineers–in order to help hikers be prepared for any emergency they might face on the trails. It consisted of 10 very specific items: a compass, map, headlamp/flashlight, knife, fire starter, matches, sunglasses and sunscreen, first aid supplies, extra clothing, and extra food.

Over the years, the list evolved to fully encompass ten broader categories of safety essentials, but the items included in these categories are still largely the same as they were almost a hundred years ago. Today, the 10 hiking essentials list consists of: Extra Clothes, Extra Food, Extra Water, Sun Protection, Shelter, First Aid, Navigation, Head Lamp, Fire Starter, and Knife / Tools. We already briefly mentioned these categories in our day hiking packing list up above, but we’ll go into a little more detail about why they are so important to the safety of all hikers and how you can make sure you’re safely following the guidelines.

These are the 10 Essentials for Hiking:

  1. Extra Clothes – If you’re lost, injured, or for whatever reason have to unexpectedly spend overnight on the trail, an extra set of clothes and layers can help keep you warm when the sun goes down. They will also keep you dry if you unexpectedly get muddy or wet. And staying dry often makes a big difference in between staying safe….or not. It’s good to always have a set of thermal underwear packed in your hiking bag for such emergency situations. Moisture wicking shirts are also great for keeping you dry. These fabrics are designed to transport moisture to the outer, surface layers of your clothing’s fabric (through a process called capillary action) so that it can easily evaporate into the air.
  2. Emergency Shelter – If you have to have an emergency overnight stay, this hiking essential can also help keep you warm, dry, and safe. Emergency blankets typically only weigh a few ounces and come sealed in a compact package that is barely larger than your hand, so this is an easy addition to your daypack that won’t use up very much space or add much weight to your pack at all. They are also super cheap! You can find them online here.
  3. Extra Water – Hydration is perhaps the most important of all the day hiking essentials. The rule is to bring one half liter per anticipated hour of hike during moderate temperatures or activity. In extreme heat, high altitudes, or during extra strenuous hikes, double that amount. You should also make sure that you have some way to purify water if you run out in an emergency and have to find your own source. Water purification tablets like these ones for hikers here are one easy and affordable way to be prepared for that. A Life Straw is another very popular option that many travelers bring on a day hike. Alternatively, you can boil any water that you find, but you will need to pack a mini, portable hiking stove in order to do that. A collapsible water bottle like this Hydaway collapsible water bottle is another great item to pack for a hike because it is compact and doesn’t take up much space until you have a reason to use it. Keep it stored in your backpack at all times, and then you’ll have it ready whenever you need it. In high heat conditions or any condition that might cause you to sweat a lot, it’s also important that you maintain your electrolyte levels. When you sweat, you lose potassium, sodium, and other electrolytes, and if you replenish your fluids in these instances by only drinking water, you can quickly cause your electrolyte balance to become all out of whack. And that is no joke. A potassium level that drops too low can eventually cause your heart to stop beating (I’ve personally been hospitalized for weeks on a heart monitor for a potassium level that dropped dangerously low, so boy-oh-boy could I tell you some stories about this). So if you anticipate hiking in extreme heat weather conditions, I strongly encourage you to either pack an oral rehydration solution (such as Pedialyte) or–even better–pack some electrolyte drops that you can add directly to your bottled water to ensure that you are getting enough potassium, sodium, magnesium, and calcium (all essential electrolytes) while you sweat them out. I also really like Liquid IV.
  4. Extra Food – For emergency food situations, I recommend protein bars–because they are densely packed with proteins, carbs, and vitamins all in a small, bite-sized snack–as well as emergency high-calorie bars that are specifically designed for just giving you calories (aka energy fuel) so that your body can continue to function as it should. I also really like Survival Tabs because they have a shelf-life of 25 years before they go bad, are gluten free, and contain the optimal proportions of carbs, fats, proteins, and vitamins all condensed into a lightweight, tiny pill-sized tab. They also come in multiple flavors like chocolate, strawberry, vanilla, and butterscotch. If you have access to any military MREs, these are great to pack for a hike as well. Like water, food is one of the most important day hiking essentials.
  5. Headlamp – A headlamp is the best illumination device to pack for a hike because it allows you to keep your hands free to use for other important things, but packing a flashlight is a good idea, too. Just don’t forget to pack extra batteries. I also like to take a battery-free, wind-up flashlight with me on a day hike, but these don’t ever seem to shine quite as bright as battery-operated flashlights, so while I love them, they’re best to pack as a second, backup flashlight option in addition to a normal, battery-powered flashlight (or if you already have a headlamp packed, you can go ahead and forget the battery-powered flashlight and bring the wind-up flashlight). You can find wind-up flashlights online here.
  6. Fire Starter – Nowadays people carry lighters with them more often than matches, but matches are still great, too as long as they are waterproof, and as long as you have some form of dry tinder to set on fire. Some survivor’s bracelets come with flint and tinder stored hidden inside them (often along with a whistle, compass, and mini knife / bottle opener), but you can bring anything from home (preferably in a waterproof container or bag) to use. Dryer lint makes an excellent fire starter to bring on a day hike. It doesn’t matter so much what you bring as long as you bring something because the ability to make fire is one of the vital hiking essentials. I love this fire starter necklace because it contains waterproof tinder inside the cord, and the pendant is made up of a long ferro rod and ferrocerium scraper that make a really big spark. I also love how I feel like a badass wearing it. My boyfriend is a smoker, so he just sticks with his everyday lighter.
  7. Sunscreen and Sunglasses – This one is mostly self-explanatory, yet so many people tend to overestimate the length of time they’re able to stay in the sun before burning. Even on the cloudiest of days, the sun’s harmful rays are reaching your skin. You might not feel the heat or see the sun, but it’s burning you, and later when you go inside, you’ll suddenly redden like a lobster. Please don’t let this be you. On a hiking trail, the sun is even more dangerous, so pack high SPF sunscreen (100 SPF is necessary if you’re fair-skinned like me. If you’ve got more melanin, SPF 30 is probably fine.), and wear it even if it’s cloudy and you find yourself thinking, “Nahhh–I don’t burn.” Sunglasses that block 100% of UVA and UVB light are also important for protecting your eyes from damaging ultraviolet radiation, especially if you’ll be hiking over snow and ice where the sun reflects directly into your eyes from the ground. Don’t skip these important day hiking essentials!
  8. Navigation Essentials for Hiking – This consists of anything that can be used to help you find your way or–more importantly–help you find your way back if you happen to get lost or accidentally wander off a trail. A compass, map, GPS, altimeter, personal locator beacon, and satellite messenger are all included on this list. If you want to stay hands-free, you can even opt for something like this rugged outdoor watch from Garmin that comes with built-in GPS, heart monitoring, stress monitoring, activity tracking, a 3-axis compass, and barometric altimeter. It also has a convenient trackback feature that enables you to retrace your original steps to navigate the same route backwards to your initial starting point.
  9. First Aid – Always bring a first aid kit with you in case of emergencies. I also like to bring an extra amount of Tylenol, antacids, and Benadryl (and whatever personal medications I might be needing at the time). Insect repellant is a must when you’re hiking through the wilderness, and hand sanitizer is useful to have as well. My boyfriend always brings liquid bandaids with him because he prefers them over regular bandaids when he gets small cuts. The liquid is applied to the cut or scrape, where it dries and hardens to create a protective film to keep out germs and debris from the wound.
  10. Knife & Tools – Always carry a knife on you when you are hiking! You never know when you will need it. You might need it to cut away shrubbery, build a fire, prepare food, self defense, or even to help fix broken gear. It comes in handy for so many different things, so there really is no excuse not to have one. We also carry paracord on us at all times because you also never know when you might need some rope in an emergency. My boyfriend and I own matching paracord bracelets that also come with a fire starter, whistle, and compass. (Note: the compasses in these types of bracelets are typically cheap, low quality ones, so I wouldn’t rely on them for accuracy if you decide to buy one of these types of bracelets. But having the paracord is still really nice, and we love them!) You can find paracord bracelets online here.

Do I absolutely have to take everything that’s on this universal ten essentials of hiking list?

Well…no, not necessarily. On one hand, the point of this packing list IS indeed to bring above and beyond what you think you’ll need. No one ever plans to get lost and stranded in the wilderness for days waiting for rescuers, so if you only carry these emergency items on you when you think you’ll actually need them, that will do you no good at all and actually defeats the purpose of this list entirely. But on the other hand, there are some instances when you might not actually need every single one of these ten hiking essentials. If you’re hiking an easy, short, well-marked, and well-trafficked trail where you’re almost guaranteed to pass by dozens of other hikers, it’s almost impossible to go unnoticed if you get injured on the trail. Some trails are even so popular that they’re paved, and you’re bumping shoulders with other hikers like sardines in a can. Survival gear might be less imperative on beginner hikes such as these as opposed to more strenuous or remote hikes where you’re trekking through the rugged wilderness without encountering any other hiking groups for long stretches of time. Use your own discretion when packing your day pack and excluding items from your list. But never ever EVER skimp on the water.

Read Next: The Best Coastal Walks and Hikes in Cinque Terre Italy

What to Wear While Hiking

What you wear while hiking is just as important as all the the day hiking essentials that you pack in your daypack. I prefer comfortable clothes with lots of pockets. The last thing you want is to be uncomfortable on your hike, so make sure your hiking clothes are loose and/or don’t restrict any of your movements.

Moisture-wicking fabrics make the best hiking clothes because they keep you dry in the hot humidity, and they keep your sweat from soaking through your clothes, which could easily make your clothing feel uncomfortable and heavy.

You can save money by buying a bulk 5-pack size, assorted color bundle of men’s moisture wicking shirts that come in a variety of different cuts and styles.

There’s a similar 5-pack bundle for women here. The price for the 5 is typically around the same as what you would pay if you bought just 2 shirts by themselves. But if you’d prefer just a single shirt, I really like the cut and style of this one. (It’s advertised as a Yoga shirt, but it is moisture wicking and is very comfortable for hiking.)

For women’s hiking pants, these are my favorite. The fabric is moisture-wicking, and the pants have 5 total pockets with full closures so that your stuff can’t fall out.

For men, these water resistant, tactical cargo pants found here are a great option. Of course, moisture-wicking pants won’t really do you any good if you’re sweating in your underwear underneath and getting all swampy, so you’ll probably want (need) to wear some moisture-wicking underwear as well. Boxer briefs in this type of fabric are relatively easy to find in all the popular men’s underwear brands. Here’s links to them in Hanes and Reebok.

You can also find a variety of different styles of moisture wicking socks to choose from here. The socks are probably more important than all the other moisture-wicking clothing items. At least for me. There’s absolutely nothing worse for me than when I accidentally get my socks wet and then they stay squishing in my shoes for hours until my toes start turning all pruney and wrinkly, and I get blisters. With the fast-drying, moisture-wicking socks, your socks will dry out thrice as fast even if you happen to step in a puddle or get rained on. No soggy, squishy socks. Just no, no, no.

For shoes, I suggest either a pair of comfortable tennis shoes or hiking shoes, depending on the length, terrain, and difficulty of your hike. Because you never know when the ground might be muddy or when you might encounter puddles on even the driest of days, I highly recommend getting a pair of waterproof hiking shoes like these ones here for men or these ones for women. There are a variety of colors to choose from in both the men’s women’s styles.

Can I wear leggings to hike?

Absolutely! A lot of people like to hike in leggings because they’re so comfortable. I’ve found that my legs still tend to get scratched through the fabric if I have to walk through any twigs or shrubbery, so I personally prefer to wear thicker pants with lots of pockets, but you should wear whatever makes you most comfy.

Are joggers good for hiking?

For a shorter distance, less strenuous hike where you just want to be comfortable, joggers could be good for hiking. But for longer, more strenuous hikes, they might start to feel heavy and weighted down if you start to sweat a lot, so they might not be your best option. Fast-drying / moisture-wicking fabrics are typically your best choices for packing hiking clothes.

Can you hike in bike shorts?

You definitely can. They will provide great freedom and ease of movement, but the disadvantage is that it will leave your bare legs exposed. A lot of people prefer to wear pants on hikes because it helps protect their skin from getting scratched or cut from random bushes and branches while hiking, but this is a personal choice, so if you think you’ll be more comfortable wearing bike shorts, then go for it!

Are fanny packs good for hiking?

Yes! Travel belts and fanny packs can really come in handy if you don’t want to carry on entire backpack (especially if someone else in your group is already carrying a backpack with all your supplies). You can just put a few necessities in this and wear it on your hip. I hike with my boyfriend, and due to my health problems, he typically is the one who carries the backpack with our water bottles, snacks, and other necessities we pack for a hike. I carry a few things on my hip and a knife at my waist. Here’s a convertible one I really like because it can be worn multiple ways (and has space for water bottle).

Electronic Devices and Accessories to Bring on a Hike

  1. GPS Device – A GPS allows hikers to accurately find their location on a digital map, so it’s one of the day hiking essentials you should never trek without. Garmin is a popular brand. They offer a rugged, water resistant, full color basic handheld model that comes preloaded with off-grid maps and has a battery life that lasts 25 hours (using replaceable AA batteries because who has a charging port in the middle of the woods?) It also comes with a microSD card slot so that you can download additional maps if you so desire. There’s also a fancier version that has added a 3-axis compass and barometric altimeter. If you prefer to keep your hands free, you might want to opt for this GPS watch by Garmin instead. It has a lot of handy features like a trackback feature to navigate the same route back to your starting point. It also has built-in heart monitoring, a 3-axis compass, and barometric altimeter. It’s thermal, shock, and water resistant up to 100 meters.
    • When and Why You Need a GPS: These handheld devices are great for when you’ll be hiking in an area with either no cell phone service or unreliable cell phone reception. If you lose the trail you’re on because it’s covered in overgrowth, then these can save the day. They also feature a sunlight-readable display (if you’ve ever had difficulty seeing your phone screen when you’re outside in bright light, then you know how useful this is), and their rugged, waterproof design makes them a lot more indestructible than your fragile phone, especially in inclement weather. Plus, there’s the added advantage that these use low power and can last a full 25 hours before you need to replace the AA batteries. If you’re going on a day hike, that’s enough to get you through the whole day.
  2. Your Phone: This one’s really a given because almost no one leaves the house without their phone on them these days, but we’re including this entry here to show the advantages your phone can have on a hike. Many people prefer to use their phone as their GPS device, especially in cases where you’re already familiar with the trail, it’s paved or easily marked, or you’re in an urban setting or somewhere else where cell reception is flawless. Handheld GPS devices like the ones mentioned above are handy little devices, but sometimes they’re just not necessary. Also, most people prefer to take photographs of their hiking adventures using their phone.
  3. Hiking Apps for Your Phone: Not everyone realizes that there are plenty of hiking apps designed for use right on your phone. These apps do everything from functioning as a GPS device and offering trail tips to using your phone’s camera to point and identify the names of mountain peaks in the distance. There are even apps that will identify the constellations in the sky above you during night hikes.
  4. Power Bank for Your Phone: This can keep your phone from dying if you’re gone all day hiking! If your phone is dying and you are stuck out in the middle of the woods without access to a power outlet or electricity, a portable power bank can actually recharge your phone! These little devices work by storing power inside their cases (they’re small–usually hand-sized or so), and when you’re ready to recharge your phone, you just connect your phone to the power bank using your phone’s USB cable, or in some cases, you can recharge wirelessly. I bring one of these with me on every day hike! This one is my favorite because it can fast-charge 4 different phones at the same time! There’s also enough power stored in this power bank to fully recharge a newer iPhone up to 8 complete times or fully recharge a Samsung Galaxy S10 up to 6 complete times! That’s enough power to last a single phone for almost a week. And the power bank itself is actually solar-powered, so it can recharge itself in the sun, and then you’ll be able to get even more charges out of it than the initial 8 iPhone charges or 6 Samsung Galaxy charges. Leave it clipped to the outside of your daypack while you hike so it can soak up the most power and continuously replenish itself while you hike.
  5. Hiking Watch: Garmin makes this rugged outdoor watch that comes with built-in GPS, heart monitoring, stress monitoring, activity tracking, a 3-axis compass, and barometric altimeter. One of its key assets is a trackback feature that enables you to retrace your steps and navigate the same route back to your starting point. This handy hiking watch is built to U.S. Military standards to withstand the toughest environments. It’s thermal, shock, and water resistant up to 100 meters.

Tools to Bring on a Day Hike

Pocket Knife / Tactical Knife – As it’s one of the most important day hiking essentials, you should always carry a knife on you on any hike. (My boyfriend insists that everyone should always carry a pocket knife on them even when NOT hiking, but that’s a completely different argument all on its own haha!) You never know when you might need a knife, however. It comes in handy for so many different things–cutting away overgrowth on trails, preparing food, assisting in building fires, self defense, or even to help fix broken gear. Any pocket knife will do, and you can easily find them at your local stores, but some brands are higher-rated and more reliable than others. Smith & Wesson is one such company that is trusted by many to be durable and high-quality. This Smith & Wesson Extreme Ops tactical folding knife with a serrated blade is made of reliable 7Cr17MoV Black Oxide High Carbon Stainless Steel with a black, aluminum handle.

Multi-Purpose Tools – We also really love this 14 in 1 Multi Tool that functions as an axe on one side and a hammer on the other. In addition to those 2 tools, it also contains folded up inside its handle a knife, wood saw, Phillips screwdriver, 2 slotted screwdrivers, assorted hex wrench, bottle opener, fish descaler, and a file in addition to a wire cutter, flat jaw plier, and regular pliers embedded into the head of the device.

Rope or Paracord – You never know when you might need some rope for an emergency. My boyfriend and I have a set of matching paracord bracelets that contain a knife, emergency whistle, fire starter, and compass. If you need to use the paracord, each bracelet unravels to become 12 feet of cord that can hold up to 550 lbs of weight. The bracelets are not bulky at all and actually look kind of stylish. Sometimes the tiny compasses included on these types of bracelets aren’t the best quality, however, so I recommend using a separate compass instead of relying solely on this one. Or, alternatively, you can buy one of the paracord bracelets that don’t have the added compass included in its style. There are many different types, colors, and styles of paracord bracelets to choose from.

Best Day Hiking Essentials to Have Ready and Waiting in Your Car

First aid kit – A first aid kit is one of the 10 hiking essentials for safety that every day hiker should normally carry with them on the trails, but in some small instances–such as if the hike is just an easy mile or two on a well-trafficked trail, you can sometimes get away with just leaving this essential in your car where it’s a quick hop away. In instances such as these, it’s easy to clean up small cuts and scrapes in the parking lot before heading back home. If you will be walking a long-distance or an all-day hike, however, then I highly recommend bringing your first aid kit with you. If you’d like to buy a first aid kit online, there are various types to choose from here.

A change of clean clothes – You’ll be glad to have this in case you arrive from your day hike wet, muddy, or simply just uncomfortable. A fresh set of dry, clean clothes is always worth not having to get your car seats dirty and not having to wait until driving home to get dry and comfy again.

Extra bags or trash bags – for storing wet and muddy clothes, food waste or wrappers. When you get back to your car and strip off your muddy hiking gear, you’re going to want somewhere to put it so that you don’t get your car filthy and/or sopping wet.

What to pack for a hike to make your photos and videos ten times better

1. A 3-Axis Gimbal –

These make your videos look like they’re taken by a professional even if you’re terrible at taking videos. A gimbal rotates on an axis to absorb the shock and wiggle of your body’s movement while hiking so that the video you take will be completely smooth and steady rather than shaky. Even if you’re jumping up and down, the camera will not shake.

There are different types of gimbals to meet your needs. You can buy a gimbal like this one that already comes with its own built in / attached camera, or you can buy a gimbal that is designed for use with your phone so that your phone can be stabilized while it does the recording of video.

DJI is the only company I trust when it comes to buying gimbals. You can easily find many cheaper knock-offs (and truthfully I am normally a huge advocate of buying more affordable options), but most of these cheaper gimbal options are just poor quality and still leave some shakiness to the camera. So this is one of the few instances where I highly recommend you stick with DJI instead of shopping cheaper.

For beginner gimbals, my favorites are:

  • DJI Osmo Pocket – I LOVE this device because it is lightweight and tiny! The total length (including the attached camera) is less than 5 inches long. It’s the smallest stabilized camera DJI has ever produced, and the smallest of its kind you can find anywhere in the market. The camera quality is great (4K/60Fps video at 100Mbps), but the strongest asset of the DJI Pocket is the 3-axis gimbal that comes attached to the camera to make your videos record flawlessly smooth. Jump up and down, and the gimbal will absorb the shock to keep your video completely stable and free of any bounce. Since the camera screen on this device is small, you also have the option of attaching your phone to the device so that you can use your phone’s camera to frame your shots and see what you are filming. (All filming, however, will be done by the built-in DJI camera). The DJI Pocket also has facial tracking so that you can move around however you like, and the gimbal will rotate the camera so that it will automatically follow you and keep you centered on screen. You can buy or watch video reviews about this gimbal on Amazon here.
  • DJI Pocket 2 – this is the new and improved model of the DJI Osmo Pocket. It features a handful of different upgraded camera features, but it also comes with a heftier price tag. If you’re on a budget, you can easily stick with the older DJI Osmo model (because its camera is still far better quality than any camera used by all the other budget gimbal companies on the market), and the older model is still incredibly impressive. If you have the extra money to splurge, however, and want to get the best pocket gimbal on the market, then go for the improved DJI Pocket 2 version to get all the upgrades. You can watch video reviews of this gimbal and/or purchase it on Amazon here.
  • DJI OM 5 Smartphone Gimbal Stabilizer – If your phone already takes high quality video and you want to stick with filming on your phone, this gimbal will attach to your phone and keep it from wiggling or shaking even if you are jumping up and down. If you watch the video reviews, you will be able to see people demonstrating how this is possible. Your videos will be flawlessly smooth! It’s small, lightweight, and also has built-in facial tracking so that the camera will follow your movement and stay centered on you when you move around. (There is no camera on this gimbal; you film with your smartphone.) You can find it on Amazon here.

2. Camera Drone –

Although it’s not a hiking essential, this is by far one of my favorite things to pack for a hike. A drone allows you to take aerial video and stunning photo shots from angles that just wouldn’t be possible from your own limited point of view as you hike. These are especially useful if you will be hiking somewhere through the mountains, coastal cliffs, or even just certain uphill terrains.

For beginners (and even for professionals), I highly recommend the same drone I use: the DJI Mini 2.

This drone is so lightweight, weighing less than 249 grams (or about the same weight as an apple or a smartphone), but it shoots exceptional quality 4K video and contains a 3-axis gimbal to always ensure that your footage is silk smooth like any professional travel videos you watch on tv.

Due to its light weight, it’s also one of the few professional-quality drones in existence that you can fly in the USA and Canada without being required to register (and pay a fee to do so) with the local governments. Find it on Amazon here.

If you need a more budget friendly option, the DJI Mini SE is made by the same company, weighs the same, and is housed in the same body, but it shoots only 2.7K video. That’s still great high definition video, but it keeps the cost down to a lower price bracket. Like its sibling drone, it’s also exempt from the registration laws due to weighing less than 249 grams. Find it on Amazon here.

What to Pack for a Hike During Winter

What to Pack for a Hike in Winter

In addition to all the day hiking essentials listed above, you’ll also want to pack the following day hike gear for winter hikes –

Winter Hiking Essentials

  • Air-Activated Heat-Producing Hand warmersThese HotHands Thermal Hand Warmers are air-activated (triggered by shaking the packet) and produce comforting heat (up to 158 degrees Fahrenheit with an average temperature of 135 degrees Fahrenheit) that lasts up to 10 hours. I bring these with me on every winter hike I take! There’s also a heat-producing toe warmer made by the same company, and if it’s especially cold outside, I pack these for winter hikes as well. They contain adhesive so that you can stick them to the bottom of your socks and wear them inside your boots or shoes. They heat to a maximum temperature of 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 degrees Celsius) and last up to 8 hours. For even longer lasting heat, there’s also a Super Warmer version of the HotHands hand warmers that generates heat for 18 hours instead of the regular 10 (and the packets are a bit larger as well.)
  • Gloves – one of the most important day hiking essentials for winter because you don’t want your pretty little fingers freezing and falling off… hehe
  • Thermal underwear – On winter hikes, it’s good to wear a set of thermal underwear underneath your clothes to help keep you warm in extreme cold temperatures. You can likely find these at your local sporting or camping gear store, but you can also easily find them online. Here’s a popular and affordable set for women and a similar set for men.
  • Waterproof Winter Jacket
  • Sunscreen – You should already be taking sunscreen even on a normal day hike, but it deserves extra special mention here as well because a lot of people seem to think it’s not easy to get sunburnt in the winter, but actually–on cold, cloudy days you’re less aware of the sun and are more likely to burn without realizing you’re even getting any sun. So don’t skip out on the sunscreen. It’s still one of the most important day hiking essentials, even in the winter sun.
  • Waterproof Winter Hiking Boots – For winter hiking, I prefer boots that are made especially for both winter and hiking. This Women’s Explorer style here is one of my favorites because it is made of waterproof, synthetic suede with a faux fur, microfleece lining to keep you warm. The outsole is a high-traction rubber designed for better grip in bad weather.
  • Snow and Ice Traction Cleats – These are worn over your shoes to help your feet get better grip to keep you from slipping when hiking over icy areas. I like the STABILicers Maxx 2 Heavy-Duty Traction Cleats found here.
  • Snow Shoes – I don’t typically bring these on most hikes, but when trekking through heavy snow areas, snowshoes like these Xtreme Lightweight Terrain Snowshoes (which include trekking poles and a carrying bag) can be incredibly useful.
  • Thermos of Hot Water – For hiking, you’ll want a thermos that is rust proof, leak proof, and extra durable like this Stanley Classic thermos you can get here. Their product descriptions boast that you can “Drop it, kick it, or have it fly out of a moving vehicle–it will hold up and the contents will stay hot.” They also state that their bottles have survived speeding bullets, category 5 hurricanes, minus 70 degree windchills, and 4,000 ft drops. That’s one tough thermos!
  • Matches
  • Mini Stove for Housing Fires and/or Cooking – in the snow it can often be difficult to build a fire without having a portable stove like this Solo Stove Lite Camping & Hiking Survival Stove found here.

What to Pack for a Rainy Day Hike

There are some places in the world (looking at you, Florida and Scotland) where it seems it rains almost every 5 minutes. If you know in advance that you’re going to be hiking to someplace like this (or if you’ve checked the forecast for wherever you’re headed, and it says that today you’re likely to get wet), then in addition to all the day hiking essentials already listed above, you’ll also want to pack the following hiking gear for a hike in the rain –

  • Emergency Poncho – Truthfully, I recommend that you keep one of these in your bag at all times anyway, even on bright, sunshiny days, because it’s lightweight, compact, and barely takes up any space at all (until after the first time it’s opened). They’re also super affordable and cost just a few bucks each, so they’re one of the best essentials to bring on a hike–rainy day or not.
  • Compact Raincoat – an alternative to the rain poncho, but it has real sleeves and buttons up just like a real raincoat. The best thing about these compact raincoats, however, is that they come squeezed into a small, air-tight bag so that they’re compact and don’t take up much room in your daypack. The package is roughly the same size as your phone, so you can put it into your backpack and then forget about it again until it suddenly rains one day on a hike and you find yourself in need of one. They’re also super affordable, way cheaper than the cost of a standard raincoat, so they’re good to always have around. You can get them here.
  • Rainboots or Waterproof Hiking Shoes – Truthfully, I think it’s best to wear waterproof hiking shoes even on days when it’s not raining because you never know when you might encounter a puddle, stream, or muddy path. Nothing’s more miserable than wet, soppy socks. I really love waterproof hiking boots like these ones here for men or these ones for women. They come in a variety of different colors and styles.
  • Waterproof socks – speaking of wet socks: did you know that waterproof ones exist? These are perfect to pack for a day hike in the rain. I really like this brand here (and they come with a money-back guarantee.)
  • Thermal heat-generating hand warmers – Rain can get quite chilly. These can help keep your hands warm. You hold the little packets in your hand, and they can generate heat for several hours. This value pack here contains 10 hand warmers that produce heat for 18 hours each at an average of 135 degrees Fahrenheit. These are one of my favorite day hiking essentials to pack for a hike in the rain.
  • Sunscreen – Just because it’s raining doesn’t mean that you can’t still get sunburnt. This is one of the most important day hiking essentials that’s often forgotten when packing for a hike. The sun can be sneaky on wet, cloudy days, and people often burn without realizing they’d ever even gotten any sun. So don’t skip out on the sunscreen just because it’s raining. Just make sure you pack the waterproof kind! I use this apple-scented sunscreen foam that’s made for kids. (I like to pretend it’s because it’s tear-free and made for sensitive skin, but really I’m just a big kid at heart and can’t resist a yummy, candy-smelling sunscreen.)

Other Luxury Items to Pack for a Hike

If you’re going to be gone all-day long on your hike, you might want to consider bringing some of the following luxury day hiking essentials –

Compact Hiking ChairThis one folds up to be around the size of a water bottle but supports 300 lbs and sets up in just 5 seconds. Their ads boast confidence that they are the most compact portable chair on the market as well as the most funded portable chair in crowdfunding history.

Compact Waterproof Hiking Cushion SeatThese cushion seats fold up to be as small a cell phone, so they’re easy to pack for a hike without taking up extra space in your daypack.

Portable Hiking Stove and Cookware SetUse a set like this one for boiling water, cooking meals, and eating in luxury during your day hike. It’s lightweight, small, compact, and comes with a mini pot and pan to make mealtimes more comfortable when on the trails.

One other thing to bring on a hike: a special friend! (We bring Dragon with us everywhere we go.)

Adventure Dragon Hiking
Adventure Dragon Hiking at Cloudland Canyon. This is one of my most favorite inspiring waterfall photos.

Day Hike Essential Tips for Beginner Hikers

If your hiking destination has a visitor information center (and most larger destinations do), then be sure to stop by there first! It’s a great place to –

  • pick up free park maps
  • get advice from park rangers (including personal recommendations and the best trails for your experience level)
  • and buy any last-minute day hiking essentials (my boyfriend bought his beloved hiking stick at the visitor center at Cloudland Canyon in Georgia, in fact, and now he brings it on every hike).

Be aware that what feels light now might not feel light after 3 miles into your hike, so be careful not to pack your daypack with more than you can carry.

Beginner Day Hike Essential Things to Remember (That Could Save Your Life)

If you are hiking uphill, it will always be windier and colder at the top of the mountain. So “no-jacket” weather at the bottom could easily turn into “man, I wish I’d brought a jacket” weather at the top.

Cloudy days still give bad sunburns.

Unless you’re on a loop trail, you’re going to have to hike back in the same distance you hike out. So don’t wait until you’re too tired to keep hiking before you turn around and start heading back.

Be careful of piles of leaves and rocks. That’s where critters like to hide. Here’s one tip for remembering venomous snakes—”Red touching black is a friend of Jack; Red touching yellow can kill a fellow.”

If you spot a black bear, making noise will typically scare them away. But if you’re in abundant bear territory, then bring bear spray just in case.

Don’t forget to stay hydrated! Especially if you’re in dry areas like Nevada because sweat evaporates so quickly that you often won’t notice when you’ve sweat out a dangerous amount of fluids. This is how hikers get themselves into trouble every year.

Hike early morning to avoid mid-day sun and heat in high-temperature locations.

Pay attention to weather forecasts, and do not go hiking in a canyon if it has just rained, is forecasted to rain that day, or has even recently rained a few miles away. Even if the rain has stopped, that rain could easily and quickly cause a flash flood that will become an inescapable roaring river rapids inside the canyon. Unfortunately hikers die every year for being unaware of or not heeding this advice. If you’re nervous about your own capabilities, find a friend or experienced guide who knows the trail well to partner up with on your trip.

Never go hiking alone unless it is a short and incredibly popular trail where you are guaranteed to pass by many other hikers throughout your trek. If an emergency happens, you don’t want to be stuck out there alone where no one will pass by for hours.

First thing I do when arriving at any state park or hiking destination is visit the visitor information center (if they have one: state and national parks always do, but some smaller hiking destinations might not) and grab a map. The staff can also give you detailed information about these maps as well as the locations of the nearest bathrooms, parking lots closest to the trail you want to do first, etc. After parking at the trailhead, I also look for another large map at the entrance and take a pic of it to store on my phone.

14 Amazing Unique Items You’re Forgetting to Pack for Your Hike

We’ve already mentioned most of these items in other sections of this article, but since this is such a lengthy post, we decided to relist our favorite, unexpected, and lesser known items all together in their own spot right here so that you won’t have a hard time finding them.

1. Pack This To Recharge 4 phones at once without electricity or wall outlets

This small, hand-sized device can fully recharge (fast charge) your phone in the middle of the woods without an electrical outlet, and it can do it over and over again. It has enough power for 8 full recharges of an iPhone 11 or 6 full recharges of a Galaxy S10. Your phone will never die! And if your hiking partner needs a recharge as well, it can actually quickly recharge 4 phones together at the same time. And when the power bank itself finally runs out of power–no worries! Because it’s actually solar powered! So if you hook it to the outside of your backpack while you hike, it will actually continuously recharge itself from the sun as well! Who needs electricity when you’ve got this amazing hiking tool!

2. Pack This Tiny, Hand-Sized Package Instead of an Umbrella in Case it Rains

Spoiler Alert: It’s a rain poncho, but it takes up almost no space at all due to the way it is pressed together in the package, with all air squeezed out, making it tight, compact, and super easy to just put in your backpack and then forget about (until it actually unexpectedly rains one day and you suddenly need it).

3. Pack this amazing watch to enable its trackback feature to retrace your exact steps back to your starting point if you ever get lost.

This Garmin hiking watch comes with a trackback feature so that you can navigate the same route back to your starting point. Its built in 3-axis compass, barometric altimeter, and multiple global navigation satellite systems support (GPS, Glonass and Galileo) enables tracking in more challenging environments than GPS by itself. It’s also U.S. Military standard thermal, shock, and water resistant up to 100 meters. In addition to its navigational capabilities, this watch also has built-in monitoring of your heart rate, activity, and stress levels.

4. Pack this device to make your videos look amazingly smooth and professionally made even if you’re the world’s worst camera videographer.

Have you ever watched videos from travel shows like National Geographic and wondered how on earth they manage to record such smooth videos on hiking trails without bouncing around and making the camera full of jerky moments from all their bouncy steps? Those videos where the camera just looks like it glides on air? The secret is something called a gimbal! When attached to your camera, it swivels on an axis to absorb the shock of your steps and keep everything completely smooth and stationary. There are some gimbals like this one that attach directly to your phone so you can continue to use your phone to record video if that’s your preference. Or if you’d like to try a gimbal that has its own camera built in, then this model with 4K video is very affordable and highly rated from a reliable company (DJI) that specializes in making video products for the professional film industry. This is the only company I trust for all my gimbal as well as drone-buying needs.

5. Pack this 14 in 1 Multi Tool to have all the most useful tools you’ll ever need for a hike cleverly constructed together in one compact body.

This 14 in 1 Multi Tool contains an axe on one side, a hammer on the other, and folded up inside its handle is a knife, wood saw, Phillips screwdriver, 2 slotted screwdrivers, assorted hex wrench, bottle opener, fish descaler, and a file in addition to a wire cutter, flat jaw plier, and regular pliers embedded into the head of the device. The entire tool is the size of just a small hammer, however, so it will help you save space when packing for a hike.

6. Bring these Air-Activated, Heat-Producing Hand Warmers and Toe Warmers to Stay Warm on Every Winter Hike

These hand warmers produce their own heat for up to 10 hours! They reach temperatures of up to 158 degrees Fahrenheit (70 degrees Celsius) with the average temperature being around 135 degrees Fahrenheit (57 degrees Celsius). If I’m hiking in the winter or anywhere where it’s cold or snowing, I always pack these for my hike. If it’s extremely cold, I also sometimes pack these heat-producing toe warmers which work in a similar way. They contain adhesive on one side so that you can stick them to the underside of your socks before putting your feet in your boots or shoes. The heat warms up to a maximum 115 degrees Fahrenheit (46 degrees Celsius) in approximately 15 to 20 minutes and lasts for up to 8 hours.

7. Please don’t forget to bring toilet paper! (PS – Do you know about toilet paper tablets?)

I don’t really need to explain this one–do I? (Hehe.) Unless you’re fond of using a leaf, don’t forget to pack a small travel-sized or pocket toilet paper. You might need it. Ya never know. But it’s an easy one to accidentally forget.

You can bring something like this packable camp toilet tissue which is biodegradable and comes already ready to use, or you can pack toilet paper tablets which are tiny, compact, pill-sized tablets about the size of a nickel that expand into a soft wipe upon adding a tablespoon of water to them. They come in a small pill case (10 to a case) that can easily slide into your pocket or backpack. Or you can buy this bag of 200 tablets (which also comes with 2 small tube cases for holding 10 tablets each.)

These compressed wipes also work great as wet wipes for your hands or for cleaning up after cooking. Due to their compact size and versatility, they make a handy little item to bring on a hike.

8. Pack These Waterproof Socks to Keep Your Feet Dry Even if You Encounter Any Unexpected Puddles, Streams, Rain, or Muddy Trails

I think we can all agree that there’s nothing worse than the uncomfortable squish of accidentally wet socks when you’re hiking and then suddenly step into an unexpected puddle or muddy spot on a trail. Wearing waterproof socks like these ones here will help prevent that from ever happening.

9. Pack this durable hiking bottle that can survive speeding bullets, category 5 hurricanes, minus 70 degree windchills, and 4,000 ft drops.

For safety, it’s important to bring a half liter of water for every hour of your hike and to double that amount during extreme heat treks, high altitude environments, or extra strenuous trails. Stanley water bottles are designed specifically for rugged outdoor use and as such are rust proof, leak proof, and extra durable. Their advertisements claim that these bottles have survived speeding bullets, category 5 hurricanes, minus 70 degree windchills, and 4,000 ft drops. That’s the toughest bottle we’ve found to bring on a hike.

These stainless steel, vacuum-insulated bottles are also built with superior insulation to keep cold water cold for up to 35 hours, hot water hot for up to 40 hours, and iced water iced for up to 6 days. Find them on Amazon here.

10. Pack this collapsible water bottle to save space in your daypack when not in use.

This is another one of my favorite water bottles to pack for a hike because it saves so much space in your backpack. After you’ve drank all your water, you can collapse the entire bottle into the size of a small disc that can fit in your back pocket.

11. Safely drink dirty water by packing this tiny device that eliminates bacteria, parasites, and microplastics from contaminated sources.

The LifeStraw takes up almost no room in your daypack but can save your life when clean water is scarce. Its microfiltration membrane removes 99.999999% of waterborne bacteria (including E. coli and salmonella) as well as 99.999% of waterborne parasites (including giardia and cryptosporidium) and the smallest microplastics found in the environment (down to 1 micron). With proper use and maintenance, it will provide 4,000 liters (1,000 gallons) of clean and safe drinking water, so it’s a great little device to pack for a hike!

12. Pack these Survival Tabs in your daypack for nutrition that won’t go bad for 25 years.

Survival Tabs provide emergency food in a tiny, lightweight, pill-sized form that’s easy to pack in your daypack. They contain the optimal proportions of carbs, fats, proteins, and vitamins needed for proper nutrition, and they’re also gluten-free. They’re available in 4 flavors: chocolate, strawberry, butterscotch, and vanilla. The best part about packing these for a hike, however, is that they have a shelf life of 25 years, so you can just keep them in your backpack and know that they aren’t going to go bad anytime soon.

13. Pack this fire starter survival necklace to never worry in difficult-to-make fire situations!

This super affordable survival necklace / fire starter necklace is both functional and aesthetic. The pendant contains a long ferro rod and ferrocerium scraper that together make a really great spark for ease of starting fires. The necklace cord contains a 3.6 ft adjustable 10-core paracord lanyard made up of 7 nylon core yarns, 1 cotton thread, 1 red waterproof flax fire tinder, and even 1 PE fishing line. The fire line is especially useful for bad weather situations where finding dry tinder can quickly become problematic. Top survival experts have given this necklace outstanding reviews, so it’s now one of my favorite day hiking essentials to pack for a hike (and honestly, I just really love the added bonus of how nice it looks, too). To learn more about how it works and why experts are praising it so much, watch the top customer video review on Amazon for a detailed demonstration.

14. Pack this waterproof, wind-up flashlight for light that never needs batteries or power outlets.

Just one minute of hand-cranking this flashlight will give you enough power for a full hour of light. You never need batteries or power cords with this light, and it’s roughly the size of your phone or hand, so it’s a great tool to keep as an emergency spare flashlight. It’s also waterproof and fully submersible up to 45 feet, so it will work even in bad weather hiking conditions. In addition to the hand crank function, this flashlight can also be charged by the sun through a solar panel affixed to its body. This is definitely a useful item to pack for a hike!

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What to Pack for a Day Hike - Essential Items to Bring

We hope you’ve found this Day Hiking Essentials guide useful for deciding what to pack for a hike or your next adventure outdoors! If there’s any hiking gear you particularly use, enjoy, or swear by, let us know in the comments below!

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Jillian Michelle
FAIRY DRAGON MOTHER at Adventure Dragon. Artist. Writer. Dreamer. Adventurer. I still believe kindness can change the world. I just want to inspire.


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