If you’ve been following our blog for a while, then you know that we love hiking. Whether it’s climbing up to Germany’s highest alpine lake, hiking to the palm trees in the Cocora Valley or going for day hikes to explore castles near Frankfurt – hiking is a great way to get into nature and see local sights.
Even though you don’t need much planning for a day hike, you should look into a few things before you go. One is to find a route that you will enjoy, and that is appropriate for your skill level. A quick Google search can help you here.
The next item to think about is your packing list. You don’t need to pack much for a day hike, but there are a few hiking essentials that you should take. They can make your trip a lot more enjoyable and sometimes even safer.
To make this part of the planning as easy as possible, we have put together a day hiking packing list. Here, you can find all of the items we usually take with us. We’ll also mention a few that you might need under special circumstances, so you are well prepared for any situation.
Day hiking packing list
Having a good backpack can make your trip a lot more enjoyable. I travelled with a foldable backpack (one of those that you can fold up into a tiny bag), and it makes me appreciate my Osprey daypack even more. A pack that hurts your back and shoulders can easily ruin your trip.
The Osprey backpack fits my back perfectly. It comes with a hip belt which I use when the weight gets too heavy. Putting it around helps distribute the load, so I don’t have to carry everything with my shoulders.
The padding at the back is excellent, even on hot days. The air can still circulate, and I feel less sweaty than I used to with other backpacks.
Besides hip belts and paddings, another thing to look out for when buying a daypack is size. 20 – 22 litres is ideal. If it gets smaller, you won’t be able to take enough, and if it gets bigger, your pack will become too heavy.
Also, look at the partition of pockets. Is there any form of separation so you can keep small items separately? Think about what you need to be organised. I am pleased with the different pockets in the Osprey Talon, which allow me to keep my wallet easily accessible.
Unless you know the trail by heart or are sure that it’s very well marked, you should take a map.
This can either be a paper map or a map on your phone. We love using maps.me, as it offers us the possibility to download maps before we set out into the wilderness. Double-check to make sure that your chosen trail is on your map, and if you’re using your phone, always download the map.
While hiking, you never know how good your phone reception is going to be. Plus, if you go abroad, you might face significant roaming charges, so it’s much better to download the map in your hotel.If you want to know which other apps we love, then check out our
If your map is large and has lots of trails on it, consider marking the one you want to hike. That way, you won’t get confused during the day and get lost in a maze of trails.
#3 Walking shoes
If you want to go for a hike, you need good shoes.
Don’t worry, that doesn’t mean that you have to spend a fortune on hiking boots. It mostly means that you should not attempt to hike in flip flops or heels. Instead, your footwear should be appropriate for the hike you want to do.
In most cases, a pair of trainers is enough. I’ve hiked the Inca Trail in those, I’ve walked over snow and ice on a volcano in Ecuador, and I’ve crossed jungle rivers in trainers.
Daniel, on the other hand, owns a pair of hiking boots from Decathlon. They were cheap, but they’re comfortable, and he loves them.
Don’t buy new shoes that you then only wear on your hike. Instead, try to wear them a few times to break them in. This will help avoid blisters during your trek.
#4 Appropriate socks
When we go for a hike around Frankfurt, I usually wear regular socks in my trainers. But depending on where you go, you will have different needs.
If your trail takes you into colder regions, I highly recommend getting a warmer pair of hiking socks. They will keep your feet warm, and they can also avoid blisters. Most importantly, try them in combination with your boots before you leave. Nothing is worse than ending up with feet that hurt for days because you didn’t choose the right socks.
#5 Appropriate clothing
Always, always make sure to dress appropriately for your hike. The outfit you should wear will depend on your climate. Are you going for a jungle hike? Then wear long but thin clothes. Are you going for a trek in the Alps? Then make sure to pack an extra layer of warm clothes.If you’re going for a jungle hike, then make sure also to check out our jungle packing list! It will help you prepare for your trip.
In the mountains, the weather can change quickly multiple times during the day. Check the weather forecast but don’t rely on it. It might be sunny when you set out for your hike, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t rain.
Therefore, pack a rain jacket or a rain poncho. If you go hiking regularly, consider investing in a lightweight rain jacket. If not, then any rain jacket you have or even a simple poncho will be fine. You can check out prices for affordable rain ponchos on amazon.com.
I also like taking an additional warm layer. I own a fleece jacket from Jack Wolfskin, which gives warmth in case the weather changes abruptly. And I can combine it with the rainjacket to stay warm even on cold days.
Besides that, we usually wear clothes that are breathable but keep us warm. We also make sure that they dry quickly, especially after we get sweaty. That way, when we reach the summit, we won’t get cold in our wet clothes.
When you go hiking, it’s essential that you take enough food with you. If you’re gone for a day, you should research the trail. Is there a restaurant along the way where you’re going to have lunch? If not, you will need to pack a lunch. Sandwiches and fruit usually work well.
Besides taking lunch, you also need to bring snacks. I don’t know about you, but I usually get hungry when I hike. That’s why I like taking breaks and eating snacks along the way. Nut mixes are great for regaining energy on the trail, but I also like cereal bars or fruit.
Whatever you take, make sure that it’s a food that will keep you full for a while. It’s perfectly fine to take a chocolate bar as a treat on the way, but don’t make that your only food. Instead, combine it with a food high in proteins or fibre, like nuts, fruit or a sandwich made from whole-grain bread. That way, you can keep going for much longer.
Always make sure you take enough water! You can find multiple solutions for carrying water on your trek. I know many hikers love camelbacks, which are water pouches that you insert into your backpack.
I’ve tried them before but never really liked them.
That’s why I take a collapsible Platypus water bottle. It shrinks the more I drink, so it only takes up the space it has to. The bottle comes in 1 or 2 litres, but I highly recommend taking the 2 litres one for a full day hike.
The only reason why I would carry less water is if I hike through an area where I know I’ll come past lots of shops and restaurants, for example, because I’m crossing a small town on my way. Most of the time, that’s not the case, so always pack enough water to last you the whole day.
A great way to make sure that you have safe drinking water is by taking a Steripen. This small device allows you to disinfect your water in a minute. If you go hiking in the mountains, you can fill up your bottle in a river, use the Steripen and then drink it.
Before you do this, though, enquire about minerals in the water! Sometimes, the problem isn’t that the water is full of bacteria but that it’s full of harmful minerals. Therefore, do a bit of research before you leave.
Also, be wary of any water that doesn’t look clear. The Steripen uses UV light, and if the water is muddy, the light can’t penetrate into all corners of the bottle. Always use clear water (rivers and springs are great sources) to ensure it’ll be safe to drink.
#9 First-aid kit
If you go on a day hike, you don’t need a large first-aid kit. Make sure to pack any medication you regularly use, so you don’t forget to take it during your hike.
Besides that, you need bandaids for blisters. Even if you’ve worn your shoes before, you never know if you’re going to get a blister. I like Compeed, as it’s made for blister protection and pretty successfully eases the pain.
You can also consider taking a disinfectant for minor cuts and bruises, although this is not mandatory. Most minor scratches should be fine if you clean them at home.
No matter where you go hiking, you need to take sunscreen.
I usually wear SPF 50 because my skin is very sensitive, and I make sure that the sunscreen is waterproof. When hiking, I get sweaty quite quickly, and I want for the lotion to keep protecting me. The sun can get very intense in the mountains, much more than at sea level, which is why it’s easier to burn and damage your skin.
Also, don’t just apply sunscreen before your hike, but take the bottle with you. That way, you can reapply it multiple times throughout the day and don’t burn.
Even if it’s a cloudy day, remember to bring your sunglasses. Pack a pair that offers good UV protection, so your eyes don’t take any damage from the sunshine.
#12 Insect repellent
Depending on the season and the corner of the world, you can get away without insect repellent.
In most places, though, you will need it. Mosquitos exist almost everywhere around the world. And when there are no mosquitos, you’ll be bothered by sandflies or other horrible blood-sucking insects.
Repellents with DEET work best if you hike in a part of the world where mosquitos can transmit serious diseases. In other places, like Central Europe, for example, you can take a repellent based on citrus or eucalyptus oils. These are nicer to your skin, and their smell will drive mosquitos away.
#13 Toilet paper
If you’re lucky, you can find a restaurant with a proper toilet next to your hiking trail.
Most of the time, that won’t be the case, and you’ll have to deal with what you can find. These might be toilets that are just a hole in the ground, or you’ll have to go into the bushes. Therefore, it’s essential to bring a bit of toilet paper.
If you’re thinking about carrying wet wipes, then make sure that they’re biodegradable. Toilet paper will decompose, but wipes often don’t. Fortunately, you can find some brands that offer biodegradable wipes which won’t destroy the nature you hike through.
Daniel usually carries his camera on our day hikes. That works perfectly for me because he’ll take fantastic pictures. I, on the other hand, find my camera too heavy to take on a day hike, so I usually just go with my phone.
Whatever you decide to do, double-check that you have enough space on your SD card or phone to take lots of photos. And charge your camera before you go!
If you take a phone, carry a portable charger with you, so you don’t run out of battery. We love our tiny power bank because it’s small and light, so it’s perfect for a hike.
#15 Trekking poles (optional)
I don’t own trekking poles, so I usually hike without them. But when we walked up to Lake Schrecksee, the highest alpine lake in Germany, I regretted not having them.
Research your trail before you leave. If there are many ups and downs, or if you have problems with your knees, consider taking hiking poles. After a few hikes, you’ll get a feeling for whether you like them or not and on which kind of trails you want to use them.
#16 Rain pack cover (optional)
I always carry a rain cover for my backpack. That way, even if I get surprised by a tropical downpour, my stuff won’t get too wet.
You don’t necessarily need a rain cover when you set out on a day hike. If you don’t own one, check the weather forecast first. Yes, the weather can be unpredictable, especially in the mountains. But for a few rain showers, taking a ziplock bag to protect your phone is usually enough.
This list may seem long, but many items are optional, or you should already have them at home. Therefore, getting the right equipment for your next day hike is not difficult, and you can get started quickly.
If you want to get inspired for fabulous hikes around the world that we have done, then check out the following posts that you will enjoy:
- How to hike to Lake Schrecksee, Germany’s highest alpine lake
- See three castles in this day hike near Frankfurt
- Hike amongst palm trees through the Cocora Valley in Colombia
- How to hike to the top of Volcan Santa Ana in El Salvador
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Until your next adventure!