By definition, a day hike is any hike that you can do in one day – no camping or overnighting required. But there are a lot of hours in a day, so a day hike could be anywhere from one hour to fifteen. No matter how long your hike is, there are some things that you should always have in your backpack for your own safety and enjoyment.
These six things are the ones you should always have with you, whether you’re taking a quick hike or summiting a peak.
- Food: This might seem like a given, but don’t leave home without enough snacks and meals for you and a friend. Low blood sugar can be manageable in the office, but when you’re high in the mountains where it will take you a while to get back, it can be dangerous.
- Water: Take more water than you think you’ll need, whether it’s in a hydration pack or several water bottles. If you plan on filling up on water along the way, make sure you bring a filter.
- Navigation: Most day hiking trails are well marked, but it’s still wise to have a map or GPS with you. Don’t rely on your phone, because chances are that you won’t have service and it will be useless.
- First aid: Even if all that happens is a minor blister or scratch, you don’t want to be caught without first aid in the event that something serious does happen. Someone you see along the way might need your help or you might encounter an animal – unexpected things can go wrong when you’re in the wilderness.
- Sun protection: Don’t think you won’t burn just because it’s wintertime and cloudy. Slip some sunscreen, lip balm, and sunglasses into your pack and use them.
- Emergency supplies: Your plan is to be back by sundown, but you never know if circumstances could change. Pack a lightweight flashlight, matches, pocketknife, and even an emergency shelter if you can. In the event that you do have to spend the night somewhere, these things could save your life.
Other Supplies to Have
While these aren’t mandatory items, they’re often helpful to have with you on the trail to make the most of your hike and enjoy the time you spend in the mountains.
- Camera: That sunset over an alpine lake is a moment you’ll want to live over and over again. Pack your camera so if you get the feeling you want to take a few snaps, you won’t be regretting leaving it at home.
- Guidebook: If you’ve never been to the area before, or are hiking around a national park or monument, you might want to have a guidebook for the area so you don’t miss anything big. To lighten your pack, just photocopy the pages you’ll need and bring those along.
- Binoculars or trekking poles: Depending on your hike and location, either of these items could significantly improve the quality of your adventure. Do some birdwatching or have that extra stability when your hike is upstream through a river.
- Journal: Of course, don’t forget your leather journal so you can log your journey or record that poem when you’re inspired. The leather binding will keep it safe whether it’s in your pack or braced against a tree trunk so you can write.
Next time you’re heading out on an adventure, keep these things in mind and pack your gear the right way. Don’t know where to explore? Download our free Guide to Utah’s Best Hikes by Season – and then tag your photos with #rusticomade so we can see where you’ve been!