Heading out for a day hike is a delightful way to explore nature with friends and family, or even by yourself. Whether you want to go deep into the mountains or stay closer to home, the places to go are numerous, many county and national parks offer broad networks for trails, as does national forest land.

To determine what you need to bring on a day hike, think about how far you plan to hike, how remote the location is and what the weather forecast has in store. In general, the longer and/or more remote the hike is and the more inclement the weather, the more clothing, gear, food and water you’re going to want. If you’re just getting into day hiking, be sure to read our Hiking for Beginners article before you head out.

But before you do picture this, and it happened almost all of us.
The sun was shining when you left the car park, but that warm sunshine on your hat-less head now feels like a distant memory. Clouds are forming above you – Was that a drop of rain? The regret of not packing a waterproof coat quickly seeps in. It doesn’t happen often, but we’ve all been there, right? The mountains of europe Ireland and the Uk get their fair share of rain, wind and all-round horrendous weather alongside the sunny days. Mother Nature can’t spoil us too much, after all.


To help you prepare for the best day out you’ll ever have (in my opinion anyway!), I’ve written this helpful guide outlining what I will always recommend packing for a hill day:


  • Rucksack. Make sure it has a chest and hip strap, to help you carry your gear with ease. A rucksack of 25 to 30 litres in size should be just fine for one day.
  • Water. I take one to two litres of water, depending on the length of the route.
  • Food. Be sure to bring enough to keep you energised for the day, for example fruit, jelly babies or trail mix. Remember, you’ll probably need higher energy food than you would normally eat at home.
  • Waterproof jacket. This is one thing I never, ever go on a hill walk without. Even if it doesn’t rain your waterproof can double-up as a handy wind-proof outer layer.
  • Waterproof over trousers. I’m not a fan of these, if I’m honest, but this wouldn’t be a very good packing list if it didn’t include them!
  • Map. Never leave home without the correct map covering the route you plan to take.
  • Compass. It’s important to have the knowledge of how to use it with your map, especially in bad weather.
  • First aid kit. I take basic items such as plasters, ibuprofen, antiseptic wipes, microporous tape and a small roll of bandage.
  • Hat and gloves. I never leave these at home other than on the hottest of days. Summit temperatures can get a lot colder than at sea level, even in the summer.
  • Sunglasses. You never know when the sun will make an appearance.
  • Sun lotion. Ideally SPF 30 or above for when you’ll be out in the sun all day.


  • Mobile phone. It’s important to have a way of contacting friends, family or mountain rescue if you need assistance.
  • Waterproof phone case. I learnt this one the hard way.
  • Tissues. For toilet emergencies as well as blowing your nose!
  • Ziploc food bag. I will put my rubbish and used tissue inside the bag to prevent it getting blown away. I simply pop the bag in a bin when I’m down from the mountain.
  • Emergency whistle. Some rucksacks have a whistle built-in to the chest strap, but they are relatively cheap to buy as well.
  • Walking poles. Not always an essential, but they can make a walk much more pleasant when descending steep ground or if you suffer from knee, hip or back issues.
  • A waterproof rucksack cover or dry bag. I personally take a rucksack cover, but I know many walkers who put a dry bag inside their rucksack to keep their gear dry.
  • An extra layer. Even if I don’t intend to wear it, I’ll pack an extra fleece or a lightweight thermal jacket for colder days.
  • Head torch and spare batteries. A second torch would be even better. There’s no streetlights in the mountains, so once it’s dark, it’s pitch black. Often a walk can take longer than you planned.
  • Small battery pack. Essential to recharge your phone for emergency use when the battery gets low.
  • Emergency shelter. It is what it says on the tin: a shelter for emergencies. I’d specifically recommend carrying one in bad weather or during the winter months, but hopefully you’ll never have to use it.

I’ve fine-tuned this packing list from half a lifetime in the mountains and the many rookie mistakes I made have led to miserable days in the hills. Everything from enduring cold, wet walk after I hadn’t packed a waterproof coat, becoming lost after not taking the correct map with me. I’ve walked down a mountain in pitch black after I didn’t pack spare batteries for my head torch. I’ve often not taken enough food struggling with low energy that leads to internal body cold effects. I’ve even done something as simple as put my phone in my jacket pocket on a rainy day – needless to say it died a slow, wet death. If you fancy a day in the hills but don’t want to go unprepared, maybe you’d like to use this list to help you plan.


How to Use This Day Hiking Checklist

So now we need to what to take, i’ve explained in depth type of kit i use. Here are some notes on how to best use this list:


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Hiking Gear

A backpack is the primary piece of gear for day hiking. One that holds 11–20 liters of gear is about right for short, simple hikes, while something bigger 25-35 and Multi days out 60+ is good where more food, water, clothing and gear is required. Learn more about choosing a daypack.


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Clothing & Footwear

Check the forecast and make sure to dress for the conditions. To be prepared for changing weather or an unplanned night out, pack extra clothes beyond those required for the trip. It’s also important to consider how much protection your clothing provides against the sun’s ultraviolet rays. For footwear, determine what to wear based on the terrain. On gentle hikes on smooth trails, hiking shoes or trail runners are sufficient. For treks on rocky, rugged trails, boots will provide more support. Learn more about choosing hiking clothing and footwear.

Additional items for rainy and/or cold weather:


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Food & Water

Pack snacks like energy bars, jerky and nuts that you can eat easily on the trail. Some people like to bring a sandwich for lunch, too. For water, you can usually start with about two liters per person for the day, but adjust the amount depending on length and intensity of the hike, weather conditions, your age, sweat rate and body type. Learn more about choosing energy food and how much to drink.

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Navigation is one of the Ten Essentials. The type of trip you’re taking and your personal preferences will determine exactly which items you’ll bring.


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Emergency & First Aid

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Health & Hygiene

Sun protection:


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Tools & Repair Items

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Day Hiking Extras

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Personal Items

  • Mobile phone

I hope you find this helpful

Jason Black