The Badass Day Hiker’s Gear List

Day Hiking Checklist

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Who doesn’t love a great gear list!  Well this one is designed specifically for day hikers and includes not only the gear you should consider but also spaces to add your own items.

Feel free to print this day hiker’s gear list and use it for your next big day hike.

We set out to create a guide on how to hike like a badass and this gear checklist was a necessity.

I was able to draw on my experiences as a day hiker and created the first draft by laying out all the gear that I take with me on my big day hikes.  I put that initial list in front of a few of our Sherpas and then polished it into the finished list you see here.

If you’d like a gear list for an overnight trip or multi-day backpacking trip you should check out our gear lists for hiking the Narrows in Zion and for the Havasu Falls backpacking trip.

This day hiker’s gear list is by no means exhaustive.  I am sure there are things that you will want to add so I’ve included a few spaces in each section so you can add your own.

One of the things I’ve always considered on big day hikes is the possibility that it could turn into an overnight if an injury or getting lost became a reality.  Many of my friends hit the trail with just a pack, some water, and a little food.

It’s not until you hear a story about a hiker meeting their end in a sudden weather shift or finding themselves in a situation that they are not skilled enough to handle that you can truly appreciate the role that planning and preparedness plays in safely exploring the wilds.

Do you have suggestions for the day hiker’s gear list?

We’ll consider additions to this list if you have suggestions.  Share your suggestions in the comments and we’ll make periodic updates to the checklist.

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I'm the founder of Vestor Logic, the digital strategy and web design firm that created Trail Sherpa, ParksFolio, and Modern Steader. I'm a day hiker, top chef in camp, doting husband, and father to two headlamp wearing boys. My work in digital media brings those experiences to life.

  • If you’re prepping for a possible overnight, its easy to take an ultralight emergency blanket/tube or a tyvek sheet and ultralight rope to add a little warmth/dryness to the equation.

    • Great points Kirsten. I added a space/emergency blanket to the master list yesterday so we’ll add that in on the next edit. Rope is also a good call. I tend to carry some on all trips too. Useful for so many things.

    • Agreed – an ultralight blanket is a great thing to have in your pack!

  • Sean Dziedzic

    I do have one bone to pick on this list. I personally wouldn’t put trekking poles under essentials. Trekking poles will only hinder you if you’re on a trail the requires a bit of bouldering. But everything else on that list is spot on, and I’m loving this badass day hiker series type thing you’ve got goin!

    • I used to think the same thing. But last year I used poles a lot more, most trips in fact, and now I feel differently.

      We hike steep rocky canyons here almost exclusively so we scramble a lot. Poles can be a pain, even a hazard, if you can’t pack them appropriately.

      I’ve found that it’s best to store mine vertically on the sides of my pack. But you really have to watch snags which could throw off your balance on a scramble.

      They really help though on the long canyon approaches which could be 2-3 miles each way.

      Thanks for the comment Sean.

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  • Terry Tyson

    Being an old guy who does day hikes primarily, I’d add an ACE bandage to the first aid kit.

    • Great addition. In fact, my wife (who is a practicing physical therapist) just discovered a gallon ziploc bag full of various sizes and lengths while we were packing for our move. She told me she thought they were essential and put them in our gear closet. Great minds…

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  • Rock Castle

    I’ve hiked some 14er’s in Colorado on hikes that have been as long as 12 hours. I would add a styptic pencil to stop bleeding. I’ve had to use one. If you’re on top of a mountain and help is 3 hours away you need to keep your supplies in your backpack as absolute necessities and no junk. I disagree with coffee, pizza, or beer unless you are going on a 30 minute hike round-trip. On long hikes you need high energy food and water, if possible, taking a portable water filtration system. I would also take a rain coat for protection and a flint to start a fire in case you get stuck over night. I guess a day hike is relative to who is hiking. For those that have never really hiked more than a mile, go with someone that knows the area so you do not get lost and STICK to the trails. There’s a reason they were put there. One thing to remember is to only pack what you will need because things get heavier with time. I really like the idea of this list. It helps a lot.