Hiking Survival Guide: What to Bring Day Hiking

With the abundance of national parks and mountainous regions often a stone's throw from your home, it’s no wonder America is a nation of hike lovers. Fresh air, nature, sunshine, and animals roaming their natural habitat are all to be enjoyed on a day hike. 

If you’re new to hiking you may want to consider taking some essential items with you. They will ensure you are comfortable and prepared for any eventuality. While some trails only require a decent pair of walking shoes and some water, some lonely trails will go off the beaten track.  

The first important rule of hiking is to always tell someone where you’re going and when you plan to return    

What to Bring Day Hiking

  • Dress appropriately  
  • Hiking backpack
  • Good hiking boots/shoes
  • Food and water
  • Smartphone 
  • Map and compass (incase smartphone runs out of battery or gets damaged)  
  • Homemade first aid kit 
  • Swiss army knife

Hiking Clothing and Footwear 

Your clothing will depend on the weather but it’s advisable to wear long sleeve tops to protect yourself from the sun and long pants to protect your legs from bites or scratches. Hiking shoes will be sufficient if the terrain is flat but a more rugged hiking boot will be best for rocky terrains.  

  • Check the weather, check the forecast before preparing for your hike but be prepared for the weather to change
  • Quick dry cargo pants, preferably wear pants rather than shorts to protect your legs
  • Dress in layers, wear moisture-wicking underwear, t-shirt or long sleeve shirt, lightweight jacket or fleece jacket and wool socks
  • Footwear, depends on the terrain boots or shoes 
  • Sunglasses/bandana optional  

Hiking Backpack 

A hiking backpack is an essential piece of gear for any hike. Opt for a 10-20 liter backpack for a day hike but you will need a much larger pack for longer hikes. It must be big enough to hold your essentials while being comfortable to carry over a long distance. Ensure it has comfortable straps and secure compartments. 

Hiking Footwear 

Our feet bear the brunt of our outdoor activities so it's important to treat them well. The right footwear will ensure your comfort. You don't want to deal with blisters in the middle of your enjoyable day hike. Also if you’re going over rocky terrain, you want a boot that will protect your ankle from any sudden movements that could result in injury. 

You can get ultralight trail shoes or mountaineering boots, there are so many to choose from. Day hiking boots are great for short trips and range from mid to high cut. They will offer plenty of movement in the foot, may not need much break in time, but may not be suitable for longer hikes as they may not be supportive or durable enough. 

When you’re carrying a heavy pack (such as when you're camping), you need a strong hiking boot to take the load while protecting your feet too. Don't forget to wear good wooly socks too, and always pack a spare pair of socks.    

Food and Water 

Light snacks such as nuts, beef jerky, protein bars will fit neatly into your day pack. If you have a small cooler bag to bring a sandwich, even better. Water is essential, aim to bring at least 2 liters. It may be useful to pack some water purification tablets too. Pack slightly more food than you intend to eat, an extra supply could prove useful.  


You'll undoubtedly be bringing a smartphone with you, there are many useful apps to help guide you on your trail but what if your phone breaks or runs out of battery, what then? 

A local map and compass are small and lightweight and will take up little room in your day pack. Reading a map is easier than you think but if you need to learn from scratch, there are many tutorials available online.   

Homemade First and Emergency 

Building your first aid kit for a day hike means you can tailor it to your needs rather than relying on a pre-packed first aid kit. 

What to include in your first aid kit:

  • Antiseptic towelettes
  • Antiseptic ointment 
  • Safety pins
  • Bandaids
  • Elastic bandage 
  • Safety pins
  • Wound closure strips 
  • Antihistamine 
  • Ibuprofen 
  • Energy drink with electrolytes 
  • Swiss army knife
  • Tweezers  
  • Safety matches 
  • Whistle


  • Sunscreen
  • Bug repellent  
  • Toilet roll
  • Baby wipes 

Personal Items

  • Id 
  • Cash 
  • Cellphone 


Being prepared for your hike will make it much more enjoyable. Always tell someone where you’re going and when you plan to return. Even if you’re going on a popular trail for just a day hike, you may accidentally wander off course or the trail may be deserted that day. 

Consider joining a local hiking group, you’ll make like minded friends and learn new skills, all while enjoying the lush American outdoors.