10 Essentials for Day Hikes

10 Essentials for Day Hikes

Originally designed as an outdoor gear checklist, The 10 Essentials have become an essential component of adventuring outside responsibly. Having these items with you whenever you venture outside for fun or work ensures you’re in a better position to take care of yourself (and/or help someone else!) should you run into trouble.

Here's the most commonly prescribed list, updated for day hikes:

1. Navigation (Most commonly: A map & compass) — Even for day hikes, knowing where you’re going and how to get home is key. If you don’t have service and/or your phone dies and you can't revive it, what’s your backup plan? Don’t forget to tell someone where you’re going and when you expect to be back.   

2. Sun Protection (Most commonly: Sunglasses & sunscreen) — A lot of experienced day-hikers don’t hit the trails without a brimmed hat, too.

3. Insulation/Extra Clothing — Layers are awesome. Bonus points for quick-drying, technical material that’s also (at least moderately) waterproof. 

4. Illumination (Headlamp/Flashlight) — This doesn’t have to be large or heavy, but it should be something beyond your phone. Don't forget extra batteries/solar chargers! 

5. First-Aid Supplies — A basic starter kit featuring bandages, gauze, alcohol wipes, Benadryl (for impromptu allergy issues), Aspirin and Ibuprofen, safety pin/needle, and some ACE (elastic) bandage wrap. 

6. Fire-starter  — This means waterproof matches or a small lighter, or some other reliable way to create fire should you need it overnight to stay warm. 

7. Repair Kit — A repair kit can be as simple as a small roll and/or pieces of duct tape alongside a small knife and a lightweight cord of rope. 

8. Nutrition (Extra Food) — Snacks don’t have to be anything fancy or heavy. If you get stuck out for longer than expected, extra calories can make a major difference, especially in how well you’re able to think and thus problem solve.

9. Hydration (Extra Water) — Being dehydrated can lead to impaired decision-making and a slew of other mental and physical problems. Water is likely going to be the heaviest part of any day-pack, but also the most essential. 

10. Emergency Shelter — An emergency bivvy is lightweight, packable, and can literally save your life if you have an emergency that warrants needing to stay overnight/stay warm for a prolonged period of time. (Pack your bivvy with any extra layers you’re not wearing and/or pine needles and grass for bonus warmth/insulation.)

Some additional items you may want to consider carrying:

  • Whistle;
  • Emergency glow-stick;
  • Small notebook/pieces of loose paper and a Sharpie/any waterproof pen;
  • SAT phone/SPOT transponder (if you’re day-hiking off the grid).

If you’re not used to venturing out with a pack of any kind at all, carrying one might take some getting used to—but it’s well worth the additional effort. When something goes wrong (and someday something will), you won’t ever be sorry you have a pack full of tools to help. Carrying the 10 essentials can help ensure a simple accident doesn’t turn into a major incident.

If you’re looking at the list above and feeling like it’s a lot to carry, rest assured the 10 Essentials take up less space than you might imagine. A lot of risk management/survival gear is made to be compact, thereby taking up less space in your pack.

It really does feel good to be prepared, so odds are good you’ll feel lighter on your feet carrying these 10 Essentials, even if your pack is a bit heavier than usual.


This blog was thoughtfully written by Kerri Anne Stebbins. You can find her on Instagram at @kerri_anne

Bonus: #11, #12, & #13

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