Here is my off-the-cuff opinionated list of gear to bring, even for the shortest of hikes in the mountains. Then scroll for the dripping wet story behind this list…
Day Hike Essentials Checklist
- 2 liters of water
- Bug spray
- Rain poncho
- Warm puffer jacket
- Snake bite kit
- First aid kit with splint
- Camping knife
- Fire starter
- Iodine tablets
- GPS device
- Banana / potassium / electrolytes for cramps
- Bars for hunger and glucose restoration
Bonus but helpful:
- Drone – DJI Mavic Pro – I’m serious, why not have a drone that can go scout out the trails if you get lost? This thing weighs a few pounds and could save your life.
- Rain tarp
- Rope, stakes, lightweight mallet
- Hand warmers
- Waterproof sack
Downloadable Day Hike Packing Checklist
Ok, I even put my ideas into a custom checklist for you. I designed it myself? I manually started with a boring template in Canva and put this whole list together! It was fun. Let me know what other checklists I should create!?
Now, the back story.
The Dripping Wet Back Story
Two weeks ago I was hiking to Blood Lake in Park City, Utah.
The hike was an easy enough few mile loop, so with my gang of friends, we had just the essentials.
Actually, not even the essentials.
Below, the bare minimum.
I put on a short spray sequence of almost-empty sunscreen, forgot my water in the car and thought nothing of it.
We made it to Blood Lake, didn’t like the prospects of swimming there, so went on to the next lake, Lackawaxen Lake, which was about another mile up some moderate terrain.
We got there, a few of us jumped in the water just to feel something and then about 15 minutes in it started raining.
So we took our group photos and started heading back to the car.
Then it started hailing. Pretty hard.
We still had 2.5+ miles to walk across intermediate-level terrain, but it was a downpour, we got drenched.
Thankfully it was a pretty warm day and the rain didn’t feel too miserable, but it brought up a really good point: you really should at least have the basics of emergency essentials.
In that situation, it was unlikely but possible that:
- The rain and hailing was way worse, causing blocked trails, mudslides, and washed out trails.
- Someone slipped and twisted an ankle
- We took the wrong trail and went a mile the wrong direction and then it got dark
- It was a lot colder and some of us started shivering
- Someone got heat exhaustion
- Rattlesnake bite
As a young boy, I loved everything about hiking, camping and more than actually doing both of those, I loved dreaming about hiking and camping. I always had a stash of gear in my army bag ready to go.
One of the best days of my life was when a parent of a kid on my pop Warner football team who was in the Army Reserves brought us all a small military-grade bag. It was amazing and I used it for years.
One of the most disappointing times was when I mailed away for a “Smokey the Bear Forest Fire Kit”, imagining I would be sent back a shovel, fire starter, and emergency poncho.
8 weeks later all I got was some papers and stickers.
To this day, I have four separate bags in the garage and a large clear box filled with camping gear in different categories. I love having gear at the ready. I dream of throwing a bag in my car and driving 45 minutes to the closest campsite on a whim.
So suffice to say, I love packing the gear for outdoor adventures.
I love to get the gear – I love packing it all up, I often overpack.
Now, in 90% of situations you won’t really need 90% of that list. But if you throw it all in a backpack and it weight 10 pounds, I don’t know I think that’s good training for future backpacking expeditions right?
If I brought a bag with all of that, my friends would have certainly made fun of me. But by the same token, if in the middle of the hailstorm a few miles from the car, I whipped out a rain poncho and a banana, that would be pretty baller. I’d be a legend for the rest of the weekend.
You can be a legend too if you get the gear.