This post contains affiliate links. When you click on an affiliate link, we get a small compensation at no cost to you. See our Disclosure Policy for more info.
While going for a day hike in a national park might seem like something you can do without much preparation, there are a few items you’ll need to pack for a day hike in order to be prepared for whatever might come your way. Luckily, this Complete Day Hike Packing List will have you totally prepared to tackle any day hike!
Day Hike Backpack
No matter where your day hike is, you will want a backpack to carry everything you’ll be bringing.
Now, you don’t need a huge backpacking backpack, but a smaller average-sized backpack with a decent amount of room will be comfortable and can carry everything else on this day hike packing list.
There are thousands of day hike backpacks, or daypacks, out there, but these are ones we have tested and recommend for their comfort, reliability, and overall high-quality.
Osprey Talon 22
The Osprey Talon 22 is the best all-around backpack for a day hike. If you are going to get one backpack for day hikes, go with the Talon 22 from Osprey.
It has mesh back, which makes it super comfortable and allows airflow. There is also a section to hold a water reservoir bladder, water bottles, and it’s big enough to hold everything else you need to pack for a day hike.
Arkadia Supply Co. Sea to Sky Pack
The Arkadia Supply Co. Sea to Sky Pack is a smaller daypack that can be used for day hikes. It’s super lightweight, can roll up into the size of a baseball, and it’s 100% waterproof!
This is perfect if you are looking for a day hiking backpack for shorter hikes in wet areas. It’s not as comfortable as the Talon 22, but it is waterproof and much easier to pack in a larger travel or hiking backpack. Plus, it’s totally waterproof!
You can buy the Sea to Sky Pack from Arkadia Supply Co.
If you are concerned about keeping your hiking gear dry, but don’t want to buy the Arkadia Supply Co. Sea to Sky Pack just to use inside your other day hiking backpack as a waterproof bag, buy a Sea to Summit Dry Bag.
You can put your electronics or anything else you don’t want to get wet in a dry bag, roll it up, and put it in your backpack for your day hike.
Dry bags come in all sorts sizes, so you can choose the one that best suits what you need.
Bringing enough water on a day hike is one of the most important things you can do. You don’t want to run out of water and get dehydrated.
The easiest way to bring water on a day hike is to get a water bottle. You’ll want one that’s big enough, but will also fit in your day hiking backpack. There are tons of water bottles out there, so you’ll have no trouble finding one.
Our favorite water bottle is a Hydro Flask because it’s insulated and keeps your water either cold or hot for long periods of time. Taking a sip of cold water on a hot day hike is very refreshing.
Nalgene is also a high-quality water bottle that is great for hikes. However, it is not insulated like the Hydro Flask, so you water will get hot quick.
Lastly, if you are hiking somewhere without potable water, LifeStraw Water Bottles are a great way to go because they have a filtering straw that purifies your water you drink it.
Water Reservoir Bladder
If you are going on a longer day hike, or just want to carry enough water to make sure you don’t run out, go with a water reservoir bladder.
These are also called water bladders or Camelbaks. Different companies make their own, but they are all about the same, other than coming in different sizes. The Osprey Talon 22 backpack has a space to hold the water reservoir, which makes it super comfortable to carry while hiking because it keeps its upright and against your back.
We almost always carry a water reservoir on our day hikes because we want to make sure we have enough water, and they are easier to drink from than a water bottle.
Hiking Shoes for a Day Hike
Hiking shoes are essential for a day hike because without the correct footwear, your entire day hike, as well as potentially the rest of your trip, could be ruined.
There are tons of hiking shoes available out there, with everything from hiking boots to simple athletic shoes. On most day hikes, you won’t need the most expensive or intense hiking boots, but having high-quality ones with good support and grip will make a world of a difference, especially on unstable terrain.
For hiking shoes for day hikes, we opt for lower profile hiking shoes or trail running shoes. They have fantastic grip, are comfortable, durable, and lightweight.
We recommend trying them on before you buy, or to buy from an online store with a good return policy.
Becca has La Sportiva hiking shoes. They have a great selection of shoes, both hiking and trail running, that work well for day hikes and are super durable.
Mike has used a variety of trail running shoes for day hikes. He likes these better because they fit more like regular shoes, instead of a hiking boot, and have a ton of grip.
Day Hiking Clothes
Unless you’ll be hiking in the nude, you’ll probably want some clothes for your day hike. Many day hikes can be done in normal athletic clothes, but for long day hikes, you might want some more technical clothes so you’ll be more comfortable.
Comfortable Shorts or Pants
Depending on the temperature of where you are hiking, you’ll want to get a comfortable pair of shorts or pants to hike in. Although for 99% of day hikes, you won’t need anything technical, just comfortable.
If you are hiking somewhere hot, you will want to upgrade over your standard cotton shirt to a sweat-wicking shirt, especially if you sweat a lot. A sweat or moisture-wicking shirt will keep you drier and more comfortable since your shirt won’t be sticking to your body.
If there’s a chance of rain, it’s a good idea to pack a waterproof jacket on your day hike packing list. It’s better to have it just in case than be stuck in the rain without it.
You can get some super-lightweight waterproof jackets that roll up into the size of a ball, so you won’t even notice you have it in your backpack during your day hike.
A gaiter is a great addition to any day hike packing list because it very versatile and lightweight. They are especially useful if you are hiking in mountains or any area with changes in temperature because you can wear it as a headband, face covering, neck cover, and more!
Seeing as though you will be hiking outside all day, you will want to pack some items that will help protect you from the sun.
Food for a Day Hike
No matter how long your day hike is, it’s a good idea to pack a little snack. This way if you get stranded, something unexpected happens, or you simply get hungry, you will have something to eat.
You can also bring Liquid IV electrolyte drink mix if you are worried about getting dehydrated. Add these to your water for extra electrolytes, rehydration, and a little flavor!
This section of this complete day hike packing list is more dependent on where you are hiking. If you are in bear country, like Grand Teton or Yellowstone. You will need to carry bear spray and know how to use it.
Obviously, if you are hiking in an area without bears, you won’t need bear spray…
If your day hike is in an area with a lot of insects or mosquitos, you might want to pack some inspect repellent. It’s not necessarily a must-pack, but it’s not a bad idea to put on your packing checklist for your day hike.
In Case of Emergency
These are a few things to pack for your day hike that you hopefully won’t need. However, they could come in handy in case of an emergency!
A space blanket will easily pack into your day hike backpack and could keep you warm using reflective heat in case you get caught in a storm.
Again, hopefully you will never need these on a day hike, but they could end up saving your life in something unexpected happened.
The last section of this day hike packing list is not essential to your day hike or safety but is something most people probably want to bring.
Many hikers will want to take some photos of their hikes for memories, to show people back home, or for IG.
For a camera, you can use your phone, or spring for higher end cameras like a Nikon or Canon. If you will be doing more adventurous hiking in unpredictable weather, go for a GoPro, but make sure to pack some extra batteries because they die pretty fast.
Lastly, a small, portable tripod is a great add-on to and hikers photography equipment for wonderful nature photos.
While this may seem like a lot to pack for day hike, all the items on this packing list are lightweight and can fit in a small day hiking backpack.
They are all durable and high-quality, so you won’t be needing to replace the items over and over. Everything on this day hike packing list will save you money in the long run because the gear is not cheap and will not break after only a few uses.
Now that you have your complete day hike packing list and are ready to go, check out some national parks we’ve been to for inspiration to get out there and explore!