Are you planning to spend the summer in the mountains? High five! We’re both in the same boat.
I’m sure you’ve seen gorgeous pictures on Instagram or from your friends enjoying beautiful landscapes and the serenity that being in nature offers. And now you’d like to experience the same. After you researched which hike you’d want to tackle, it’s time to start thinking about your day hike packing list.
You came to the right place! We’ve put together a comprehensive day hiking packing list with essentials to make your trip enjoyable and without worries.
See our entire day hike packing list below:
All hiking essentials listed in this post have been proven to be crucial or nice to have and tested by us.
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Hiking packing list for your mountain adventure
Even if you’re hiking in the summer, you need to be prepared for all four seasons while carrying as little as possible.
After thousands of kilometres of hiked trails, and after many fails carrying stuff we didn’t use, we’ve learnt many lessons and perfected our hiking packing list. These are essential things to bring on a hike.
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An essential item that can make or break a trip is a day-hiking backpack. It should be the right size to carry everything you need for the day and comfortable enough for your back.
For a day-hike, look for a backpack in 20-35 litres range. To ensure absolute comfort and fit for your body size, you should try it on in-store before buying and, most importantly, with a load. Grab some items from the store, at least 5 kg, adjust the straps and move around to see how it feels.
Other features look for:
- Plenty of inner and outer pockets
- Hip belt(with pockets) so you can lighten the pressure of the backpack from your shoulders
- Rain cover for those unexpected storms
My all-time favourite backpack is lightweight North Face Angstrom 28l. I’ve had it for more than five years; it’s been on a trip around the world with me and countless hikes in the Canadian Rockies.
If you find one, snag it while you can cause it’s discontinued. This one is similar with a lifetime warranty.
For comparison of different backpacks, read this post.
Trail running shoes vs. hiking boots
Footwear is a sensitive topic as it highly depends on the trail you’re going to hike and your fitness level. You can easily hike in trail running shoes on well-trodden dirt trails. If your hike involves rocks or light scrambling, you might need more support.
As an example, we’re always hiking in trail running shoes because they’re very comfortable, lightweight, and the soles are thick with good grip. Plus, most of the time, we get bored on the way back, so we run instead of hike.
My long-time favourite trail running/hiking shoe is Adidas Outdoor Kanadia. They have a waterproof membrane, and I use them year-round. With excellent grip on rocks and great foot support, I’ve been running and hiking in them in New Zealand, Indonesia, India, European Alps and the Canadian Rockies. Needless to say, I wear them often and already need to buy a new pair.
Michal tried several trail shoes over the last few years, and his favourites for hiking are waterproof Salomon with a wider toe box. Even though they’re made for hiking and running, he prefers lighter shoes for running, such as these Adidas Terrex.
If you’re an occasional visitor of the mountains, however, you might be more comfortable in hiking shoes with ankle support.
Whatever shoes you decide to buy, make sure you break them in and wear them outside several times before you go hiking to avoid blisters and to make sure they fit perfectly.
3. Hiking clothes
Outer layer: Rain jacket
A windproof jacket is a must on any mountain trip. Double bonus if it’s waterproof with breathable fabric as well. While hiking in the Rockies, a rain jacket is always in our backpacks.
Other features look for:
- Stretchy fabric for sports
- Adjustable hood, so the wind doesn’t blow it off
- Underarm vents to prevent excessive sweating
Michal loves his Mountain Hardwear jacket because of its fit, and since it’s a climbing jacket, it has high pockets that you can use while your backpack is strapped around the waist. My jacket packs smaller as it’s from a lighter fabric, but it’s both windproof and waterproof.
Because these are shell jackets used as an outer layer, you need to have a fleece or down jacket for warm insulation.
Mid-layer: fleece or down jacket
Both are great options and necessary hiking essentials. You never know when the weather changes and snowstorms are not uncommon in the mountains in summer.
I like to use my comfy soft fleece or a Merino sweater in spring and autumn when I know I’ll be wearing it most of the day or. If I pack ultra-light, I have at least a warm long-sleeve shirt in my backpack.
When I need to pack light and small insulating layer into my backpack (especially in summer), I like to use a down jacket which is lighter than fleece, packs into a little pouch, and uses very little space in my backpack. Also, the insulated down jacket offers more warmth than a fleece.This one is Michal’s favourite, although he usually only packs a long-sleeve shirt in summer.
Shirt or Tank Top
Whatever shirt or tank top you use, make sure it’s not made of cotton. While you carry a backpack, your back would be wet at all times.
Michal and I like to use moisture-wicking coolingT-shirts with UV protection in summer, which dry incredibly quickly. And Merino t-shirts are perfect during all other seasons – the fabric is comfortable, quick-drying, provides warmth and best of all, they’re odourless!
For sun protection in scorching weather, I like to wear this long sleeve shirt. It has UV protection, roll-up sleeves, vents on sides and a casual breathable fit. And for the most comfort, don’t forget a wire-free sports bra with light support and quick-drying fabric. I found an incredible deal for sports bra.
Leggings or pants
Which camp on this debate are you in? I love wearing either one. Leggings are usually my preferred choice at anytime of the year. They’re stretchy and quick-drying, precisely what I’m looking for and feel comfortable in. Michal always wears quick-drying shorts.
You might have noticed that quick-drying word is crucial in our summer hiking packing list and that’s because I believe nobody likes to be wet and sweaty, including us.
During spring and autumn, I usually wear hiking pants. My pants from La Sportiva are the only ones long enough for my giraffe legs, haha. They’re made of organic cotton and incredibly soft.
This is the most crucial piece of clothing in summer. What you’ll need is a breathable hiking sock, seamless around toes to prevent blisters, quick-drying antibacterial fabric, higher cut to avoid ticks and scratches from bushes, and Merino wool to have odourless socks.
4. Hydration & food
Water bottle with filter
Do you need to carry a lot of water, or does the trail cross streams or passes lakes? Make sure you do your research before the hike.
You either need to carry at least 2 litres of water in a reusable Nalgene bottle, which I find is the most lightweight bottle, or you need to take a filtration system.
If you’re hiking in the Canadian Rockies, for example, many hiking trails pass a lake or finish at a lake. In this case, all you need is a bottle with a water filter and fill up as you go. We always carry our LifeStraw bottles on our runs, hikes, and backpacking trips.
We’ve used it on multi-day treks all around the world – Mount Roraima Trek in Venezuela, Santa Cruz Trek in Peru, and while hitchhiking in Chile. While many fellow hikers were carrying heavy packs filled with drinking water, we used LifeStraw bottles and drank from lakes and creeks. I cannot praise them enough!
Some backpacks also have a compartment for a hydration pack,but I’m not a fan. I don’ need a straw next to my mouth at all times (plus the cleaning supplies for it are expensive), I drink from a bottle whenever I stop to catch my breath or admire a view.
Snacks are highly dependable on your preference and diet. The important thing to remember is always to carry more than you think you’ll need. However, if you’re hiking in Europe, chances are there’s always a hut with food along the way. In the Rockies, we need to carry everything.
We’ve been stuck and waiting out a storm several times, and you’ll need extra nutrition to continue in colder conditions.
Apart from packing a lunch, which usually consists of tuna, hard-boiled eggs or pate with bread, we carry nuts and plenty of Clif bars for extra energy.
5. Sun protection
Hat or Bandana
As much as I like to sunbathe and have a tan during summer, the sun can be cruel in the mountains. You’re in a high elevation where the sun is stronger, especially mid-day.
Any polarized sunglasses with UV protection are great. I don’t think anyone leaves the house without sunglasses in summer. Even though Michal usually wears only a hat, I need to wear my prescription sunglasses to actually to see far in the distance.
We both use natural mineral sunscreen. I’ve done enough research to understand why they’re the safest and most effective; you can read more here.
What you should look for are natural ingredients (check the label to see if only Zinc oxide or Titanium dioxide was used), SPF min 30, water & sweat resistant.
One of the best-rated sunscreens from EWG, which I use and highly recommend is Thinksport and Attitude mineral sunscreen. Alternatively, you can pack a sunscreen stick to re-apply during the day without getting your hands messy.
Map or Navigation
Always pack a map. If you’re going hiking on a well-trodden trail, a waterproof map should suffice. However, if you’re planning on detours or hiking to a more remote area, make sure you also have a GPS locator, such as Garmin InReach or similar.
You might not use it at all, but it may as well save your life.
If we’re exploring a new trail, I download a GPS map to my phone and use it that way.
7. Emergency kit
This item saved us a few times. You might start your hike early enough but never know if you get stuck due to weather and when you’re coming back. A reliable waterproof headlamp with different modes for light strength is essential and doesn’t take a lot of space in your backpack.
Carrying a thermal emergency blanket will give you peace of mind. Especially when the hail comes, and you have all your layers on, or if someone gets hurt, this extra layer retains most of the body heat.
No matter where we go, headlamp and an emergency blanket are always in our backpacks.
First aid kit
A simple first aid kit with bandages and medications can provide relief in a lot of emergencies. Only pack a few things if you’re doing a day hike.
Bear Spray Repellent is an essential item in Canada, the US and some parts of the world. If you’re flying in, you cannot take it on an airplane, but it can be purchased in most outdoor stores. Make sure you know how to use it, and keep it close.
Despite the popular belief, Parks Canada stated that bear bells are not effective in deterring bears, and you should make noise while hiking to let bears know you’re there.
Camera & GoPro
Carrying a camera is not an absolute must-have for most people since phones have great cameras these days. However, I like to carry my camera and a few different lenses so I can capture various scenes. Mostly I use a basic kit lens for casual photos but also bring a wide-angle lens for landscape shots and a zoom lens to capture wildlife.
My favourite camera is Sony Alpha a6000 for several reasons –it’s small and lightweight, reasonably priced and takes excellent pictures in all conditions. In fact, many professional photographers use it!
Check out this review of best travel cameras for backpacking.
If we’re packing light or going for a run, we always pack GoPro camera, and it’s sufficient. I love that they now have built-in stabilization, and even when I’m filming while running, the video turns out so smooth you wouldn’t know I was shaking with the camera.
If you’re bringing any electronics, and I know most of us are, make sure you have extra batteries or an external battery pack (in ziplock or dry bag, just in case). When carrying a camera, I always have two additional batteries.
For phone and GoPro, I either fully charge them before leaving or pack this battery pack. Look for one with a min. 6,700mAh capacity (enough to charge two phones).
Hand sanitizer + napkins
As a kid, parents taught me to always wash my hands in the creek after needing to do my business behind a tree. It’s a good solution but not when you’re nowhere nearby a source of water. I always pack a small bottle of hand sanitizer and a small roll of toilet paper.
I recently learned of this magic wipe, which sounded weird and gross at first, but now I’m intrigued, especially when it’s reducing waste in nature.
10. Seasonal & optional gear
Summer is a lovely hiking season, which can be quickly ruined by mosquitoes. I don’t like the smell or skin stickiness of DEET repellent, so I make my own. It’s been effectively tested in Canadian backcountry and smells incredible!
My recipe for DIY repellent – combine 200 ml Witch hazel, 5 drops of Lemon essential oil, 5 drops of Eucalyptus essential oil and pour it into a glass spray bottle. Shake well before each use and spray on your skin or clothes a few times a day.
Alternatively, you can buy biodegradable repellent.
I don’t know about the mountains in your area, but in the Canadian Rockies, you need to wear gaiters, and sometimes microspikes in spring and early summer. Join some hiking Facebook groups in your area and ask about early season conditions.
I personally don’t hike with hiking poles as I like to strengthen my leg muscles and usually run down the mountain anyway. Still, I can imagine they can offer relief for beginners or in challenging terrain.
Choose lightweight hiking poles with adjustable height and anti-shock springs if you need support for steep terrain and to protect your knees.
Are you ready for your mountain adventure? We sure hope so. Stay safe and have fun!
For all your hiking friends, check out this gift guide.
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