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9 Must Have Items for Your Summer Day Hike

The weather is warm, which means it’s prime hiking time for many Americans across the country. It’s time to lace up your hiking boots and hit the trails. As you begin to plan out your next hike, there are a few day pack items that we consider “must-haves” to ensure your hike is as safe as it is fun.



1. Navigation

It’s important to plan out your route before you head out for your day hike. Consider a map and a compass for easy and reliable navigation. A GPS device is also great for pinpointing your exact location, just in case you move off the beaten path. Most modern handheld GPS units allow for easy-to-read topographic maps to keep you on track and on schedule. Always make sure you pack a lightweight portable charger to keep your GPS running throughout your hike.

2. Headlamp

During the summer, the nights are the shortest, but don’t let the extended sunlight fool you. Nighttime can sneak up on you and before you know it, a day hike can easily turn into one where you can quickly lose your way. A flashlight can be hard to hold and makes reading a map a challenge, whereas a headlamp keeps hands free and is a great item to throw in your day pack just in case.

3. Sun Protection

We’ll start with your eyes: sunglasses are key to keeping your eyes safe from the sun’s harmful UV rays and also act to reduce midday glare for improved visibility. Next, be sure to pack sunscreen to help protect any exposed skin. According to the Skin Cancer Foundation, one in five Americans are diagnosed with skin cancer in their lifetime. When selecting the right sunscreen, make sure you buy no less than SPF 15, but SPF 30 is recommended. Also, ensure that you’re buying sunscreen that blocks both UVA and UVB rays, and apply the lotion every couple of hours (more frequently for sweaty hikes). Not a fan of lathering up the sunblock? A great alternative is wearing synthetic UV protective clothing. If you choose to go the clothing route, you must still use sunscreen on your face, neck, and hands to be fully protected.

4.  First Aid Kit

First Aid is an item you should have, but hope to never need. Buy an already assembled First-Aid Kit to save time and take the guesswork out of trying to choose which medical supplies are the most important for your day hike. All kits should include the following:

  • Blister Treatment
  • Disinfecting Ointment
  • Gauze Pads
  • Adhesive Tape
  • Pain Medication
  • Pen and Paper
  • Latex Gloves

Keep in mind that your kit size should be proportional to the number of people in your party and the length of the trip.

5. Hydration Supplies

Water is one of the most important items to take with you on your day hike. Water tends to weigh down your pack, so consider a hydration bladder pack to store your hiking gear and water on your back. Hydration packs do a great job dispersing the weight of your gear to make hiking a bit more comfortable. If you think your hike will extend beyond half a day, we recommend packing an additional water purification system for optimal hydration throughout your adventure.

6. Fire-starting Equipment

When trying to build a fire, preparation is key. A flint fire starter is great, lightweight, and pretty reliable in dry conditions. Waterproof matches are one way to avoid wet conditions putting a damper on your fire, but make sure you pack them in a plastic bag to ensure they stay extra dry. Check local fire regulations before you travel to make sure fires are permitted in your hiking area. Many locations experience extreme fire hazard conditions during the summer months. If you do start a fire, only build one in designated areas, never leave it unattended, and douse it thoroughly before leaving the area. If you don’t absolutely need a fire, don’t light one.

7. Extra Food

The rule of thumb for hiking is to pack an extra day’s worth of food before you head out on your hike. Freeze-dried meal packets are easy to pack and lightweight. Don’t forget quick energy sources such as granola bars, nuts, jerky, and dried fruits. If you plan to set up a shelter, be sure to store your food at least 100 yards from your tent or use bear-proof containers or bags.

8. Shelter

As the saying goes, “hope for the best and prepare for the worst” when day hiking. In a perfect world, you won’t need a shelter for a day hike, but if you get lost in the backcountry, an emergency shelter will shield you from the elements. In a pinch, an emergency shelter can be something as simple as a large trashbag or a bivy sack.

9. Portable Power

For all of the electronics requiring a battery, it’s important to make sure you have additional portable power. The last thing you want is to have the sun go down and lose your GPS or headlamp, due to a dead battery.

It’s Time to Explore.

These essentials are key to making sure you have a safe and awesome hike. Keep in mind that other items such as a knife, insect repellant, a whistle, and communication device are all other important items to pack you on trek. Now get out there and explore the outdoors.