Day hiking is supposed to be fun. And part of the fun is a light pack for easy walking. Unfortunately, most day hiking gear lists are way too heavy. But on the other hand, you DO want all the right gear to be safe!
So what to do? This ultralight day hiking checklist will help you select the right gear to keep your daypack light, a spring in your step, but still keep you safe and happy. Better yet, it has a lot of inexpensive gear so you won’t go broke in the process!
The Problem with Most Day Hiking Gear Checklists
This day hiking checklist is more comprehensive & useful than other hiking checklists. Here is why:
- Most lists don’t have weights for their gear. This inevitably leads to a heavy pack.
- They don’t give specific options for light gear or budget gear. E.g. the 10 oz! $40 REI Flash 18 Pack or the value $40 Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles (on Amazon — 1/3 price but equal to the best poles!
- They are too focused on the 10 essentials and fail to recommend important items like packs, trekking poles; light, non-blistering hiking shoes; best strategies for Lyme & Zika protection, etc.
Food and Water: They do not give good recommendations for carrying a sensible amount of food and water. Water carried should be based on water availability & hiker preferences. See more in Hydration in 13 Essentials. Food carried should be based on length of hike & hiker preferences. See more in Nutrition in 13 Essentials
Photography: Finally, a major focus of many day hikes is getting great photos. We have a great post on The best lightweight Camera Gear for Hiking which includes a bunch of photo tips and hacks.
3 lb Ultralight Day Hiking Checklist
Like most day hiking checklists this is based on a core set of “essentials.” In this case, my popular “13 Essentials for the Modern Hiker —A Realistic 10 Essentials.” (It’s worth a quick read if you haven’t done so.) But my list goes further to give you all the OTHER gear you need to be safe and happy on a long day hike.
Note: a Weight Summary Table is at the end of this post.
Day hiking Backpacks
Item Details Oz Comments Pack opt 1 $55 REI Co-op Flash 22 Pack 14.5
or smaller $28 Flash 18 10.0
10.0 Very light, inexpensive & functional UL packs. Blessedly minimal which is wonderful! Pack opt 2 Osprey Talon 22 M’s & Tempest 20 W’s Daypacks Lots of pockets for fast access & gear org. Non-sweaty backpanel. Pack opt 3 $90 Moutain Laurel Designs Core 22L Pack 6.5-7.5 oz Lightest pack here. Made in USA. Minimal, durable, utilitarian. Your own “day” pack Most small to medium backpacks! e.g. $16 High Sierra Riprap Backpack at Costco (25 oz) Most packs approx. 15 to 30 liters (900 to 1800 in3) should work. I’ve taken my city laptop backpack on daylong technical canyoneering trips! Waterproofing for pack Gossamer Gear Pack Liner
or a trash compactor bag
1.2 Both are lighter less expensive & more effective than a pack cover.
Item Details Oz Comments Primary map Paper: type of map & weight varies 1.0 See “Staying Found” in 13 Essentials Modern Hiker Compass Suunto M-3D Compass (1.6) 1.6 Lightest compass with declination adjustment Alt. navigation GPS App on Smartphone (~6 oz) See “13 Essentials for Modern Hiker” for more info. on GPS navigation and mapping via smartphone.
Item Details Oz Comments Water “bottle” Sawyer 32 oz Squeez Pouch 1.0 oz
Sawyer 64 oz Squeez Pouch 1.5 oz
1L commercial h20 bottle 1.0 oz
1.0 See “Drink When Thirsty” regarding best practices for good hydration
Standard water bottles, e.g. Aquafina, work great.
Purification Sawyer filter (3.0) 3.0 To drink on the spot – greatly reduces water cary/weight. Non chemical. Purification Chlorine Dioxide tablets (0.5) Light purification alternative. Filter backup.
Emergency Gear and First Aid
Item Details Oz Comments Headlamp Black Diamond Spot Lite 160 (1.9 oz)
Black Diamond Spot 325 (3.2 oz)
$11 Energizer Vision HD (3.0 oz)
1.9 Ion for a “usual dayhike.” (REI Garage closeout)
Spot headlamp if hiking dawn/dusk or dark
Value $15 Energizer @Amazon, Target, or Walmart
Batteries Spare 1.0 For headlamps and other essential gear First Aid $12 Adv Med Kits Travel Medic 2.0
Adv. Medical Kits Day Tripper 3.5
2.0 or assemble your own. See: 1st Aid – 13 Essentials
See my Homemade 1st Aid Kit here
SOS/Tracker Preferred: Garmin inReach Mini (3.2) 2-way communication (a big deal!), visible GPS coordinates, and trip tracking+SOS SOS/Track (alt) SPOT Gen3 (4.8) Disadvantages: only 1-way com, no vis. GPS coord. Shelter Emergency bivy 3.8 Prefer bivy over blanket. Can also take a light tarp. Firestarter Bic lighter, + fire starting material 0.5 Energy bar wrappers, or Coghlans Fire Sticks
See: Fire Starters in 13 Essentials
Knife or Multi-tool & Repair Kit
Item Details Oz Comments Knife/scissors $4 Wescott school scissors 0.9 More useful than knife – OK for plane carryon Knife $14 Gerber L.S.T. Drop Point 1.2 oz
Swiss Army Classic Knife 1.6
Fave. Can cut bread & salami. Light for 2.6″ blade
Well, it’s a “classic”
Knife (alt) Spyderco Ladybug Knife (0.6) 2″ blade – one of the lightest functional knives Multi-tool Leatherman Squirt PS4 (1.9) More a multi-day item. Bring small one if you want Repair Kit A minimal repair kit 1.0 See Repair Kit in 13 Essentials
Warm Clothing Carried in Pack (select based on expected weather)
Item Details Oz Comments shirt/baselayer/ mid-layer Patagonia R1 Hoodie
or Patagonia R1 Pullover
Think of it as “fur for humans.” possibly the most versatile cool to very cold weather base layer. It works over an astonishing range of conditions. Mid-layer top TNF TKA 100 1/4 Zip Pullover or
Amazon 100wt fleece w zipper
7.9 Sadly it appears that 100 wt fleece shirts like this are a dying breed. You may still be able to find a few. Otherwise go for a 200 wt one, the Patagonia R1 Hoodie above or a Patagonia R2 garment Windshell Patagonia Houdini Jacket (3.3) If I don’t bring, will layer rain jacket over my fleece Warm jacket Hgh quality down jacket (REI)
or Feathered Friends Eos (10.5 oz)
For colder hikes, and especially at rest stops. Stuffed with 900 fill power down! GiooValue wm jkt $24 “32 Degrees” Down Vest 6.0 “32 Degrees brand” Packable Down Vest @Amazon. For more down clothing see: Recommended Down Jackets, Pants, and Booties Warm hat OR Option Balaclava 1.2 Warmer than hat. Or a fleece beanie. Gloves (basic) Defeet DuraGloves (2.5) Great liner glove – light, warm, durable! Gloves alt. $13 Glacier Glove fingerless (2.0) 2.0 Dexterity & warmth for photog. & other activities
Rainwear Carried in Pack (select based on expected weather)
Item Details Oz Comments Rain Jacket Outdoor Research Helium II (6.4) 6.4 From REI: less expensive than many at this weight Rain Jacket (Value) REI Co-op Rainier Rain Jacket $45-$90 value rain jacket with a solid and functional design. RainJacket (alt) Patagonia Storm Racer (6.0) Light! Minimal. Amazing it’s 3-layer fabric! Rain Pants OR Helium Rain Pants (6.0) Light, inexpensive. Don’t bring on many hikes. Rainpants (alt) Rain chaps or rain kilt (2.0 oz) For trips with low probability of rain, or warm rain Rain Mitts (alt) REI Minimalist Rain Mitts
MLD eVENT Rain Mitts (1.2)
Light. Waterproof. Add a lot of warmth over gloves.
Hiking Clothes Worn – NOT Carried in Pack (select based on expected weather)
Item Details Oz Comments Note: Read more on clothing suggestions for Best Ways to Protect from Lyme & Zika Shirt Rail Riders Adventure Top 7.3
or Sahara shirts like these at REI
Pers fave. For hot and/or brushy (not a baselayer) Shirt (alt) $40 REI 1/4-Zip Tech Shirt 6.5 REI Co-op Merino Half-Zip (8.8) 6.5 Versatile, light, 50 SPF, nice collar, zipper neck
Wool shirt & baselayer: for cooler weather – love new REI merio
Pants REI Sahara convertible pants (14) 14 Ex Officio and many others make similar pants Sun/hiking hat Outdoor Research Sun Runner Hat 2.5 Removable sun cape. Adaptable to most situations Underwear ExOfficio Give-N-Go M’s & W’s 2.0 Dry fast, don’t hold a lot of moisture. Bra Patagonia Active spots bra Alison’s favorite Shoes Altra Lone Peak Trail Runners 18.0 Light. Huge toe room. Comfortable! Superiors lighter. Lone Peaks more protective sole. Shoes (alt) Brooks Cascadia (25 oz) Very popular trail shoe for hikers (& backpackers) Shoes (alt) Lightweight trail running shoes
(you likely own a pair)
Most non-Goretex trail/road running shoes that fit Socks SmartWool PhD Light Mini or
Darn Tough 1/4 UL w cushion
1.8 All are great socks. For most hikers, the thinner & less padding the better. Gaiters Dirty Girl gaiters (1.2 oz) I rarely find the need for gaiters with long pants
Gear Worn – NOT Carried in Pack
Item Details Oz Comments Watch value $35 basic solar wrist watch 1.5 My favorite basic watch for hiking. Watch Suunto Core w positive display 2.2 Compass, altimeter, multifunctional timepiece. Sunglasses Rx and non-Rx (polarized) 1.0 http://www.zennioptical.com/ for cheap Rx options Glasses Zenni clear Rx glasses (1.0 oz) Great glasses! for $20 or so. But 2-3 week delivery Camera Varies depending on photo goals
Could be better using your phone!
See Serious Lightweight Backpacking Cameras Poles value $40 Cascade Mtn. Tech Carbon 15.2 Personal favorite. 1/3 price but equal to best poles Trek Poles REI Flash Carbon Poles (14.8 oz) Stiff, light, travel-friendly, won’t break off-trail/rough terrain (readily available)
Insect and Bug Protection
Item Details Oz Comments Hiking clothes Sun & bug protective clothing is your first and best option… See clothing section above for best hiking shirt, pants, hats, trail shoes, etc. Insect repell. Sawyer Picaridin lotion 14 hrs!
Pocketable Picaridin 0.5 oz spray
1.0 Lyme Zika protection: Picaradin Lotion most effective & long lasting. Unlike DEET it has no odor & won’t melt plastic. Sunscreen Small 1 oz tube 1.0 Or repackage your favorite into a 0.5 or 1.0 oz bottle. Best if applied before you go hiking. Lip balm High SPF water resistant types 0.2 Minimal wt for dedicated lip balm Sunglasses Needn’t be expensive (~ 1 oz) 1.0 e.g. Tifosi’s on discount in REI Garage
Sanitation – Leave No Trace
Item Details Oz Comments Potty needs Deuce of Spades Potty Trowel 0.6
$5 GSI cathole Trowel 2.9 oz
0.6 For digging catholes to bury human waste. See LNT Principle 3: Dispose of Waste Properly Sanitizer/soap Alcohol based, e.g. “Purell” 0.5 1/2 oz or 1.0 oz travel size in most pharmacies Toilet paper Plain, white, non-perfumed Use sparingly. See LNT practices. Wag bag To carry human waste out (2.5 oz) When reg’s require, e.g. Mt Whitney CA
Finally a Few Tips
- Bring a change of clean clothes, sandals for tired feet, water, & a snack in the car for post hike.
- Read more on clothing and repellent suggestions for Best Ways to Protect yourself from Lyme & Zika and other bug transmitted diseases.
- Leave one trip itinerary/emergency info document with a friend and another in your car at trail head. See more: “Why You Should Make a Trip Plan and Leave it with Someone for Every Trip”
- Practicing Leave No Trace Principals: e.g. proper tools & techniques for waste disposal; using light, low profile tread shoes for minimal impact, etc.
SECTION TOTALS Lbs Day hiking backpack & rain cover 0.7 List includes a range of packs for both cost & weight Navigation, Hydration, Emergency Gear… 1.2 also Knife/Multi-tool, Repair Kit, Insect & Bug Protection, Sanitation Rainwear, Warm Clothing 1.1 Carried in pack (not worn most of time) BASE DAYPACK WEIGHT (BPW) 3.0 BPW = all items in pack = all items above Clothing Worn and Items Carried (not in pack) 3.8 Includes hiking shirt & pants, hat, shoes, trekking poles, stuff in pockets, etc. Average amount of water carried in pack ? Based on water availability & hiker preferences
See: Hydration in 13 Essentials
Snack food for day hike ? Based on length of hike & hiker preferences
See: Nutrition in 13 Essentials
Camera Equipment Gear List (new page) Details for Serious Light Backpacking Cameras
This post contains affilate links. If you make a purchase after clicking on the these links, a portion of the sale helps support this site at no additional cost to you. I do not receive compensation from the companies whose products are listed. For product reviews: unless otherwise noted, products are purchased with my own funds. I am never under an obligation to write a review about any product. Finally, this post expresses my own independent opinion.