Day hiking is supposed to be fun. And part of the fun is a light pack for easy walking. Unfortunately, most day hiking checklists 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!
|For most day hiking checklists: If you add up the weight of their suggested gear, your “daypack” may approach the weight of a heavy backpack for a multi-day trip in the backcountry. Not fun!|
Problems with Most Day Hiking Checklists
This day hiking checklist is more comprehensive & useful than other hiking checklists. Here his 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. E.g. the 10 oz! $40 REI Flash 18 Pack.
- 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.
Budget Gear Highlights
This 3 lb Ultralight Day Hiking Checklist tries to reduce costs. As such, it includes a number of great values in lightweight & ultralight day hiking gear. A few examples are:
- $90 Mountain Laurel Designs Core 22L Pack Lightest pack in this list. Made in USA. Durable, & functional.
- $40 – $55. REI Flash 18 Pack and Flash 22 Pack – These little day packs are light on your back and your wallet. A relief in an era when many “daypacks” approach the heavy weight of long distance backpacks.
- $83 Osprey Men’s Talon 22 and Women’s Tempest 20 Packs.
- $40 Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles (on Amazon). Personal favorite. 1/3 price but equal to the best poles!
- $35 REI Co-op Fleece Jacket Men’s – and Women’s. A great basic layering piece that won’t break the bank.
- $11 Energizer Vision HD Headlamp (Amazon)
- $60 REI Co-op Rainier Rain Jacket Men’s and Women’s. Competitor to the classic Marmot Precip Jacket but 1/2 the price.
Summary of Weights
|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|
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.
Day hiking Backpacks
|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 (1.2)|
(alt: a trash compactor bag)
|1.2||Both are lighter less expensive & more effective than a pack cover.|
|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.|
|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
|Headlamp||Black Diamond Ion (1.9 oz)|
Black Diamond Spot (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: inReach SE (6.9)||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
|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|
$10 Schrade Little Pal Knife 1.6
|Fave. Can cut bread & salami. Light for 2.6″ blade|
Schrade good value for light knife. 2.3″ blade.
|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)
|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||REI Co-op Fleece Jacket or|
a light! fleece jacket you own
|REI Co-op Fleece Jacket on Sale for $22 (a great low-cost, 200 wt mid-layer)|
|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||Feathered Friends Eos Down Jacket (hooded) (10.5 oz)||For colder hikes, and especially at rest stops. Stuffed with 900 fill power down!|
|Wm jacket (alt)||West. Mtn. Flash XR Jacket (11)||Water resistant shell (for wet and cold hikes)|
|Value 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)||DuraGlove ET Charcoal Wool (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)
|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 Essential Rain Jacket – Men’s (8.8) REI Co-op Essential Rain Jacket – Women’s (7.6 oz)||$70 is a great value for a sub 9 oz 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)||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)
|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||Patagonia briefs Mens|
Patagonia briefs Women’s
|2.0||Dry fast, don’t hold a lot of moisture.|
|Bra||Patagonia Active spots bra||Alison’s favorite|
|Shoes||Altra Superior Trail-Running or|
Altra Lone Peaks
|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 or
|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
|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
|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
|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.
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.