Hiking Gear List | 3 Lb Ultralight Day Hiking Essentials

Ultralight Day Hiking Checklist

Day hiking is supposed to be fun. And part of the fun is a light backpack 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? At only 3 pounds, this ultralight day hiking gear list will help you select the right hiking essentials 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 Lists

This day hiking checklist is more comprehensive & useful than other hiking checklists. Here is why:

  1. Most lists don’t have weights for their gear. This inevitably leads to a heavy pack.
  2. They don’t give specific options for light gear or budget gear. E.g. REI Flash 18 Pack or the value $40 Carbon Fiber Trekking Poles — 1/3 price but equal to the best poles!
  3. 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.
  4. 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 the 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.

Day Hiking Gear Checklist

Buckskin Gulch Utah: One of the longest and deepest slot canyons in the world. It’s a fabulous 21 mile, semi-technical canyoneering day hike where a light pack makes a huge difference in having fun!

Day Hiking Gear List

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

Pack opt 1$55 REI Co-op Flash 22 Pack (14.5 oz) or smaller $28 Flash 18 | 10.0 oz| Very light, inexpensive & functional UL packs. Blessedly minimal which is wonderful!!
Pack opt 2Osprey Talon 22 M’sTempest 20 W’s Daypacks | Lots of pockets for fast access & gear org. Non-sweaty backpanel.
Pack opt 3$90 Moutain Laurel Designs Core 25L 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 HIKPRO 20L, lightweight backpack | 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.


3 lb Ultralight Day Hiking Gear Checklist

Light & low cost daypacks L to R from lightest to heaviest:  [Far left – $90 MLD Core 22L Pack (6.5-7.5 oz) Made in USA. It’s the lightest pack. Minimal, durable, utilitarian design.], $28 REI Co-op Flash 18; $55 REI Co-op Flash 22 Pack;    Ultimate Direct. Fastpack  (not low cost, but efficient & full of pockets ), $16 High Sierra Riprap from Costco, the least expensive but heaviest.


GPS Mapping Navigation  | GAIA GPS App $16 25% off with Adventure Alan discount | 0 oz | Don’t leave home without it! See “13 Essentials for Modern Hiker” for more info. on GPS navigation and mapping via smartphone.
Paper map | Type of map & weight varies | 1.0 | See  “Staying Found” in 13 Essentials Modern Hiker
CompassSuunto M-3D Compass  |1.6 | Lightest compass with declination adjustment


Water “bottle” | Sawyer Squeeze Pouches: 1L/2L or commercial h20 bottle | 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 | To drink on the spot – greatly reduces water carry/weight. Non chemical.
Purification | Chlorine Dioxide tablets (0.5) | | Light purification alternative. Filter backup.

Emergency Gear and First Aid

Ultralight Day Hiking Essentials

Day hiking headlamps R-L: $11 Energizer Vision HD, Black Diamond Spot, Black Diamond Ion

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 coordinates.
  Headlamp rechargeableBioLite HeadLamp 220 or 330 | 1.7 | Green. Always topped off with full charge!
Batteries |  Spare or USB Battery Jackery Bolt 6000 mAh | 1.0 | For headlamps, inReach and other essential gear
Headlamp | Black Diamond Spot Lite 160 (1.9 oz) or Black Diamond Spot 325  (3.2 oz) or value $9 Energizer Vision HD (3.0 oz) |  1.9 | 160 for a “usual dayhike.” 325 headlamp if hiking dawn/dusk or dark
First Aid | $12 Adv Med Kits Travel Medic 2.0 or Adv. Medical Kits Day Tripper 3.5 |  2.0 | or assemble your own. See: 1st Aid – 13 Essentials and ee my Homemade 1st Aid Kit here
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

hiking essentials

R-L: Cutting tools for ~1 ounce – Swiss Army Classic, Spyderco Ladybug, $14 Gerber L.S.T. Drop Point ,$4 school scissors

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, or Swiss Army Classic Knife 1.6 | | Gerber a favorite. Can cut bread & salami. Light for 2.6″ 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 or 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 | 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
Windshell | Patagonia Houdini Jacket (3.3) | | If I don’t bring, will layer rain jacket over my fleece
Warm jacket | High 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!
Great Deal warm jacket| $24 “32 Degrees” Down Vest 6.0 | | “32 Degrees brand” Packable Down Vest
For more down clothing see: Recommended Down Jackets and Pants
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 for dexterity | $13 Glacier Glove fingerless (2.0) |  2.0 | Dexterity & warmth for photog. & other activities
Day Hiking Gear Checklist

Good clothing is critical when the weather turns to crap!

Rainwear Carried in Pack (select based on expected weather)

 Rain Jacket | Outdoor Research Helium 2020 |  6.3 |  less $ than many at this weight. Older models on closeout for less $
Rain Jacket (Value) | REI Co-op Rainier Rain Jacket | |  $45-$90 value rain jacket with a solid and functional design.
Rain Jacket Bomber | REI Co-op Drypoint GTX Jacket | | 3-layer durable for the tough stuff.
Rain Pants | OR Helium Rain Pants (6.0) | | Light, inexpensive. Don’t bring on many hikes.
Rain Pants (alt) | Rain chaps or rain kilt (2.0 oz) | | For trips with low probability of rain, or warm rain
Rain Mitts| REI Minimalist Rain Mitts or 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)

Lyme Disease & Zika Virus: Read more on clothing suggestions for Best Ways to Protect from Lyme & Zika
Shirt | RailRiders Adventure Top 7.3 (Use Code RRAAB21 to get 10% off your first RailRiders order) or Sahara shirts like these at REI | | Pers favrorites. For hot and/or brushy (not a baselayer)
Shirt (alt) | REI Active Pursuits Half-Zip Shirt or  REI Co-op Merino Half-Zip (8.8) |  6.5 | REI active shirt is versatile, light, 50 SPF, nice collar, zipper neck. Love the new REI Merino Wool shirt & baselayer: for cooler weather
 Pants | REI Sahara convertible pants |  14 | Been using Shara Pants for years. 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. Light. Comfortable!
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

  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 | Tifosi Podium Xc Shield Sunglasses | 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 Smart 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

(Lyme and Zika 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 repellent | Sawyer Picaridin lotion 14 hrs! Or spray if you prefer. transfer to smaller container. |  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
Best Ways to Protect Yourself from Lyme and Zika - hiking supplies

Best Lyme & Zika protection: Picaridin (lotion) lasts 40% longer than most DEET products and lacks the downsides of DEET. It has no odor and doesn’t melt plastics or degrade clothing. In Hand: Airline friendly 0.5 pump sprays, last 8 hours are small, pocketable and easily applied in the field. Right rear: Picaridin lotion lasts 14 hours, and can be repackaged into small 1 oz squeeze bottles.

Sanitation – Leave No Trace

Potty needs | Deuce of Spades Potty Trowel 0.6 or $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 or 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.
Carry Poo outWag bag to carry human waste out (2.5 oz) | | When reg’s require, e.g. Mt Whitney CA
Ultralight Day Hiking Checklist - hiking equipment

Right: The 0.6 oz Deuce of Spades Potty Trowel, minimal TP, and small bottle of Purell allow for good LNT Waste Disposal for around an ounce. Left: “Wag bag” for when regulations require you carry everything out.

Finally a Few Tips

  1. Bring a change of clean clothes, sandals for tired feet, water, & a snack in the car for post hike.
  2. Read more on clothing and repellent suggestions for Best Ways to Protect yourself from Lyme & Zika and other bug transmitted diseases.
  3. 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”
  4. Practicing Leave No Trace Principals: e.g. proper tools & techniques for waste disposal; using light, low profile tread shoes for minimal impact, etc.

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


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