Ultralight Day Hiking Checklist

3 lb Ultralight Day Hiking Gear Checklist – stay safe, be light, have fun!

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:

    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. 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!
    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.

    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.

    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!

    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

    Pack opt 1$55 REI Co-op Flash 22 Pack 14.5
    or smaller $28 Flash 18 10.0
     10.0Very light, inexpensive & functional UL packs. Blessedly minimal which is wonderful!
    Pack opt 2Osprey Talon 22 M’sTempest 20 W’s DaypacksLots of pockets for fast access & gear org. Non-sweaty backpanel.
    Pack opt 3$90 Moutain Laurel Designs Core 22L Pack 6.5-7.5 ozLightest pack here. Made in USA. Minimal, durable, utilitarian.
    Your own “day” packMost 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 packGossamer Gear Pack Liner
    or a trash compactor bag
     1.2Both are lighter less expensive & more effective than a pack cover.
    3 lb Ultralight Day Hiking 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.


    Primary mapPaper: type of map & weight varies 1.0See  “Staying Found” in 13 Essentials Modern Hiker
    CompassSuunto M-3D Compass (1.6)1.6Lightest compass with declination adjustment
    Alt. navigationGPS 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
    1.0See “Drink When Thirsty” regarding best practices for good hydration
    Standard water bottles, e.g. Aquafina, work great.
    PurificationSawyer filter (3.0)3.0To drink on the spot – greatly reduces water cary/weight. Non chemical.
    PurificationChlorine Dioxide tablets (0.5)Light purification alternative. Filter backup.

    Emergency Gear and First Aid

    Ultralight Day Hiking Checklist

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

    HeadlampBlack Diamond Spot Lite 160 (1.9 oz)
    Black Diamond Spot 325  (3.2 oz)
    $11 Energizer Vision HD (3.0 oz)
     1.9Ion for a “usual dayhike.” (REI Garage closeout)
    Spot headlamp if hiking dawn/dusk or dark
    Value $15 Energizer @Amazon, Target, or Walmart
    Batteries Spare1.0For headlamps and other essential gear
    First Aid$12 Adv Med Kits Travel Medic 2.0
    Adv. Medical Kits Day Tripper
     2.0or assemble your own. See: 1st Aid – 13 Essentials
    See my Homemade 1st Aid Kit here
    SOS/TrackerPreferred: 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.
    ShelterEmergency bivy 3.8 Prefer bivy over blanket. Can also take a light tarp.
    FirestarterBic 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


    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 scissors0.9More 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)

    shirt/baselayer/ mid-layerPatagonia 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 topTNF TKA 100 1/4 Zip Pullover or
    Amazon 100wt fleece w zipper
    7.9Sadly 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
    WindshellPatagonia Houdini Jacket (3.3)If I don’t bring, will layer rain jacket over my fleece
    Warm jacketHigh 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 hatOR Option Balaclava1.2Warmer 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) 2.0Dexterity & 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 JacketOutdoor Research Helium II (6.4) 6.4From 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 PantsOR 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)

    Note: Read more on clothing suggestions for Best Ways to Protect from Lyme & Zika
    ShirtRail 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) 6.5Versatile, light, 50 SPF, nice collar, zipper neck
    Wool shirt & baselayer: for cooler weather – love new REI merio
    PantsREI Sahara convertible pants (14) 14Ex Officio and many others make similar pants
    Sun/hiking hatOutdoor Research Sun Runner Hat2.5Removable sun cape. Adaptable to most situations
    UnderwearExOfficio Give-N-Go M’s & W’s2.0Dry fast, don’t hold a lot of moisture.
    BraPatagonia Active spots braAlison’s favorite
    ShoesAltra Lone Peak Trail Runners 18.0Light. 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
    SocksSmartWool PhD Light Mini  or
    Darn Tough 1/4 UL w cushion
    1.8All are great socks. For most hikers, the thinner & less padding the better.
    GaitersDirty 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 watch1.5My favorite basic watch for hiking.
    WatchSuunto Core w positive display 2.2Compass, altimeter, multifunctional timepiece.
    SunglassesRx and non-Rx (polarized)1.0http://www.zennioptical.com/ for cheap Rx options
    GlassesZenni clear Rx glasses (1.0 oz)Great glasses! for $20 or so. But 2-3 week delivery
    CameraVaries depending on photo goals
    Could be better using your phone!
    See Serious Lightweight Backpacking Cameras
    Poles value$40 Cascade Mtn. Tech Carbon15.2Personal favorite. 1/3 price but equal to best poles
    Trek PolesREI Flash Carbon Poles (14.8 oz)Stiff, light, travel-friendly, won’t break off-trail/rough terrain (readily available)

    Insect and Bug Protection

    Hiking clothesSun & 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 1.0Or repackage your favorite into a 0.5 or 1.0 oz bottle. Best if applied before you go hiking.
    Lip balmHigh SPF water resistant types0.2Minimal wt for dedicated lip balm
    SunglassesNeedn’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

    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 needsDeuce of Spades Potty Trowel 0.6
    $5 GSI cathole Trowel 2.9 oz
     0.6For digging catholes to bury human waste. See LNT Principle 3: Dispose of Waste Properly
    Sanitizer/soapAlcohol based, e.g.  “Purell” 0.51/2 oz or 1.0 oz travel size in most pharmacies
    Toilet paperPlain, 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
    Ultralight Day Hiking Checklist

    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 cover0.7List includes a range of packs for both cost & weight
    Navigation, Hydration, Emergency Gear…1.2also Knife/Multi-tool, Repair Kit, Insect & Bug Protection, Sanitation
    Rainwear, Warm Clothing1.1Carried in pack (not worn most of time)
    BASE DAYPACK WEIGHT (BPW) 3.0BPW = all items in pack = all items above
    Clothing Worn and Items Carried (not in pack) 3.8Includes 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.

12 replies
  1. VR
    VR says:

    > Suunto M-3D Compass (1.6) 1.6 Lightest compass with declination adjustment

    Although the M-3D is a better compass, the Brunton TruArc 3 is cheaper and lighter.

    • Alan Dixon
      Alan Dixon says:

      Thanks for the kind words Kevin. But if you are trying to make 3 pounds, then weights down to 0.1 oz add up. Best, -alan

  2. Christopher Worsinger
    Christopher Worsinger says:

    Nice list, love your content. One problem though- the Flash 18 lins at the top are taking me to the HMG 3400 page, rather than REI.


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