What to pack for a day hike – 14 essentials to pack

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We love getting out on a hike, just to get away from our busy lives and to enjoy the landscape and wildlife around us. Our favourite spot for hiking is the Seven Sisters in Eastbourne. We at least hike the route once or twice a year. 

On our road trip in Co. Wicklow in Ireland, we hiked the Great Sugar Loaf and have plans to complete a few different hikes around the UK. 

Before any hike, the two most important things to do, is research and plan the route. And then plan what to pack for a day hike.  

What you pack for a hike, will depend on the distance, the weather and where you’ll be hiking. We share our knowledge and experience of hiking, with what we pack, no matter the distance, weather or country.  

Whether you’re a first-time hiker, or experienced, we share what you need for a day hike and simple tips on preparing for your hiking trip.  

Essential hiking tips for beginners 

If you’re hiking for the first time, there’s just some things that we would recommend, before you head out on that hike. These recommendations are not only for your safety, but for the safety of others around you. 

Stay local 

By staying local, you’ll be more familiar with your surroundings and will help to prevent you from getting lost. 

There is no point booking a hike to Mount Everest thinking it would be a great idea and a great hike.  

Your inexperience could put you and the others around you in danger.  What happens if you find it too challenging or you don’t like it? You can’t exactly turn around and go back when you’re in the middle of nowhere.   

Start on a trail that’s local and with easy terrain and then build it up from there. 

Our first hike was to the Seven Sisters in Eastbourne.  

We know the area and planned our route. We even broke it down into small sections to make it more achievable and enjoyable. 

Plan and research 

We can’t stress this one enough. You need to plan and research your hike. There is no point packing your hiking bag and just hitting the paths. What should happen if you got lost, or strayed away for the path. This could put your life at risk. 

You should research the route, check other hikers’ comments and recommendations for the route. Will it be challenging or easy? What is the terrain like? All of this needs to be taken into account. 

We will do Google searches on the hikes in the area we want to visit. We will also search on Pinterest.com for experienced hikers’ recommendations, tips and hiking itineraries.  

A map of the area you plan to visit is a must and you should establish the route you plan to take for the hike. 

Once you have done some research, planning is key.  

Bring all the information you have and plan your hiking adventure.  

You can never do enough planning. 

Choose a short distance hike 

Hiking for the first time? Choosing a short and easy hike to start with, is the most suitable option.  

It gives you the chance to realise if hiking is really what you want to do, trial different terrains and begin to increase the distance over time. 

The one thing that you don’t want to do, is take on a long, challenging hike for your first time and then half way through you realise it’s too challenging, the terrain varies and you just want to go back home. Because the simple fact is, once you start, you may not be able to return back the way you came. 

We would recommend starting with a couple of kilometres and over time, increasing it.  

When we started out, we hiked short parts of the Seven Sisters, not only to gather our bearings, but to also see if we could complete the trek. We enjoyed hiking and continue to hike the entire Seven Sister route from Eastbourne to Seaford.  

Map reading 

Being able to read a map is crucial when it comes to hiking.  

Not only will reading a map help with planning your route. You’ll also establish the elevation you’ll climb, how long the route should take, but in the event, you take a wrong turn, the map will be able to guide you back to safety.  

If you don’t feel confident with reading a map, or you want to gain some experience before going it alone, you could join a hiking group and go out with experienced hikers for the first couple of times. 

Join a hiking group 

Getting involved with a hiking group, is a great way to learn the skills of hiking and you’ll be with likeminded people, who organise regular hikes within your area. 

It’s a great way to feel safe knowing that they will have your back, should something happen. 

It’s also a great way to meet new people. 

Hiking gear for beginners 

As a beginner, you should be organised and prepared, this includes packing the right gear for the type of hiking route and terrain you intend to cover.  

Get prepared for your new hiking adventure, with these recommendations on the things to pack for a hike: 

  • Backpack  
  • Map and compass  
  • Hiking shoes  
  • Trekking poles  
  • Emergency blanket  

We will go into more details shortly, but these items will be a must pack for a short-day hike: 

What to pack for a hike – a short day hike 

The advantage with a short-day hike, is that you don’t need to pack that many things. All you need to pack is the essentials.  

Overpack and you’ll be carrying all the unwanted items with you for the trip. 

These are the essentials to pack for a day hike:  


Where else will you keep all the essential items you will need for a hike?   

When choosing a backpack, you’ll need something that is lightweight, comfortable yet big enough to store everything you will need for the hike.   

In our opinion, we would recommend Osprey. We have used Osprey for many years and really can’t fault them. If you are purchasing your first backpack, or looking for a replacement, then check out the best backpacks to purchase on a budget. 

Map & Compass 

Being able to read a map is a must, it could save your life.  

You’ll need a good map and compass to plot the route you intend to take and to understand the type of terrain you’ll be covering.  

Going unprepared without a map and compass could get you lost. 

Always research and plan your route before heading out on a hike. 

A waterproof map bag is essential in wet conditions, where the map could get wet. Place the map inside the waterproof bag and you can still read the map with the knowledge that your map is protected against the elements and won’t get damaged. 

You can use a GPS (Global Positioning System) to help you plot and navigate your hiking route, but don’t rely on this too much. Why? If the batteries run out, or no signal then you could get lost or deviate from the route. Should this happen, then the map will help to get you back to safety.   

Sun protection 

In sunny conditions even if it isn’t hot, you can still get sun burnt. Sun burn isn’t good for your skin and can lead to skin cancer. So, to protect yourself, always apply sun screen, even if it is a cloudy day.  

Sun protection comes in different forms, from cream, to the spray that you rub in, to SPF lip balm. If you are light skinned, you’ll need a high SPF, always pack this and apply sun screen prior and during the hike.  

The sun can be very bright, sunglasses, hat and protective clothing will help with keeping the sun from your face and from burning.   


In the event the weather conditions change, packing a spare set of lightweight clothing is recommended. 

As altitude increases, conditions will gradually get colder. And as you descend, so will the weather increase. Having layers, will keep you warm when it grows cold, while those layers can be removed as you feel warmer.  

At lower altitudes, wear cool breathable clothing. In cold climates, wear base layers and something thicker, to keep you warm. 

Also remember to pack clothing that dry quickly. The worst thing to pack, is clothing that retains water and takes longer to dry. You don’t want to wear wet clothing, as it will just make you cold.  

Wet weather gear is a great solution, to keeping your clothing dry, when it rains. Good waterproof jacket and trousers will keep you and your clothing dry.  


A torch is there for emergencies. If you get delayed or lost and light starts to deteriorate, then a fully charged torch will help. 

It will shine a light on the path, help to attract attention or just help you to see if you have to camp out for the night.  

Tip: Ensure you have enough charge in the battery and bring spare batteries.  

First Aid Kit 

A first aid kit is a must.   

Any minor injury or illness, can easily be treatable by yourself.   

You’ll want straps, bandages, plasters, medication and more. You should check out our comprehensive post on what to pack in your first aid kit to help you have everything you need in the event of a minor injury or illness. 


Always make sure you have enough food to fuel your body before, during and after the hike. Ensure you have packed extra food in case of emergencies.  

What sort of food should you pack?  

You need plenty of food that will provide you with energy. Energy snacks such as nuts, fruit especially bananas, seeds, energy bars, etc,. Lunch should be a protein and carbohydrate, to continue to provide you with the energy you need. 

Make a sandwich or pasta, something that will fuel your body in the right way. 

You need to think healthy on a hike, taking sweets and crisps and buying fast food will only make you feel uncomfortable and slow you down.  

Eating the correct food can only make you feel better and achieve your goals. 


The biggest thing is keeping hydrated. Unfortunately, if we skip drinking fluids, then you’ll get dehydrated and could become seriously unwell.  

Therefore, water is a must. You can either pack a large water bottle, that you can refill on your trek or a hydration bladder.  

A hydration bladder, is a pouch which stores water and can be used to drink from. We can’t live without our hydration bladder; we fill it on every hike and will keep us going for every journey we make.  

Hydration bladders come with different capacities. We have a 2lt capacity, which is enough for us, for a day. If we do run out, then it’s easy to refill.  

If you’re taking water bottles, always make sure they are environmentally friendly and reusable. We hate plastics and will always avoid plastic water bottles, if there is another alternative. Plastics only add to the problem. 

We would also recommend a small energy drink, to replace the electrolytes that you would have lost during the hike.  

Multi-day hikers will need a good and reliable tent, to keep them dry and warm.  

Hiking shoes 

Good hiking shoes should be worn to keep you comfortable during the hike. Your feet should be supported and waterproof shoes will keep your feet dry in all weathers.  

Bad shoes, or bad footwear, will make your feet feel uncomfortable during the hike, but won’t support you and by the end of the hike your feet will be sore and painful.  

If you have recently purchased new hiking shoes, make sure you wear them in to prevent blisters. 

Trekking poles 

Also referred to as hiking poles. These are not a necessity, but some find that trekking poles help to reduce impact on the knees and help with stability.  

You can pick up some really good hiking poles in your local outdoor activity shop or online and can be relatively cheap. You should look out for lightweight folding poles.  

You ideally want a pair, but one pole will be sufficient.  

Need to know more about trekking poles and which you should purchase, then check out this review on Hiker Hunger Trekking Poles. 

Insect repellent 

It says what it is on the tin. But insect repellent will help prevent insects from biting. And in some places, insects can be a right pest.  

Ensure it is applied before and during the hike. We use Jungle Formula and swear by it. You can pick up insect repellent in grocery stores or pharmacies. 

Emergency Blanket 

In the event of an emergency, the emergency blanket will keep you warm. It traps the heat radiated from the body, which will keep you warm. 

This should not be used to keep you warm while camping, or at night. You should only use the blanket in extreme cases. This could save your life, so use it wisely.  

Emergency blankets are lightweight and compact, which gives no excuse for it to be packed in your hiking bag. 


While this isn’t an essential for you packing check list for a hike, it might be something you wish to include.  

You could capture some incredible landscape photographs on your camera, or wildlife that you wouldn’t normally see.  

A good compact camera, that’s small, lightweight and has some of the best features is ideal.  

We need to be a minimalist packer, so you could leave the camera at home and just use your mobile phone. 

Most mobile phones have great cameras, that allow you to take good pictures.  

Mobile phone 

This leads us onto packing a mobile phone.  

Not only is a mobile phone ideal for taking pictures of your adventures, but if you run into trouble, providing you have signal and battery, you can contact the emergency services.  

Most phones will have maps or a GPS system that could help you to navigate the route if you’re not relying upon the map.  

BUT, don’t forget mobile phones rely on battery which can run out of juice. If you can’t recharge the battery regularly, then don’t rely on the GPS or take too many photographs on your phone. 

What shouldn’t you wear or pack for a day hike 

Here are some things you just shouldn’t wear or pack for a hike, these are: 

Jewellery and makeup 

Only take things that will be used on the trip, there isn’t any point bringing your makeup as you won’t need it.  

Packing it, will only take up weight and space. Pack the essentials, not something you don’t need.  

Same with the jewellery, it really isn’t needed. The worst thing that could happen is the jewellery gets lost or stolen and why take it in the first place! 

Cotton clothing 

Clothing is there to keep you warm in cold conditions and protects you from the elements. You therefore need clothing that will do just that.  

But cotton clothing absorbs water, be that from rain or perspiration.  

If the conditions are cold and your clothing is damp, rather than the clothing protecting you, it will only make you colder, which can be dangerous, with little or no help around you. 

To prevent this from happening, avoid clothing that absorbs water such as cotton. 

The best place to buy the right type of clothing, is from a hiking store that specialise in the right equipment and clothing. 

If you don’t have a hiking store nearby, then an outdoor store or the sports range at the sports shop should have the right clothing to protect you.  

If you’re camping on a multi-day hike, you’ll need a camping stove, to cook your meals. Here is an ultimate guide to camping for beginners. 


There’s a number of reasons why jeans should never be worn or packed for a hike.   

Not only are they considerably heavier, they can become uncomfortable when wet.  

Denim is made from cotton twill fabric and related to the above point. Denim takes longer to dry, is heavy when wet and with poor insulation, this will cause you to feel cold on an already cold day. 

Hikers must consider all weather conditions when they set out on a hike, it could be lovely and dry when you leave for the hike. But half way through the route, it could start to rain. If you’re wearing jeans, you’ll just get cold and wet. 

Wear something practical in the first instance is the way to go. 


There are some foods you really don’t want to bring with you. Such as perishable food. Perishable foods could be meat that hasn’t been dried for example.  

Not only will the food go off and could leak all over your belongings, but it will smell. This won’t be pleasant for you or the people you could be hiking with.  

Bulky food that will take up too much room, squash, or break causing spillage inside the backpack should be placed into portioned sized food bags.  

Make sure any food you pack is nutritionally healthy for you and will fuel your body for the day hike. If it won’t provide you with the energy you need, don’t pack it.  

Take your rubbish home with you 

The saddest thing to see is rubbish just left everywhere. Not only is it bad for the environment, but for the wildlife around you and it certainly isn’t pleasant to see.  

It doesn’t take much to clear your rubbish up after use. Along the route, if there is a rubbish bin, put the rubbish in it. 

If there are no bins along the way, keep it with you until you reach a bin. 

Never dump your rubbish. 


Whether you’re an experienced hiker, or a beginner, we have probably all left something essential behind, or you haven’t realised you should have packed it or not packed something. 

Well, you no longer need to worry that you have left something behind, or packed incorrect items, with these essentials packing check list for a hike.  

You won’t be making the same mistake again.  

Don’t want to miss anything, then download the FREE hiking check list. 

Have you been on a hike before? What did you pack? Is there something we have missed from this list? Let us know, with a comment below. 

Continue your travel planning for a hike, with these useful posts:


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