Hiking Checklist for a day hike

A hiking checklist will get you ready for a great hike in the Blue Ridge Mountains. Or are you preparing for a hike in any mountains, coast, or local city park? No matter where you hike, you have essentials that you need to take if you are planning a hike over two miles. Self sufficiency in the back country ranks high on the survival scale. I know what you are thinking. But a few news stories could have had a happier ending if people would prepare a little better for hikes in wilderness areas. You never know when disaster will ruin your outstanding hike.

A hiking checklist for your day hike may aid in having a great time. The following hiking checklist should cover most situations if you are planning on a hike of less than 25 miles in a day and not planning to stay overnight. I will try to get a link to a printable checklist because the list below may be hard to print. Each hike requires its own essentials. A short hike and you will not need certain items, but if you are hiking for 9 to 12 hours and are pushing the 25-plus mile limit, then you will need more essential items.

Below you will find a comprehensive list. I made it as simple as possible, but with as much detail as possible. Click down arrows for more information.

Main Gear

hiking checklist
  • Small single-pocket daypack:  hikes of less than 4-8 miles round-trip
  •  larger day pack with waste belt, multiple pouches and sleeve for water reservoir: hikes of over  miles
You will need the room for extra food, water, water filters, and other supplies for longer hikes. You will also want a pack that is comfortable and fits properly.

Trekking poles are up to you. I don’t carry the poles on shorter hikes that I know are easy. If I am not sure and I am hiking over 6 to 8 miles, I carry the poles.

Clothing and Footwear

hiking checklist
  • avoid cotton
  • moisture wicking everything, including underwear
  • Pants made of quick drying material
  • I prefer wool socks year round.
  • Footwear should be appropriate for the terrain. They should also be comfortable to your feet. I wear Altra trail running shoes year-round.
  • for long hikes, extra socks are essential
  • a cold weather essential is layer upon layer*
  • Lightweight rain jacket (even for winter)
  • Rain pants for high rainy areas (I never take them for the Blue Ridge, It’s just extra weight)
  • Optional: carry extra clothing as needed. Gaiter guards to keep debris out of your shoes.

*In colder weather, I start with several layers and remove them as the day gets warmer. Typically, I only have 3 bottom layers, including underwear. I will have up to 4 upper-body layers to start the hike. I am from the South and I love to bundle in colder weather.

  • (early spring) flannel shirt, fleece, or lightweight jacket to start the hike.
  • Your favorite shirt unless it’s cotton. Stick to moisture-wicking.
  • Pants or shorts (quick dry)
  •  wool socks (extra for longer hikes) I fell in love with Injini toe socks. They are great for blister prevention and helps protect your toe nails.
  • Footwear. What you are comfortable with. Ensure shoes/boots/sandals are appropriate for the terrain.


Bandanas, buffs, cooling towels, bathing suit. Whatever your pleasure. And remember June 21st is Hike Naked Day. Please, if you take part, wear proper footwear.

  • Base Layer (top and bottom)
  • Long sleeve shirt
  • quick dry pants
  • wool socks (I wear Darn Tough socks in the winter)
  • Flannel shirt
  • Winter jacket or vest (you choose the thickness)
  •  Merino wool hat or Lid head covering (helps you hold the heat)
  •  gloves, glove liners, mittens, etc.
  • footwear should match the hiking conditions. Consider spikes for snow, and waterproof to help keep feet dry.

Navigation and tools of the trade

hiking checklist

How many people carry a map and a compass?

Better Question. How many people know how to use a map and a compass these days. Okay, I do, sort of. I have had military training on the use of maps, compasses and navigation. Since I don’t practice this daily, I am a little rusty.

I love maps and have many, and I use them. I think in today’s digital world, though, your cell phone or navigation device will do. But always have a backup plan because batteries die.

With that said, let us continue.


  • Topographical Map and Compass (if you know how to use it)
  • Trail Guidebook (this is better than a topo map in my opinion)
  • Park trail map (for state, national, and county parks)
  • Cellphone with a great app (many to choose but I prefer Gaia GPS or Alltrails)
  • wearable navigation device (Garmin etc.)
  • Knife (I use mine frequently)
  • multi-purpose tool
  • rope (I always have rope)
  • gear repair essentials
  • flashlight/headlamp
  • chargers for your electronic devices ( I use a goal zero power bank)
I suppose you can consider these items options depending on the length of the hike.

Dude, what's to Eat and Drink on this Hiking Checklist

Trail food
  • water bottles or water reservoir
  • Water filter (I use the Grayl water purifier. It serves as a filter and a bottle. Great for day hikes)
  • Snacks and a Lunch to match the length of hike
  • Nuun tablets or your favorite electrolyte mix

If you are planning a long hike in unfamiliar territory, be prepared. Take extra food.

911 items, your personal junk, where's the wipe

first aid
  • Two-day first aid kit
  • Lighter, matches, firestarter
  • snakebite kit (I have used mine for a black widow bite)
  • signaling device (mirror, whistle)
  • something for warmth (especially early spring, late fall) Wintertime should be covered right.
  • insect repellent
  • bear repellent (if applicable)

The first aid kit should cover meds, band-aids, blister treatment, anti-septic wipes, etc.

If you have personal medical conditions, make sure you come prepared. If you have a medical condition, please consult your physician on what to take with you because I Am a hiker, not a doctor. Please be prepared.

  • cell phone
  • camera
  • GoPro
  • notebook/journal
  • binoculars
  • ID (very important)
  • your car keys
  • maybe some cash (I have paid for a boat ride to make an emergency exit.)

These are personal items that you love to carry.

I always carry a journal and a pen. I always have rope too. Let me know other things that you “require” on a hike in the comments below.

  • Toilet Paper
  • Toilet paper (its important enough to list twice)
  • Females, you know what you require, right?
  • Sunscreen
  • Sun glasses
  • trowel (please bury)
  • zip-lock bags to carry used TP out
  • did I mention Toilet Paper
  • trash bag

Again, if there is something that you think is a great idea, let me know in the comment section below, thanks.


I attempted to be as thorough as possible with my idea of the hiking gear list. No matter how hard detailed you get, sometimes you miss a few things, or people all around the world have great ideas. If you find something lacking, or have a great idea of what to add to this list, please let me know in the comments below. Thanks. I hope I helped you.

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