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, complicated 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.
  • 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

*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.

Optional:

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.

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.

Options:

  • 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.

Conclusion

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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