What To Bring On A Hike – Must-carry Things

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Want to know what to bring on a hike? It is not too hard. Whether you plan doing a short, long hike, day hike or overnight hike, you MUST bring some things with you.

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But there is a catch. On the one hand, you want to have everything that you can possibly need for a good hiking experience. But on the other hand, you want to hike as light as possible.

That is why you must prepare thoroughly, depending on the distance that you are planning to hike as well as the nature of the trails.

Once you have identified the hiking trails that you will take, you should then proceed to find out what you will need.

How to choose what to bring on a hike

We will look at this from different perspectives. For example, when you just want to take a day hike, you do not need to bring a lightweight camping tent. Thus, a person taking a day hike will need fewer items than a person taking an overnight hike.

For an overnight hike, you may even need a light backpacking stove since you have to cook, or maybe carry ready to eat food.

But first, let us look at things you will need for a day hike.

What to bring on a day hike

In my article for what to wear on a hike and look cute, you can see that even how you want to look plays a big part in helping you decide what to bring.

But away from the wearables, what else can you bring on day a hike? There are many items, but here, we will look at the most important of them all. These are the must-haves, the things that say you are ready for hiking.

In your hiking backpack, you must pack the following:

Sun protection

If you are hiking in summer, you will definitely need some sun protection. You do not want the sun to roast your skin such that by mid-day, you end up looking like a roasted lobster.

Thankfully, there are many sunscreens that you can buy on Amazon.com.

Sun protection does not only mean things for topical application, you know like lotions and stuff. It also means a large brimmed hat to give you some shade, and sunglasses.

Carry items for sun protection even when the weather looks dull. As long as you are hiking in the warm seasons, you never know when the sun can come out guns blazing.

Remember, your list for what to bring on a day hike grows longer if you are hiking with baby since you have to carry their gear too.

Camping flashlight

You never know when the darkness could catch you in the backcountry. Thus, a camping flashlight is a good item to include in what to bring on a day hike or any hike for that matter. There are so many flashlights, some with rechargeable batteries and some with disposable ones.

Just get something that serves your needs perfectly and one that will not add too much extra weight in your back pack.

Navigation items

Before you go cuckoo over apps and smartphones, which by the way are a good idea, first, pack a good topographical map and a good ol’ compass.

All of the other fancy gadgets, including your GPS, which are very good at navigation can run out of batteries. However, a map and a compass will never let you down. They are old style but they are also very reliable.

Do bring a travel power bank with you for your smartphone though. The back country  is not very safe for you if you are not connected to your family. Keeping your smartphone juiced is a good idea.

Camping knife

Honestly, a camping knife should be one of the first items to go on your backpacking or camping list of items. It may sound cliché or just as if we are saying the obvious, but they say a good story bears repeating.

In any case, how much weight does a camping knife like this one have? Very minimal. You may even get one with a sheath so that it goes to your belt instead of your backpack.

Weather protection

It might be a warm and sunny day in Sedona, but you never know when the weather could turn. Thus, you should bring a good lightweight jacket with you. This should be good for insulating you against the rain should it come.

Specifically, go for a waterproof jacket as opposed to a water resistant one. There are many nice jackets for hiking. If you are wondering what to bring on a hike in winter, take this cold weather jacket.

For hiking in sunny weather, bring a lightweight but waterproof jacket. If it packs into a pouch, nice and well. It will occupy some space in your day hike backpack, but the weight is negligible.

Hiking poles

These will come in handy if you are taking trails with some serious elevation gain. Let us just say that any trail that is rated as difficult to extremely difficult requires you to have a hiking pole or two.

Hiking poles or trekking poles offer you the support that you need to take the tough patches of the trail. For example, they can help you through the gravelly patches where even hiking shoes with the best treads would not be of much help.

These poles are light in weight and you can hang them on your hiking backpack. Thus, they should stay well out of the way until you need them.

When arranging what to bring on a hike, include a pair of them if you intend to tackle difficult trails. If you will do easy hiking trails, you can manage without these poles.


This should be top on the list of what to bring on a day hike. Carry enough because dehydration is real on the trails. Thankfully, instead of carrying too much water, you can just carry a liter or so, but make sure you bring a lightweight water filter.

This will help you filter water on the trails. For this however, you should first find out whether the trail that you intend to hike is well supplied with water.


Hiking is an energy intensive exercise. Therefore, you need to bring food for the sustenance of your energy on the trails.

For what to bring on a day hike, bring just enough for calories that can last you through the day. Of course, carrying more than you think you will need always helps a lot. Who knows? You could be delayed getting back and as such, you will have enough food.

Jerky is nice to chew as you hike along. Way back from the days of the cowboys and the Wild West, jerky has proven to be one of the most reliable trail foods. Just bring yours along.

Kind bars, dried fruits, seeds and nuts also make good choices for trail food. If you do not cotton to store-bought trail food, make your own at home.

Hard boiled eggs, sandwiches, fruits and others can make good trail food. Just don’t hike without food!

First aid kit box

When hiking in the brush, you may encounter certain dangers. Ok, we expect nothing as dramatic as encountering a copperhead snake, but insect bites, scratches and cuts from the brush are real.

Make sure the first aid kit is well equipped with pain killer tablets, bandage and gauzes, a pair of scissors, antiseptic and so on. If you experience knee pain while hiking, you may include a few items such as knee bands to help with that.

What to bring on a day hike
Photo by Josh Willink

Other wearable items – what to bring on a hike

When it comes to hiking, you must always choose outdoor items for hiking. You can never take anything for granted.

Hiking pants

First, you must choose a good pair of hiking pants. Not jeans! Find pants that are specifically made for hiking. Such are durable, and they do not sustain scratches from the brush. They also wick the sweat away from your body leaving you feeling very comfortable.

Hiking shoes

These come in so many varieties. When hiking in winter, choose the warmest hiking boots you can find. You need to protect your feet from frostbite.

When hiking in summer, a pair of summer hiking shoes will do just fine. There is a hiking shoe for every season, so do not limit yourself to just one pair of hiking boots.

If you buy new hiking boots, break them first, before the hiking day. You want to get your feet and the shoes accustomed to each other first. This can help you avoid blisters when hiking.


This includes vests, t-shirts and others. Well, you can have a field day here, but remember not to wear cotton.

Cotton absorbs the sweat and retains it, thus making you feel damp and uncomfortable. Always wear layers that can wick away the sweat so that you can feel comfortable all the time.

Hiking backpack

Such a major item. This is the one that will carry all of the items listed here. Choose carefully and do not sacrifice quality on the altar of price. Read here to see the best backpacks that you can buy.

What to bring on a hike – long hike

If you are going on a long hike, meaning an overnight hike or a multi-day hike, then you will need to bring all the items that we have listed for a day hike.

However, since you will be staying longer, you will need to bring larger quantities, except for the wearables like shoes and jackets.

You will also need to add extra items on your list of what to bring on a hike as follows:

Shelter – backpacking tent

Take a lightweight tent for camping. You will need it. It offers protection from the wind, sun, rain and even helps break the cold. If you are backpacking in winter, also bring a means to keep the tent warm safely.

You will find so many lightweight backpacking tents. Some of them are pop-up tents which do not require pitching with pegs.

Alternatively, you may bring a hammock for backpacking or a hammock pod system. The latter offers you the protection that you would get from a tent, and much more since you are elevated from the ground.

Sleeping bag and sleeping pads

If you do not want to bring a tent, you can always bring a sleeping bag. However, note that you can always bring a sleeping bag and a tent and use them together.

There are all types of sleeping bags, in different sizes, styles and colors. Thus, you should be spoilt for choice. For winters, a down fill sleeping bag would be excellent. Also include a sleeping pad to insulate you from the hard cold ground.

Sleeping pads made of foam are light in weight and are good to bring on an overnight hike. For your comfort when sleeping, it is better to bring more items than few.


By fire, we mean that you need to bring a stove for backpacking, fuel, food and even cooking pots. Nothing gives you more spirit than sitting down to a hot piping meal after a long hiking day.

image of what to bring on a short hike
Photo by Vlad Bagacian

With so many stoves, some of them designed to use wood, some propane and some other types of solid fuel, you can choose whatever befits you.

Just remember to keep everything light in weight since most of the time, you will be carrying everything on your back.

If you will be camping in an area where open fires are allowed, you should bring your backpacking hatchet with you. You can use it for splitting wood for cooking.

If you are interested, read here to see how to make a fire without matches or lighter. That way, should you forget your matches, you can use Stone Age skills to get a fire going.

Sanitary items

Bring your sanitary items, especially important for women for that time of the month when aunt red is in town. However, some of the general items that you must bring include toilet paper, hand sanitizer and anything else that will not add too much weight yet is important enough for hygiene.

You may also take a portable toilet with you. However, since most of them are bulky, this is mostly recommended for car, bike, bicycle or RV camping.


You have seen what to bring on a hike here, what to bring on a day hike, short hike and even overnight and multi-day hikes. Have we forgotten anything that you might like to point out here? Tell us in the comments section. Oh, you might want to bring a coffee mug so you can drink hot coffee whenever you need.

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