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Day Hiking Checklist

Day Hiking Checklist

Recently, I saw an interesting Infographic on the Trail Sherpa blog that was called The Badass Dayhiker’s Checklist. After reading the Infographic, I had two thoughts:

  • 1) It’s an excellent start at a checklist for day hikers, and
  • 2) Everyone should have their own personalized list.

While it’s great to get suggestions and ideas from a wide variety of sources (including Trail Sherpa and FarmerDiddley.com :-)) you should really create a list that incorporates your own needs, preferences, and style.

Therefore, in this article I want to accomplish three things:

  • 1) Share the Trail Sherpa’s Badass Dayhiker’s Checklist
  • 2) Share my day hiking checklist, including my reasoning behind the items on my list
  • 3) Inspire you to create your own personalized day hiking checklist

Farmer Diddley’s Day Hiking Checklist

I’m not sure I’m as much of a bad ass as Trail Sherpa, and I definitely have a lot more items on my list than he has on his, but I often log double digit miles (low double digits, but still double digits nonetheless :-)).

Below is my checklist for a typical day hike that I expect to last up to 3 to 4 hours. You’ll notice that the checklist not only consists of things to bring, but also things to do. For longer day hikes, I bring along a few extra items, which I’ve listed at the bottom of the checklist. I have intentionally left out the brand names of the specific gear I carry, since this is just supposed to be a checklist.  If you’d like more details about specific pieces of gear, just leave me a comment and I’ll be happy to pass along the information.

Before Leaving On The Hike

  • – Plan out the trip by reviewing a trail map, reading a trail guide, or researching online
  • – Write down my plans and give them to someone I trust.  Include:
    • – Where I am going
    • – Which trail head I will be parking at
    • – Which trail I will be hiking
    • – The route I will be taking
    • – What time they can expect me to return (or call)
  • – Check the latest weather forecast and adjust my plans and gear accordingly

In My Day Pack

  • – Hooded sweatshirt
  • – Wind breaker / rain jacket
  • – Water bottle (at least 32 ounces, filled)
  • – Protein bars
  • – First aid kit
  • – Survival kit
  • – 50-feet of 550 paracord
  • – Small tarp
  • – Headlamp with spare batteries
  • – Spare pair of hiking socks
  • – Bandana
  • – Compass
  • – Map and trail guide
  • – Cell phone (turned off)
  • – Wallet
  • – Car keys

On My Person

  • – Pocket knife
  • – Flashlight
  • – Multi-tool
  • – Trekking poles
  • – Sunglasses
  • – Hat
  • – Hiking shoes
  • – Watch
  • – Paracord survival bracelet

At The Trail Head

  • – Apply suncreen
  • – Apply bug spray
  • – Put keys and wallet in day pack
  • – Lock truck

For Longer Day Hikes

For trips that are expected to be over 3 or 4 hours, everything above still applies, but I bring a few more things:

  • – Food  (a meal plus extra snacks)
  • – Water filter
  • – Sunscreen
  • – Bug spray

You can download a PDF version of this checklist by clicking here, but I really think you should make your own checklist…

My reasoning behind the items on my checklist

  • – Writing down the details of your planned hike and leaving them with someone you trust is something you should do for every hike. It’s just a sound safety practice and by putting it on your checklist it will hopefully become a habit.
  • – I always bring a hooded sweatshirt and a wind breaker / rain jack on my day hikes, primarily due to where I live and the type of terrain that I hike. I live in northern New England, USA. I do most of my hiking in the Adirondack Mountains of NY, the Green Mountains of VT, and the White Mountains of NH. On top of one of these mountains, even in the summertime, it can be cold, and the weather can take a turn for the worse very quickly. If I’m hiking earlier or later in the year I’ll also bring a pair of gloves and a winter hat.
  • – I’ll describe my First Aid kit in detail in a future article, but at a minimum I suggest carrying bandages (band-aids, etc), pain reliever (ibuprofen, aspirin, etc), and moleskin for blisters. I carry a lot more than this in mine, but please carry these things at a minimum.
  • – Likewise, I’ll describe my Survival Kit in a future article as well, but at a minimum I suggest carrying matches, a fire-steel, and some fire-starting tinder (such as “WetFire”). This assumes that you have a compass and a pocket knife in your day pack. If not, then add them to your survival kit.
  • – I have to admit I don’t have a small tarp for my day pack yet, so you won’t see it in the photo below. I do however, have a Mylar emergency blanket in my survival kit, which could be used as a tarp. I will be adding a small tarp to my pack very soon.
  • – I always carry my headlamp flashlight in my pack, even if I’m just going out for a day hike. If I get delayed and end up having to hike after the sun has set, having the headlamp turns the delay into a fun adventure, instead of a dangerous situation.
  • – Always carry a map, trail guide (if available), and a compass. I strongly suggest having a map that not only covers the trail you are hiking, but the surrounding area (including local towns) as well. As I detailed in my article Epic Hike Becomes Epic Fail, my son and I had to abandon a thru-hike and do a self-rescue. Having a map that showed local dirt roads and towns, made this a much easier and safer effort.
  • – I always carry my cell phone while hiking but I keep it turned off and stored in a Hefty OneZip bag in my pack. I do not use it to chat with friends and family while on the trail. On multi-day hikes I will use it to call home and check in with my wife every few days, but I do so very discreetly so as to not disturb any fellow hikers. I will only use my phone on a day hike if a dire emergency arises.
  • – I don’t like to hike with my wallet or keys in my pants pockets, so I always put those in my pack. I wait to lock my truck after putting my keys in my pack to prevent me from locking my keys in my truck… unless I accidentally lock my pack in my truck. 🙂
  • – On day hikes expected to be longer than 3 or 4 hours, I want to make sure I don’t bonk! So bringing along extra food is a must. I always pack a “meal” on these longer hikes, but I like to go “no-cook” on my day hikes. Therefore, my “meal” typically consists of a sandwich and a piece of fruit, plus an extra snack (such as trail mix). I also bring along my water filter. I could just carry another bottle or two of water, but I like to bring the water filter in order to have an unlimited supply of water, assuming that there will be water sources available (which I would have identified during my research of the hike). Finally, I’ll pack along my sunscreen and bug spray on these longer hikes (instead of leaving it in my truck). I’ll most likely need to reapply them both if out for more than 3 or 4 hours, so I’ll need to have them in my pack.

Photo Of My Day Hiking Gear

Day Hike Gear


Make Your Own Day Hiking Checklist

By sharing these example checklists, I hope that I’ve inspired you to create your own checklist.  Please go ahead and make your own list and refer to it before each day hike.  Here are a few things to keep in mind:

  • – Be sure to incorporate your own personal needs, preferences, and style
  • – Take into account the type of weather and terrain that you typically encounter
  • – Please include a First Aid kit
  • – Include both “gear to bring” as well as “tasks to complete” on your list
  • – Strike a balance between being prepared for unexpected circumstances and packing as lightly as is practical

So is there anything I forgot to include on my checklist? If so, please leave me a comment and tell me about it.

{ 6 comments… add one }
  • Tim Miner March 11, 2013, 9:39 PM

    Great list Steve! And thanks for sharing our list. It was meant as a starting point and by no means a definitive list. I think gear lists are really a personal thing . Each of us require different things and the conditions dictate what we carry as well.

    I hike mostly in the canyons of the desert southwest which requires a ton of scrambling and lots of class 3 climbing to get deep into the canyons.

    Water is scarce so we carry all we need with us. That can be heavy for a 15 mile day would could easily take 8-10 hrs.

    That determines the size of pack, the amount of food, and the distance that can be covered.

    So I’m right there with you. Everyone needs to assess for themselves and tailor your list for themselves.

    Thanks again for sharing and I’m looking forward to reading more about your adventures.

    Own the trail!

    • Farmer Diddley March 11, 2013, 9:46 PM

      Hey Tim,

      Thanks for leaving a comment! Much appreciated, as I’m just getting this blog started. I found your blog and website a week or so ago, and am really enjoying it. I have never been to the desert southwest, but hope to someday. Again, thanks for taking the time to post a comment.

      Take care,

  • David Joslin September 22, 2013, 5:39 PM

    Neat quick and dirty list ….Simple! As for the hooded sweat shirt, what do use? Later…

    • Farmer Diddley December 26, 2013, 10:16 AM

      Hi David, sorry for the delayed reply to your question on my blog post. As for what I use for a hooded sweatshirt…I have 3 that I use… nothing really special. I have a pull-over and a zipper-up that are pretty basic and cheap. I also have a Carhartt that is heavier and warmer than the other two. Thanks for reading my blog. I plan on blogging more in the new year. Steve

  • lauren jonczak January 22, 2014, 2:15 PM

    Great lists! My family and I are thinking about going hiking for the first time this summer. I am so excited! I am going to have to bookmark this page to make sure I don’t leave anything behind. As weird as this is going to sound, I just found out that paracord survival bracelets are not just a fashion item. I never knew they unravel to an emergency item. Thanks so much for the lists, this is very helpful.

    • Farmer Diddley January 25, 2014, 10:17 AM

      I’m glad you found my blog post on the Day Hiking Checklist useful. Have fun out there this summer!

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