One of the best ways to get in shape and enjoy the outdoors at the same time is day hiking. All you need to do is find a trail nearby and start walking!
However, in order to be comfortable and safe while day hiking, you’re going to need a few extra pieces of gear. If you’re new to day hiking and want to learn more, you’ve come to the right spot. After years of experience on the trail, we’ve come up with a surefire list of gear that you’ll never want to leave home without each time you go hiking. So without further ado, here’s our checklist of the most important day hiking essentials for 2024!
What is a Day Hike?
There are many different disciplines of hiking. Through hiking, backpacking, trail running, and day hiking are the most common. Day hiking is where you start and complete your hike all within the same day.
Day hikes usually start by driving to a trailhead, parking, and walking through a natural area to a point of interest. It could be a waterfall, scenic view, or it could be as simple as walking around a pond or lake.
How Long Should a Day Hike Be?
As long as you complete your hike in the same day, meaning that you start and finish your hike before 24 hours have passed, the sky is really the limit! This can mean that you’re taking a short 0.25 mile walk up a dirt or paved trail inside of a park or you’re going the distance and trying to crush 26.6 miles in one day.
The general rule of thumb for day hike lengths is to hike the number of miles that you feel comfortable with. You don’t want to push yourself too far out of your comfort zone and end up spending the night on the trail when you don’t intend to!
If you’re just getting started day hiking, don’t even focus on the number of miles. Instead, focus on time. Spend 30 minutes hiking each day to build up your endurance. After you’ve done this for a couple of weeks, increase the time you’re hiking by about 10% per week. Keep track of how far you’ve hiked so you have an idea of how far you can go comfortably.
By progressively loading your body by slowly adding on time to your day hikes, you’ll prepare your body to go further and faster while limiting your potential for injury and burn out. Consistency is key to increasing the number of miles you tackle in each day hike you take.
What do I Need on a Day Hike?
There are a few items that you absolutely have to carry with you whenever you step on the trail. These are meant to keep you safe throughout your hike. Bear in mind that there are many different styles and brands of the gear items we’re going to talk about, so it’s important to try out a few different versions to find the piece of gear that is the most comfortable for you to use.
One of the first things that you need to pick up to make your day hikes more enjoyable is a backpack. Backpacks allow you to carry all of your essential gear items while keeping your hands free to help you balance and power up the trail.
A decent day hiking backpack should be between 15-35 liters in volume. Be sure to try on a few to see which ones are the most comfortable to wear as you work to find the right backpack for your day hiking trips.
Arguably the most important piece of gear that you’ll buy is your hiking footwear. This piece of gear is how you’ll keep your feet comfortable and safe as you hike. There are two main styles for footwear when it comes to day hiking:
- Hiking boots
- Trail runners
Hiking boots are heavier than trail runners, but often time provide more ankle support and have soles that last a lot longer. If you’re prone to rolling your ankles, hiking boots are likely your best bet for footwear.
But, if you’re mostly concerned about getting down the trail quickly, trail runners aren’t a bad option either. While thinner than hiking boots, their soles still offer plenty of traction and are great to hike in because they feel like a tennis shoe rather than a bulky boot.
One of the biggest game changers when it comes to day hiking are trekking poles. These lightweight hiking aids have several benefits and uses. When using trekking poles while hiking, you’re getting your upper body involved which will help you hike more efficiently. They also give you added balance for when you’re hiking through tricky sections. When going downhill, trekking poles help to relieve your knees as they can be leaned on for extra support. And, in an emergency situation, they can be used to help create an emergency shelter, self-defense, as well as first aid!
Going for a day hike is easy. Going for a day hike and coming back to where you intended to come back to is tricky. Especially if you don’t have a way to navigate. Navigation systems can vary pretty widely depending on your skill level and budget. The simplest and cheapest way to navigate is with a map and compass. Learning how to use these effectively is pretty simple, but it’s imperative that you feel confident with your map and compass skills before you hop on a trail for a day hike.
Another easy way to navigate while day hiking is by using an app on your phone. AllTrails, Guthooks, and Gaia are all tried and true hiking apps that allow you to not only find trails to hike on, but also will allow you to download the maps ahead of time so that you don’t have to depend on a cell signal to pull your map up. The biggest downside about only depending on your phone is that if your phone battery dies while you’re hiking, you lose out on your navigation system. So, mitigate this problem by bringing along a map and compass so in case your phone goes down, you still have a means to navigate while hiking.
Staying hydrated while day hiking is critical. Dehydration is one of the leading ways that hikers get injured every year. This is because a lot of new day hikers don’t anticipate how much they’ll be exerting themselves as they hike, so they fail to bring enough water with them.
The general rule to follow here is that you’ll want to bring at least 1 liter of water for each hour you plan on hiking. Getting a 3-liter water bladder to stick in your backpack is a great way to make sure that you have plenty of water throughout your hike. It’s a lot easier to sip on that water consistently throughout your hike when there’s a bite valve with a hose attached directly to your water source instead of having to stop and dig a water bottle out of your backpack.
First Aid Kit
Accidents happen. Hiking trails are often rough, uneven, and have other hazards on them along the way. Having a basic first aid kit on hand is important to ensuring that you’re prepared to handle any injury that you may incur while hiking. A good first aid kit will have things like:
- 4x4 sterile gauze pads
- Anti-septic ointment
- Triangle bandage
These items will help you take care of most of the injuries you’ll encounter while day hiking. Consider taking a first aid class or a wilderness first responder class to get comfortable responding to medical/traumatic emergencies before you hit the trail. That way you’ll know what to do in the event of an emergency.
Alrighty! We’ve thoroughly covered all of the essentials to make your day hiking adventures in 2024 spectacular. You’ll be comfortable and safe throughout your trip by bringing each one of these items. But remember, you don’t need to get every single item on this list to get started day hiking! Be sure that you’ve got a water source, a first aid kit, and a way to navigate before you step on the trail, but outside of that, you can add to your gear loadout as you go to make your journey simple.
Keeping things simple is key when it comes to day hiking. And there’s no simpler (or better) way to keep your credit cards safe than with an Axwell Wallet. With the ability to carry up to 12 cards as well as getting paired with the Chipolo Tracker, you’ll be able to finish out each hike with the peace of mind that your cards are secure and that you’ll be able to locate your wallet in case you accidentally drop it while hiking.
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