There is a definate strategy for packing for day hikes. The best advice I ever heard is to pack twice. First, gather everything you think you’ll need and pack it, with most used items in easy-to-reach spots, and less used in the bottom.
All done? Now unpack the bag, and as you replace each item, ask yourself, “After I have hiked 5 miles, will I still wish I had brought this?” This bit of advice becomes much more meaningful after you have taken your first 10 mile or better hike- the kind where you jettison your belongings rather than keep carrying them on your back. In backpack-packing, weight is your primary concern.
Pick a pack that is both comfortable and light. If you’re day hiking, a day pack (bigger than a fanny pack, and better looking, usually with water bottle holders) may be enough, particularly if there are 2 hiker. Note: if you are hiking together, each person needs their own pack. One sure way to hiker discontent is for one person to be stuck carrying the whole load.
Hint: think of exchanging pack contents- if you have the other person’s contents in your pack, and they have your contents in their pack, you can each just turn around and easily reach what you need. Otherwise you either have to take off your pack or explain to your companion where to find the item, as in “it’s in the bottom outside zipper- no not that bottom, the one above itÃ¢Â?Â¦”
- Water gets lighter as you hike because you are drinking it. Go for a pull top or bottle with a strap to hold the top so you won’t be chasing it as it rolls down the hill, then wiping it with your bandana to get the dirt off. It’s not going to stay cold for long, so don’t bother about insulated bottles. They’ll add weight but not much value.
- Sunblock should go on before you leave the house. Remember the back of your neck. Bring a small container in one person’s pack and share it.
- First aid, Band-Aids and tape and gauze are an absolute must. A&D ointment doubles as lip balm and hand salve, in addition to helping with dirty cuts. You may also wish you had more water if anyone is injured.
- 2 Bandanas, since they are a multi use item. They are great to wipe sweat, wet with water and wrap around your neck to cool down, tie hair back, and dip in a stream for a rewarding “Ahhh” moment. If you’ve used your tissues for other purposes (see tissues, below) the bandana can double as a handkerchief.
- A Multipurpose knife, small and light, is useful for cutting your bandana into strips to use as a tourniquet, cut tape for cuts or to tie something to your bag or prying interesting rocks loose
are a great snack item, better than protein bars, and in individual servings. Stash several in a Ziploc bag. If they get crushed, you can just mush them together and eat them anyway.
- Nuts replace lost salt and provide protein. Ziploc bags ride again.
- A good handful of tissues, packed in Ziploc bags may be your most valued pack item. In case you need to do a restroom improvisation, you’ll need the tissues, and you’ll want the Ziploc to carry them out.
- A hat that is comfortable with a good brim is needed. This should probably start out on your head, not in the bag. But if you don’t want to start out with a hat, you’ll want it later in the day when the sun is high. Prevents sunburn and headache and gives additional eye protection.
- Sunglasses on a strap will be useful even on a not-so-sunny day. They’ll offer protections to your eyes from kicked up dirt and branches. The strap is imperative- you may want to wipe your eyes, remove the sunglasses for a shady area, see the colors of the flowers, or read a map. And you can clean them with your bandana if needed!
Food for hiking is an entire subject. Basic guidelines: pack light foods; nothing easily perishable; only things you eat in their entirety- no cores or wrappers other than Ziploc’s. And it should be edible at any temperature, since it will stay neither hot nor cold while you hike.
Optional Items depending on the weather:
Bring a lighter shirt if you are starting out early in the day so you can switch along the way. Leave your modesty at home.
Extra water. You can’t have too much water. If it gets to heavy and you are hot, just pour it over your head to cool down and lighten the load. Just keep enough for the way back.
Bring a pair of Fleece gloves and a fleece scarf. If it’s cold, they will make all the difference and be worth the weight. They are light, can also be used to wipe sweat and cushion a rock that you rest on.