dayhike 101

Day hikes can be as simple as a stroll through a local park or as complicated as a geocaching race. Regardless of the nature of your hike, a little planning and preparation will make the trip much more enjoyable.

Checklists are a great way to determine what you need to carry for a given hike. I keep several on my laptop to prepare for day hikes, short backpack trips, longer backpack trips, canoe trips, car camping and the ever popular kayak fishing trip. Whatever the trip, it’s simple to pull up the list and inventory what’s needed.

Day Hike Checklist

List it, find it, pack it, check it off!

Your next hike is a time for relaxation and enjoyment. Make sure that you have everything you need to ensure a safe and enjoyable trip. As an infantryman, I learned to pack the “Grunt’s Holy Trinity:” ammo, water, food. In that order. If something has to be thrown out, start at the bottom of the list. My list is no longer that Spartan since resupply and air drops aren’t likely, but the idea is the same. Every mission has equipment that is “mission essential.” Here is a simple starter list.

This Ten Essentials list was developed by The Mountaineers, a very active outdoor activity club in Washington state. I’ve seen permutations of this list all across the net, but this gives you the essential categories while leaving you free to make choices based on your experience and knowledge base.

In future posts I’ll will expand on each of the categories and compare equipment choices based on quality, durability, price, etc.

  • Navigation (map/compass/GPS)
  • Sun protection
  • Insulation (extra clothing)
  • Illumination (flashlight/headlamp)
  • First aid supplies
  • Fire
  • Repair kit and tools
  • Nutrition (extra food)
  • Hydration (extra water)
  • Emergency shelter

Great Daypacks

A good daypack should have the capacity to carry all your needs for a day long trip. My personal preference is to have a couple of exterior pockets to hold water bottles. I know that the new hydration bladders are very popular, but – being of a certain age – I still like a good water bottle that I can refill with my portable water filter.

Avoid the normal small packs the kids use to carry their books to school. Look for something that has a well padded back pad, contoured shoulder straps and compression straps that allow you to cinch the pack into a smaller profile if you are carrying a lighter load. Some of the better made packs come in sizes that will fit different torso lengths. I’ve included a few below that I’ve used.

In the interest of full disclosure, I am an Amazon affiliate, so that is why the illustrations sport the Amazon info. If you see something you like here – hit the button and they will send me some coffee money.



The BEST daypack ever made!

Having humped the venerable ALICE on five continents and in more than fifteen countries, I can say that as a DAYPACK it can’t be beat. It is rugged. It is well designed for its purpose. And it holds more stuff in more places than any other pack I’ve used.

The above cited experience has also taught me that I’d carry almost any other bag unless the ALICE is equipped with a modified Coleman frame.

What is your favorite daypack? Surplus or civilian?

First Things First

Keep it safe

The most ignored safety issue of day hiking, backpacking, boating and other outdoor pursuits is the easiest and least expensive to correct. Let someone know where you are going and when you will be back. Make a written summary of when you are leaving, where you will be hiking and when you expect to be home. Should disaster strike, you won’t have to wait as long for help.

Please add this step to you checklist.


Getting there . . . and back!

Navigation is the art and science of getting from here to there . . . and back. Your navigation needs will be determined by where you intend to hike. Going to the local city park? Mapquest will probably get you there. Hiking in a heavily wooded national forest? Maybe it’s time to bring out the big guns.

Minimal navigational gear includes maps, guidebooks, and a compass. The portable GPS systems are great, and I enjoy using mine, BUT I always have my compass in the day pack. No batteries, nothing to wear out. Just good, old fashioned appropriate technology.

Guidebooks give details of the area where you will be hiking. Most have detailed descriptions of trails, shelters, water sources and other attractions. More importantly, most have at least rudimentary maps to keep you on track. As long as you are staying on the trail, guidebooks can be a very effective tool.

Maps are an absolute necessity if you are trekking cross-country. We’re not talking about the convenience store road map, but a detailed topographic map of the specific area where you are hiking.

Learn to read the topographic symbols on the map. Learning to recognize hills, cliffs, valleys, waterways, etc allows you to quickly identify your location and determine your route. Topographic contour lines warn you of the difficulty of the area ahead and let you make a safe route choice. As with all new skills, mastery will take practice – but we don’t need much excuse to schedule another hike, do we?

I have recommended several books that will help you learn basic navigation skills. Join an outdoor or hiking club and learn from some of the more skilled members. Take a course through a leisure learning center. Hone your skills so that you always make it back to share with us your latest trip.

A compass is another essential piece of gear. A compass and a good map will make you the envy of Daniel Boone and Davy Crockett.

Daniel Boone was once asked if he had ever been lost. After thinking for a moment, he replied he had never been lost since he was present for the interview. However, he did admit that he had been a mite confused a few times.

Learning to use a map and compass will keep you from ever having to experience Daniel Boone’s confusion.


This is just an intro to day hiking. I’ll post more on some of the subjects listed above in later posts. Meanwhile, enjoy your hikes and come back safely to read some more.


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