Hiking Daypacks: Get Your Complete Gear List
If you’re not going a full backcountry camping trip, and it’s not a quick 2-miler on a Tuesday, you’re probably wondering what exactly is necessary. Removing the variables for anyone who is also a photographer (we’ll cover than in another post!), here is exactly what you need in your hiking daypacks!
The Best Hiking Daypacks
Let’s start with the basics. Before you decide what to start packing for a day hike, you need a backpack! (If you’re just going to use your Jansport from high school – move forward to the next section! We salute your desire to not be materialistic and get a new bag!!)
If, however, you’re in the need of a hiking daypack, there are a multitude of different functionalities to consider.
The biggest consideration is if you want your backpack to have a special pouch for your water.
All of the other bells and whistles that come with daypacks these days are really give or take for us? We try to always carry a full 3-liter water pouch with us on hikes that are more than a couple of miles. ( And sometimes even on the short hikes when it’s really hot out!)
Our recommendations for the best hiking daypacks are the Osprey Daylite Daypacks. We have the older versions as you can see – but we haven’t needed to upgrade! Osprey, as a brand, is known for its incredible quality and durability.
Not only did we invest in the Osprey Daylite Daypacks – we also invested in the Osprey 55L and 65L travel backpacks for backpacking through Europe! We love the brand that much!
Here are a few other packs we would consider:
- Osprey DayLite Daypacks 20L
- The Venture Pal 40L – This budget-friendly pick is larger and could be great for moms that have to carry stuff for kiddos!
- TETON Sports Oasis 1100 Hydration Pack – This pack has over ten-thousand reviews on amazing and supports a hydration bladder!
If you decide on a day hiking backpack that isn’t waterproof – make sure to snag a waterproof backpack cover. You don’t want your gear, dry clothes, etc., to get wet! These are very lightweight and easily foldable so as to not take up much room in your day pack.
Along with your daypack – the best thing you can purchase is a hydration bladder. These hands-free pouches slide into pre-determined slots in all of the bags above.
See the smoochy photo above? We both have hydration bladder hoses poking out of the top of our backpacks. Totally necessary for the 4-hour hike we did!
We highly recommend taking at least 3L of water if you plan to be out all day. You never know what could happen, and it’s best to carry enough water in your hiking daypacks. The average person should be drinking half a liter of water per hour of moderate activity, and 1 liter per hour in high heat according to REI.
If you’re a newbie to the world of hiking, (which is great and we’re so happy you’re getting outdoors!), take this precaution seriously. A 3 Liter hydration bladder only provides you with enough water for 3 hours in high heat and 6 hours on more moderate days.
- Water Purification Tablets – These will work in a pinch to get water from a stream or lake. Drop in the reccomended number of tablets and you’ll have an emergency supply of about 1L per dose.
- Lifestraw – This lightweight option is a great idea to add to your hiking daypack. It provides up to 1,500 liters of water!
We’ve seen too many folks get heatstroke because they didn’t adequately prepare. Always bring more water than you think you’ll need.
**In hot conditions – we also bring a cooler with more water so that we can continuously fill between hikes! Typically we have big 2L water jugs from the grocery store in a cooler to continuously refill. Ecofriendly tip: Buy these and refill them at home until you literally can’t reuse them anymore!
The Best Snacks To Pack for Day Hiking
We’ve said it once and we’ll say it again: hydration is crucial.
What’s also crucial is not allowing your body to have an imbalance of electrolytes from sweating! Did you know that you lose Sodium, Chloride, Potassium, Magnesium, and Calcium in your sweat? The average athlete loses 1-3L of sweat an hour, which means even though you’re drinking water – you’re not replacing crucial electrolytes.
The minerals are responsible for maintaining body fluid levels, optimal muscle function, and metabolism. If any of these are not at optimal levels while you’re hiking for 6 hours – you run a serious risk of heatstroke. Blurry vision, the inability to sweat, and feeling cold are all warning signs that you need a snack break!
So what are the best snacks to bring while hiking? Think energy-giving foods!
- Your favorite hearty sammich! (Ours is a bunch of veggies, hummus spread, and feta on sourdough bread. Its delicious!!)
- Beef Jerkey
These aren’t sexy (but avoiding sugary snacks is key!) If you want to make it all day and avoid crashing from exhaustion – healthy snacks are what you need.
Daypack Hike Essentials
If you’re hiking all day – chances are you may be adventuring to see a sunrise or sunset hike? Or finding that amazing waterfall near the middle of an 8-mile loop? We’re all for those experiences- but we wouldn’t consider starting any trek without the appropriate safety gear.
Just like carrying enough water – some of the below essentials can literally save your life! (Not to mention that they conserve the precious time and resources of Search and Rescue teams!)
- Headlamps – You can also carry a flashlight – but when hiking in more dangerous terrain this may not be a great idea. On any trail that has tree roots or rocks, AKA every-trail you’ve ever been on, being as handsfree as possible is best!!
- Solar Power Bank – We always carry an extra power bank to be on the safe side if we get stuck at night. A solar power bank is also the best idea because you’ll have plenty of juice for days!!!
- First Aid Kit – Emergency supplies and all of your medications just in case! (Even if you took something in the morning and you plan to be back by nightfall – it’s a great idea to add in your necessities.)
- Sanitization – Hand santizer and biodegradeable wipes are our necessities! (Before you eat anything or after you touch any railings, or if you need to go No.2 out in the woods!)
- Reef-Safe Sunscreen – (No you may not be near the ocean, but the benzenes in typical sunscreens are darngerous for the environemtn everywhere!) Even in colder climates, the sun can be brutal. You can get second degree sunburns even in the winter! We also reccomend grabbng an SPF chapstick.
- Sunglasses – If you’re not in the mood to carry a hat or just need a nap – throwing these in your bag is a great idea. Especially when you’re hiking in the snow! The sun reflects off snow and can hurt your eyes after a while.
- Emergency Gear – Pocket knife, emergency heat blankets and tarps, carabiners, and a waterproof fire starter. Do not underestimate the usefulness of a carabiner. So many times we’ve needed to strap something to our packs and we’re so glad we had them!
- Microfiber Towel – Regarldess of what environment you’re in – bring a towel. Somehow we’ve always ended up using these lightweight towels, sometimes even as picnic blankets.
- Pepper Spray/ Bear Spray – Not only is this for your safety with animals, there are creeps in the woods. Protect yourself regardless of whether you’re a man or a woman! (P.S. If theres a bear, please don’t stick around to watch it. Move along!)
- Dry Clothes (Scroll to the next section for all of our clothing reccomendations!!)
- Bug Repellent (Seasonally Necessary) – You may not need to carry this in the fall and winter – but especially in the Southern USA you need tick and mosquito repellent in your hiking daypack. It really is almost non negotiable! (**Many of our southern hiker friends also use permethrin cream and sprays to really avoid ticks.)
- Extra Food – (See notes on our favorite hiking snacks above.)
- Camera Gear – If you’re into photography – don’t forget your GoPros and other full-frame camera gear!
Maps and a compass, or compass app if nothing else, are essential in any day hiking bag. You need to be able to orient yourself towards civilization if all else fails!
A GPS device is an awesome purchase if you’re going to be hiking more than a few weekends a year. (Also – you’ll need to dedicate some time to learn to use it!)
A few top-rated GPS devices are:
- Garmin GPSMAP 64sx – The highest rated GPS on the market as of 2021 and very reliable.
- Garmin Oregon 700 Touchscreen – The biggest pro here is that it’s touchscreen and very easy to use. Users have reported it requires a learning curve, but it’s Wifi and Bluetooth enabled.
- Garmin inReach Explorer+ – The best option for two way messaging.
PRO TIP: Even the most seasoned hiker can have a dead battery or malfunctioning device. We highly recommend learning to read a map before heading out to the trails!
What Clothes To Pack for Day Hiking
From what you put on your body to start the day, to the extra clothes you’ll want to prep- there is a science to day-hiking.
When we start off in the morning, especially in cold weather, we make sure to wear layers. You may think to yourself that you’re going to get hot on the hike and you won’t need the layers etc. This is probably true.
For that 5-10% of the time though when the day doesn’t warm up as you expected, you’ll be glad you had on layers! (Not to mention that many times while you’re hiking, you’re on shady tree-covered trails. Not a lot of opportunity for the sun to creep through and warm your bones!)
- Good Underwear – No lacy edged panties etc. (Chafing is your enemy while hiking! Everything should stay cool and dry.)
- Antiblister Socks/ Extra Socks – An extra pair of hiking socks in your backback in case your feet get submerged. (Again with the whole cool and dry conversation? You can still get major blisters on your feet!!) The extra pair of socks is for the end of the day when your socks are gross!!
- Hats – To protect your face and sheild your eyes while you’re watching the map.
- Sweatshirt or Raingear – Always wrap a sweatshirt or rain jacket around your waist. You never know when you’ll be caught in a quik thunderstorm and in a pinch it provides extra protection for you or your camera gear! And in a pinch – your sweatshirt can be a nice pillow for a mid afternoon snooze!
- Hiking Pants or Leggings – Consider that you’ll be around a ton of critters and passing by a bunch of brush. Misquitos and poisin ivy can both be hard to beat but you can start by wearing long pants!
- Cold Gear: Gloves (+ a spare pair), hat, neck coverings, thick wool socks.
- Summer Gear: Swim suit, watershoes, microfiber towel.
Abridged Fanny-Pack-Only Half-Day Hiking Necessities
We know you’re out there… those of you who refuse to pack anything and are just going to tough it out. You know you’ll be miserable – but you don’t have to be unsafe while doing so!
We can’t provide a list of what you should pack in a small bag for all-day hikes. Mostly because we don’t want to encourage unsafe behavior. (Hiking all day without at least 3 liters of water is most certainly unsafe!).
The second reason? We’re not the type to want to be miserable or unprepared. If everything is prepped and ready to go before you wake up for your day of adventures- you quite literally have no excuse for getting in dangerous predicaments while out in the wild.
However, on a nice 65-degree day with the sun shining in the fall? We’ve definitely gotten away with both of us bringing a small pack and only hiking for a few hours. So here would be our suggestions for a pared-down version of what to bring on a hike:
- Strap oon or hand held water bottle
- Fanny pack
- Navigation of some sort (see above)
- Power Bank
- Water purification tablets or a lifestraw
Some other things to bring and use in the car are sunscreen, insect repellent, and extra socks/ dry clothes!
A Few Extra Pointers
If you’re doing any waterfall hiking or hiking with kids and pets you may have a few other things to consider! The normal day pack suggestions may not suffice when you add extra people!
Although dogs can hike and drink water in their streams – sometimes there aren’t enough streams around to really suffice for enough drinking water. (Your dog sweats too, but through their paws!) The last thing you want is your furry pal getting overheated.
If you’re doing a little waterfall chasing, first and foremost remember to pack your water shoes. Even if your hiking boots are ‘waterproof’, you may want to just take them off and refresh those puppies in the cool pool around the base of the falls.
If you have any questions about gear – feel free to drop us a comment below. We’re always happy to help and do research even if we aren’t sure of the answer! Our favorite part about hiking gear is that technology is always changing and there’s always something new and cool out to try.
If You Found This Post helpful
Know a friend that needs to pack a better day bag on your adventures? Share this post with one of the sharing buttons to the left, or save this post on Pinterest for later!
If you’re in the mood for a little hiking inspiration, check out these posts:
- Tioga Falls and Elizabethtown, Kentucky Hiking Loop
- Stephens Gap Cave and Waterfall Hiking
- Your Complete Trail Guide to Hidden Soilder’s Pass Cave in Sedona, Arizona
Need any help deciding what to bring? Just drop us a comment below and we’ll get back to you!
Until next time friends,