The 20 Best Day Hiking Essentials

May 27, 2020

Category: Gear

As most folks probably realize, different types of outdoor outings require different loadouts of gear. For instance, an on-foot camping trip calls for a standard tent whereas an overlanding adventure is probably more well-suited to one on your vehicle’s rooftop or a camper attachment. Similarly, a multi-day outing necessitates much more of a haul than a simple day hike.

Probably the most popular and common type of hiking, day hikes are short, sweet, and satisfying — and can be enjoyed by just about anyone without too much trouble. However, if you just don your regular workout gear to get out on the trails, you may be doing yourself and the experience a disservice. Instead, you can properly outfit you and yours with our selection of the 20 best pieces of day hiking gear on our following guide.

REPEL Plant-Based Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent

One of the most frustrating things about hiking can be those pesky insects fluttering around your face. Well, you can fight them off without feeling guilty using aerosol and/or harmful chemicals with this lemon-eucalyptus oil-based repellent. It’s not sticky or greasy, not harmful to the environment, and smells quite good.

Purchase: $5

Coleman All Purpose Mini First Aid Kit

You should always, without exception, bring some sort of first aid kit along on even the shortest of day hikes — just in case. And this pocketable minimalist one is about as day hike-friendly as it gets. Loaded with 27 pieces ranging from bandages to ointments, you can treat most small medical issues on-the-go with the Coleman All Purpose Mini First Aid Kit.

Purchase: $7

Smartwool Light Crew Hiking Socks

You should never underestimate the value of good hiking socks. Even if you have the best boots in the world, you’re still prone to blisters and discomfort — that is unless you don a pair of Smartwool’s breathable-yet-warm Light Crew Hiking Socks. As an added bonus, the Merino wool makes them naturally anti-odor and they have added cushion where you need it.

Purchase: $15+

All Good SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen Lotion

All it takes to get a severe sunburn is 15 minutes in direct sunlight, which can (at the least) cause discomfort and (at the worst) lead to skin cancer. Keep your epidermis protected without harming the environment with All Good’s SPF 30 Sport Sunscreen Lotion. It’s effective, reef-safe, and you’ll be surprised just how far you can stretch this 3oz tube.

Purchase: $15

Clif Bar Variety Pack

For day hikes, you probably don’t need to bring a full meal up the trail with you. But you may find yourself needing a snack at some point. Clif Bars, which are compact enough to stash in your pocket, have been favored by outdoor explorers of all types for years for their flavor and nutrient richness. This variety pack will ensure you don’t get tired of any one kind, but you’ll still be getting the benefit of up to 11g of protein to keep your energy levels high.

Purchase: $19

Under Armour Tech Mesh 3in Underwear

Like socks, underwear is not often at the top of people’s lists when it comes to outdoor gear, but it should be. Getting a pair of sport-ready undies can make the difference between a comfortable, breathable undercarriage and something a bit more swampy and uncouth. These mesh boxer-briefs are ultra-comfy, breathable, stretchy, and made for athletes.

Purchase: $26+

MecArmy CMP-2 Keychain Compass

If all goes well, your day hike will take you down a well-traveled path that’s easy to navigate around or out-and-back. However, if you take a spill or wander where you shouldn’t, you may need help making it back to civilization — which could be troublesome if your technology fails you. Stack the deck by carrying this keychain compass, which glows in the dark for up to six straight hours, and you’ll be more apt to survive getting lost.

Purchase: $30

Fjallraven Abisko Day Hike Shirt

You could wear a regular cotton t-shirt on your day hikes. But if those hikes get a bit tough and you get a bit sweaty, you’ll find your cotton shirt getting bogged down, soggy, and heavy. The Fjallraven Abisko Day Hike Shirt, however, does not suffer that same fate and, as its name suggests, was made to keep you light and comfortable out on the trails all day long.

Purchase: $38

WESN Quick-Release Titanium Keychain

For day hikes especially, there’s a pretty good chance you’ll be parking your car at the trailhead before hoofing it. But carrying all your keys and keychain tools can be obnoxious and extremely unnecessary. Fix that issue by attaching only what you need to the WESN Quick-Release Titanium Keychain and leave the rest behind while you’re hiking.

Purchase: $40

Camelbak Antidote Hydration Reservoir

Water might be the one thing you absolutely cannot go without, even on a short hike. But carrying a water bottle can be a hassle, as well, as it leaves you with only one free hand. Fix that issue by stashing the Camelbak Antidote Hydration Reservoir in your backpack. It’s durable, compact, and holds up to 3L of that lifesaving liquid.

Purchase: $40

Hydro Flask Trail Series Water Bottle

Hydro Flask, over the last few years, has really set the standard with their ultra-tough vacuum insulated water bottles. Now, they’ve upped the ante even further with their brand-new Trail Series — a collection that’s just as insulated and capacious, but 25% lighter than ever.

Purchase: $45

MyMedic The Solo First Aid Kit

MyMedic makes some of the absolute best outdoor- and battlefield-ready first aid kits around — some as big as a tactical backpack. This one, however, is much more compact — yet no less ruggedized — holding a grip of medical-focused supplies to treat wounds on-the-go. It also has the added bonus of being made in the USA.

Purchase: $50

The North Face FUTURELIGHT Hiker Hat

Even if you wear sunscreen, the heat and light from the sun can be a hell of a burden on your hiking experience. But you can curb its impact somewhat by donning a protective hat, like the North Face FUTURELIGHT Hiker Hat. It’s waterproof, full-brimmed for full coverage, breathable, and so much more.

Purchase: $60

Patagonia Houdini Jacket

Even if the forecast calls for clear skies, there’s always a chance that the weather could take a turn for the worse. In that case, it might be a good idea to bring along on your day hike a packable water-repellent jacket, like the Patagonia Houdini. It weighs just 3.7 ounces, collapses down small enough to easily stash in even a tightly-packed bag, and it has a DWR coating to fend off moisture and rainfall.

Purchase: $69

Mystery Ranch In & Out Packable Backpack

Day hikes can be as short as an hour or as long as the full course of the sun arcing across the sky. Whichever length you prefer, however, you’re going to need some way to haul all your gear — like snacks, a water bottle, first-aid supplies, and more. And what better way to do that than a backpack? Well, how about a backpack that can pack down to about the size of a softball but opens up into a fully-featured, 19L, Cordura nylon, hydration bladder-compatible hauler? That’s what you’ll get with the Mystery Ranch In & Out Packable Backpack.

Purchase: $79

Leatherman Skeletool RX Multi-Tool

Specifically designed for speedy use by medical first responders, the Leatherman Skeletool RX is the ideal multi-tool for short jaunts. Not only is it lightweight, but it contains seven built-in tools — including pliers, wire cutters, a knife blade, saw, and more — made for emergency situations. Not to mention it has an integrated carabiner clip for easier carry.

Purchase: $80

PDW Rapide Field Short GC

Especially in the warmer months, shorts are the way to go for day hikes. And they don’t get much better than Prometheus Design Werx USA-made Rapide Field Short. Crafted from DWR-coated nylon and spandex, they’re tough, weatherproof, quick-drying, and comfortable enough to wear all day long. And that’s just a small fraction of all the goodness these shorts have to offer.

Purchase: $119

Oakley OO9188 Flak 2.0 XL Sunglasses

The sun presents more dangers than just the risk of burning. Being blinded on a hike, especially a steep one, can be a death sentence if the circumstances are just right. But you can keep your eyes on the trail and not worry about the glare with these Oakley sunglasses. They protect your eyes against 100% of all UV rays, they’re ultra-durable (even the lenses), and they were made to be lightweight and comfortable.

Purchase: $124

Adidas Terrex Free Hiker Boot

If nothing else, you should own a good pair of hiking shoes or boots. And you definitely can’t go wrong with the Adidas Terrex Free Hikers. These sneakerboots are handsome, durable, lightweight, and they even have both high- and low-top versions. Better still, if you hike somewhere with frequent inclement weather, the brand even offers GORE-TEX editions that are waterproof.

Purchase: $150+

Polar Grit X Outdoor Smartwatch

Just recently unveiled, the Polar Grit X is the brand’s best, most up-to-date outdoor smartwatch yet. Not only is it durable and water-resistant, but it comes pre-loaded with tons of cool features including GPS and an altimeter for better trail navigation. And it manages to be super comprehensive in its features while weighing just 64 grams in total. For the price, this may be the best outdoor smartwatch around.

Purchase: $430

The 20 Best Day Hikes In America

If you’re interested in gearing up for a jaunt in the great outdoors, you’re going to need somewhere to test out all your new equipment. Lucky for you, we rounded up a collection of the absolute best day hikes across the United States.

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