While a day hike might bring to mind images of sunlight streaming through the branches of trees or beautiful vistas from the top of a ridge, never mistake it for a leisurely stroll. It’s a technically challenging adventure intended to last the better portion of a day. Hours in, hours out. That means you’ll need a day-hike bag prepped and ready to go.
Let’s start with the bag. Choose a hiking backpack only big enough to hold the gear you intend to take. Anything larger and you’ll be tempted to fill it with nonessentials. Otherwise your gear list is going to be much the same as any other hike with the exception of sleeping gear and a camp stove.
You’re going to need enough food and water for the day, of course, and it’s always a good idea to be prepared when nature calls with the appropriate toiletries. Insect repellent keeps the bugs away while a compass or GPS unit keeps you headed in the right direction.
And remember that these endeavors are largely weather dependent and weather can change dramatically in a short period of time. So in addition to keeping an eye on the forecast, carry the gear you’ll need to deal with realistic extremes. Assuming you’re hiking in temperate conditions, take your rain jacket and sunscreen. Also, lip balm is always a good idea.
Maps, gaiters, flashlights, fire starters and extra batteries are all recommended as well.
Finally, always let someone know where you and your group are planning to hike and when you expect to return. Most day hikes are just that. But in the event of unforeseen circumstances, it is always better to share your plans beforehand.