Hiking Checklist: What to Bring on A Hike

Adventure Checklists Hiking Outfit Guides By Kühl Editor

Hiking checklists are a great way to double check that you packed everything you need for an upcoming adventure; proper planning makes trips more enjoyable, safer, and worry-free. Yes, hiking checklists vary according to the type of trail length, weather conditions, time of the year, hiking trail location, type of terrain, and the journey's duration. The lists below contain various items one hiker may find more useful than the other.

People often fall into the trap of overpacking, which is not necessarily as bad as under packing, but can definitely impact your overall hiking enjoyment. Sure, one should prepare for a wide range of different conditions, but not all of them. That's why the hiking checklists below include "Optional" boxes. One hiker might find certain items more essential than others, but you should consider these items as "Nice to haves."

Without further ado, let's have a look at our basic hiking checklist:

Basic Day Hiking Checklist

Day hikes can range from a few hours to a full day on the trail. They're a great opportunity to enjoy the journey, as well as the destination. The day hiking checklist here covers all the basic items you might need on any hiking trip. Consider all the other lists below as extended versions of this one!

Open up your backpack, and let's start packing!

Basic Day Hiking Checklist

Day Hiking Necessities:

Comfortable hiking backpack
First aid kit, including blister care and Benadryl for bee stings
Hydration pack
Plenty of food and snacks
Hiking permits
Garbage bags
Optional: Emergency bivy sack

Day Hiking Navigation:

Getting lost in the wilderness is not something you should take lightly. Recently, a pair of hikers got lost in Summit County’s backcountry due to a change in weather conditions, and luckily a group of volunteers found and rescued them. In situations like these, when you cannot rely on cell phone coverage, it's a good idea to bring a GPS unit or watch to be sure you can follow breadcrumbs back to safety in case you get lost.

Cell phone and external battery
Trail map (download to your phone before leaving cell service)
GPS unit or watch
Topographic map
Compass with a mirror
Optional: Satellite phone
Optional: Personal locator beacon
Optional: Map case
Optional: Water-tight plastic bags to protect your maps
Optional: Survival bracelet

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Day Hiking Hygiene And Health:

Toilet paper
Hand sanitizer
Bio degradable wipes
Lip balm with SPF
Bug spray or bug wipes
Prescription medications
Contact lenses (disposable)
Feminine hygiene products
Optional: Quick-dry towel
Optional: Knee support

Day Hiking Tools:

Waterproof matches or fire starters
Utility knife or multi-tool with a knife
Optional: Extra batteries
Optional: Spork
Optional: Headlamp for early morning starts

Day Hiking Clothing:

Essential hiking clothing items may vary, so, before you start ticking boxes here, consider weather, duration of your hike, time of the year, and terrain.

Hiking shoes fit for the occasion
Wool socks
Hiking pants
Optional: Extra pair of socks

Spring/Summer hiking clothing:

Breathable underwear
Quick-dry swim shorts
Sun-protective shirts
Casual jacket for cool evenings
Optional: Comfortable hiking sandals
Optional: Packable rain jacket

Fall/Winter hiking clothing:

Water-resistant rain pants
Wicking base layer bottom and top
Long sleeve shirt
Water-resistant rain jacket
Down insulated jacket
Optional: Balaclava

Other Hiking Goodies

Hiking / trekking poles
Extra water bottles
Emergency water filter

Overnight Hiking Checklist

If you plan on spending a night in the wilderness, then the day hiking checklist changes a bit. Sleeping under the stars is a unique experience, so make sure you bring everything you need to enjoy it fully. The more days you spend in the backcountry, the more food and gear you need. Here are recommended items for my multi-day, overnight hiking trips!

Overnight Hiking Checklist

Consider all the items from the Basic Day Hiking Checklist, and the following:

Overnight Hiking Gear:

A larger backpack
Tent or camping hammock
Pillow or stuff sack
Sleeping bag
Sleeping pad
Optional: Sleeping bag liner
Optional: Tent footprint
Optional: Backpack cover

Overnight Hiking Cookware And Food:

Enough food for the trip
Energy snacks
Cookware set
Cooking pots
Eating utensils
Dinnerware: Bowl and plates
Dish washing kit
Optional: Coffee maker
Optional: Mugs
Optional: Foldable bucket
Optional: Spare parts for stove

Overnight Hiking Hygiene

Camping soap
Optional: Mouthwash
Optional: Dental floss

Overnight Hiking Clothing:

Pair of socks for each day
Hiking boots
Moisture-wicking shirts
Quick-dry pants
Quick-dry shorts
Lightweight jacket for cool evenings
Wicking underwear
Optional: Packable rain jacket

Other Overnight Hiking Items:

Headlamp or flashlight
Bear banger or flares
Bear canister or bag
Rope for hanging food
Optional: Extra batteries
Optional: Folding saw
Optional: Duck tape
Optional: Extra batteries for headlamp

Desert Hiking Checklist

Failing to prepare for your desert hike can be extremely dangerous, not to say life-threatening. The desert hiking checklist here is for experienced hikers looking to embark on a challenging adventure to explore unique wildlife and seemingly otherworldly scenery while avoiding getting dehydrated and sunburnt.

The dangers of desert trails are matched only by the desert's hidden beauty. Here's what you should pack to have the most enjoyable desert hiking experience:

Dads Passion for Desert Hikes 2

Consider all the items from the Basic Day Hiking Checklist, and the following:

Desert Hiking Necessities:

A larger backpack
Extra water
Sodium replacement powder
Water treatment
Optional: Extra batteries

Note: Keep batteries away from direct sunlight.

Desert Hiking Food:

No food preparation can beat eating a good breakfast and hydrating well before you start. The following items are tried-and-true options from experienced desert hikers. Use at your discretion and diet preference.

Snack crackers
Salty snacks
Electrolyte drinks
Store bought trail mix
Cherry tomatoes
Cheese sticks

Note: Be careful with foods containing dairy when hiking in hot weather.

Optional: Salt supplement

Desert Hiking Gear:

If you are going to spend the night in the desert, consider brining the following items items with you:

Down sleeping bag
Sleeping pad
Eating utensils
Stuff sack

Desert Hiking Apparel:

If you want to learn more about desert hiking clothing, check out this in-depth article!

Breathable underwear
Convertible pants
Breathable pants
Moisture-wicking shirt(s)
Sun-protection shirt(s)
Lightweight jacket for cool evenings
Wide-brimmed hat
Optional: Down jacket
Optional: Cotton t-shirt
Optional: Mittens
Optional: Hat

Be sure to check out our other outdoor checklist as well or check out these 10 Essentials of Hiking.

Hiking Checklist Day Hiking Overnight Hiking Desert Hiking Checklists
Kühl Editor