Summer Day Hike Packing List

Summer is here and, as always, we look forward to all of the activities that come with the warm and sunny weather. An important aspect of enjoying outdoor adventures is being properly prepared for them. Hiking is an activity we love and do frequently, so here is our summer day hike packing list including the essentials we bring and some of the gear we love to wear or carry with us on our excursions.

Summer Day Hike Packing List

1. Backpack

This one is pretty obvious, but a sturdy backpack that has enough space to hold all the items you want to bring along is important! Following are a couple things you should keep in mind when looking for a backpack to carry on your day hikes.

  • Space: Choose a pack that can hold all of your essentials plus any layers you take off.
  • Extra Straps: Extra straps or carabiner loops can be helpful if you ever want to attach hiking poles, additional shoes, or other gear to the outside of your pack.
  • Water Resistance: Choosing a waterproof pack or a pack with a rainfly can be helpful for rainy days to keep the contents of your bag dry.
  • Comfort: For longer hikes, we recommend a bag with thicker straps and some back support. If you are walking a short distance with little belongings to carry, something as simple as a drawstring bag might do.

What We Like to Use:

We usually carry a 40-liter pack for day hikes, but sometimes carry a smaller CamelBak for short excursions.

Our go-to day hike pack
Our go-to day hike pack

2. Water

It is important to stay hydrated while hiking, especially on those hot summer days. We either carry a water bladder in our pack or a few water bottles, which ensures that we each have a couple liters of water to drink during the hike.

If you are embarking on longer excursions, don’t want to carry a bunch of extra weight in water, and are sure that there are water sources along your route, a LifeStraw or other similar filtering system is a great alternative.

What We Like to Use:

We like to carry insulated stainless steel water bottles because they keep our water cold, are durable, and are easy to clean.

Stainless Steel Water Bottle

3. Sun Protection

Hats, sunglasses, and sunscreen are all essentials to protect your skin and eyes.

We usually apply sunscreen at the car and leave the large bottle there so we aren’t lugging it around. Then we just carry a small tube of face sunscreen and wear our hats and sunglasses on the trail.

4. First Aid Kit

This is something you hope you don’t need, but is always good to have just in case. A basic little kit that has bandages, moleskin, gauze, ibuprofen, an antihistamine, disinfecting wipes, blister covers, tweezers, tape, and other basic items you may need is great to bring on hikes.

What We Use:

I cannot find the exact kit we have anymore, but it was from REI and is pretty much identical to this linked option. We refill it as needed with our own supplies.

Mini First Aid Kit

5. Pocket Knife

This is another item we don’t really use on our typical day hike. But we like to have a pocket knife in case of emergency situations, such as for defense or shelter making, or for other random situations where one might come in handy.

6. Navigation Method

It’s always a good idea to plan ahead and know your route. We typically download offline Google Maps to use when we have no service, but we have also used printed trail maps, online maps provided by parks, compasses, and GPS systems.

7. Bug Spray

Bug spray is a common item we bring on summer adventures to repel mosquitoes, flies, ticks, and other pests.

What We Like to Use:

We use Cedarcide for all of our adventures. It is a great option if you’re looking for something free of harsh chemicals.

The ticks have been awful the past few summers, so we find ourselves frequently using this spray
The ticks have been awful the past few summers, so we find ourselves frequently using this spray

8. Other Misc. Self-Care Items

Some other self-care items you’ll always find in our pack include chapstick, hand sanitizer, tissues, and extra toilet paper.

9. Rain Jacket

A rain jacket is a good thing to bring on summer adventures, even if the day seems to start off sunny. It can also come in handy as a wind breaker or extra layer on chilly mornings and evenings.

What We Like to Wear:

It honestly doesn’t really matter what rain jacket you wear, as long as it’s fully waterproof! Lia wears a North Face rain jacket, and Matt wears one that we picked up in Peru.

10. Extra Layers

Depending on where you are, mornings and evenings can be a little chilly in the summer.  Hoodies, fleece jackets, a puffer, and other layers that you can easily put on or take off as the day’s weather fluctuates or as you get hiking are a good thing to consider bringing. We like to layer those under our rain jacket if it’s extra windy and cold.

A flannel is one of our summer staples when it comes to layers
A flannel is one of our summer staples when it comes to layers

11. Sturdy Hiking Shoes

We always recommend wearing a sturdy pair of hiking shoes with solid tread. In addition to handling various terrains, they should be comfortable and provide good support.

What We Like To Wear:

For years, we wore basic boots and used waterproofing spray. It did the trick for all of our excursions through South America. Now, Lia wears boots from Forsake and Matt wears Danners. Both brands have a nice variety of boots and other hiking shoes that should last a long time!

Comfortable shoes with good tread are an essential for hikes like this!
Comfortable shoes with good tread are an essential for hikes like this!

12. Water-Friendly Shoes

Many of the hikes we do in the summer feature waterfalls, rivers, or lakes. So we’ll frequently wear or bring water-friendly shoes that we don’t mind getting wet if we have to or want to get in the water. They are always nice for the rocky lake or river floors when we take a swim.

What We Like to Wear:

Both of us bought some Chacos since we spend a lot of time at lakes, summer hiking, exploring jungles, beaches, etc. There are plenty of other cheaper options if you feel like you won’t get as much use out of them. Amazon and various other retailers have a variety of water shoes and sandals available.

We often hike in our Chacos, but if you don’t have a similar sturdy pair of sandals good for hiking or would rather not hike in sandals, another option is to just pack them or strap them to the outside of your pack if you want them on a particular adventure.

The Chacos definitely get used often in the summer months

13. Food

We always enjoy packing a lunch to eat on the trail. But even if we don’t pack a full lunch, it’s always a good idea to bring some snacks to refuel or in case of emergency. Common foods we bring include nuts, fruit, sandwiches, baked goods, granola bars, and more.

If you do bring food, always remember to pack out your trash and avoid feeding the wildlife.

Some mountain goats visiting us while we ate lunch by the trail
Some mountain goats visiting us while we ate lunch by the trail

14. Passes or Payment Methods

Some excursions may require a pass to access the area. Bring along the required pre-purchased pass or a payment method to purchase one onsite. Note that certain areas may only accept cash, so it is a good idea to have some on hand.

We also always recommend taking a look in advance to see where you can purchase passes because not all entrance stations, parking areas, etc. allow you to purchase passes upon arriving.

What We Like to Use:

We’d say the great majority of our day hikes don’t require a pass or fee. But we do visit our fair share of federal recreation areas, national parks, and other lands where a pass is necessary. We always buy the America the Beautiful Annual Pass because it is cheaper for us to buy the pass than pay for individual entrance fees at places we visit in a year-long period. So, take a look at the annual pass to see if it’s worth it for you!

America the Beautiful Pass

15. Trekking Poles

If you enjoy hiking with hiking poles, bring them along to help out on some of the steep, rocky, or slick terrain. A pair that collapses is great if you want to put them away at any point during your hike. We don’t hike with trekking poles and therefore can’t recommend a certain set, but there is a large variety of great options sold online and at outdoor retailers.

16. Misc. Gear

There may be other gear not mentioned on this summer day hike packing list that we bring. Some items may depend on the adventure, such as headlamps if you go on a sunrise/sunset mission or items for your pets if you have them.

Bear spray is another thing we always carry in Montana and other areas with grizzlies, but it isn’t necessary to bring elsewhere.

As always, it’s important to plan ahead to determine if there are any other items you may need for an adventure beyond your regular essentials.

For additional items we bring on our winter adventures, check out our winter day hike packing list!

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