Being outside in nature is therapy for the soul, clears the mind, challenges the body, and reduces stress. These are just some of the benefits of hiking, so it is no wonder that this form of exercise is a favourite to many.
If you are a day hiking newbie, you might find it a little challenging knowing how to dress and what to pack for your day hike, so I have provided an outline to help you have the perfect day hike.
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Clothing for Your Day Hike
Determining what clothing is suitable for your day hike can be a daunting task and will depend on several things. It is important to know your trail and to take the following factors into consideration:
- what are the conditions of the trail?
- cliffs and slopes
- will it be muddy
- what are the weather conditions?
- what is the length of your day hike?
- what is the difficulty level of the trail?
- easy, moderate, difficult
- flat terrain
- rocky terrain
- lots of hills and slopes
- what is the elevation level
- smooth or rocky
Footwear for Hiking
It is extremely important to have the proper footwear weather you are going on a day hike or going on a longer hike. Water resistant hiking boots with a good grip and sturdy ankle support are highly recommended for many trails. If you are the type of hiker that prefers a short leisurely stroll through the woods, a good pair of sneakers will be sufficient. At all costs, avoid flip flops and high heals. These will not only be uncomfortable, they will not provide the protection and support that your feet will need on the trail.
Socks For Hiking
The type of socks you wear hiking can make a difference and help to limit the possibility of developing blisters as well as provide the extra protection and cushion that your feet will need. It is important to choose a pair of socks that have extra cushion on the ball and the heal of the sock. Depending on the type of hike you are doing, you might want consider packing an extra pair of socks to take with you.
Pants for Hiking
Loose fitting pants or leggings will allow you to be more comfortable and provide you with more flexibility during your hike. When determining the pants you will need, don’t even consider wearing jeans. They are not only heavy, they will also retain moisture, heat, or the cold.
Shirts for Hiking
When considering the appropriate shirt to wear, again it is important to know the trail.
- for a short easy trail on a hot day, short sleeve shirts are sufficient
- for a longer, more difficult hike with many obstacles, consider a long sleeve shirt to give your arms extra protection against the elements and and obstacles that you might encounter along the way
The type of shirt you choose is a matter of personal preference. There is no right or wrong shirt to wear.
It is said that there is no such thing as bad weather for the die hard hiker, but it necessary to be prepared for acclimate weather. Check the weather forecast for the day of your hike. If there is any chance of rain in the forecast, pack a waterproof/resistant jacket. You don’t want to be caught unprepared as this will make for a miserable day of hiking.
It is wise to bring along a hat with you on your day hike. During the summer months, a hat will protect you from the sun. During the winter months, a hat will keep you warm and help to keep the heat in your body.
It is obvious that you have a pair of gloves with you when hiking during the winter months, but I learned the hard way that it is equally important to have a pair of gloves when hiking during the summer months as well. Gloves will help to protect your hands and provide a more secure grip if you encounter areas where a climb is necessary. Weather hiking in summer or winter, I recommend a pair of Gore-Tex gloves, which will help to keep your hands dry.
Backpack For Hiking
Even when going on a day hike, you will need a small backpack to carry some essential hiking items (which are listed below). There is no need to rush out to purchase a backpack made specifically for hiking for only a day hike, but I do highly recommend a pack that has some cushion on the shoulder straps, as well as a waste band in order to eliminate some of the pressure on your back from the weight of your backpack.
PRO TIP: Pack each item in your backpack in a separate baggie to keep items dry and organized
Overview Of Clothing To Wear For A Day Hike
The clothing that you choose to wear for your day hike doesn’t have to be expensive, but it does have to be smart. Avoid choosing clothing made from cotton products. Cotton is not a fast drying fabric, and it tends to retain the dampness from cold and sweat, which in turn will make you cold. You want to choose clothing made from a synthetic material which will keep the dampness away from your skin which will prevent your body heat from escaping.
Trust me when I tell you that what you are wearing can make or break the enjoyment of hiking. Wearing the wrong clothing can be unbearable, and can cause extreme discomfort and even injury.
What To Pack For A Day Hike
It is sometimes difficult to know exactly what items to pack in your backpack to take on a day hike with you. Even though there is a lot less packing to do when going on a day hike, there are some hiking essentials that are important to have with you on your day hike.
Whether you are hiking for the day or making a longer trek, it is important that you stay hydrated during your hike making water a hiking essential. The amount of water that you will need is all dependent on the weather, how strenuous the hike is, and the length of the hike.
For a moderate hike with moderate temperatures, you will require ½ litre of water per hour. For a more strenuous hike on a hot day, you will require at least 1 litre of water per hour.
It is also necessary that your body has been fueled with the proper nutrients prior to the hike, as well as maintained during the hike. The frequency of food intake will also depend on how strenuous the hike is and what the length of the hike will be.
For all hikes, you should ensure that you have fueled your body with lots of protein and carbohydrates. For a day hike, these nutrients should be consumed 1 to 3 hours prior to the hike. If you are hiking for the entire day, it is recommended that you have some snacks on hand to eat throughout your hike in order to keep your energy levels up. Some recommended snacks which are beneficial for hiking are:
- protein bars
Pro Tip: Even if I am going on a short hike, I will have nuts with me to eat throughout the hike.
First Aid Kit
Unfortunately when hiking, there is always the possibility of being injured. Because of this, I recommend having a small first aid kit on hand. The contents of the first aid kit for a day hike are not as extensive as a longer hike, and should include:
- antiseptic wipes
- anti-bacterial ointment
- pain relief medication
- safety pins
- hand sanitizer
If you are just doing a day hike, the chances of needing a flashlight will be slim, however, it is always wise to have one with you. No matter what length the hike is or how familiar you are with the trail, there is always the possibility that you mis-calculate the length of time that it will take to complete the trail. For this reason, it is always recommended that you have a small flashlight on hand.
It is always wise to have your cellphone fully charged when going on a hike. Even when going on a day hike. You will likely want to take lots of pictures if nothing else. If you run into difficulties while on your hike, having your cellphone handy will make it easier to get help. For a longer day hike, I recommend bringing a portable charger along just in case you use up your battery taking pictures.
While maps to most trails are available online, it is also wise to bring a paper map of the trail with you in order to navigate the trails easier. Cellphone service is not always available on the trails and not all trails are clearly marked, so having a paper map is the perfect backup plan.
Pro Tip: Download the AllTrails app for trails, maps, pictures and reviews of trails in your area.
Sunscreen is needed when hiking during any season to protect you from the UV rays. Even on the most protected trails, the UV rays seem to find their way to you. When venturing out on a day hike, application should be done once prior to the hike and depending on the length of the hike and the season you are hiking, it should be applied at least one further time throughout the hike.
Let’s face it, most trails lead through woods, forest, or long grass, making bug spray an absolute must. You don’t want to be fighting off those pesky mosquitoes during the entire hike, and having bug spray with you will make the hike much more enjoyable.
Okay, this item is not always needed and will depend on the area that you will be hiking. If hiking in the mountains or on a trail in a rural area where bears are known to frequent, it is always good to have a can of bear spray on hand……just in case.
A whistle has multiple purposes and it is an item that not everybody takes on a day hike. When hiking in “bear country”, it is advisable to make noise which is difficult to do if hiking solo. Having a whistle with you is a good substitute for talking or singing to yourself. The whistle is also a good way to alert others in the case of an emergency.
Garbage Bag and Blanket
Even when heading out for a day hike things don’t always go as planned so it is always best to be prepared, especially when hiking in inclement weather.
- Garbage Bag: a garbage bag is beneficial if you are stranded or just need a rest while hiking, as it will give you something to sit on which will keep you dry.
- Thermal Blanket: a thermal blanket will be a life-saver especially if you find yourself lost and/or stranded. It will help to keep you warm and sheltered until help arrives.
Hiking poles are not always a necessity when taking a day hike. If the terrain is rough and the length of the hike will be long, you might want to consider investing in hiking poles as they are beneficial in assisting to climb hills and slopes and allows you to distribute your body weight more evenly and maintain balance during your climbs.
Gaiters are a type of protective hiking clothing that cover the top of your hiking boots. They protect your legs from branches, and keep mud, water and snow from getting inside of your boots. If you plan on hiking in rain or snow, gaiters would be a good investment to make.
Crampons are a traction device which are strapped onto your hiking boots, and allow for a more secure grip when hiking and climbing in icy conditions. Crampons aren’t always necessary, but if you are hiking in the winter or in an extremely cold climate they are essential.
Day Hike Overview
I can’t stress enough how important it is that you do your research and get to know your trail for the day of your hike. This will assist you with knowing what clothing is appropriate, as well as what to pack for a successful day hike.
Day hiking is a relatively inexpensive activity and is readily available to people of all fitness levels. Hiking is the perfect way to challenge your body and to rejuvenate your soul.
If you are a solo hiker, it is essential that certain safety measures be taken.
See you on the trails 🙂