Pack Like a Pro: Your Ultimate Hiking Gear Guide

June 28, 2023

PLUS a downloadable checklist!

So, you’ve decided to step into the great outdoors for an exhilarating day hike? Excellent choice! Whether you’re an experienced hiker or a beginner just starting out, this comprehensive guide is designed to assist you in packing like a pro hiker, ensuring you have all the essentials for your adventure. And to make your prep even simpler, I’ve included a downloadable PDF checklist. Let’s dive right in! 

If you want to learn even more, consider booking a guided day trip in the beautiful Rocky Mountains with Ground Up Adventures, where you’ll learn to be self-reliant for your own future adventures.


The Ultimate Day Hiking Gear Guide 

In this section, I will discuss the items I bring with me on my hikes in detail, as well as recommend some gear that I regularly use and recommend 😊


Your daypack is crucial for your hike. Pick a comfortable, durable, and suitably sized pack with a good support system and adequate space for your essentials. For day hikes, I recommend a 20-30L backpack. Remember, going lightweight without compromising quality is key. Some backpacks, even for day hikes, can weigh over 5 lbs empty – choose one that will work best for you. This is an item that should last you years of adventures, so choose wisely.  

Know that you don’t need to buy the newest gear to get started, you just need something comfortable that will get you outside. You can find fantastic used packs, or purchase new. 

Shop REI’s used backpacks

Shop REI’s New backpacks

Trail Fuel and Hydration


Water is an absolute must on a hike. Carry a hydration pack or water bottles, along with a compact water purification system. I like using either just an empty Smart Water bottle or a Nalgene. For water purification, I recommend the Sawyer Squeeze; it’s easy to use, budget-friendly coming in at under $30, and can filter over 3.5 MILLION gallons of water with proper care, so it will last you quite some time. The price can vary depending on where you get it, but the cheapest price I’ve found it at is Walmart


Pack high-energy, non-perishable snacks like trail mix, energy bars, and dried fruits. Remember to pack enough food to fuel your adventure and a little extra just in case. The general rule is to have an extra days worth of food with you, which can be as simple as a handful of granola bars. 

Safety & Essentials


Carry a map, compass, and if possible, a GPS device. I’m a big fan of a 2-way satellite communication device that also doubles as a GPS, such as a Garmin inReach. However, even in this digital age, the traditional map and compass are important backups to have, and that is just as important as knowing how to use them.

Read next: Mistakes Beginner Hikes Make and How to Avoid Them


Your kit should include basic supplies such as bandages, antiseptic wipes, and any personal medication you may need. Other items can include athletic tape, a syringe to flush wounds, a triangular bandage and SAM splint.

It’s important to keep in mind that your first aid kit should be tailored to your trip and the number of individuals in your group. You may also want to bring a separate first aid kit if any furry friends are coming along – here’s the one I use. A small, well-stocked kit can make a significant difference in the instance of emergencies. Adventure Medical Kits makes fantastic, ready-made first aid kits, or you can always make you own. Typically, it is more cost-effective to buy a first aid kit that already has everything you need, with the exception of a few items.


A multi-tool or pocketknife can help with simple tasks and minor gear repairs. The Swiss Army Knife is my personal favorite, since it is extremely small and compact. I like this version because it has scissors, which I use more than any other tool in the multi-tool. 


Don’t forget to include a fire starter like a lighter or waterproof matches in your kit. This hopefully an item you would never need embarking on a day hike, however it could become a necessary item if you get stuck out longer than planned. Why not be prepared?


Sunscreen, sunglasses, and a hat are essential for protection against harsh sun rays, especially in areas of high elevation such as Colorado. Don’t forget bug spray, too for those pesky insects! Kinfield makes my favorite facial & body sunscreen, as well as an eco-friendly bug spray that actually works! If you’re like me and bugs can’t leave you alone, do yourself a favor and don’t leave this at home. 


Similar to the fire starter, a reliable headlamp or flashlight is important to have in your pack, especially if you find yourself out after dusk. Of course if you have an early morning summit mission planned, or perhaps a sunset hike, this item will be essential. I’ve tried a lot of headlamps over the years, but the Petzl Action Core is still my favorite for conditions where good visibility is desired. 


If you’re being a responsible hiker and bringing the ten essentials, you will want to equip yourself with an emergency bivvy, emergency whistle, and a signal mirror if your compass doesn’t already have a mirror. These items can be crucial if you get lost or face harsh weather conditions. 

Read next: The 10 Essentials: What You Need to Know

Clothing and Footwear

Proper attire including clothing and footwear can make a HUGE difference on a hike, and keep you adventuring for longer. 


Proper attire is essential. Opt for moisture-wicking, quick-drying materials such as merino wool, polyester, or nylon, and generally avoid cotton unless you’re hiking in an area such as the desert. Dress in layers to keep your body cool and comfortable. In the warmer months, I’m a big fan of wearing a sun shirt to protect my skin and allow me to not have to reapply sunscreen as often. My favorite is this capilene hoody from Patagonia, but if you’re looking for something a little more affordable, REI’s Sahara collection makes fantastic, breathable sun shirts as well. I wore one hiking the Grand Canyon and it kept me SO cool! If you’re wearing shorts, it’s not a bad idea to bring a pair of pants along just in case weather comes in on your adventure.




A good pair of hiking boots or trail runners and quality socks can make all the difference. This really comes down to preference, but ideally o
pt for either supportive, comfortable, and waterproof hiking boots, or breathable trail runners, depending on your feet and the terrain you are adventuring in. These are my favorite trail runners, and these are my favorite hiking boots. Just be sure to break them in before your hike. Don’t forget moisture-wicking socks! These ones are my favorite hiking socks made by a small family-owned business. 


Weather can change rapidly when hiking, especially in areas such as the mountains. ALWAYS pack a rain jacket and an extra layer of clothing such as a puffy jacket or fleece to stay warm and dry. I also recommend bringing along an extra pair of socks to prevent blisters in case your feet get wet. 

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Trail Hygiene 


Carry toiletry items like a KULA cloth or toilet paper, hand sanitizer, a trowel, and a WAG Bag in areas where required. Be sure to check the regulations in the area you’re hiking in before your trip. If you do bring toilet paper or a WAG Bag, be sure to pack them out with you. 

That’s everything you need for a successful day hike!

You can customize this list depending on your specific hike, personal needs and preferences. And remember, “there’s no harm in hoping for the best as long as you’re prepared for the worst.” 

Download the FREE Day Hiking Essentials Checklist to ensure you’re fully prepared for your next outdoor adventure. 


For a worry-free hiking experience, consider booking a guided tour with Ground Up Adventures. Let me handle the logistics so you can immerse yourself in the beauty of nature. Check out my website for more info about my offerings and book your next adventure today! 

When the trail gets tough, keep on hiking! 🥾 

*Please note that some links above are affiliate links, which means I earn a small commission on any purchase you make – at no additional cost to you. If you use any of these links, thank you for your support in advance!


Read next: Scaling New Heights: A Beginner’s Guide to Climbing a Mountain

Hi there! I’m Shelby, a
Colorado hiking guide!

I’m here to inspire you to climb your mountain from the ground UP.
I’m an avid hiker and backpacker, and also love camping, fishing, and anything else I can do outdoors, even if it means going alone! I believe nature is the best teacher of all, and I find joy sharing this knowledge so you can feel empowered on your own adventures! 

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