michael harr, mba
daypack checklist
[pictured above: day hike at West Beach, Indiana Dunes National Shoreline]

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your daypack

Daypacks are inherently smaller than traditional backcountry packs because they don't need to carry nearly as much gear. You won't need to cook meals, setup or tear down a campsite, or any of the other things associated with overnight backpacking. That said, your daypack's contents only needs to meet three criteria - the same as for multi-day hiking in the backcountry:
  • ​Needs - Bring what you need to accomplish your hiking/backpacking goals.
  • Accessibility - Pack the items you need in a manner that optimizes accessibility. 
  • Weight - Always strive to reduce pack weight whenever possible.
And, while you'll have a better idea of weather during a day hike than a week long walk through the woods, inclement weather can pop up at any time. As a result, here are a couple tips to keep you and your gear dry:
  • ​TIP: To add an additional layer of weatherproofing, (1) insert a garbage bag into your backpack's main compartment, (2) pack your gear, (3) twist the top of the bag, and (4) fold the twisted part back into your backpack.
  • TIP: Use the extra garbage bags for collecting trash (remember to leave no trace) and if it rains, grab one to use as a makeshift rain poncho.

on your hike

​The following items are routinely needed as you hike and should be kept in parts of your backpack that are readily accessible throughout the day:
  • Hiking/Trekking Poles
    • TIP: Spider webs facials are annoying; use your poles to keep them out of your face.
  • Water Bottles or Hydration Pack
  • 2 Liters of Water
  • Map
  • Guidebook
  • Compass
  • Altimeter and/or GPS
  • Insect Repellent
  • Sunscreen and UV Lip Balm/Chapstick
  • Water Filtration System (for long or remote day hikes)
  • Water Purification Tablets (backup)
  • Hiking/Trekking Poles
  • Knife
  • Lunch
  • Snacks
  • Quick Dry Towel


​Few things will impact your hiking experience like what you're wearing. It's imperative to have the right clothing and shoes before you head out on the trail. Here's the quick rundown: 

> 55 Degrees Fahrenheit (Summer)
  • Wicking Underwear
  • Lightweight, Fast Drying Pants
  • Wicking Socks
  • Wicking Short Sleeve T-Shirt
  • Lightweight, Fast Drying Trail Shoes
  • Lightweight, Sun/Rain Blocking Hat
  • Sunglasses, if desired
32 to 55 Degree Fahrenheit (Spring/Fall)
  • Wicking Underwear
  • Light or Moderate Weight, Fast Drying Convertible Pants
  • Wicking Socks
  • Wicking Short Sleeve T-Shirt/Base Layer
  • Wicking Long Sleeve T-Shirt
  • Waterproof outer layer (top and bottom)
  • Lightweight, Fast Drying Trail Shoes -OR- Comfortable Hiking Boots
  • Sun/Rain Blocking Hat
  • Sunglasses, if desired
< 32 Degree Fahrenheit (Winter)
  • Insulated, Wicking Long Underwear/Base Layer
  • Fast Drying Pants
  • Additional Bottom Layers, as appropriate
  • Snow Pants
  • Long Wool Socks
  • Insulated, Wicking Long Sleeve Undershirt/Base Layer
  • Wicking Long Sleeve T-Shirt
  • Additional Top Layers, as appropriate
  • Winter Jacket, Coat
  • Comfortable Winter Hiking Boots
  • Wicking Winter Skull Cap
  • Insulated Winter Hat
  • Winter Gloves and/or Mittens
  • Facemask and Goggles, as needed

protecting sensitive gear

With day hiking, you can more or less choose your weather conditions and most of us are fair weather hikers. That said, when a chance of rain is in the forecast, you'd do well to bring a waterproof box or bag in your daypack to protect your moisture sensitive gear. Here's a short list of what you'll likely want to keep dry:
  • Waterproof Box or Bag
  • Mobile Phone
  • Backup Phone Batter/Power Cell
  • LED Headlamp
    • TIP: Headlamps are lightweight and can be vital if your day hike turns to night
  • Extra Batteries

in case of emergency

On all hikes, you should carry these emergency supplies:
  • Wallet with ID, Cash, and Credit/Debit Card
  • Trip Itinerary
  • Road ID with Emergency Contacts and Medical Conditions
  • First Aid Kit
  • Sewing Kit
  • Duct Tape
  • Emergency Reflective Blanket
  • Bear Spray (keep on your person or outside of backpack for easy access)