How To Pack For A Day Hike | Rocky Mountain Health Plans Blog



Pack Essentials to Bring on Every Hike

Even if you don’t plan to hike a Colorado Fourteener, preparation is still crucial to ensure you have a fun and safe day hike. When these essentials are in your backpack, you can hit the trails with confidence. 

Water and snacks

Water is arguably the most important thing to bring along on a day hike, and you want to make sure every member of the hiking party has enough to stay hydrated. Many hikers opt to carry their water in a hydration reservoir that fits right inside a backpack. 

Snacks are also great to have on hand. Plus, taking a snack break at the summit or along the trail provides a perfect opportunity to sit back and appreciate the outdoors.

A comfortable backpack

You need something to carry all of your hiking gear (and snacks), but you don’t need to use a large backpack on day hikes. A daypack does the trick, and you can easily find one online or at a local gear outfitter. If possible, try several on to find the pack that fits just right. For those that have never been fit for a daypack in comparison to a trail pack, there is more to it than what you’d think to avoid long-term injuries. Stores like REI offer free fittings and use actual weights to ensure you find the best pack for your needs.

Hiking shoes that don’t cause blisters

Nothing ruins a hike faster than blisters, so choose a hiking shoe that is comfortable after the initial break-in period. If you don’t like the fit and feel of hiking boots, try trail running shoes, which are lightweight, comfortable, and designed specifically for trails.

Weather-dependent clothing

The clothing you pack for your day hike is heavily influenced by the weather, though it’s always a good idea to bring layers in Western Colorado. Some of the layers you might wear and/or pack include: 

  • Base layers, like a t-shirt or tank top
  • A long-sleeved mid-layer top
  • Lightweight shorts or pants
  • Wool hiking socks
  • Down or synthetic insulated jacket
  • Rain jacket and rain pants
  • A hat and gloves 

Avoid cotton clothing and opt for synthetics instead, since cotton keeps moisture near your skin and doesn’t dry quickly.

Navigation tools that you know how to use

A map and compass should always have a place in your daypack. Even if you carry a GPS, it doesn’t hurt to have a physical map and compass for backup. However, be sure to learn how to read the map and compass before you hit the trails.

Sun protection

The sun is intense in Colorado, so don’t forget to pack sunscreen and sunglasses. A hat with a brim also helps protect your skin and keeps you cool. 

Insect repellant

If you know there are bugs and other insects on your hike, consider packing some form of insect repellant.

“Just in case” essentials

No one sets off on a day hike expecting to get lost or stranded, but emergencies happen. Make sure you’re prepared for the unexpected by adding these items to your daypack: 

  • Headlamp (also great for pre-dawn starts)
  • Spare batteries or a lightweight external battery charger
  • A loud whistle
  • Fire starting tools like a lighter and fire starter material
  • A first-aid kit
  • Knife or multi-use tool 

A trash bag

Picking up any trash you find on your hike as well as pack out what you pack in for your day hike is imperative to keeping the trails clean for your fellow hikers. It’s just as important as ever that we all chip in to keep these shared lands pristine.