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Hiking checklist

Use this hiking checklist so you don’t forget anything on your day hike. It includes the 10 essentials, which are key items you should always carry when you’re hiking. Learn more about the 10 hiking essentials and if you’re heading out on a multi-day trip, check out our backpacking checklist.

Before you head out, read up on the conditions and check the weather and adjust accordingly. If you expect a lot of mud, gaiters might be wise. If there are steep hills, trekking poles could save your knees. And no one ever regrets bringing a treat for the summit.

Pre-trip planning

Check out our day hiking guide for beginners for practical advice on how to plan and prepare for a hike. You can never be too prepared, so always do your research before you arrive at the trailhead. It doesn’t hurt to brush up on first-aid knowledge to know how to handle stuff like scrapes and bug stings too. Some other planning musts:

  • Research where you’re going
  • Leave a trip plan (like the AdventureSmart trip plan) with a trusted friend
  • Bring a guidebook or printed description of trail
  • Hiking permit, if required

Hiking gear

The right gear can make a world of difference on your hike. Hiking poles (a.k.a. trekking poles) are especially helpful to keep you stable on rough terrain. Learn how to choose a pair of hiking poles to round out your hiking kit. To help you find a backpack that feels right on the trail, check out our backpack sizing guide to determine what pack is best for you (and your back). The best hiking gear to bring includes:

Clothing and footwear

First order of business: leave the cotton clothes behind. Cotton is heavy, doesn’t insulate well, and takes a long time to dry when it’s wet. Instead, opt for breathable, moisture-wicking layers like synthetic and merino wool. Read up on how to layer for outdoor activities to stay comfortable, no matter the weather or how hard you’re working. One other piece of advice? Learn how to choose hiking boots or shoes for your hard-working feet (they’ll thank you). Layer up with:

Rain is often inevitable, so bring rain gear to keep you and your stuff dry. Read how to choose a rain jacket and learn the difference between waterproof vs. water-resistant fabrics for braving the elements. The most essential pieces of rain gear and layering pieces to go with them include:


When we encourage people to lose themselves in nature, we don’t mean it literally. Knowing how to get to your destination and back is essential for hiking, so be sure you have maps, a compass, and that you know how to use them. Want more tools? GPS navigation devices have come a long way, and can help you know your location, plan routes and send messages to friends or family (note: always have a non-electronic navigation back up). Bring along navigation tools like these:

Food and water

When it comes to packing the proper nourishment, make sure the amount of food that’s being brought matches up with the length of the hike and how many calories are being burned. Same goes for water, as dehydration is a common problem that occurs in the wilderness. Water treatment tools like tablets or pumps are a great addition to help filter and purify water in a nearby creek if you run out. Check out our article on backpacking food and meal planning for some simple recipes to munch on while trekking, and be sure to bring:

Sun protection

Sun protection is important even when you’re deep in the trees or hiking on a cloudy day. In North America, sunlight is at its strongest between 1pm and 4pm, especially between April and October. On winter hikes, snow can reflect UV rays from the sun, doubling your chance of exposure. Read up on our sun safety tips to find out how to stay safe from the sun at any time of year, and pack along:


Maybe your hike took a little longer than expected, or maybe you’re hoping to get a better look at the full moon. Either way, hiking in the dark means it’s harder to navigate, plus loose rocks, gnarly roots and other obstacles become a lot more difficult to spot in the shadows. Headlamps are important to always have in your pack in case of darkness, and they leave both hands free too. Be sure your headlamp or flashlight is fully charged before you pack them.

  • Headlamp or flashlight for each person in your group (the flashlight on your smartphone is not an acceptable substitute)
  • Extra batteries for headlamp/flashlight, or a backup light

Emergency items

Always be prepared for hiking safety and bring along the right emergency essentials. Learn about tips to travel safe in bear country so you avoid confrontations with big animals, and watch out for the small critters too – check out tips on how to choose bug spray and bug nets to ward off mosquitos and gnats. For a safe (and fun) hike, make sure you bring:

Repair kit and tools

Mishaps happen, so know how to fix things out in the field. Having a supply of patches to repair a torn waterproof jacket or pants can be super helpful (especially if it’s raining). A multi-tool is perfect for a wide variety of uses, like cutting up fruits and veggies at the viewpoint, picking out a splinter and more. To be ready for whatever, make sure you bring:

Communication device

Bring your fully charged phone and keep it turned off in a waterproof case or bag to save batteries. Communication devices help you stay in touch or call for help when you’re going off-grid (some even work without cell service). You can use them to send messages to friends back home, and some come with GPS maps to see where you are. One must-have? A whistle – it lasts longer than your voice if you need to call out. Add these items to your checklist:

Optional items

It never hurts to be too prepared. When you’re planning a hike, think about your specific needs and essentials depending on where you’re heading. Think gaiters for muddy trails, bug hats and spray for mosquitos or black flies, or even some headphones to listen to your favourite tunes (as long as it’s safe – use one ear bud and your common sense). Think about bringing: