With our trip to walk the Tongariro Crossing coming up rather quickly (Saturday, baby!) I thought it was about time that I started packing. Normally I pack the
of before but with a busy week ahead it’s time to start thinking about it now. Or else I am bound to forget something (most things). If you don’t do many hikes it can be hard to know exactly what to pack for a day hike and what are just added extras (shiny object syndrome). There are so many things that are pitched as ‘must haves’ but in reality, you only need the very basics: food, water, clothing and protection.
This post contains affiliate links. That means that if you purchase through a link on this page I may make a small commission. This comes at no extra cost to you and you don’t have to click on them! I only recommend products I can stand behind or would use myself.
What to pack for a day hike | Before
Porridge! Porridge is the best before hiking breakfast (maybe I love it so much ‘coz when Ma was preggers with me she craved porridge?). It fills you up and is one of those foods that does that whole slow release energy shizz. Which is pretty clever if you think about it.
Hydrate well before you start hiking as well. It’s so easy to get dehydrated so get ahead of the game and preload on water.
Make sure you have had a good nights sleep the night before your big hike. Go to bed early so you wake up nice and rested. It’ll make your day a whole lot easier. Trust me. So no partying the night before. Jem said so. One, you will be tired. Two, hangovers make you in need of extra fluids anyway which is super unhelpful on a hike. Three, if you’re anything like me, hangovers make you grumpy. No one likes a grumpy hiking buddy.
Do a bit of research:
- Study your map so you know where you are going to be heading. Pay attention to the gradients and altitudes
- Check the weather. If it is going to be too bad, it may pay to postpone it a day.
- Have a look to see if there are any things on the trail you need to be aware of such as private land, streams and so on and so forth.
- Check for off-season/on season trail-specific information. For example, during the season you can’t park for longer than four hours in the carpark for the Tongariro Crossing so you need to catch the shuttle to and from where you need to be. Off-season there is no restricted parking time.
- Tell someone where you are going and your expected return time.
- Charge your phone (and camera).
What to pack for a day hike | During
Obviously, you are gonna need one of these bad boys to chuck everything in. You want one big enough to chuck all your gear in comfortably (at least 35L for day hikes). If you are going to be doing a lot of hikes, it is a good idea to invest in a good quality one. A backpack that is made out of sturdy materials, is well-made, has all the clips and straps (the hikers equivalent to bells and whistles) and is comfortable will see you well.
Food + water:
Pack some lunch and enough snacks to keep you going. Chuck in high energy snacks such as trail mix, hard fruits – soft fruits such as bananas don’t travel well, good ole sammies, some sweets (good motivation) and a few muesli bars. 1.5-3 litres should be enough water for the day. It is always better to take too much than not enough. A water bladder is a great idea, just chuck it in the appropriate space in your backpack, leave the valve out and sip away at your leisure without always having to open up your pack each time you need a drink. I always like to bring a thermos of tea as well. Nothing tastes better than a warm cup o’ tea after you have been sweating up mountains for hours on end.
Waterproof coat – this will protect you from the rain and will help keep out the wind, especially at higher altitudes.
Layers – I personally wear thermal stockings (or tights depending on where in the world you are), leggings (or tights, this is a multi-purpose word isn’t it?) over the top, woolly socks, a singlet, quick dry long sleeved top and a fleece. I always chuck in an extra fleece, a scarf, a pair of gloves, my hats – both a woollen hat and a cap (even if it cold, sometimes you strike the sun at the wrong angle and get a bit o’ the ole sunstrike) and waterproof trousers in my bag. Pulling on and off layers will help regulate your core temperature as you walk. When you stop you can layer up as you are idle and cool down quickly, then as you get warmer when you start walking again you can peel off one or two.
Gaiters – gaiters are handy things. I wear them nearly every hike I go on, even in the summer. They keep my feet dry when stomping through puddles and shallow creeks, stones out of my boots and legs (mostly, I am me after all) free from scratches.
Hiking shoes or boots – these are essential, especially for those longer day or overnight hikes. You can find many different types of boots but each person will differ in what they need. I would advise getting these in a store so that you can try them on and make sure they are comfortable. You can always try pairs on in store then look online to find the same ones a bit cheaper.
Health + Safety:
Mini First Aid Kit – blister plasters, sunscreen, painkillers, bandages, scissors, cotton buds, tweezers, vinyl gloves and your regular medications should all be included. You can either buy pre-made first aid kits or make your own from supplies from your local supermarket and pharmacy.
Map, compass + cellphone – especially when you are hiking on unmarked trails. Though, make sure you can actually read a map and compass or else you are just carrying extra weight.
Camera + tripod – there is some spectacular scenery out there. A tripod will help you get that perfect snap. You can get loads of different types from mini ones (that look like teeny little aliens with long legs – check out the photo below to see if you see it too) to larger collapsable ones. A decent DSLR is a fantastic investment. There is just something about taking a photo with a big, proper camera rather than just a phone camera (though you can take some fantastic photos with a phone now, it’s just not the same).
Trekking poles – I personally don’t use them but my folks do. Well, my Pa has to coz he’s a wobbly old bugger now. They act as an extra leg and some fancy ones can even act as a tripod (even though it only has one leg so technically it’s a unipod). I am chucking some trekking poles in my hiking bag for this weekend though for my friend to try out. I’ll let you know how she gets on with them when I write all about Tongariro next week. ‘Coz obvs I have to write about it.
Headtorch – mine lives in my bag. With the winter on its way, the sun likes to go to bed a bit earlier nowadays. You never know what’s gonna happen that might delay the return to your car. It’s always a good idea to chuck one in just in case. Plus, they don’t weigh much and are small so it makes no difference whether its in my bag or in my cupboard.
What to pack for a day hike | Afterwards
If you know me at all you will know that I have a bottle of wine waiting for after the hike. A pair of slippers and fluffy dressing gown are at the ready as well. If it is a strenuous hike, be kind to yourself and schedule in some downtime. Whether that is just chilling out on the couch with a movie, a long bubble bath or a glass o’ bubbles (like yours truly), you have earned it!
So now, hopefully, you know exactly what to pack for a day hike. If you have anything else to add or any questions, make sure to leave a comment and I will get back to you ASAP.
If you are new to hiking I have prepared 11 hiking tips + tricks that you might find helpful. Annnnd if you are hiking during the summer, there is also a handy summer hiking guide, just for you.
Most of all you should have FUN. Hiking is a wonderful, soul-enriching experience. Don’t stress about it. Just go and do it
You may also like
Pin for later