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Hi, I'm Georgina! A coffee-loving adventure enthusiast here to share my favorite travel tips with you! My goal is to inspire others to get out and explore this wild planet by camping, hiking, or wandering around a fun new city!

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  • Georgina D'Angelo

What to Bring on a Short Hike: 10 Day Hiking Essentials

Updated: Feb 1

Whether you’re new to hiking or it’s been a while since you hit the trails, having the right day hiking essentials with you is so important, no matter how short or long the trail is. If you’re well prepared for any hike, you’re bound to have a great time enjoying an outdoor adventure.

What to Bring on a Short Hike: 10 Day Hiking Essentials. Alpacka My Bags

Hiking has been a form of adventure and sport for a long time, but it’s never too late to start. And the best way to do so is by finding some local, short hiking trails.

My favorite place to look for hikes is on All Trails; just search your location and see what trails are nearby!

Nature is for everyone to enjoy! So let’s get you on that hiking trail. Below are the day hiking essentials you should always have with you; there’s even a free day hiking checklist for you to snag!

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What to Bring On a Short Hike

1. Day Bag

First of all, it’s a good idea to have a place to store all of your important things to bring on a hike. So make sure you have a sturdy, not-too-big, not-too-small day bag to carry your gear.

I recommend sticking with a backpack that is around 18 to 22 liters. Most “adventure” type backpacks will have their size (in liters) easy to find.

If you’re going to your local sporting store or REI, the backpack sizes are generally on the tag or on the front of the backpack.

If you’re browsing for a hiking backpack, here are my top recommendations:

2. Plenty of Water

No matter how short the trail is you plan on hiking, you must always, always bring water. And make sure it’s more than you think you’ll need. If your hiking day pack has a water bladder sleeve, I recommend getting your own water reservoir (2 to 3L) so you have easy access to water while hiking.

You can stick with an insulated water bottle to keep your water cooler, but make sure it holds a decent amount. You might want to bring two water bottles, but remember they will add more weight to your bag.

If you’re going on a short hike, like 5 miles or less, you can always bring one water bottle with you and leave an insulated bottle of water in the car for when you return.

3. Snacks

Along with water, food is very important to bring hiking. You can grab some high-protein or high-calorie snacks that will give you a boost of energy, such as Larabars or trail mix. Or make a picnic lunch to bring on your short hike with you.

Some of my go-to hiking meals are peanut butter jelly sandwiches, tortilla wraps (like chicken or tofu), or a charcuterie array of crackers, cheeses, and fruits.

4. Sun Protection

This is especially crucial if you’re hiking somewhere with little shade or if it’s during the summer. I always put on my favorite sunscreen before hitting the trail, and I bring the bottle with me to apply more if I need it. Another great option for sun protection is a sun shirt.

These long sleeve shirts with hoods are designed to prevent you from sunburning, something you definitely want to avoid if you’re hiking as it can lead to heat exhaustion. I recommend bringing lip balm as well because chapped lips are party poopers.

Man hiking in Big Bend - Day Hiking Essentials

5. Bug Repellent

I know bug spray is generally not fun to wear, and maybe you don’t tend to get bitten very much. But trust me, you don’t want to finish your fun day hike to realize you now have 50 mosquito bites.

This fragrance-free, dry bug spray is always in my hiking bag and doesn’t leave you feeling sticky.

6. First Aid Kit

While the goal is to not need a first aid kit while out for a short hike, it’s a good idea to have one with you in case you get blisters, a cut, etc. You can make your own homemade first aid kit, or you can buy a conveniently compact first aid kit with all the essentials.

7. Navigation System

How are you going to find your way on the trail? Getting lost on any hike is something you definitely want to avoid. So having a plan for navigation is a must.

Grab a trail map at the trailhead if they’re available, or use AllTrails. They have a plan available to buy that allows you to download trail maps for offline use.

If you’re somewhere with zero cell signal and you’re not even sure where the next sign of civilization might be, I recommend investing in a handheld GPS device. It's not a bad idea to own a GPS if you plan on hiking a lot.

8. Portable Charger

If you’re bringing any electronics with you on your hike, such as your phone for directions or photos, it’s a good idea to pack a portable charger as well.

This way you don’t have to worry about your phone battery giving out on you as you’re about to take the most epic hiking photo, or just as you were figuring out your way back to the car.

9. Trash Bag

Remember those snacks I mentioned earlier? Whatever you do, do not leave any wrappers or trash of any kind on the hiking trail. Always pack out what you bring with you on your hikes.

You can just put these into your backpack if you’re okay with that, or just bring a trash bag or grocery bag to put everything in.

10. Water Sterilizer

If the day hike you’re going on has bodies of water along the way, such as a river or lake, you can always bring a water sterilizer with you so you know you can get more clean water if you run out.

This can be a good option if you don’t want to carry heavy water bottles, but always make sure you know there will be water for you on the trail.

There are several different water sterilizer options on the market, the best options being:

What to Bring on a Short Hike - 10 Day Hiking Essentials. Alpacka My bags
Sitting Bull Falls Recreation Area, New Mexico

Hiking Checklist: What to Wear Hiking

1. Comfortable Shoes

Always make sure you pick a great pair of shoes to hike in. There’s a good chance they will get muddy or wet, so you don’t want to wear your favorite everyday sneakers. And you’ll be walking a lot, so comfort is very important. Let’s avoid blisters as much as we can!

My favorite hiking boots are the Salomon Women's Outline Gore-Tex. They’re waterproof, fairly lightweight compared to other boots, and a lot cuter. Not that looks matter, but I love how these hiking shoes look.

2. Durable Socks

Along with high-quality hiking shoes, you want to wear the best socks when hiking. Look for socks higher than ankle socks, especially if you’re wearing boots. You want your socks to cover your ankles and bottoms of your legs, even in summer.

These breathable hiking socks are some of my favorites. You can also find hiking socks in your local sporting goods store.

3. Tevas

Throw a pair of sandals in your hiking day pack too. These are nice to have if you need to cross any rivers or streams. Or maybe there’s a lake you really want to swim in at the end of your hike but you don’t want to go barefoot. A pair of Tevas will come in handy as they stay on your feet well and dry very quickly.

4. Quick Dry Towel

If you get sweaty really easily, or if you do plan on swimming on your hiking adventure, a quick dry towel will most definitely come in handy. This lightweight, quick-dry towel comes in different sizes, so pick the size you prefer.

5. Sunglasses & Hat

I recommend bringing a pair of sunglasses and a hat with you on any hike. You can always look at the weather before you hit the trail, but it’s best to avoid having to squint the whole time. Sunglasses are lightweight, and a hat will prevent your scalp from getting sunburned!

6. Athletic Tops

I recommend sticking to athletic, breathable shirts for hiking. A breathable shirt or tank top if it’s warm outside, and a long sleeve shirt if it's cool. Wearing layers if it's colder is a good idea because you will likely warm up as you hike; so being able to take off layer by layer to adjust to the temperature is great.

Remember the sun shirt I mentioned earlier? This is also a great top to wear when hiking, and you can wear it over another shirt if it's cooler.

7. Hiking Pants

I recommend wearing hiking pants, no matter what time of year it is. You can wear shorts if you know the trail will be clear with little to no brush to walk through. This is where ticks and other bugs often come from. So wearing long hiking pants and tall socks will provide a barrier against bugs and sharp plants.

What to Bring on a Short Hike: FAQ

Should you bring food on a hike?

Food is very important on any hike, no matter how short or long it is. You don’t want to get halfway through your hike to find yourself starving and running very low on energy. Hiking trails differ vastly, and you often burn more energy than you think you will. Hiking is physically taxing so having food to refuel is a must.

My tip: before you hit the trail, research the area to find out if it’s in bear country. If it is and there’s a high chance you’ll see a bear, store your snacks in an odor-proof bag. This way they won’t be able to smell your snacks and won’t be interested in stealing them from you.

How do I prepare for my first hike?

A good first step to preparing for your first hike is making sure you know what to bring on a short hike. Having the proper hiking essentials is important to ensure you stay safe and have a fun time while on the trail.

It’s also a good idea to physically prepare. Maybe you already work out, or maybe you can start going on daily walks around your neighborhood.

While not all hiking trails are strenuous, it is a physical activity that requires some endurance. This brings me to tell you to know the trail before you go.

Research the specific hike you want to do to find out how difficult it is. AllTrails is a good place to start as each trail has a rating, and other hikers can leave reviews so you know what to really expect. You should also know how long the trail is so you know how much water and how many snacks to pack.

It’s important to plan how long the hike might take you to complete; you don’t want to be stuck halfway down the trail when the sun is going down. So research the trail before you go and plan your starting time accordingly.

Should I drink water before a hike?

It’s a good idea to start your hike well-hydrated, so drinking water before you head out on the trail is a good idea. You can even start drinking more water than normal a day or two before you plan on hiking.

There is a good possibility you will have to use the bathroom during your hike though, so be prepared. If you use any toilet paper, make sure you pack it out in a trash bag. Do not leave any toilet paper or number twos in nature. It negatively impacts the wildlife living in the area.

Oftentimes there are toilets at the trailheads of popular hiking trails. If there is one, you can always try to use it before you go, or plan on using it as soon as you get back.

What should I take with me on a short hike?

couple posing in front of window trail in big bend national park texas - what to bring on a short hike
Hiking in Big Bend National Park

Here are the hiking essentials you need for a short hike. Having these essentials and being prepared will help you stay safe on the trail and have more fun on your outdoor adventure. You can download the hiking checklist below so you can always prepare before a hike.

  • Day Backpack

  • Water Bottle or Water Bladder

  • Snacks

  • Sun Protection

  • Bug Repellent

  • First Aid Kit

  • Navigation

  • Portable Charger

  • Trash Bag

  • Water Sterilizer

What to Bring On a Short Hike

Now you know the hiking essentials you should always bring with you on a short hike. It’s so important to have plenty of water with you as well as snacks so your body stays fueled during your hike. Remember that the longer the hike is, the more water and snacks you will need.

Hiking is a great way to stay active and enjoy nature to its fullest. There are a plethora of hiking trails ranging in difficulty and length; one of my favorite places to hike is in the US national parks. Or see what hiking trails might be near your home.

No matter what trail you plan on conquering, it’s important to know what to bring on a short hike. Share this list with a friend who wants to get into hiking! Or plan a day hike with them for a fun outdoor activity. Let’s help everyone enjoy the beauty of nature through hiking. Tell us where you’ll be hitting the hiking trails!

Download the Day Hiking Checklist pdf!

You might also like to read…

Day Hiking Essentials - What to Bring on a Short Hike | Alpacka My Bags Pinterest


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Hi, I'm Georgina, adventure enthusiast and creator of Alpacka My Bags. I'm here for all of your travel and adventure planning needs! 


I've been exploring this beautiful planet since I was a child, so I decided it was time to share my travel tips with others to enjoy. After college, I knew the "traditional career path" was not for me.


I needed to travel and explore what this world has to offer. It sounds cliché but you do only live once. So I made going on adventures a priority, and soon realized that I wanted to share them with others so you can enjoy them too! 

My passion is spreading the travel bug and showing others that travel is attainable and so worth it. From itineraries to camping tips to packing lists, Alpacka My Bags has you covered!

Join me, and often my partner and my dog, as we find exciting adventures and travel recommendations for you! If you've been bit by the travel bug just as I have, I hope you find my tips useful for all of your future travels.

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