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A day hike above Manang Valley in Nepal used to acclimatise to the altitude before embarking on a few further daysof the hike.
Photo by Simon English / Unsplash

Going out for a day's walk is a great way to experience nature and see some amazing sights, as well as a great workout. Since you are only going out for a day, you can travel light and fast with low-volume packs, light boots, rain apparel, and minimal additional gear. Whether you're going on a short hike to check out the fire tower or the backwoods pond, take a steep trek to the summit of Elgonquin and Wright in the Adirondacks, or try to catch a weather window on Mt. Washington, there are some essential items that you need to bring along:

Low-Volume Daypack
When you're only going out for a day, it's important to be realistic about what you need to bring, as well as how big a pack you need for that gear. Many hikers choose a pack that is too large and over-packing at the end, which adds unnecessary weight and bulk. For day hikes in hot weather, you should choose a pack between 10 and 30 liters, which mainly depends on how packable your rain gear and light layers are. Selecting a pack made of light material and featuring minimal design will allow you to move faster and will not hinder your movement. For a winter day hike, the same lightweight, minimalist packing philosophy still stands, yet inevitably you'll need a little more gear to protect against cold and stay safe. A pack in the 30 or 40 liter range is necessary because you need to bring extra, heavy insulation layers, as well as emergency bivy gear.

Photo by Dwi Agus Prasetiyo / Unsplash

Light Hiking Shoes / Trail Runner
For day hiking (and arguably most hiking), heavy hiking and backpacking shoes are unnecessary. Not only are they stiff and unsightly, but they will destroy your energy just as much as carrying extra weight in your pack. The phrase, "one pound on your feet equals five on your back" accurately describes the damaging effect of heavy shoes on your movement and exertion. Hiking boots and trail runners are lightweight, yet have aggressively fitted soles, a tight midsole, and often use waterproof membranes, features that are optimal for sloppy, bumpy paths.

The La Sportiva Wildcat is a great trail runner that feels like a light hiker. It has a lightweight, breathable mesh design, combined with a durable, lagging sole. Additionally, the wildcat is extremely stable and gives you the cushioning you need when hiking.

A hydration reservoir
An easy way to lose weight is to make your hike more efficient with the hydration reservoir. Nearly every pack on the market today is hydration compatible, with a pouch inside the pack and a port for the hose to pass through. A reservoir allows you to carry a few liters of water efficiently in a way that is easily accessible without stopping or opening your pack. Some day packs, such as Camelbuck or some models of the Osprey, also come with a reservoir.

The Climb
Photo by KAL VISUALS / Unsplash

Light Rain Shell
When leaving for a hiking day, you usually expect good weather. Clear skies provide views, while comfortable temperatures make the hike more enjoyable. However, the weather is often unpredictable, so rain showers or strong winds at the summit are conditions for which every pedestrian should be prepared. A light shell may provide emergency protection from unpredictable weather or prevent cold air at the summit. Many ultralight shells that have light and thin facial fabrics, as well as innovative waterproof / breathable membranes, are available on the market today. These jackets are amazingly durable and protective when packed in baseball sizes!

The Outdoor Research Helium II is an ultralight, 2.5-layer hardshell jacket that is an ideal option for daytime hiking. It features super light 30-denier face fabric and a Pertex Shield + waterproof membrane for durable and breathable waterproof protection. At only 6.4 ounces, the Helium II is one of the lightest shells on the market and will pack small to take up very little space in your pack. A helmet compatible hood, waterproof zipper, elastic cuffs and an unprecedented fit allow you to use the Helium II for anything from climbing to running. For additional assistance in choosing the right rainwear for your outdoor adventure, check out our Rain Gear Buyer's Guide!

Rough Tough Socks
When out on the trail, nothing beats a pair of Vermont's own darn tuff socks! Darn Tough Socks feature premium, naturally antimicrobial and viking merino wool fabrication with high thread count for superb durability. Even if you somehow wear a pair, Darn Tuff has you covered with a lifetime guarantee on all of their socks!

The Darn Tuff Merino Light Hiker is a great sock to wear with a micro crew trail runner or a pair of light hikers. The micro crew ankle is a large height and holds the cuff of the ribbing sock in place. This cut also hugs your foot and is comfortable in the toe and heel while breathing.

A first aid box
While day hiking is a relatively safe outdoor activity, accidents can occur, and it is important to be prepared. A good first aid kit is an essential piece of gear for anything from climbing to canoeing. On a day hike, it is good to have special medical supplies. Molluskin patches for blisters, band-aids for scratches and cuts, aspirin or ibuprofen for aches and pains, as well as bandages, gauze and tweezers for other emergencies are all great things to have in your kit.

While you can make first aid kits yourself, buying a packaged kit is often easier and cheaper. The AMK Adventure First Aid Kit has everything you need for hiking and comes in 3 sizes that you can choose based on how many people are in your party. The First Aid .5 Kit is an individual first aid kit, while the 1.0 Kit is for 1 or 2 people, and the 2.0 is good for a maximum of 4 people. These kits come with all the necessary first aid supplies you need to stay safe on the hike and they come in a handy case that is easy to pack.

Photo by Sheshan R / Unsplash

A map and compass
Even on a short day's walk on a mountain or trail you have traveled many times before, accidents can happen. You may get distracted or lost, and proper navigation equipment is essential. Get a topographic map for the area you are going to explore, such as one from the National Geographic Trails Illustrated series, which includes clearly marked campsites, defined trails, and mileage ticks. These maps are waterproof, durable and available for destinations across the country. These include many places where our staff members like to hike like the Adirondacks, Green Mountains and White Mountains. Additionally (although it sometimes seems a lost art) a compass, such as the Sunto Partner 2A10, is an important piece of gear to bring on any trip when you lose the mark. Need a refresher on how to use one? Grab the Outward Bound Map and Compass Handbook and learn how to find your way through the woods.

A Space Blanket Space Blanket
Like your first aid kit and compass, the many essential pieces of gear you need for day hiking and other types of trips are mainly needed in case of unforeseen circumstances. A space blanket, or other emergency bivy system can save your life if you are injured and stabilized or are suddenly trapped in a storm. Reflective material traps and reflects heat, keeping you warm and preventing hypothermia. Emergency blankets and BV are super compact, so you don't even have to think about it at the bottom of your pack until you need it.

A headlamped Petzal Tikka RXP
After exploring every trail-side waterfall and cave, stopping to take in the scenery and spending a little extra time on the summit, the darkness of the night can start creeping into your "day" hike. If you are caught on the mountain longer than expected, it is a good idea to bring along a compact headlamp. In winter, a headlamp is important, because your daylight window is quite small. Choose a bright headlamp with multiple lighting modes and a comfortable-to-wear design.

The Petzl Tikka RXP Headlamp 215 is a great choice for day hiking and general outdoor use with maximum lumen output, reactive lighting technology that uses a sensor to automatically adjust to your surroundings, a rechargeable lithium - Ion battery, as well as an auxiliary headband for active hiking, climbing or backcountry skiing.

trekking poles
Once you try hiking with a pair of trekking poles, you will never look back! They greatly increase your stability, allowing you to move faster and avoid twisting an ankle or slipping on a rock. Trekking poles are great for variable terrain and steep climbing or descending. Additionally, you can also use a pair trekking pole for snowshoeing and winter hiking. A nice, light three-piece trekking pole is broken for easy storage on your pack.