Day hiking essentials checklist for 2024: What to wear and take on a hike

By: Andrew Forrest - November 2023

Four hikers on a day hike over Snowdon

Wearing and taking suitable hiking kit and clothing is essential for a day hike for your comfort and safety, so we've put together a hiking essentials checklist to cover all you'll need.

Whether you are a seasoned hiker or new to walking, having the right hiking essentials is crucial to your walk. What items you need to wear and take on a walk or hike depends upon the type or length of the walk, the time of year, how remote the walk is, and the expected weather, but being prepared and wearing and taking the suitable hiking kit is essential for your comfort and safety.

Table of contents 

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What we will cover in this 'Day hiking essentials' guide

  • Planning your walk or day hike
  • Hiking essentials checklist
  • Hiking gear - optional extras checklist
  • Essential hiking gear explained and recommended kit
  • Additional optional hiking gear explained and recommended kit

Planning your walk or hike

Planning and preparation are essential for any walk. You need to prepare for the day hike and carefully consider factors such as distance, remoteness, trails or paths you will be walking on, who you will be walking with and the weather. A 10-hour trek in the mountains requires more careful consideration regarding clothing, gear, food and water than a stroll around a park with a dog or walking along a beach.

We have included more details on planning your walk in our Top 15 safety tips for hiking, and if you are new to walking, ensure you check out our comprehensive beginner's guide to walking and hiking.

We've shared below a day hiking essentials checklist so you can check that you have the right hiking gear for a day hike. As 'day hiking' is a term used for any walk completed within a day, it could vary from (say) a 2-hour stroll to a 10-hour trek.

This hiking checklist does contain your hiking essentials. The items in this hiking checklist are guidelines, so you should adapt them to suit your planned hike, the needs of yourself and those in your walking party.

Day hiking essentials checklist

The day hiking checklist below contains a list of items that are essential for your walk. We have also included some additional optional items and other items you may wish to consider.

After the day hiking checklist, we look at why we need to take these essential day hike items and our recommendations for each.

Remember, pack only what you can safely carry for the whole day. There is a trade-off between what you can carry and what you need for comfort and safety on your day hike. We've split the list into two sections: what to wear on a day hike and what to take on a day hike.

What to wear on a hike or walk

  • Footwear - Choice of hiking boots or walking boots, hiking shoes or walking shoes, or fell shoes - depends upon type/length of walk and weather.
  • Hiking socks - They need to feel comfortable on your feet, wick moisture away from your skin, and provide cushioning to high-impact areas.
  • Waterproof jacket - Must be waterproof, not just water-resistant, and should have a hood.
  • Waterproof overtrousers - Must be waterproof, not just water resistant.
  • Base layer - The clothing layer that sits next to your body and wicks sweat away from your skin.
  • Mid layer - This is the layer of clothing between your base layer and your outer jacket. Often, these are fleeces or an insulated jacket.
  • Walking trousers - Should be breathable and stretchy for all-day comfort. Material choice will depend upon the type/length of walk and the weather.
  • Walking shorts - Ideal if you know the weather will be warm.
  • Walking underwear - Should be comfortable and breathable and keep chaffing and odour at bay.
  • Hiking gloves - Should be breathable, durable, and comfortable. Material choice, dexterity and insulation will depend upon the type/length of walk and weather.
  • Hat, cap or beanie - Essential to shade skin and eyes from the sun's UV rays. It also protects from rain and provides warmth.
  • Sunglasses - Essential to shade your eyes from the sun.
  • Sunscreen - Essential to protect your skin from the sun.
  • Buff - Protects face and neck from sun, wind and cold.

What to take on a hike or walk

  • Rucksack or backpack - a 25-35 litre hiking backpack should be large enough to carry your essential hiking gear, clothes, food, and drink on a day hike.
  • Dry bags - These are needed if your hiking backpack isn't waterproof or has no rain cover.
  • Clothing - Any spare clothing you take on your day hike (dry spare socks or extra layers, etc.) or any of the above essential clothing you are not wearing at the time can be stored in your backpack.
  • Map - A map of the area you are walking in on your day hike.
  • Compass - Essential piece of navigational kit, but ensure you know how to use a map and compass.
  • Whistle - Essential piece of safety kit.
  • First Aid Kit - Tailor a kit to suit your needs and include your medicines.
  • Food - Your nutrition for the day hike, including some emergency rations.
  • Hydration - Your water or hydrating fluid of choice for your day hike.
  • Water bottle or hydration reservoir - Essential for carrying the fluid you take.
  • Mobile phone - This can be used to call for help and should ideally have a mapping app installed.
  • Mapping app - Can be used to plan routes, follow downloaded routes, view the surrounding area or see where you are (requires GPS on your mobile).
  • Power pack - It is essential to have backup power for your mobile, head torch or any other powered device you take with you.
  • Cash - Essential just in case you need any for any unforeseen circumstance.
  • Sitting mat - Keeps you dry and insulated from any cold ground you sit on.
  • Your ID - It is good practice to carry a card with personal medical info if anything happens to you while hiking.
  • Multitool - A versatile, essential piece of kit serving many purposes.
  • Head torch - Essential for navigating in the dark or attracting attention in an emergency.
  • Survival bag - Essential for your safety.

Optional additional items to take on your day hike

  • Walking or trekking poles - Walking and trekking poles can potentially help with your balance, protect your knees, take weight off your joints and improve your posture.
  • Walking guidebook - Find out more about where you are walking and what to see enroute.
  • Duct tape - Very versatile for repairs and fixing dressings.
  • Emergency shelter - Provides warmth and shelter from the elements should you need it.
  • Camera - Take ever-lasting memories of your walk.
  • Gaiters - Protect your lower legs from mud, water, debris, ticks and shrubs.
  • Walking or fitness Watch - Monitor your walk stats, see where you are (if it has a map and is GPS enabled), or even tell the time.
  • Water purifier - If you are on a long walk and will struggle to carry the amount of fluids you need, this needs to move into the essential list as long as you know you'll be passing water sources on your route

Whilst the above list is for a day hike, it can easily be adapted for a multi-day hike or overnight camping by adding items such as cooking gear, a tent, a sleeping bag and a sleeping mat. Again, with the additional kit, a larger rucksack may be needed.

Day hiking essentials explained and recommendations

Along with explaining why you need each item, we've set out below our favourite choices for 2024 of what to wear and take on your hike. The recommendations aren't necessarily the best/most expensive products out there. They are our selection of ones that we believe give good value for money and that we like.

Footwear

Your choice of footwear largely depends on the nature of the terrain, the duration of the walk, and the season you'll be walking in. During the summertime, you might opt for lighter hiking shoes or trail running shoes for a more breathable and dry experience, or even hiking sandals.

Hiking boots are only one element of how comfy and stable your feet feel on a walk. An average person takes about 2,000 steps for each mile walked, so a lot of friction is created between your hiking boot and your foot, which is why it's important to choose the best hiking insoles and best hiking socks for your feet to ensure that your hike is as comfortable and enjoyable as possible. If you still have any issues with your feet, how you tie your laces can also help alleviate many foot issues.

However, many hikers lean towards walking boots for the extra stability their ankle support provides.

Also, in summer, waterproof hiking boots are not as breathable as non-waterproof ones, so if you suffer from hot feet, consider non-waterproof boots/shoes for dry days.

Investing in comfortable and stable walking boots can significantly improve your hiking experience. Alongside a waterproof jacket, these should be your top priority when purchasing new hiking gear.

What you need to consider when buying your walking or hiking boots:

  • Where and when you will be walking or hiking?
  • Whether you want synthetic or leather boots.
  • Do you want waterproof hiking boots?
  • The flex of the boot or hiking shoes.
  • The fit - they need to feel snug around the upper part of the foot so that they don't slide about, but have room around the toes to make sure your toes don't keep banging into the front of the boot whilst walking downhill - a cause of many a black toenail!
  • The grip - generally, the deeper the lugs on the boot's sole, the more grip you will get.


In our Best Hiking Boots guide, we discuss these in more detail and examine the best hiking boots of 2024.

INOV8 Roclite G 345 V2 Gore-Tex Walking Boot

Having competed in many mountain marathon events, I've used many INOV8 products, including many of their fell shoes. When they brought out a walking boot version of the Roclite, it's been my go-to lightweight walking boot ever since. I use this boot hiking boot in spring, summer and autumn. Whereas in winter, I use my leather Scarpa SL Activ hiking boots or my INOV8 Roclite Pro G 400 GTX V2s, which both provide ankle support.

The Roclite G 345 V2 GTX now includes the graphene-enhanced G-Grip outsole and, with the Gore-Tex construction, offers fantastic grip, comfort, ankle support and protection in a lightweight boot. It's almost like wearing a fell shoe but with ankle support. As much as I used to always wear leather hiking boots in the past, I find the newer synthetic hiking boots much more comfortable and lighter, and in the main, they give the same performance. The only downside is longevity - I go through synthetic hiking boots much quicker than leather boots.

INOV8 Roclite G 345 V2 Gore-Tex Walking Boot - Men's
INOV8 Roclite G 345 V2 Gore-Tex Walking Boot - Men's
Men's
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INOV8 Roclite G 345 V2 Gore-Tex Walking Boot - Women's
INOV8 Roclite G 345 V2 Gore-Tex Walking Boot - Women's
Women's
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Hiking socks

Choosing the most suitable hiking socks is essential, as the wrong ones lead to discomfort and blisters and could ruin your walk. With people taking an average of 2,000 steps in each mile they walk, that creates a lot of friction between your walking sock and your foot.

Just like hiking boots and hiking shoes, no one sock covers all types of walks and the weather conditions we get in the UK. So, why not add a range of walking socks to your hiking gear? The best walking socks for a day hike need to provide a comfortable fit, effectively wick away moisture from your skin, offer padding to high-stress areas, and help regulate foot temperature to prevent excessive sweating.

Many styles of walking socks are available for hiking, covering various lengths and weights of socks with added features.

Darn Tough Micro Crew Lightweight Hiking Sock

Most of the time, I wear crew-length socks and find that Darn Tough Micro Crew Lightweight sock is great for summer hiking, as their merino wool content breathes naturally, adding all-day comfort to your walk.

Darn Tough Sunset Ridge Micro Crew Men's Sock
Men's
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Darn Tough Bear Town Micro Crew Women's Sock
Women's
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Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Midweight Cushioned Hiking Sock

For cooler spring, autumn and winter days, I wear my Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Midweight Cushioned Socks, which again feature merino wool but are a bit thicker and warmer and their seamless toes and performance fit mean I've never experienced any bunching or slippage.

Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Midweight Cushioned Socks - Men's
Men's
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Darn Tough Hiker Micro Crew Midweight Cushioned Socks - Women's
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If you suffer from cold feet and need even warmer socks or have different needs, such as waterproof socks, our best hiking socks guide will take you through the best choices and teach you all about what you need to consider when buying socks.

Waterproof jacket

Along with your footwear, a waterproof jacket is 'the' all-year-round essential for your walks and day hikes. I have two main waterproof jackets: a lightweight one I wear hiking in summer and lower-level shorter walks, and a more durable jacket that can cope with all four seasons and whatever the weather cares to throw at it.

The key things with any outer shell clothing are being waterproof (not just water-resistant) and breathable. They need to block the elements (rain, wind, snow, etc.) but let you sweat and 'breathe' from the inside to stay dry from the inside and out.

When choosing your waterproof jacket, you need to consider how waterproof you need it, the fit, breathability, pockets, hood, adjustability and seams/flaps/zips.

Mountain Equipment Men's Lhotse Jacket (or Women's Manaslu Jacket)

This is an expensive jacket, the most I've ever paid for any item of clothing, but for me, it is worth every penny. It is a tough, waterproof jacket that has taken in its stride the worst the UK weather has had to throw at it. Great design with 3-layer Gore-Tex Pro 40F fabric along with 80D fabric reinforcements, a fully adjustable mountain hood, and storm construction design means it's built to last. They are available in many colours.

Mountain Equipment Men's Lhotse Jacket
Men's
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Mountain Equipment Women's Manaslu Jacket
Women's
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Waterproof overtrousers

They are the leg equivalent of the waterproof jacket and can be rolled up and easily fit in a rucksack when not worn on your day hike.

When buying your waterproof trousers, you need to consider where and when you will be hiking, how waterproof and durable you need the trousers, the fit (over your regular walking trousers and boots) and what features you need, such as elasticated waistband (so can easily be pulled on and off when required), whether you want bibbed fronts and braces to help keep them up, and zips/studs (2-way full-length side zip allows you to take trousers on and off much easier without removing your walking boots and for ventilation if the rain stops and you want to continue wearing them).

It is useful to carry an additional small drybag so that you can take the waterproof trousers off whilst they are still wet and put them in your drybag back into your hiking backpack. That way everything else in your backpack stays dry.

Mountain Equipment Makalu Gore-Tex Pants

There are cheaper waterproof trousers, but I've been wearing these all year (more so than usual with all the rain we've had!), and these have kept me dry and comfortable on each walk. They are durable, waterproof, and are made from 3-layer Gore-Tex. The gusseted crotch, articulated knees and active fit ensure unrestricted mobility.

The 3/4 length 2-way side zips with YKK water resistant and internal flaps make them easy to take on and off while walking. If you need a cheaper option, the Berghaus Deluge Pro 2 I used to wear are very good waterproof overtrousers and are available in men's and women's fits.

Mountain Equipment Makalu Men's Gore-Tex Pants
Mountain Equipment Makalu Men's Gore-Tex Pants - side
Men's
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Mountain Equipment Makalu Women's Gore-Tex Pants
Women's
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Base layer

The base layer is the layer of clothing that you wear hiking positioned closest to your skin and plays a crucial role in temperature regulation by absorbing and wicking away sweat to maintain comfort. Generally, this layer has a close-fitting design. There are two primary types of base layers: synthetic and merino wool.

Synthetic base layers are known for their lightweight nature, quick-drying properties, and affordability, making them a popular choice. However, they may develop an unpleasant odour over time.

On the other hand, merino wool base layers offer distinct advantages. They provide better warmth than synthetics and retain heat effectively even when wet. Additionally, merino wool has a softer texture and natural antibacterial properties, mitigating odour concerns commonly associated with synthetic materials. Although merino wool base layers come at a higher price point, their unique features contribute to their appeal.

Remember to avoid cotton for base layers, as it tends to absorb moisture, leaving you feeling cold and uncomfortable during outdoor activities. Some tops have round necks, and some come with quarter zips, which is my preference, as I can keep cooler if needs be. They are also available in short-sleeved and long-sleeved versions.

Helly Hansen Lifa Merino Midweight Half-Zip Baselayer

This Helly Hansen Lifa Merino Midweight Half-Zip Baselayer is lightweight, breathable and has flatlock seams. Its 2-layer construction features a 100% merino wool exterior and an inner LIFA wicking layer. It is very comfortable to wear next to the skin, and the 1/2 zip provides additional ventilation when needed. It is available in a few different colours.

Helly Hansen Lifa Merino Midweight Half-Zip Baselayer - Men's Front
Helly Hansen Lifa Merino Midweight Half-Zip Baselayer - Men's Back
Men's
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Helly Hansen Lifa Merino Midweight Half-Zip Baselayer - Women's Front
Helly Hansen Lifa Merino Midweight Half-Zip Baselayer - Women's Back
Women's
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Mid layer

This is the layer of clothing between your base layer and your outer jacket. Often, these are fleeces or an insulated jacket. Depending upon the time of year and how warm or cold you are, there are lightweight, midweight and heavyweight fleeces. To regulate your temperature, they can come with a 1/4-zip, 1/2-zip, full-zip or no zip, so pullover style. They also come with and without hoods.

The North Face Glacier Pro Men's 1/4 Zip Neck (Women's Diablo)

This is a versatile 1/4-zip neck with 100% recycled polartec fleece, with stretch polyester overlay on the chest, shoulders and outer forearms. It has zipped pockets, elasticated cuffs and an elasticated hem and comes in various colours.

The North Face Glacier Pro Men's 1/4 Zip Neck
The North Face Glacier Pro Men's 1/4 Zip Neck - back
Men's
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The North Face Diablo Women's 1/4 Zip Neck
The North Face Diablo Women's 1/4 Zip Neck - back
Women's
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Walking trousers

Walking trousers that you wear hiking should be made from lightweight, breathable synthetic fabrics with inherent stretch that facilitates ease of movement and efficient sweat-wicking. They are ideal for various conditions and added protection in wet weather; pairing them with waterproof overtrousers is recommended, although most have sufficient water resistance to repel light rain. In colder seasons, opting for thermal trousers provides extra warmth.

When buying walking trousers, you should consider your intended use and time of year you'll be walking, fit, water resistance, adjustability (look for features such as stretch fabric, elastic waistbands, drawcords, belt loops, and adjustable ankle cuffs), pockets (ideally at least one zipped), and the material they are made from (besides flexibility, some trousers have reinforced areas or incorporate built-in sun or bug protection). The material should minimise friction to prevent chafing during longer walks. Some trousers are convertible and have zip-off legs, transforming into walking shorts when the weather allows.

Mountain Equipment Mens Ibex Mountain Trousers (Womens Chamois Pants)

I try to spend as much time as possible in shorts, but when I wear walking trousers, these are my current choice, and I feel they are great value. More expensive hiking trousers are available, but I feel comfortable walking in them.

The Mountain Equipment Mens Ibex Mountain trousers are equipped with Exolite 210 fabric that provides 4-way stretch, ensuring flexibility and comfort whilst hiking. Its double-weave construction and smooth face fabric make these pants breathable, weather-resistant, wind-resistant, and abrasion-resistant. There are five pockets and an integrated belt. They have calf-length zips to allow for larger footwear.

Mountain Equipment Mens Ibex Mountain Trousers
Men's
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Mountain Equipment Womens Chamois Mountain Trousers
Women's
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Walking shorts

Walking or hiking shorts are a possible choice to wear hiking on a warmer day hike to replace your walking trousers. Being a little hardier than most, my short-wearing season generally runs from February to November, but that's not for everyone! As flexible as the walking trousers are, the walking shorts offer more freedom but do beware of having bare skin on your legs if you are hiking anywhere there are likely to be ticks.

The same material and features considerations apply to hiking shorts as to walking trousers. Additional considerations include the length of walking shorts (longer ones provide more protection, but shorter ones are less restrictive for activities such as scrambling) and the type of pockets (some come with large cargo pockets, creating useful space).

If you want further guidance on what to look for when choosing walking shorts, check out our detailed guide on the best hiking shorts of 2024.

Mountain Equipment Men's Ibex Mountain Shorts

These Mountain Equipment Men's Ibex Mountain Shorts are a 'shorts' version of the walking trousers above. The exolite 210 stretch fabric ensures they are robust, comfortable and quick drying. They have 4-zipped pockets and an integrated belt.

Mountain Equipment Mens Ibex Mountain Shorts
Mountain Equipment Mens Ibex Mountain Shorts - pocket
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Montane Terra Women's Stretch Lite Shorts

These lightweight, breathable Montane Terra Women's Stretch Lite Shorts are made using Raptor Flex 4-way stretch fabric in a regular fit to offer freedom of movement. They secure with a fly zip and button at the waist, which combine with a removable webbing belt and a low-profile hook closure for an adjustable fit. They have two mesh-lined hand pockets and a concealed zipped back pocket and are available in 3 colours.

Montane Terra Women's Stretch Lite Shorts
Montane Terra Women's Stretch Lite Shorts - pocket
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Walking underwear

Choosing the right underwear can significantly enhance comfort during a hike if you want to stay chafe-free, given its direct contact with the skin. Numerous antibacterial options that offer odour control are available for both men and women, offering breathability, moisture-wicking properties, quick-drying capabilities and protection against chaffing.

Also, for women, when selecting the appropriate sports bra, they ideally should be breathable, moisture-wicking, and quick-drying. Other factors include ensuring comfort to prevent backaches or skin irritation and providing support without excessive tightness.

As with socks and base layers, always steer away from cotton.

Saxx Mens Quest Boxer Briefs

The Saxx Men's Quest Boxer Briefs are very comfortable on long hikes - you don't notice you are wearing them. They have a patented BallPark Pouch™ construction that provides contact-free support. Their Three-D fit, flatlock seams and nine-panel construction ensures skin-on-skin contact and friction are prevented - meaning no chance of chafing.

They also have an anti-microbial finish to reduce odours and are machine washable. Yes, you may be able to get a pack of 3 or 5 boxers from Asda, Tesco, M&S or Next for the same price, but they do not give you anywhere near the same comfort, support and chafe-free experience as these Saxx briefs. Just save them for hiking and not everyday use.

Saxx Mens Quest Boxer Briefs
Saxx Mens Quest Boxer Briefs - inside
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Forclaz Merino Wool Mountain Pants

These women's merino wool mountain pants are moisture-wicking, soft and comfortable. I've not tested these, but on speaking to female hikers, these were their favourites, although they did say their hiking/sporting-specific underwear choice was limited.

Forclaz Merino Wool Mountain Pants
Forclaz Merino Wool Mountain Pants - back
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Hiking gloves

Hiking gloves protect your hands against the elements. I generally leave a thin pair in my rucksack all year round, which can be used in summer if needed when up high, or as liner gloves in winter.

There are two main types of gloves - the 'normal' glove that covers the hand and has a separate compartment for each finger and mittens, which don't have separate spaces for each finger. Generally, gloves of the same material provide more warmth in mittens as the fingers maintain warmth more when touching each other, whereas gloves provide more dexterity.

There is a third hybrid type called a 'lobster' glove, where your thumb and index finger have individual compartments, and then your other three fingers sit in the main compartment. These are often used by snowboarders.

The outer shell of hiking gloves comes in a wide variety of materials (leather, synthetic, neoprene, etc.) with Gore-Tex or similar built into some to provide waterproofing. These serve various functions depending upon your needs (waterproof, breathable, windproof). Many people also pair their main gloves with a liner to get that bit of extra warmth, and when not as cold, the liner can be worn on its own.

When buying your hiking or walking gloves, you need to consider where and when you'll be walking or hiking and then match the glove and its features to your needs - gloves or mittens, ensure the fit is correct, how waterproof you need them, breathability, durability (this is more important if you use walking poles or if scrambling), insulation needed, touchscreen compatibility, length of cuff, ease of access etc.

There is a lot to consider when buying hiking gloves, so if you want additional insights, check out our How to Choose Walking or Hiking Gloves article.

For more choices for different occasions, check out our pick of the best hiking gloves of 2024.

Mountain Equipment Touch Screen Grip Gloves

I use these as one of my summer pairs. They are light, warm and fast-drying stretch fleece gloves that can be used as a warm liner under larger winter gloves. They have a touchscreen-compatible index finger and thumb to use your mobile or GPS without taking them off.

Mountain Equipment Touch Screen Grip Gloves - Men's
Men's
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Mountain Equipment Touch Screen Grip Gloves - Women's
Women's
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Sealskinz Waterproof All Weather Insulated Gloves

There may be gloves out there at four or five times this price that will keep you warmer and are more breathable, but these are good value, waterproof, windproof and insulated gloves with pre-curved fingers and are touchscreen-friendly. My hands run warm, so I don't need as much insulation as some people, but these should be fine all year round except in the harshest of winter conditions. If you run cold, you may want something warmer with more insulation.

They have a waterproof and windproof 3-layer construction, zero movement liner, velcro wrist closure and a goatskin leather palm for durability.

Sealskinz Waterproof All Weather Insulated Gloves - Men's
Men's
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Sealskinz Waterproof All Weather Insulated Gloves - Women's
Women's
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Hat, cap or beanie

For hiking, hats can be worn in the warmer months, with their brims providing shade from the sun and if SPF in the material, can protect from the sun's UV for the top of your head. Some also have a neck flap to protect the back of your neck from the sun.

Beanies or fleece hats are great for winter in keeping your head warm, as a lot of your body heat is lost through your head. These can be windproof, waterproof and protect your ears.

Caps can also be worn year-round, with thermal ones available for cooler days. They shade your eyes from the sun, and the peak can be a helpful addition to a hood when raining, to stop rain from landing on your glasses. Some caps have foldable brims so can be folded to store in a pocket when not in use.

Tilley T5MO Organic Airflo Hat

Tilley is one of the most well-known and trusted brands for outdoor hats. The Tilley T5MO Organic Cotton Airflo Hat has a medium brim and is made of soft, sueded organic cotton with a polyester mesh. The mesh helps ventilate warm air out and allow cooler air to flow in, while the sturdy cotton fabric is rugged yet exceptionally lightweight.

It has a durable water-repellent finish and is UPF 50+ rated for protection from the sun. It is moisture-wicking and has a hidden pocket and a dark underbrim which helps reduce glare. The front and back wind cord system helps secure the hat in windy conditions.

Tilley T5MO Organic Airflo Hat
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INOV8 Extreme Thermo Beanie 2.0

This INOV8 Extreme Thermo Beanie is excellent for colder weather walking or under a hood. The beanie has zoned windproof panels with fleece backing over the forehead and ears to wick sweat away keeping the head warm and dry. Reflective side panels and recesses for eyewear. It packs down small and is easy to carry.

INOV8 Extreme Thermo Beanie 2.0
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Montane Unisex Dyno Stretch Cap

I have a wide variety of caps as I do find them very useful in the summer for shade and the peaks keep my glasses dry on days when I don't walk with my contact lenses in. The longer peaked caps are great for that.

Whilst not waterproof, this is a great cap for the warmer months. This Montane Dyno Stretch Cap is a lightweight, moisture-wicking softshell cap made from a stretchy, softshell fabric with UPF 50+ sun protection that's perfect for any summer hike.

Montane Unisex Dyno Stretch Cap
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Sunglasses

Ensuring eye protection from the sun is essential, and sunglasses play a crucial role. Prolonged exposure to UV rays may elevate the risk of certain eye conditions. While various sunglasses are available, choosing those with a CE or British Standard Mark is essential. Some models are labelled UV400, surpassing the British Standards by filtering out 99% of UVA and UVB rays, providing a slightly higher level of eye protection.

There are numerous sunglasses available from the cheap and cheerful to ones costing in excess of £200. People prefer different styles, sizes, etc, so as they are more of a personal choice as to what you like, I've not recommended any here because as long as they meet the above criteria, they should be fine.

Sunscreen

Sunscreen, along with your sunglasses, is a day hiking essential. Even on overcast or cloudy days, sunburn is still a risk, so applying sunscreen and carrying it for reapplication during your day hike is essential. Sunburn harms your skin and elevates the risk of skin cancer. The NHS recommends using sunscreen with a Sun Protection Factor (SPF) of at least 30 to guard against UVB and a minimum of 4-star UVA protection. Always check the sunscreen's expiry date.

Neutrogena Beach Defense Water Resistant Sunscreen

It is SPF 70 and gives water and sweat protection. I find it spreads easily on my skin and doesn't feel greasy. Generally, I use it on my face and neck and combine it with a cheaper sunscreen where I don't need the same sweat protection for the rest of the body.

Neutrogena Beach Defense Water Resistant Sunscreen
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Nivea Sun Protect and Moisture Lotion SPF50+

It has an SPF of 50+, which gives excellent sun protection in this easily absorbed cream. It says water-resistant, but I find the Neutrogena better for the face and neck and then I use this on the rest of the body. It is much cheaper than the Neutrogena and comes in a larger bottle.

Nivea Sun Protect and Moisture Lotion SPF50+
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SunSense Lip Balm SPF50+

Often forgotten, but you do need to protect your lips. This SunSense moisturising lip balm has SPF 50+ protection.

SunSense Lip Balm SPF50+
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Buff

A buff is a thin, light, stretch tube of fabric that traps warm air next to your skin and is worn by many as a scarf alternative. They can also be used as a lower face mask or balaclava. They can be used all year round for additional warmth or on warm summer days; soak them in water and wear them around your neck to keep cool.

They come in a few different materials. Merino wool ones, for instance, are naturally anti-bacterial, wicking and quick drying. Many are available in numerous colours; some even have SPF and insect shield technology built in. As they are often a fashion statement, and people have their favourites, I've included a few links below to the many available.

Selection of buffs

Selection of buffs
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Rucksack or backpack

When it comes to backpacks or rucksacks for walking or hiking in the UK, there is no one-size-fits-all solution. They need to cater for various needs, carrying loads, differing lengths of walks and budgets and carry all the hiking essentials. So, once you have all the hiking essentials, a 25-35 litre hiking backpack should be large enough to carry your gear, clothes and food for a day hike.

In choosing a rucksack for your hike, you must consider factors such as capacity, waterproofness, compartments and organisation options (pockets, panels and zips) to ensure your gear and hiking essentials can be neatly arranged and easily accessible. Adjustable straps, padded back panels, and ventilation systems can enhance comfort during long walks.

For a detailed guide taking you through all you need to consider when choosing a backpack, what to look for to make your backpack comfortable and the right fit and what features you need, check out our Ultimate Guide to the best backpacks and rucksacks for hiking in 2024.

Osprey Talon 33 Daypack (Men's) or Osprey Tempest 30 Daypack (Women's)

The Osprey Talon and Tempest are the men's and women's versions of the same backpack. I use this for most of my 3-season day hikes. They are great daysacks with many features, and the adjustable back and padding on the hip belt and shoulders make for a comfortable day out in the hills.

The padded shoulders and hip belt, along with the adjustable back, means you can fine-tune the backpack to ensure most of the weight is carried on your hips/legs, ensuring a comfortable day out on the hills, and the Airscape ventilation allows airflow around your back. There is external hydration access and loads of pockets to store things (zipped under the lid, stretch pocket on the harness, stretch mesh side pockets, front power mesh pocket) along with two decent-sized hip belt pockets - these are the ones I use the most for mobile phones, energy bars etc.

So, there is plenty of space for all your day hiking essentials on your day hike.

Osprey Talon 33 Daypack

Osprey Talon 33 front view
Osprey Talon 33 back view
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Osprey Tempest 30 Daypack

Osprey Tempest 30 front view
Osprey Tempest 30 back view
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Dry bags

Most backpacks are not waterproof; they are generally just water-repellent. So, to keep things dry, you either need a rucksack with a rain cover, use dry bags inside your backpack, or a combination of them. A rain cover is a cover you attach to the outside of your rucksack to keep it dry. Some packs do come with a built-in rain cover.

I prefer dry bags, as I find some rain covers can flap around in the wind and if you go through water, rain covers won't protect the bag from that. Also, if you sweat a lot while walking, your back can get wet, which can soak into your rucksack - again, a rain cover doesn't protect against that.

A dry bag does what it says - it's a bag to keep things dry. I generally have a larger dry bag that lines my rucksack, roughly the same size as the inside, to keep everything dry and some smaller ones inside that separate clothes, wallet, etc. Most dry bags come with rolltop closures to compress clothes or other items further into your backpack.

Recommended dry bags

Many dry bags are available to buy in sizes from 1 litre upwards. I have a 30-litre Osprey one inside my backpack and a few Sea-to-Summit smaller ones inside. As many sizes and choices are available, I've linked to some of them below.

Selection of drybags and rain covers
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Map

A map is an essential item on your hiking checklist. I always carry a 1:25,000 Ordnance Survey Explorer paper map of the area I'm walking in on my day hike - or a couple if I'm walking between maps. I always buy laminated ones as they are much better in the rain, but if not, keep the map in a map case if it isn't laminated. They do generally come with a free digital download of the same map.

I also have mapping on my phone, but a paper map cannot run out of battery and will always be there for you. You do need to know how to read, use it and navigate with it in conjunction with a compass.

For me, for paper maps, there is one main place to go to - Ordnance Survey. England, Wales and Scotland are covered by their Explorer 1:25,000 maps. You can also get custom-made maps made up for yourself or as a gift, where you can specify the centre of the map, upload a photo for the front cover and then add your own title.

Buy Paper Maps at
Ordnance Survey
Buy Customised Maps at
Ordnance Survey

Compass

Navigating can be challenging, mainly when visibility is poor or in areas where the path isn't clear. While phones or devices equipped with GPS can be helpful, they're useless if the battery dies or there's no signal. That's why I never leave home without a compass, although you need to know how to use it.

A compass is an essential item on your hiking checklist. Your compass should be robust and reliable, with a needle that swiftly aligns to the north. It should also feature a rotating bezel and a base plate equipped with a ruler for precise navigation. Most compasses have a small hole where you can attach a leash, allowing you to secure it around your wrist during use to prevent loss.

Silva Expedition 4 Compass

This compass has been my go-to compass for many years - it's quick to set, dependable and has navigated me successfully around many mountain marathons. It's also recommended by the Duke of Edinburgh's Award scheme and works up to 5,000 metres altitude and down to -15°C. It even comes with a built-in magnifying glass.

Silva Expedition 4 Compass
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Whistle

A whistle is a compact yet potentially life-saving tool in emergencies and must be on your hiking checklist. The standard distress signal in the UK is six short blasts followed by a minute of silence. The standard distress signal for the U.S. and a few other countries is three blasts, each lasting about 3 seconds.

A head torch can also be used to signal for assistance. Keep using your whistle and head torch until help arrives; continue even if you hear a response. The sound of your whistle or light from your head torch can guide rescuers to your location.

Lifesystems Safety Whistle

There are many whistles available to buy. The one I always have in my rucksack is the Lifesystems Safety Whistle, which provides up to 128dB of noise. At just 13g in weight, you won't notice you are carrying it. Some other items, e.g. specific backpacks, come with an integrated whistle. The Osprey Talon 33 Daypack, which I use for most of my walks to carry all the hiking essentials, has an emergency whistle built into the sternum strap.

Lifesystems Safety Whistle
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First aid kit

Sometimes, not everything goes to plan when you are out on a walk or a hike. Unexpected accidents and injuries can happen at any time. Trips and slips can cause wounds, cuts and grazes, blisters appear out of nowhere, seasonal allergies can be triggered by pollens, diarrhoea can suddenly strike... and the list goes on.

Whilst a first aid kit won't cover every medical need, it is one of your hiking essentials and should be there to cover most minor injuries and ailments and provide initial treatment for more serious ones before proper medical care can be provided.

I would always suggest starting with a pre-assembled kit, as they generally work out cheaper and then tailor it to your needs, adding your own medications (inhalers, tablets, epi-pens, etc.).

Some of the essentials to include in your first aid kit are scissors, safety pins, tweezers, gloves, CPR face shield/mask, wound dressings and gauzes, assorted bandages, small tube antiseptic cream, surgical tape, plasters and blister plasters, wound closure strips, tablets (pain, anti-inflammatory, anti-diarrhoea, anti-histamine, etc.).

For a complete list of items to include, why you need them and how to create a lightweight first aid kit, check out our First Aid Kit for Hikers article. Always remember to replenish your first aid kit on returning from your walk if you used anything and periodically check it to ensure everything is still in date.

Lifesystems Mountain First Aid Kit

A comprehensive first aid kit for all your hikes. If you walk in a group, you can share who carries the weight, as you shouldn't need a first aid kit each, but if you are solo walking, you must ensure you have your own first aid kit. See links for all that it contains. Its dimensions are 200x140x90mm, and it weighs 700g.

Lifesystems Mountain First Aid Kit

Lifesystems Mountain First Aid Kit
Lifesystems Mountain First Aid Kit
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There are a wide variety of pre-made first aid kits available, so if you need a smaller one, or maybe a waterproof one, then check out the links below.

First Aid Kits

First Aid Kits
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Food

On your day hikes you will need some energy to keep you going. The longer and more arduous the walk, the more energy you will need. Remember that the ideal amount of calories per day for optimal hiking performance depends on your body mass, age, movement efficiency, carrying load, environmental conditions and the terrain you are walking on.

On average, a 120lb (55kg) person will burn about 65 calories a mile, and a 180lb (82kg) person will burn 100 calories per mile, walking on flat ground at an average walking speed of around 3mph. This can increase significantly once you start walking uphill, and depending upon the elevation climbed it can be 50% more.

If you are heavier or walking faster, you will burn more calories. So, if a 180lb person undertook a ten-mile hilly walk, they would burn well in excess of 1,000 calories, so you need to make sure you are adequately fuelled for your walk. Remember to add your backpack with all your walking essentials to your weight.

Food and energy intake comes from experience from previous walks, and over time, you get to know what works better for you. Some people struggle with ingesting food when they are exercising and prefer to take in liquid calories in the form of energy gels or mix energy powders in with their drink. Whatever you pack, always remember to include some emergency rations in case you get stuck out on the hills for longer than planned.

Try to ensure that your snacks and meals are lightweight and easy to carry, focusing on high protein and carbohydrates for sustained energy. Many people take along items such as nuts, energy bars/flap jack and sandwiches. If you struggle to eat larger amounts, try to eat smaller amounts more often. If you do suddenly feel a bit low on energy and need an instant pickup, you could take along some wine gums, jelly babies or Haribos - but don't make these your main food for the day, as the energy burst is short-lived.

Hydration

On any day hike, you will need to drink to keep well hydrated. Unless you know you will pass somewhere that will be open to buy liquids enroute, and there are not many shops in the hills(!), you either need to carry fluid with you, or if you know you will pass a water source (stream, river etc.), you can treat that water and drink that.

So, if you are taking water, you will need to take a water bottle or hydration bladder with you, which we'll look at shortly, or you can carry water purification tablets or a 'pen' with you to treat stream water so you can safely drink it. If you are relying on this latter method, you need to plan before you start your hike to ensure you will pass suitable water sources.

People's hydration needs differ depending on the weather conditions, body size, how much they sweat, etc. The best way to ascertain your needs is to learn from experience as you build up your walks and just to keep noting down how much you drink on your walks and whether you feel okay or whether you feel dehydrated and adjust your fluid needs accordingly.

I know I drink quite a lot, so on hotter longer walks, I always start with a full 3-litre hydration bladder and take my 'water pen' with me to treat and add more water to my bladder on the way around. That is not for everyone. Each litre of water weighs 1 kg, so fluids do add quite a bit of weight to your load.

I generally prefer the hydration bladder, with maybe one small water bottle, as you can drink small sips on the go from the tube, which attaches to the shoulder strap on your rucksack, but many people prefer just to take bottles.

Water bottles

Numerous water bottles are available in many different sizes, in which you can take the fluid of your choice. There are many BPA-free reusable plastic bottles and insulated mugs that can keep your water cooler or your hot drinks warmer for longer.

Hydro Flask 21oz Standard Mouth with Flex Cap

BPA and Phthalate free, its double-wall vacuum insulation keeps hot drinks hot for up to 12 hours and cold drinks cool for up to 24 hours. Stainless steel with powder coat finish in various colours has a 21oz or 621ml capacity and weighs 295g.

Hydro Flask 21oz Standard Mouth with Flex Cap
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Hydrapak Stash Flexible Water Bottle 1 Litre

This is a water bottle with a difference - it is lighter than most bottles, twists and collapses down to a quarter of its original size when empty. It has a wide-mouth screw cap and is BPA-free.

Hydrapak Stash Flexible Water Bottle 1 Litre
Hydrapak Stash Flexible Water Bottle 1 Litre - collapsed
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Hydration reservoir

Hydration reservoirs are bladders that slip inside backpacks. Many backpacks describe themselves as 'hydration reservoir' compatible, which generally means they have a slot into which you can slide the hydration reservoir. The tube is connected to the reservoir, which you can then attach to the front of your backpack. They are generally then operated by biting on a 'bite valve' and sucking.

I do prefer them for hiking as you don't need to stop and can just keep taking sips of water as you hike. The only downside I've had a few times with the hydration bladder is when walking in very cold weather, the water in the tube has frozen, which I've never experienced with a wide-mouthed water bottle. Also, with the bladder hidden, it is hard to judge how much fluid you have left, which is why, in hot weather, I generally take an additional 500ml water bottle for when the hydration reservoir runs out.

They are generally easy to fill with large seal-top openings. One point to note, though, is that the bladders do need to be kept clean, especially if you have drinks other than water in them, as they can stain them if left in, and they are a bit more fiddly to clean compared to water bottles.

I currently use the Osprey Hydraulics 3L Reservoir, as I like the additional volume and it slips, albeit tightly, into the hydration slot on my Osprey Talon 33 Daypack. The flat back on these Osprey hydration bladders helps with that. As there are many different-sized and shaped hydration reservoirs available to fit the various backpacks, I included some links to them below.

Selection of water reservoirs

Osprey Hydraulics 3L Reservoir - front
Osprey Hydraulics 3L Reservoir - back
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Mobile phone - ideally with a mapping app

These days, many mobile phones now have built-in GPS and mapping apps can be bought for all types of mobile phones. Some mapping apps have useful free versions.

Mobile phones are a personal choice that will be more driven by features, processing power, apps, networks and cameras rather than whether it has GPS, so I won't be recommending any. That said, most smartphones these days have GPS.

My current setup is an iPhone X (water-resistant) with the OS mapping app. This is due to be upgraded soon as the battery is sadly almost useless with how long it now holds charge. An important feature for me was its water resistance at the time, as it is often exposed to rain and wet. This feature has continually been improved on newer versions of the iPhone and on many other smartphones.

Mobile phones can be very useful in emergencies when out in the hills, but only if you have reception and power.

Mapping app

Whilst I always carry a paper map of the area I am walking in, I have become a fan of mapping apps. They are great for downloading new routes, following routes and setting up your own routes before you set out. You can see at a glance how far your proposed walk is, the elevation you will encounter and an estimated time for undertaking the walk. This will give you an idea of whether the walk is within your capabilities.

A paper map cannot run out of power and will always be there for you, but you do need to know how to use it and a compass.

There are quite a few mapping apps available, such as OS, Outdooractive, AllTrails, Memory Map, etc., and all have similar features, with pros and cons of each one. There are free versions of most mapping apps that utilise free mapping, but paid versions offer much more functionality and access to a wider variety of mapping.

Ordnance Survey - Mapping App

For me, being brought up on OS maps may have swayed my decision slightly to use their app, but it is a great one.

There is a free version of the Ordnance Survey mapping app, but you can get unlimited OS Explorer and Landranger maps for England, Scotland and Wales on any device, making it easy to explore the great outdoors for just the price of a coffee a month.

Amongst other features, premium allows access to OS Explorer and Landranger mapping, import and export routes, save maps offline, aerial 3D, and the ability to print A3/A4 maps that you can take with you.


Explore further and sign up for the OS Mapping App

Power pack

I didn't have a power pack six years ago, but now I class this as part of my hiking essentials kit list. While carrying a power pack does add some extra weight to my hiking gear, I find it invaluable for charging devices like mobile phones, head torches or video cameras that consume a lot of power, especially when using GPS to track your route on a day hike. Just remember to charge up your power pack before setting off!

Anker Power Bank PowerCore Essential 20000

I currently have two power packs, and my main one, the Anker Power Bank PowerCore Essential 20000, is still strong after four years of weekly use. Once charged, it will recharge most mobile phones almost five times. It has 2 USB outputs, so two devices can be charged simultaneously; it is drop-tested to 1 metre and has a travel case.

Anker Power Bank PowerCore Essential 20000
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Anker Power Bank PowerCore Slim 10000

If you don't need much power and like to cut down on weight, the other power bank I use is the Anker Power Bank PowerCore Slim 10000, which is lighter and less bulky but can still charge most mobile phones twice. Only one device can be charged at once with this one.

Anker Power Bank PowerCore Slim 10000
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Cash

I always used to class cash as an essential item for my hiking checklist and never left home without some. Perhaps that was more in the days of phone boxes that needed coins before the advent of mobile phones.

I still like to take some cash with me as you never know when you'll need it - maybe some more drinks or snacks if you pass anywhere open or that taxi back! Many people are a lot more plastic-orientated or have pay apps on their phones, but whatever method it is, I still always think it is better to have some money with you.

Sitting mat

Carrying a lightweight sitting mat in your hiking gear provides a comfortable spot to sit during breaks or meals, keeping you dry and insulated from the cold ground. It's a small addition that can significantly enhance your hiking experience.

Multimat Compact Kumfie Sit Mat

My current sitting mat is this compact Kumfie Sit Mat from Multimat, which weighs 40g. You'll barely notice you are carrying it, but its insulating foam provides a cosy and dry spot to sit when you stop for a break.

Multimat Compact Kumfie Sit Mat
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Your ID or Medical ID Card

It is a good idea to carry some form of ID if anything happens to you while you are on a day hike. Keep a card inside your first aid kit that includes your Full name, birth date, home address, emergency contact name and mobile number, blood type, doctor's details, existing health conditions, and any allergies or medications you are allergic to.

Multi-tool

Over many years of walking, I've found my multi-tool invaluable. It doesn't get used too often, but it is there when you need anything cutting, opening, fixing, etc., when you are on the go. My multi-tool has come to the rescue on many occasions. It has repaired my backpack, fixed boot eyelets, mended tent poles, served as a handle for hot pans, and even popped open a few beer bottles - a very versatile and essential piece of kit for me.

Leatherman Wingman Multi-Tool

Many multi-tools are available, but my main ones over the last ten years have been Leatherman ones. They've been making practical, sturdy multi-tools for many years.

The Wingman is equipped with needle nose pliers, regular pliers, wire cutters, wire strippers, 420HC Combo knife, spring-action scissors, package opener, ruler (1.5in/3.8cm), tin opener, bottle opener, wood/metal file, Phillips screwdriver, medium screwdriver and a small screwdriver.

It's made of stainless steel and, with its nylon case, weighs in at 198g. I keep mine safely tucked away in my first aid kit.

Leatherman Wingman
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Head torch

You never know when you might get caught out hiking and still be walking in the dark, so a head torch is essential whatever time of year. It is lightweight and one of the first items I pack into my backpack on every walk.

A head torch enhances your safety and adventure while out in the dark. They offer a hands-free lighting solution for all outdoor adventures, whether hill-walking, road running, or simply taking your dog for an evening walk.

As with a few hiking essentials on this list, it's important to note that there isn't a one-size-fits-all head torch. The best head torch for you will largely depend on your specific activities and personal preferences. I have a couple for various situations.

There's always a balancing act between factors like the brightness and burn time of your batteries, the weight versus burn time, the level of waterproofing you need, and the option for rechargeable batteries, among others. Check out our detailed guide on what to consider when buying a head torch, which lists our current best head torches based on their performance, comfort, waterproofness, durability, and features.

Petzl Swift RL

My main hiking head torch that I use is the Petzl Sift RL. There are cheaper head torches available, but the Petzl Swift RL is a compact, comfortable, ultra-powerful and rechargeable head torch with Reactive Lighting technology that adjusts brightness automatically to your needs. Its 1,100 lumens means you can see up to 155 metres ahead; it is weather-resistant and comes in at only 100g.

Petzl Swift RL
Petzl Swift RL
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Survival bag

A survival bag can mean the difference between life and death if you get caught out or have an accident on your day hike. They are very light and should be essential in every backpack.

Lifesystems Heatshield Thermal Bag

This Lifesystems Heatshield Thermal Bag is lightweight (110g), waterproof and windproof. It helps retain over 90% of radiated body heat and reduces wind chill - a helpful safety addition to any rucksack. I bought one quite a few years ago that sits in the bottom of my rucksack, and I'm still hoping it's something I'll never have to use. It has taped seams and comes in a compact storage sack.

Lifesystems Heatshield Thermal Bag
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All these walking essentials are needed to tackle any situation that may arise during a hike.

Day hiking optional items explained and recommendations

Walking poles or trekking poles

For me, walking or trekking poles are an optional extra. If you are one of those people who love to walk with poles, then you need to move these up to your hiking essentials list.

Walking poles and trekking poles are believed to have many benefits for you, including helping your balance on uneven paths; protecting and relieving stress on your knees, especially when walking downhill; taking some weight off your sore joints; improving your posture; improving power and endurance when walking uphill; tone muscles in your arms and shoulders and burn more calories as your upper body gets more of a workout by using your arms.

Many people I know swear by walking and trekking poles and use them every time they go for a walk. I don't use mine that much now, but I find trekking poles helpful in crossing water or walking over wet, muddy or snow-covered ground to be able to use them as a prod to test the depth of what I'm walking through.

When selecting walking and trekking poles, consider your specific needs and preferences. Most walking and trekking poles are made from carbon, which is light or aluminium, which is cheaper but heavier. They are generally telescopic or 'shock-corded' Z-shaped in design, so they pack down much shorter than their actual length and come with different grip types. They are sometimes sold singly but more often are sold in pairs.

Leki Makalu FX Carbon Walking Poles (Pair)

These Leki Makalu FX Carbon Walking Poles include many of Leki's latest advancements to improve your comfort whilst walking with them. It is a carbon 3-section pole weighing 254g that packs down to 40cm but is adjustable for walking between 110cm and 130cm.

It includes Leki's ergonomic Aergon Air lightweight handle with a rubber grip. A foam grip extension means more hand placement options with adjustable lock security straps with safety release. The poles quickly adjust with the speed lock 2 plus, so if needed, you can shorten them for walking uphill and lengthen them for coming back down.

There is a trekking basket that prevents the tip from sinking into softer ground.

Leki Makalu FX Carbon Walking Poles
Leki Makalu FX Carbon Walking Poles - handles
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Leki Cressida FX Carbon Women's Walking Poles (Pair)

These are basically the same poles as the Leki Makula FX Carbon Walking Poles but marketed for women. The Leki Cressida has a slightly shorter range of adjustment (100cm - 120cm) and smaller handles, making it better for smaller-framed hikers, regardless of gender.

Leki Cressida FX Carbon Women's Walking Poles
Leki Cressida FX Carbon Women's Walking Poles - folded
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TheFitLife Hiking Walking Trekking Poles

These entry-level TheFitLife hiking poles are great value, anti-shock/shock absorbing poles with EVA foam handles and straps. They feature a quick lock system to extend or collapse poles easily. Various colours are available.

You can pay a lot more for walking poles, as I did for my other pair, but these entry-level ones should give you an idea of whether poles help you or not.

TheFitLife Hiking Walking Trekking Poles
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Walking guidebook

A walking guidebook can be helpful so you can read about and follow the walk directions. They also generally show photographs of what you will see on your day hike. On this website, you will find all our walks on our walk page, where you can access them free of charge. For each walk, you can watch a video of the whole walk to see whether the walk is suitable for you before you go.

We also provide detailed walk directions and numerous photographs of what you will see on the walk; we show the walk route on an Ordnance Survey map and provide a GPX download of the route so you can download it to your phone or GPS device. We then run through where you can eat and drink during and after the walk - basically, your online guidebook with the walk 'brought to life'.

Guidebooks, if you take them, add weight and can get wet. It is a personal preference, but I prefer to read guidebooks at home (and I have many!) and then download or plan the walk on my mapping app on my phone. If I feel I may want to read something of interest enroute, I'll take a photo of that page and then access it on my phone to cut down on weight.

Duct tape

I usually have a small roll of duct tape in my backpack, which is very versatile. I go for the 1-inch (25mm) wide rather than the more common 2-inch (50mm) wide to reduce bulk and weight, but it does most jobs I need it to do.

I've used it to repair tears on the go in jackets, tents, groundsheets and backpacks, and also to secure first aid dressings. A small roll, when new, weighs less than 30g and gets lighter and smaller as you use it.

Gorilla Tape Handy Roll Black 9m

Over the last few years, for many 'glue/sticky' related items, Gorilla has become my favourite and most used brand. It has a weather-resistant shell that can withstand moisture, UV and temperature changes; it offers excellent strength and grips to most surfaces.

This is the 25mm tape. However, it is also available in 50mm if you require a wider tape.

Gorilla Tape Handy Roll Black
Gorilla Tape Handy Roll Black 9m
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Emergency shelter

An emergency shelter can become a lifesaver if your first aid kit cannot help treat an injury and get the injured hiker back home safely after a day hike. Also, if the weather turns very nasty while walking, you can get the shelter out and sit in it for a while until the worst of the weather has passed by, or maybe even stop and have lunch in it out of the rain.

They are a little heavier than a survival bag but are pretty light and small when folded. If you walk in a group, they can fit a few people inside, so you may only need one for the group. They come in various sizes - 2 man, 2-4 man, 4-6 man, 8-10 man, and the shelter relies on those inside for its support, and some can accommodate walking poles as additional roof supports.

In an emergency, you should also know how to call for help if needed and how to attract attention - we have set out what you need to do in our 'Top 15 safety tips for hiking' blog.

Lifesystems 4-Person Survival Shelter

If I'm walking alone, I take my survival bag with me, but if I'm walking in a group and the temperature is due to fall to less than 10°C or bad weather is forecast, I also take this along in my backpack.

It packs down small, weighs 510g and is made for up to 4 people. You can get inside and shelter from the wind and rain. It is very brightly coloured, so rescuers can easily see you, and it is waterproof. The shell also seals in heat, creating its own micro-climate. There is a single window to see out and two air vents, and it comes with a stuff sack.

I'm hoping I'll never have to use it in an emergency, but it has had 4 or 5 outings being used for shelter from the rain and wind in the Lake District and the Alps.

Lifesystems 4-Person Survival Shelter
Lifesystems 4-Person Survival Shelter
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Camera

Choosing to bring a camera on your hike is entirely up to you and depends on your interest in photography and how much extra equipment or weight you're willing to carry. Nowadays, most hikers snapping photos on the trails use their smartphones.

Besides my mobile phone, I always have my GoPro for something light that takes photos. It is very light, waterproof and rugged, and you can use it for videos and photographs.

GoPro HERO12 Black - Waterproof Action Camera

For such a small camera, the image quality is fantastic. It films up to 5.3K video with High Dynamic Range (HDR) while taking 27MP photos. You can also take stills from your videos and grab photos up to 24.7MP from your favourite shots.

When filming, the Emmy Award-Winning HyperSmooth 6.0 Stabilization produces very smooth footage and can be made better by maximising HyperSmooth AutoBoost performance with more stabilisation while delivering less image cropping.

The camera is rugged and waterproof to 10 metres (33ft) deep. The only downside I have found is that it could be better in low light, but in normal daylight out on the hills, it is okay.

There are many other shooting modes and features, and it weighs in at only 154g. It is very easy to use straight out of the box, but you do need some kind of handle to hold it with - of which there are many to choose. If you partake in other sports, there are numerous mounts to mount the GoPro to bikes, helmets, surfboards, etc.

GoPro HERO12
GoPro HERO12 on a bike
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Gaiters

A gaiter is a fabric guard attached to your boot and lower leg that you wear hiking. Its primary purpose is to protect your lower leg below your knee and your ankles from mud, water, debris, ticks and shrubs.

Where I find the knee ones most useful is walking in the snow to stop snow flicking up and falling into my hiking boots or walking through bracken to avoid any ticks and keep your legs dry. I also have a pair of shorter ankle ones that I sometimes wear while running and are suitable for stopping scree or small stones entering your fell/walking shoes.

They are easy to take on and off and store in your backpack. Many people love them, but others find wearing them can make your legs hot and sweaty.

Trekmates Cairngorm Gore-Tex® Gaiters

There are more expensive gaiters out there, some twice the price, but I have found these to be waterproof, reliable and provide me with everything I need out of a gaiter.

They are full-height with a sturdy underfoot strap and reinforced ankle. They are windproof, waterproof, breathable and easy to put on and take off, thanks to their wide Velcro front fastening and adjustable elasticated calf.

Trekmates Cairngorm Gore-Tex Gaiters
Trekmates Cairngorm Gore-Tex Gaiters - back
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INOV8 All Terrain Gaiter

These are very lightweight at 40g and water resistant. They are easy to fit, and they stop debris and small stones from entering your walking or fell shoes when off-road. They are ideal for trail running but do not provide the same level of lower leg protection as the full-height Trekmate gaiters above.

INOV8 All Terrain Gaiter
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Walking or fitness watch

Many fitness and sports watches are now crammed with numerous features and data and cover quite a wide price range. One watch can cover many sports and recreational activities.

Many have built-in GPS and even maps, but I prefer a phone mapping app to a map on a watch as the screen size is much bigger.

If you need time and basic tracking for your day hike, many more entry-level watches are available that you can link up with various apps.

Garmin Fenix 7 Pro

I'm a bit of a data geek, so I do like to know all the stats from my walk, distance, time, route, height climbed, heart rate, etc., which my watch gives me... and much more. The Garmin Fenix 7 Pro is expensive (it is my most expensive piece of kit), but it is used a lot every day across various activities, so that is my justification. When you are not using it for sporting activities, you can choose from multiple watch faces to wear as your everyday casual watch.

The Garmin Fenix 7 Pro has excellent battery life, a touchscreen, a great interface and advanced health metrics that you can see on the device and through the Garmin Connect app. After wearing it for a few weeks, it will probably know more about you than you do!

Built-in the watch is a heart rate monitor, compass, alarms, thermometer, over 30 activity profiles, pedometer, altimeter, sleep monitor, customisable watch faces, safety and tracking features, activity tracking, navigation, smartphone notifications, contactless payments and many training features, to name but a few.

Garmin appreciates that not everyone is the same size, so it offers three screen sizes for different-sized wrists: the Fenix 7S Pro (42mm), Fenix 7 Pro (47mm) and the Fenix 7X Pro (51mm). The Garmin Fenix 7 Pro is available in a standard edition and a Sapphire edition, which is more durable and lighter due to the sapphire glass and titanium case. Watch bands come in various colours and materials. If you can justify the price and need a fantastic-looking sports watch with all the features, look no further.

Garmin Fenix 7S Pro
Garmin Fenix 7S Pro
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Garmin Fenix 7S Pro
 
Garmin Fenix 7 Pro Sapphire Solar GPS Smartwatch
Garmin Fenix 7 Pro
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Garmin Fenix 7 Pro Sapphire Solar GPS Smartwatch
 
Garmin Fenix 7X Pro
Garmin Fenix 7X Pro
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Garmin Fenix 7X Pro
 

Water purifier or water-purifying tablets

If you plan to venture into remote areas or embark on prolonged trips where lugging around large quantities of water isn't feasible, water purifiers or purification tablets can be a lifesaver. They can make water from streams or rivers safe to drink.

Typically, the pen or straw-type purifiers work faster than the tablets, but the tablets are lightweight and extremely compact. I always keep a strip of tablets in my first aid kit just in case they're needed and take along my water filter on longer walks, where I know I'll pass a few water sources.

If you are out in hot weather conditions or on walks where you'll need more water than you can carry, then a water purifier or tablets must move to the essential hiking kit list rather than just being optional.

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter

This top-rated LifeStraw water filter is a lightweight lifesaver, tipping the scales at just 59g. It is BPA-free and can purify up to 4,000 litres of stream water, leaving no unpleasant aftertaste. It employs advanced hollow fibre technology for filtration, eliminating the need for chemicals. I was a bit sceptical about its claims when I first got one, but after using it numerous times with no issues, it's now an essential on my day hiking checklist!

LifeStraw Personal Water Filter
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Lifesystems Chlorine Dioxide Tablets

Lifesystems' Chlorine Dioxide Tablets are 30 foil-sealed tablets, each treating up to one litre of water by killing bacteria, viruses and cysts in water, including Giardia and Cryptosporidium. They don't have any harmful byproducts or aftertaste and are a DofE-recommended product. The box of 30 weighs 40g, so my strip of six I leave in my first aid kit - weighs only 5g!

Lifesystems Chlorine Dioxide Tablets
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Insect repellent

If you are walking early morning or around dusk, or from personal experience walking on the western coast of Scotland from mid-May to mid-September, you may experience mosquitoes or other biting insects. So, if you are one of those people who continually gets bitten, an insect repellent spray is a must.

Antihistamines and hydrocortisone, which should be in your first aid kit, can help relieve the itching and swelling, but ideally, you need to prevent the bite in the first place. If you are prone to insect bites, depending upon the time of year, you should move this up onto your essential day hiking checklist.

Jungle Formula Maximum Insect Repellent

I used to buy and take Jungle Formula with me on foreign holidays, but now, if I know I'm walking somewhere where I may encounter mosquitoes or other biting insects, I take it with me on my walks. If the walk is about 4 hours or under, I spray myself before I set off and leave it in the car, but on longer walks, especially if I know I'll still be walking in the early evening, I take it with me to reapply.

The 'max' I use may be a little over the top as it contains 50% DEET (the strength recommended by the WHO), and medium and kids formulas are available. I've found this spray has always been very effective at keeping mosquitoes and other biting insects at bay. It is also available in a pump spray and as a roll-on.

Jungle Formula Maximum Insect Repellent
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Rubbish disposal

On a walk, 'if you take it', bring it back unless you pass bins you can use along the way. I generally take an old carrier bag as part of my day hiking checklist, where I put my rubbish and a few supplies and then keep it in one of the mesh nets on the outside of my rucksack. Remember the old adage - Leave nothing but footprints, take nothing but photos and kill nothing but time.

Winter day hikes

If your walk or hike involves walking in snow or ice, especially over exposed ground or along ridges, additional gear like ice axes, crampons, bivvy bags, 4-season hiking boots and so on should be taken and used. These items usually require a larger backpack and are not included in the list above. This type of equipment is more specialised, and you must familiarise yourself with their usage and be confident you can use them before the hike. This essentials hiking checklist does not cover these winter items, but we will cover these in a future article.

Summary

In conclusion, a successful day hike requires thorough preparation, including selecting the right hiking gear, clothing, and footwear, staying hydrated and well-nourished, packing health and safety items, preparing for emergencies, and practising responsible hiking principles.

By following this comprehensive guide, you'll be well-equipped to wear and take the essential hiking kit to tackle any day hike and fully enjoy your walk comfortably and safely.

November 2023