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Proper Equipment for a Day Hike

Standard Gear List for Summer Hiking
This is a list of basic gear for short warm weather hikes.

  • A small backpack, a.k.a. daypack. A messenger bag or one of those drawstring bags are not a good choice. I recommend a backpack with a hip belt and frame (which takes the weight of your shoulders), but it is not required.
  • Hiking pants made from a non-cotton material, generally nylon. Many people enjoy the ones that allow you to remove part of the pant legs with a zipper and convert them into shorts. Shorts are ok in the summer. Avoid cotton as much as possible, especially on cooler days or when there might be rain.
  • A good sports shirt - non-cotton synthetics are better than cotton.
  • Hiking boots or trail shoes. Hiking boot need to be broken in (you can do that in Central Park or on a gym treadmill) and not too old, i.e. not falling apart. Boots need to have a good tread. It's possible to get away with sneakers for short, easy hikes, but it's not a good idea. No sandals.
  • Hiking socks, ideally of wicking material (wool, synthetics). A change of socks will help keep your feet dry and prevent blisters.
  • Bottles or camelbak pouch filled with water. You always need to bring at least half a gallon = 2 liters = 2 quarts of water. 3 liters or 4 liters for long hikes or hot days.
  • Lunch and snacks, e.g. sandwich, power bar, banana, other fruit, trail-mix.
  • Rain gear. A poncho or raincoat is usually sufficient. If heavy rain is forecast, I recommend rainpants, which are thin rainproof pants you pull over your regular pants.
  • ID, health insurance card, and an emergency contact phone number under I.C.E in your cell phone.
  • Cell phone with the organizer's number - cell phones are important for emergency use, but please use them in moderation on the trail.
  • A flashlight (or better yet a headlamp) should also be in your backpack for emergencies.
  • Medication and Medical information - Bring you health insurance information and any medication you might require
  • Trail Map and compass - All the maps we use are available through the H&N store. Check the event description for the specific map.
  • Extra layers - it is always worth having a light rain jacket to double as a wind breaker and something to keep you warm in mornings and evening. A warm long sleeve shirt and a winter hat are also surprisingly useful in the late summer and early fall.

  • wide brimmed sun hat, sunglasses, sunscreen
  • trekking poles reduce the strain on your knee, improve stability, and make you faster

  • swimming gear
  • towel
  • camera

Gear Notes:

Ad 1) When choosing a backpack, keep in mind that you will be carrying it for 6 hours or more. Messenger bags or drawstring bags are not a good idea. All your gear should fit inside your backpack - tying shirts or jackets around your waste is a risky proposition. Backpacks with an internal frame and hip-belt to take the weight off your shoulders are much more comfortable and well worth the investment if you are hiking regularly. Packs designed to hold a hydration system are great too. Size wise, a 10 or 20 liter pack is suitable only for short summer hikes - it won't hold the added layers you'll want in cold weather, or the food and gear for long day hikes. I suggest a 35 or 45 liter pack for regular hikers since it is suitable for 4-season day hikes and short summer backpacking.

Ad 2 and 3) Cotton Kills (and annoys). Clothing made from cotton, such as jeans, are bad because cotton dry very slowly, absorbs a lot of water, and provides no warmth when wet. It's unpleasant in the rain, but it's also a problem in any time your sweating because the cotton soaked up sweat instead of cooling you by evaporation. This means you'll over heat in warm weather and in the winter this puts you at elevated risk for hypothermia.

Ad 4) One of the most important pieces of equipment is a decent pair of boots. A good tread is of utmost importance. Sneakers are acceptable in the summer for short hikes, but specialized hiking boots or shoes offer thicker soles, better tread, and are generally water-proof. Hiking boots that cover the ankles are preferred as they help prevent sprains. Sandals are an absolute no-no. If you go hiking on a regular basis, you should definitely invest in a good pair of hiking boots.

Table of Contents

Page title Most recent update Last edited by
Support your local hiking organizations September 13, 2015 9:23 PM Andre
Hiking Levels July 7, 2010 3:03 PM Andre
Proper Equipment for a Day Hike September 10, 2010 8:29 AM Andre
About Hiking & Nature Meetup August 16, 2011 2:02 PM Andre

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