We’ve been asked many times, “What gear do you bring for a day hike”, so we thought it was high time to put together this day hike packing guide.
Keep in mind, that this day hike packing guide is geared toward family-friendly hikes with toddlers and youngsters in tow, as that’s what we do on nearly a daily basis.
Depending on the weather, terrain, season, etc. we may not bring all of the items below, but these are true all the items we’d consider taking on just about any day hike.
So, use this day hike packing guide as a jumping-off point, and then modify it to fit your and your family’s needs.
As you may have guessed, this post contains affiliate links which means we earn a bit of money if you buy the items through these links (there is no additional cost to you), and we use those funds to keep running this site!
Table of Contents
Family Backpacking Instead?
If you’re planning on doing some extended backpacking, check out our backpacking packing list, as it’ll include the full range of gear we use for multi-day backpacking trips in the backcountry.
Our Day Hike Packing Guide Gear List – Bags
Our Child Carriers – A Day Hike Packing Essential
No day hike packing guide, and especially one geared towards family-hiking, would be complete without mentioning child carriers. We like the ones below because they are comfortable for us and the kids and are built to last!
First things first, we love our comfortable Osprey Poco Plus Child carrier. It’s been with trekking in Nepal when Peri was 8 months old, and it’s been with when we’ve gone hiking in Hong Kong all over the place. Three years in, and it’s still in perfect working condition, though it’s a bit worn looking. For kids under 35 lbs., we love this carrier, and it has plenty of storage space too.
Now that Peri is over 35 lbs., we have started to carry him in our Tula, and again, we very much consider this essential family day hiking gear. Aside from the fact that he’s now nearly too big for the Osprey, we like how compact yet useful this carrier is.
Our Diaper Bag – Another Day Hike Packing Must-Have
If you hike with toddlers and/or young kids, you likely need to bring diapers. But you’ll likely also need to bring nearly a million other things. The pack below fits us well and all our “million things” too, and that’s why we’ve included it in our day hike packing guide.
As you may have guessed, most traditional diaper bags aren’t made for hiking. So, instead, we like to use our Osprey Quasar backpack. The fact that it’s designed for a laptop means there are plenty of pockets and organizers inside which we find perfect for our diaper bag purposes. Also, the large stretchy-Spandex waterbottle pockets, make it easy for us to get our water on the trail
Our Day Hike Packing Guide Gear List – Bottles
Our Adult Waterbottles
We each usually bring 2 liters of water for ourselves. On very hot days, we might bring more, and on cold ones, we might bring less. In any case, we love our RTIC water bottles as they are well insulated, and thus can keep our water either hot or cold.
Our Kids Water Bottles
Peri and Kai need to drink too. While they both can drink from our bottles in a pinch, we very much like their CamelBak Eddy+ water bottles. The soft pliable mouthpiece makes for easy yet leak-free drinking. The Eddy+ is also easy to take apart, and thus it’s easy to clean every now and then.
Our Day Hike Packing Guide Gear List – Clothing
Our Adult Wind/Rain Jackets
If there is a chance of rain or even some wind, I bring my Men’s Marmot Precip Jacket. It’s lightweight, durable, waterproof, and breathable, and it compacts into a ball about the size of a softball.
Julia didn’t feel the need to reinvent the wheel, so she uses the Women’s Marmot Precip Jacket, and she loves it for all the same reasons!
Our Kids Wind/Rain Jackets
We recently got both Peri and Kai this Villervalla Hard Shell wind/rain jacket, and so far, they both seem to love it. It’s waterproof, breathable, and super durable. Keep in mind, that it’s not insulated, so in the picture to the left, the kids had on some baselayers. We’re quite sure both boys will grow out of the jackets long before they are even vaguely threadbare.
Our Adult Warm Layers
Even on a day hike, we bring a warm layer. Again, if it gets rainy or windy, or even both, it’s nice to have something warm and dry to put on. I wear these Men’s Thermajohns, and I quite like them.
Not surprisingly, Julia wears these Women’s Thermajanes, and she too loves them!
Our Kid Warm Layers
When it comes to base layers, if you cheap out, you pay the price by being cold. When it comes to Peri and Kai, we like them to have merino wool Iksplor base layers, as they are warm, wicking, lightweight, and extremely durable. They are also recyclable, so if you send the back to Iksplor, you’ll get a discount on your next purchase!
Our Adult Wool Socks
We hike in wool socks year-round. They wick moisture, keep our feet warm even when they’re wet, and therefore they naturally help prevent blisters. What more could you want from a hiking sock?
Our Kid Wool Socks
For the same reasons we use wool socks year-round, so too do Peri and Kai. We bought these socks for the kids, and they are of high quality and great value. We always pack these when we’re going on a day hike.
Our Day Hike Packing Guide Gear List – Miscellaneous
We never set out on a family hike without snacks. And our Munchkin snack cups ensure that the major of our snacks end up in Peri and Kai’s mouths. Of course, nothing is perfect, but these snack cups are pretty darn close!
First Aid Kit
When we are doing our day hike packing, we always bring a small first aid kid. Now, we’re not going to be able to perform any major surgeries with this little kit, but it’s more than enough to take care of the basics and get to more serious help in the event we need to.
Of the many items we bring when day hiking, we never forget our portable diaper changing pad. I can’t count how many times we’ve used ours. It’s great to be able to put this durable and cushioned pad down just about anywhere and change either Peri or Kai all the while knowing they are laying on a clean, comfortable and safe surface.
Dog Poop Bags
As Peri has become more dependably potty-trained, we’ve been able to increasingly rely on him making his “nature poo-poos.” Or in other words, he’s become a pro at popping a squat and taking care of his business. But, as you likely know, leaving human feces in nature is a big Leave No Trace no-no. So, we bring along our dog poop bags.
If the sun is shining, be it summer, spring, winter, or fall, we put on suncream. The kids don’t like putting it on, but we know they’d much prefer the discomfort of putting on a bit of sun cream compared to that they’d feel from sunburn. Thinksport Kids is what we like, and we think you will too!
With Ben’s 100% DEET, a little goes a long way. And, in spite of the many other types of insect repellent we’ve tried, we find that ultimately DEET works best for us. We try out best to NOT put it on our or the kid’s skin, and so far, we’ve been pretty successful. And of course, the DEET in this stuff keeps those mossies and ticks away.
Hiking Poles (Sometimes)
Depending on the terrain, we bring our hiking poles. If you’ve never used a pair, just think, “shock absorbers for your knees.” We find our poles most beneficial on the downhills, but if we’re super tired, they are even nice on the ups.
Water Filter (Sometimes)
Again, depending on where we’re going, we often bring our hiking water filter. This little device allows us to safely drink from natural water sources. And since it weighs a mere 3.5 oz (100 g), it’s never a burden to carry.
Day Hike Packing Guide Conclusion
The bottom line is, when we go day hiking we bring only the things we need, and nothing more. This ensures that our packs are light (which always makes us happy), that we’re prepared for most conditions, and that we end up enjoying our family adventure in the great outdoors.
If you have any questions or suggestions about any of this, leave us a comment below. And in the meantime, happy day hiking!