Figuring out what day hiking essentials you need in your backpack can be overwhelming …

The hiking essentials listed below are exactly “what to bring” on your day hike. If you don’t have it, chances are you’ll wish you did when on a trail and you find it’s not there! Practical gear that we love at Crazy About Colorado and have in our backpacks on every hike.


Rainbow Lake Trail, Frisco CO – Easy hiking in Colorado’s Wilderness

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The size for a typical day pack is normally 20-35 liters. Enough room to carry your day hiking essentials and any extra layers you might need.

I have 2 different smaller backpacks for easy day hikes when I need minimal gear. And one for more extensive all day hikes & high altitude hikes.

Nathan Backpack … not your typical backpack for hiking but one that I use often and want to mention. It’s designed for trail running but I use it for my shorter, easy summer day hikes. The front pockets give me access to my phone, sunscreen, chapstick, snacks, and other small essentials. The back pocket still holds all my other essentials. The hydration pack holds my water needs and never weighs me down. So light I hardly notice I have it on. However, it does not have a hip belt which is a must on longer day hikes.

Osprey Tempest 9 …. my favorite smaller day pack I use for hiking on longer more strenuous trails at higher altitudes in summer. I love this pack. Fits perfectly, is extremely comfortable, moves with me, hydration pack stays even. Holds extra layers inside in case of cold, wind & rain.

Osprey Tempest 40 … when I need all the extras (winter gear especially) for a hiking or snowshoe day trip. Osprey Packs are one of the most popular brands out there for men and women. I end up using mine a lot for weekend hiking, we tend to go far and sometimes end up above timberline where the weather gets fickle. (even in summer!)


Deuter Rock n Roll 28 SL – Less expensive, perfect fit, lots of room for essentials and wear for all my hikes.

Gregory Juno 30 H20 Hydration – Super comfortable, love the roomy pockets on the hip belt. Everyone should have this pack.

I would highly suggest trying on backpacks first before purchasing one. We are all different shapes and comfort is key to a great hike. 


Hope Lake Trail, near Telluride, CO – Gorgeous moderate hike


Each item listed below is small, easy to carry, and once purchased they just live in your pack and some only require small refills like your first aid kit, and snacks.

1. Emergency BlanketIf you’re in Colorado, every season can turn to winter, or you could become injured on your hike and need to wait for help or wander off the main trail and become lost. They are easy to pack with you and may just save your life. I have never been lost, injured, or needed to use mine. But, just in case!

2. First Aid KitBring a good first aid kit on any day hike no matter the length. We’ve had our share of non-serious yet unexpected injuries! Extend your first aid by taking a class with the American Red Cross or a Wilderness First Aid Class.

3. Map & CompassBring a map of the area you are hiking (so you can find help if needed) a campground, fire tower, a road, the direction out if lost. GPS and cell phones are nice to have but not always reliable like a map and compass.

FOR SAFETY in all hiking adventures I highly recommend a Garmin GPS. I have the Garmin inReach Mini and I LOVE IT. Gives me peace of mind for any emergency with interactive SOS to the 24/7 search and rescue and allows me to communicate by text with family and friends. Works wherever you are which is amazing.

4. Fire StarterJust in case, you never know if for some reason you’ll have to stay overnight, or if a storm develops, temperatures drop and prevents you from continuing for a while. Before starting a fire outdoors, review Leave No Trace principles. Check current regulations any fire bans where you are hiking. Fire Bans are very common in Colorado and the western US. 

5. WhistleA must-have! Everyone on the hike, kids too, should have a survival whistle.

6. Bear Bell, Noise! It works. If hiking in a quiet, non-crowded area it’s recommended that having noise is the best way for keeping the wildlife away. My bear bell clips onto my pack and I never go without it, even in hibernation season. Easy to use, you can have it jingle or be silent, just keep it with you. Mountain lions don’t hibernate!

7. Trail Snacks, Bring more than you need! Endless options are available. Energy bars, energy chews or gels, granola bars, trail mix, almond butter, tuna packets, and bananas are a few ideas.

8. Hydration & Electrolytes, Nuun is my go-to brand to have with me and now they have them with caffeine or with vitamins.   It’s easy to dehydrate at high altitudes, on short and long trails, and by simply walking, especially in Colorado. A necessary “extra” to carry with you on every hike. 

9. Water Purifier, Drink plenty of water before starting out, drink throughout the hike, trying to always leave some for later. (you never know if you will find a water source to replenish & use your purification source).

10. Headlamp or Small Flashlight, for Inclement weather, injury, finding you are lost, the hike is longer than you anticipated and it’s getting dark, there really is no reason why you should not have one!

11. Multi-use tool comes in handy in so many ways, add a small duct tape and safety pins for any repair needs. 

12. Bug SprayOne of the best things in Colorado is its lack of insects, but the mosquitoes can be crazy and abundant. Pull out your snack or lunch and the horseflies appear. Small, compact, works great for us.

13. Sunscreen, Bluebird skies that we love in Colorado come with intense sun exposure in all seasons. Use it when cloudy and hiking in the snow too.


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Perimeter Trail, Ouray, CO – Anyone would love this hike.



Trekking Poles, Just about every hiker I know uses trekking poles and they swear by them. Great for joint stability, protecting your knees, balance & keeping a rhythm while hiking. Often I use them to cross creeks and test snow depth ahead on the trail.

Rain Poncho, Always bring even on clear days! Rain in Colorado is cold, rain at high elevations is shockingly freezing! I could tell you numerous stories about being at high elevations, starting a hike with warm sun, turning to rain, then sleet and wind, and sometimes even snow in one hike.

Hiking Umbrella, An item I recently purchased and have used many times since. Super lightweight, attach to your backpack, great for sun & rain protection.

Camera, I love to take pictures and bring my Sony Alpha a6000 mirrorless camera everywhere!  It’s small, easy to carry, and takes fantastic photos.


Spruce Creek Trail, Breckenridge, CO – A favorite all-season trail



Hand Warmers Living in Colorado and having experienced tremendous weather changes within an hour (sometimes minutes), I now carry hand warmers in my pack in every season. Yes, even in summer!

Foot Warmers – Hiking on snow-packed trails or snowshoeing in winter foot warmers keep your feet toasty.  Easy to use, they last for hours. I do not recommend toe warmers, they bunch up in your toes & cause discomfort. The foot warmers stay put with adhesive to the bottom of your socks.

Microspikes They work and you will use them on snowy and icy trails. Easy to hang on the outside of your pack. Makes hiking so much easier and safer in winter/spring conditions. I highly recommend them.

Leg Gaiters I love these for hiking in the snow or for snowshoeing because it helps keep the snow from getting in my hiking boots and kept me dryer and warmer.


Native Lake Trail, Leadville, CO – Mt. Massive Wilderness beauty

Now you are READY TO HIKE!

Hike your own hike. Create your own adventure. Never compare yourself to others thinking you have to measure up! Enjoy, it’s the smiles, not the miles! 

LETS HIKE! Trails we LOVED below.

20 Amazing Day Hikes in Colorado’s Backcountry

Easy Trails in Colorado’s Mountains

Alpine Lake Hikes, 18 Beautiufl Trails


Connect with me on Instagram! I love hanging out there and leaving tidbits of trails I’ve hiked in Colorado. Follow me and say hi – send me a message! Follow other hikers and be inspired!

Note: Many of the links are affiliate links which means I receive a very small commission (at no added cost to you).