Figuring out what you need in your day pack to start hiking can be confusing, but when you’ve been on a few hikes and think, “oh, I wish I had that with me”, eventually you will know exactly what you need.
So many times I’ve wished I had my rain gear or my hand warmers or an extra energy bar.
One hike, after a fall on rocks, I wished I had a first aid kit not just bandaids. Or the time in Indian Peaks Wilderness with my daughter without bug spray. Never again!
The list below is for you to know “what to bring” on your hiking adventure and not intended to endorse any certain product. This is what’s in our pack, our favorites may not be yours…
Note: Written from a Colorado gals hiking perspective. Choose according to your location.
Note: Many of the links below are affiliate links which means I receive a small commission if you purchase items. This comes at no additional cost to you. Thanks for all the support, appreciated.
The most important item, the day pack…
I have a smaller pack for easy 1/2 day hikes or trail runs when I need minimal gear. And one for more extensive all day hikes & high altitude hikes.
Nathan Zeal …. my favorite smaller day pack. Advertised for trail running, I use it for hiking easy to strenuous trails ALL the time. I love this pack. Fits perfectly, extremely comfortable, moves with me, hydration pack stays even. Smaller than a day pack yet holds what I need on shorter hikes.
Osprey Daypacks …. when I need all the extras (winter gear especially) for a hiking/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 treeline where the weather gets fickle.
I would highly suggest trying on daypacks first before purchasing one. Every brand has lots of styles and sizes. We are all different shapes and comfort is key to a great day.
The nitty-gritty that goes inside …
1. Emergency Blanket, Your 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 tiny, easy to pack and may just save your life. I have never been lost, injured or needed to use mine. But, just in case!
2. First Aid Kit, Bring 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 & Compass, Bring 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.
4. Fire Starter, Just 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.
5. Whistle, A must have! The best way for any type of emergency. 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 Wildlife away. My bear bell clips on to my pack and I never go without, 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. Carabiners, Just the best little gadget ever! To many uses to list, just get a bunch, clip them on your pack. You will use them.
8. Rain Gear, 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, sometimes even snow in one hike.
9. Trail Snacks, Bring more than you need! Endless options available. Granola bars, nuts, raisins, almond butter, crackers, cheese … Kind Bars keep along time, they live in my pack.
10. Hydration & Electrolytes, Its easy to dehydrate at high altitudes by simply walking, especially in Colorado. Really a necessary “extra” to carry with you on every hike.
11. Hiking 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).
12. Headlamp or Small Flashlight, Inclement weather, injury, finding you are lost, hike is longer than you anticipated and it’s getting dark, there really is not a reason why you should not have one!
13. Multi Use Tool/Duck tape , Multi-use tool usually comes in more handy than a knife. Duct tape, for most anything, especially gear repairs.
14. Bug Spray, One of the best things in Colorado is its lack of insects, but up high in the mountains in summer the mosquitoes can get crazy and abundant. Pull out your snack or lunch and the horseflies appear. Small, compact, works great for us.
15. Sunscreen, Bluebird skies that we love in Colorado comes with intense sun exposure. Use when cloudy too! Never leaves my pack.
The extras … for an even better day but not essentials
Trekking Poles Just about every hiker I know uses trekking poles and they swear by them. I have to admit, I have never used them. Why? I like my hands free for my camera and the ease of not having to carry them. However, I recommend them since it is highly suggested and I’m the only one I know who doesn’t have a pair.
Camera Most use their phone, I love to take pictures and bring my Nikon everywhere!
My winter must haves added to my day pack …
Hand Warmers Living in Colorado and having experienced tremendous weather changes within an hour (sometimes minutes), I have hand warmers in my pack in summer/spring, winter/fall. I know, I’m a nerd, I wear gloves with shorts sometimes.
Yak Tracks They work and you will use them on icy trails! Easy to hang on the outside of your pack.
Gaiters Come upon deep snow, or snowshoeing, a great extra to have.
Find a backpack you love and fill it up… HAPPY TRAILS!
Live in Colorado? Coming to Colorado? A couple favorite trails to put on your list!
One of our favorite Colorado trails you’ll want to do over and over, “Mayflower Gulch”
For a more moderate hike, “Mohawk Lakes Trail”, Hoosier Pass, Breckenridge, CO, is pure alpine splendor.