Hiking Checklist

Making a list and checking it twice, gonna find out… if I’ve forgotten anything for this hike. Even a simple day hike can become a mini-epic if the weather turns bad and you’ve forgotten a raincoat, or someone falls in a patch of prickly pear cactus (ouch – it happened!) and you’ve left the first aid kit with tweezers behind. 

One of the first stories I ever wrote was about a woman had gone off-route during bad weather on a day hike in the mountains. She fell and was too hurt to walk out.  Because it was late in the day, she gave her hiking partner the headlamp to find her way back to the car. When the rescue party came close during the middle of the night, the injured woman could see their headlamps, but in the bad weather, they never saw her.  She survived, but the rescue might have been quicker – if only she’d had her headlamp.

We don’t wish things to go wrong, but accidents happen. A little proactive planning and packing can make the best of a bad situation.  So what are the basics that you should consider stuffing into that backpack of yours? This checklist will vary depending on a variety of factors – from the time of year to the weather forecast, length and difficulty of the hike to the location you’ve chosen to hike (more water for a desert hike, more clothes for a mountain one) – but in general, gear for a well-planned day hike could include:

  • Daypack or fanny pack
  • Rainproof coat with hood
  • Sunhat (and/or toque)
  • Sunglasses
  • Gloves
  • Fleece or warm layer
  • Wicking layer
  • Waterproof or quickdry pants (zip-offs if you want the option of both shorts and pants)
  • Hiking boots or shoes
  • Light/Heavy socks
  • Bear Spray (if in bear country)
  • Walking poles
  • Headlamp
  • Guidebook/Map
  • Compass (or GPS)
  • First Aid Kit
  • Lighter
  • Pocket knife
  • Lunch/snack (plus a little extra… just in case)
  • Water bottle (full)
  • Sunscreen
  • Toilet paper

Depending on your level of comfort, experience, personal preferences, you can top up the daypack with any number of goodies.  A few optional items might include:

  • Insect repellent
  • Water filter or water purification tablets
  • Binoculars
  • Bird/Flower field guide
  • Power gels and/or bars
  • Notebook/pen
  • Camera with flexible mini-tripod
  • Lightweight tarp  or shelter (for shade or for hunkering down when the sky lets loose)

Tip:  Keeping a personalized, one-page checklist like this on your computer allows for quick updating and printing.  We’ve got checklists for day hikes, backpacking trips, canoeing trips, winter… the lists go on!

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