What Do I Bring When I Hike?


Lots of people have hiking checklists.  Lots of people ask what they should bring when hiking.  The answer is, it depends.  It depends on many factors: expected and possible weather, duration of your hike, type of terrain/conditions, etc.

Of course, as a base, you can start with the “ten essentials”, but even these vary based on the above factors.  I like the ten essential lists that have categories rather than set items, so you can vary what you bring as needed.

That said, I roughly have three lists.  They all start with what I call my “Dayhike checklist”.  For me, typically hiking in the White Mountains, these are my bare essentials.  I have my backpacking list, which is everything from my dayhike list plus items specific to backpacking.  Lastly, I have my winter list, which again starts with everything from my dayhike list plus items specifically for winter.  I lied, I also have a fourth list, which I always bring with me and that is my Car list.  That list is stuff that is in the car, either in case of emergency or for before/after the hike.  Please note these are MY lists, what works for you may (and likely will) be entirely different.  Some people bring way more, some people bring way less.  This is what I bring for my safety and comfort hiking in the White Mountains.  I do often change these lists, and as budget allows try to replace things with lighter versions (my next big purchases will be new packs or poles).

My Dayhike Checklist:

I try to break things into mini “kits”, so they are easy to find in my pack and like things are together.  Also for something like my toilet kit, I can just grab that and take it with me.  Excluding my poles, food and water, and my fleece/jacket, this all comes to roughly 8 pounds (including the pack itself).  Lighterpack list, if you’re interested.

  • Emergency
    • Emergency blanket (like they give marathoners), headlamp, headlamp batteries, matches (in a ziplock), multitool
  • First-aid
    • bandaids, ibuprofin, ace bandage, moleskine (or other blister protection), rubber gloves, and hand sanitizer
  • Toilet
    • hand sanitizer, paper towels or toilet paper, poop shovel, she-wee, bag to pack out trash, rubber gloves
  • Everything else
    • navigation description, actual paper map, compass, sun block, sun glasses, hat, fleece and/or rain jacket, bug net, bug spray, water filter, whistle, buff(s), bag to line pack, extra pair of socks, trash bag to pack out my trash and trash I pick up on the trail, phone, charger, bear spray, trekking poles, duct tape on poles, snacks, and water

My Backpacking List:

Again, this includes everything from my dayhike list AND the items below.  I also use a different pack (a bigger one).  All of this (again excluding clothes, poles, food and water) comes to roughly 18 pounds.  Lighterpack list, if you’re interested.

  • Hammock (with bugnet, tarp, stakes, cording, etc)
  • Sleeping pad (not necessary for sleeping in a hammock, but in the event I need to “go to ground”, I won’t have to sleep directly on hard ground)
  • Sleeping bag (this will soon get swapped for an overquilt and an underquilt)
  • Stove and fuel
  • Long spoon
  • Night clothes (kept clean and dry, not warn on trail, though on a two day hike may just be next day’s clothes)
  • Flip flops (for hanging around camp)
  • Ear plugs
  • Toothbrush, cotton balls soaked in witch hazel, quick dry cloth
  • Additional food for meals
  • Bear bag
  • Optional: mug, instant coffee, and instant creamer

My Winter List:

Everything from dayhike list plus the items below.  I use my backpacking pack to hold all the necessary clothing.  I haven’t weighed this yet, possibly because I don’t want to know the answer. *insert laugh/cry emoji* (No lighterpack list yet, again because I don’t want to weigh this stuff).

  • Gloves, both liner and outer, plus extra pair
  • Microspikes
  • Gaiters
  • Outer wind/rain shell jacket and pants
  • Puffy warm jacket
  • Fleece
  • Extra outfit
  • Snowshoes
  • Water bottles in insulation (versus summer water bladder, it will freeze in winter)
  • Emergency bivy
  • At least two hats
  • Buffs
  • Goggles
  • Balaclava
  • Neck warmer
  • Extra socks and liners
  • Hand warmers (both for me and for my phone, water, and snacks)
  • Thermos with warm drink
  • Extra phone chargers
  • If solo winter hiking, also bring stove and sleeping bag for emergency

Lastly, my car list:

I didn’t weigh this because it doesn’t matter, it’s in my car.

  • Itinerary left in car in case of emergency
  • Itinerary left with a friend (OK this isn’t technically in my car, but I still have it on my checklist)
  • Trash bags
  • Change of clothes
  • Wet towel (amazing in summer to wipe off the sweat and dirt)
  • Flip flops
  • Additional drinks
  • Additional snacks
  • Cat litter (in winter)
  • Shovel (in winter)

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