Essentials, extras, and luxuries: What to pack on a day hike


They say the hardest part of any journey is the first step. But when it comes to hiking, those people are dead wrong — packing your gear is by far the greater feat.

For me personally, I tend to be a Mary Poppins in my packing habits. Instead of a simple first aid kit, I could pull an entire operating room out of my backpack. I only wish I were joking. But for all the backbreaking woes of over-packing, bringing too little is also a problem. If you get stuck on a mountaintop without a Band-Aid, you could hemorrhage from a simple paper cut (just kidding, of course, though I’m sure I could find a WebMD article to back me up).

To be fair, what you pack really depends on how far you plan to hike (though, to be honest, I’m a proponent of Band-Aids for any length of trip). For those hiking the more-than-2,650-mile long Pacific Crest Trail … good luck. For those going on a day trip in Utah, you can pack pretty light — and I’m here to help. I’ve compiled this list of essentials, extras, and luxuries to help you prepare for all of your Wasatch adventures, hopefully making your first step on the trail a little easier.

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-Good hiking shoes (seriously, I can’t stress this enough — break ‘em in before they break you on a tough trail)

-Water, water, and some more water

-Snacks (granola bars, beef jerky, trail mix — the usual)

-Sturdy backpack


-Compass + map (and know how to use them)

-Jacket (if you pack one that’s water-proof, you can skip bringing a poncho)



-Flashlight or headlamp

-First-aid kit (with Band-Aids, of course)


-Poncho (I like one that’s big enough to cover my backpack if it rains)

-Matches (you probably won’t need these, but they’re good to have on-hand for emergencies)



-Bandana (doubles as a headband or a bandage, if needed)

-Bug spray, sunscreen, bear spray (put in a Ziploc bag to avoid leaks)



-Trekking pole (preferably one that’s compactible)


-Book (once I’ve reached my hiking destination, I like to sit and enjoy a good read)

-Water shoes or sandals

-Journal + pen


-Extra socks