When it comes to a day hike, it’s just as important to be prepared as it is when backpacking or hunting. I often see people out for a day hike with only a disposable bottle of water shoved into a cargo pocket.
When it comes to what I personally take on a hike, I like to keep things simple—call me a minimalist. But I still make a point to bring enough to help me survive should I get lost or into trouble. For the past several years, I’ve carried a fairly standard set of gear for my day-hike loadout, although depending on the weather, it may change slightly.
Protection from the elements
For my cover element, I carry a lightweight rain jacket and pants set made by Frogg Toggs. This has several benefits over a standard rain poncho. With a rain suit, you have a much better range of motion and ease of movement. Ponchos typically only cover down to just below the knee, which allows the bottoms of your pants to get quite wet from the rain runoff. With a rain suit, you will remain dry from head to toe. Also contained in my rain suit stuff sack is a Gator Skins beanie.
My rule of thumb here is: ‘two is one, and one is none.’ A knife is the single toughest tool to recreate in the wild, therefore I carry two in case one fails. I carry an Emerson CQC-7 in my pocket and my Joe Watson Small Bowie inside the pack.
You need a reliable way of carrying and drinking your water. I carry a 32-ounce Camelbak water bottle with a capCAP lid. Taped to the water bottle are two water purification tablets—a tip I picked up in the military. I personally tend to stay away from hydration bladders.
I keep a 100′ roll of #36 bankline in my pack. This comes in handy for constructing primitive traps, fishing gear, shelter construction, and temporary gear repair.
The UST Strike Force is the best option for reliable fire-making, in my opinion. My personal Strike Force contains two sticks of Micro Inferno tinder in the handle compartment, and has the handles wrapped in 1″ Gorilla Duct Tape which works as a great emergency flame extender. I also typically keep a BIC lighter handy.
I carry a custom low-profile medical kit. I can also utilize the duct tape wrapped around my UST Strike Force for first-aid applications if need be.
Rather than carry a traditional flashlight, I prefer to carry the Black Diamond Spot Headlamp. It keeps my hands free while moving in the dark or while trying to start a fire.
I always try to bring along a current map of the area I’m hiking in, even if it’s a well-marked park trail. My K&R M1 Sport Compass is a must-have, too.
The pack to hold it all together
Once you have your gear selected, you need something to carry that gear in. The pack I always return to after testing other brands and types is the Blackhawk Hydrastorm. The pack just fits well, is low profile, and allows for a full range of motion with the upper body while keeping all my gear quiet when packed.
Another reason for choosing this type of pack is that it forces me to really think of what I need to carry and keeps me from carrying excess gear I would never use. The Blackhawk Hydrastorm also has a slip pocket against the back that is ideal for keeping a concealed firearm or machete depending on your area of operation.
What do you carry when headed out for the day?