PACKING FOR A DAY HIKE – ITEMS YOU SHOULD TAKE AND WEAR TO GO HIKING IN THE UK

Are you planning to spend a day outdoors and are wondering what to bring on a hike? We are here to help you answer that question! Below you will find an in-depth guide to help you pack for a day hike. 

The United Kingdom has a wealth of hiking trails, bridleways, and coastal paths.  Some of these are very well known, such as the trail that runs along Hadrian’s wall and others are local secrets. For hiking beginners, day hikes are the safest and easiest way to dip your toes into the hobby. 

One of our favourite things to do on a weekend break in the UK as a family is to go for a day hike. We have been hiking as a couple for years and have taken our son with us since he was only a few months old. We have climbed up mountains, scrambled along steep coastal paths and completed long expeditions to famous landmarks. We have gone hiking when it was sunny, raining and evening snowing or hailing. We therefore have a fair bit of experience when it comes to packing the best gear for a day hiking trip in the UK. 

No matter which route you decide to take and what the length or difficulty of your hike will be, you should always be well prepared. What follows is a thorough and detailed day hike packing list, based on our own experience, for those who want to go hiking or sightseeing in the UK. We have broken down this packing list into various sections, so you can see what to wear to go on a day hike and what items to pack in your first aid kit, for your safety and comfort, for a family hike and what you will need if you are bringing the dog. 

HOW TO USE OUR GUIDE TO PACK FOR A DAY HIKE  

Here are some notes on how to use the following guide 

WHO IS THIS LIST FOR? 

This guide is aimed at those of you who are packing for a day hike and just want to spend a single day out on the trails. It is mainly addressed at amateur hikers planning their first excursion.  

It is not a multi-day hike packing list and it is not intended for those who are planning to camp and hike. If that is what you are planning to do, then you will need a larger backpack, additional outfits, more food and the appropriate lightweight camping gear. 

DO I NEED TO PACK EVERYTHING MENTIONED IN THIS GUIDE? 

No. We have deliberately made this packing guide as comprehensive as we can. Everything you could possibly require has been included in our hiking gear list. We have taken in account a multitude of scenarios. That doesn’t necessarily mean that you need to bring every single item mentioned below.  

To be honest you don’t actually need to pack a huge number of things in order to go hiking in the UK. That is what makes hiking such an affordable and accessible hobby. 

You will, however, enjoy your hike heaps more if you are well prepared.  Following our packing list will ensure, that you are comfortable and will make the trek a lot easier. It is also a good idea to always carry a couple of essential pieces of kit to ensure that you stay safe if things go wrong.  

DO I NEED TO BUY LOTS OF SPECIALISED HIKING GEAR TO GO ON A DAY HIKE? 

No. If this is your first time going for a hike, don’t feel obligate to buy lots of specialised hiking gear, especially if you are planning a short trek in a populated area that is familiar to you. Just get outside and enjoy the many benefits of hiking! There is nothing to say you can’t start this hobby by simply wearing comfortable clothes, a good pair of shoes, and a backpack filled with snacks and water. 

If however you are planning a day hike on your own, in a remote region, the mountains or in weather extremes, then it is very important that you take the right equipment. 

DAY HIKE ESSENTIALS – OUR CHECKLIST 

We have gone into a lot of detail in our day hiking essentials list down below, but for those of you who are just looking for a brief overview of what to take on a hike, here is a checklist of all the items we deem to be essentials for a day hike: 

  • Daypack with rain cover 
  • Weather appropriate Hiking Clothes : base layer, mid-layer, outer layer, hiking trousers, hiking shoes and seasonal accessories 
  • Plenty of Snacks & Water 
  • First Aid Kit: Plasters, bandages, suncream, insect repellent and painkillers 
  • Navigation tools: compass, map and gps 
  • Safety Items: whistle, torch and thermal blanket 
  • Charged Phone and battery pack 
  • Camera, lenses and SD cards  
  • Miscellaneous items: Money, ID, Bag for rubbish, tissues, wet wipes, etc 
  • Optional items: change of clothes, multi-tool, sit mat, walking poles, etc 

PRO HIKING TIP

In our opinion, it is a good idea to invest in your hiking gear. It has been our general experience, that buying cheap items, simply means that you will need to replace them rather quickly. Over time this is far more expensive, than choosing slightly more expensive but high-quality items right from the start. 

Since outdoor gear can be very expensive, we suggest that you prioritises the most important pieces items and then slowly build out your kit, the more you go hiking. 

WHAT IS THE BEST ATTIRE FOR HIKING? 

In order to properly enjoy your day-out, you need to get dressed appropriately for a hike.  

A wise person once said, ” there is no such thing as bad weather, just bad clothes”. And there is a good reason, this has become such a popular saying. 

If you are planning to go hiking in the UK or Ireland, we would highly suggest you dress in layers and plan your outfit for different weather conditions (even if you are organised enough to check the weather conditions before your hike). The climate in England, Scotland, Wales, and Northern Ireland is temperamental and can change from hour to hour.  

This is particularly the case, if you are hiking in the mountains. The weather conditions can change in an instant. It might have been sunny and warm when you started your ascent, but suddenly clouds and fog appear, and it might even start to rain. 

Wearing several layers will allow you to stay warm when it is cold outside but shed clothing when you get too hot. It is also generally better to avoid jeans and clothes made out of cotton, because they tend to get wet in the rain or trap your sweat and then cling uncomfortably to your skin. Instead choose loose-fitting garments made from synthetic material. These are lightweight and moisture wicking. This will keep you dry and help your body regulate its temperature. It also avoids chaffing, especially in those hot summer months. 

Bearing that in mind here is a list of clothing items that we deem essential to go hiking in the UK: 

BASE LAYER – SHORT SLEEVE OR LONG SLEEVE PERFORMANCE TOP 

Every good hiking outfit starts with a good base layer that keeps you warm in cold and windy situations but can also easily cope with any sweat you might produce during this somewhat strenuous activity. 

Your base layer does not need to be expensive. Any type of comfortable top will probably do as your base layer, especially if you are only going for a short hike. However, if you do go hiking on a regular basis or if you are planning a lengthier hike, then you should consider investing in one or several professional tops. The advantage of apparel that is designed specifically for hiking is that it is more breathable and will keep your body at just the right temperature. Under Armour, Mountain Hardwear and Solomon are all good brands to investigate. 

Whether you choose a short sleeved or long-sleeved top really depends on the season.  

The most important thing is that you pick a top that is made of a high-performance material. Merino wool is a good natural material that will keep you warm and will ensure you don’t smell of sweat. But there are also lots of great modern lightweight synthetic materials that will allow you to easily slip on or off an additional layer.  

A high collar paired with a zip will protect your neck from sunburn but ensure you can keep cool. Some tops have thumb loops that eliminate the Gap between your sleeve and your gloves. 

Moreover, we would recommend that you pick a top with a style and colour that isn’t completely out of place in an urban setting, so that you can happily end your hike at the local pub. 

We personally think these are the best base layer for hiking that you can buy online. 

MID-LAYER – A LONG SLEEVED FLEECE 

The function of the next layer – the mid layer – is to contain any residual heat that wasn’t retained by your base layer. 

You should pick a mid layer that will keep you warm, but us lightweight, breathable and folds up easily. 

How thick your mid layer needs to be depends on the season and what type of hike you want to achieve. If you are going hiking in the mountains, remember that temperatures can drop considerably when you reach higher altitudes, so you will most likely need that extra layer. 

The most popular choice as a midlayer among uk hickers is a polyester fleece. These tend to be soft, warm, light and mist importantly quick drying. 

Others opt for hybrid garment, midlayers made of “active insulation” or even “hard face” fleeces or softshell jackets. All of these have their own advantages and disadvantages. A softshell jacket for instance is windproof and hardwearing, but also heavier.  

PRO HIKING TIP

It might be tempting to tie your fleece around your waist when you get too hot whilst day kiking. But this is a bad idea. If it suddenly starts raining your fleece will get soaked and be of little use. Always pack your fleece into your daypack when you aren’t wearing it.

OUTER LAYER – A RAIN JACKET 

This actually goes without saying: You simply can’t go hiking in the UK without wearing or at least packing a rain coat also referred to as the “hard shell”) . The British weather is far to unpredictable to risk leaving without one (even more so in mountaineous areas). If your other layers get wet, you will spend the rest of your day hike uncomfortably cold. 

The main function of your outer layer (is to keep the rain and the wind out.  

Choose a raincoat that is light and breathable, but cannot be penetrated by wind driven rain. It is worth investing a little bit more money to get a raincoat that really is waterproof and not just water resistant. If you are wearing a highly waterproof jacket (rating of at least 10 000) the rain will sit on top of the material and pearl off. It won’t get absorbed whatsoever.  

Your coat should definitely have a hood, although a stow-able one will do just fine. Chest pockets are a nice bonus. Another greater feature to look out for are ventilation slits under the arms, known as pit zips. These will ensure that your raincoat is comfortable to wear when it gets warm. 

That being said you don’t have to wear your raincoat if you don’t want to. Just make sure you have packed one, preferably at the very top of your daypack for easy access.  

PRO HIKING TIP

The most compact way to store a raincoat, is to fold it to the same size as its hood, and then roll and tuck it into said hood, so that it forms a neat little ball.

HIKING PANTS 

Whilst we wouldn’t say that donning a pair of hiking pants is an absolute essential, it certainly is a good to have.  

Whatever you decide to wear to go hiking, you will want to ensure you are comfortable and that the material of your trousers is able to flex and deal with chaffing. We would therefore advise against wearing jeans, skirts and dresses. 

Instead choose trousers that are made from qla hardwearing but lightweight material, that also dries quickly. 

Some hiking trousers have zips, that allow you to convert them into shorts. This is a very versatile option, that is particularly practical when the weather seems a tad unpredictable. But we personally prefer hiking trousers that can also be worn in more urban settings without making us look ridiculous. 

Another option, especially if you are a women is a pair of leggings or lycra shorts. Just make sure that the material isn’t too thin. 

A GOOD PAIR OF HIKING SHOES 

These are one of your most important pieces of hiking equipment, so be prepared to spend a little more on them.  

It is essential that you find a good pair of shoes to go hiking in. The right set of hiking shoes will ensure your feet don’t hurt after a long day of hiking. They will also protect your ankles and ensure you don’t twist them. 

There are two main options. You can either choose to get sturdy hiking boots or opt for more lightweight trail shoes. Which one is the best footwear for hiking, depends on the type of day hike you are planning to do.  

If your hikes mainly lead you down good quality paths, then you might be more comfortable in low ankle trail running shoes. They also generally have the benefit of being more breathable.  

Alternatively, you might consider getting a pair of approach shoes for hiking. These are a lightweight hybrid between hiking shoes and climbing shoes and perfect if your dayhike involves a lot of scrambles. 

But if you are hiking across rougher terrain, in the mountains or in winter, then you should definitely get hiking boots. And if you are planning to pair your boots with crampons then you need to make sure they are stiff enough. 

Barefoot hiking is becoming increasingly popular. There are pros and cons to it, but if you do decide to go down this road, then make sure you choose the best pair of barefoot hiking shoes that you can afford.  

Salomon is arguably the best brand for hiking shoes, it certainly is the most well known brand. 

PRO HIKING TIP

When picking your hiking shoes always go for functionality over design and style. 

Go up at least one size. 

Wear any new hiking shoes on a couple of walks before attempting a long strenuous hike. 

Cut your toenails the day of your hike. 

HIKING SOCKS 

The socks you wear inside your hiking shoes are almost as important as the shoes themselves. A good pair of hiking socks will keep your feet ventilated and cushioned, which in turn will ward of blisters (something my feet are very prone for getting). They also prevent athletes food and heat rashes. 

Hiking socks come in various thicknesses. Choose a pair that is appropriate for the season and weather you are planning to hike in. Some people opt to layer two pairs of socks other each other – a thin liner sock and then a thicker outer pair on top. 

The market is saturated with all sorts of specialised socks, such as anti blister hiking socks. Some socks are even waterproof. But we personally simply carry a spare set in our daypack, in case the socks we are wearing gets wet. 

MOISTURE WICKING UNDERWEAR AND A SPORTS BRA 

If you are planning to go on a hike, then you should consider wearing appropriate underwear. Your underwear should be highly breathable  

A great option for men are lycra shorts. These are definitely a better choice than regular cotton boxers. 

Women should consider wearing synthetic or spandex briefs, paired with a comfortable fitted sports bra.  

NECK GAITER  

A neck gaiter, often called a “buff”, is the hiker’s practical alternative to a scarf. It is more lightweight than a scarf and can be worn in a multitude of ways. 

A neck gaiter is a great piece of hiking equipment. You can use it to keep yourself warm by tucking it into the neckline of your base layer and then pulling it across your face. You can also wear it around your head to keep your sweaty hair out of the way or protect your scalp from getting sunburnt. And if you are hiking up a dusty trail, you can use your buff to cover your mouth and nose. 

Neck gaiters are usually really cheap and so versatile, so it is definitely worth getting one. And if you don’t fancy wearing one, you can always tuck it into one of the compartment of your daypack in case you need it. It won’t take up much space. 

A WRISTWATCH 

Most of us are pretty much glued to our phones these days. But it is always a good idea to have a means of telling the time that isn’t entirely reliant on a short battery life. 

We would therefore recommend that you wear a wristwatch when you go hiking. This way you will always be able to keep track of time. It is a bad idea to get caught out by the sunset, whilst you are out hike. Especially if you haven’t brought a torch. 

There is no need to get something fancy, something basic like a Casio watch, will do just fine. 

BEST CLOTHES FOR HIKING IN SUMMER 

You might laugh at the thought of purchasing special gear to go hiking in in summer. After all, it rains all the time in the UK, right? Well, we do get the odd day of sunshine and you will want to be comfortable when it gets hot. So here is some advice on what to wear when hiking in summer. 

HIKING TIP: We personally wouldn’t recommend hiking in a summer dress unless it’s a really short day hike over easy terrain. If you want to take Instagram pictures of yourself in a pretty dress, we suggest you wear summer hiking clothes and pack the dress in your daypack. Then find a secluded spot to quickly change into the dress and do your photoshoot.  

ADDITIONAL LAYERS 

When going hiking in the UK you should always bring some additional warm layers just in case it gets cold. You never know when the weather might turn and you do don’t want to get called that would definitely ruin your day hike. 

HIKING SANDALS 

There are mixed opinions out there on whether chacos are good for hiking. The advantage of wearing hiking sandals in summer, is that your feet will be less sweaty and therefore less likely to get blisters. And if you are planning to hike through steams, your sandals will dry a lot quicker than hiking shoes.  

Whilst you will be more comfortable in sandals in summer, don’t wear these if you are hiking in an area that has snakes or where you are likely to stub your toes. Furthermore, hiking sandals do not provide any type of ankle support, so if you are accident prone like me you are more likely to get a sprain, strain or twist. 

If you do decide to wear hiking sandals make sure to pick a comfortable pair and that has a good grip. Avoid sandals that have slippery soles or that get sticky / slimy when they get wet. Opt for closed-toe sandals over open-toe ones. Also look out for a pair of sandals with ethylene vinyl acetate (EVA), or foam midsoles for that extra shock resistance. 

SUN HAT OR BASEBALL CAP 

You don’t need a warm hat to go on a day hike in summer. But you might want to consider bringing a lightweight hat with a brim to protect yourself from sunstroke.  

GLOVES  

You don’t need thick gloves either for a summer hike, but you might want to bring a thin pair of gloves, especially if your hike involves a scramble or two. 

SUNGLASSES  

Definitely bring a pair of sunglasses when you’re hiking in summer. This will protect your eyes from the glare of the sun, by blocking out UVA and UVB light. You will want to get a pair that is rated UV400 for Maximum Protection. Sunglasses also come in handy on dusty trails and might even be needed in winter if you are hiking at higher altitudes. 

HIKING CLOTHES THAT WILL PROTECT YOU IN THE RAIN 

It’s not an exaggeration to say that it rains a lot in the UK, heck, sometimes it feels like it rains constantly. So if you’re packing for a day hike in the UK, then you might want to consider bringing these additional pieces of garment. It is always a good idea ear to be prepared for an impromptu to shower. 

WATERPROOF RAIN PANTS  

Waterproof rain pants might not be the most stylish of clothes, but they will keep your bottom half dry. You don’t even need to wear them all day. Pick a pair that is lightweight and won’t add too much additional weight to your day pack. The rain pants you buy why could have have at least a quarter length leg zip to ensure that you can easily pull them over your hiking boots. Look out for a a pair that is breathable and allows you you to move freely. A nice bonus about bringing a pair of rain pants is that you always have that extra layer in case it gets cold. 

WATERPROOF GAITERS  

Waterproof hiking gaiters are a good alternative waterproof rain pants. They are a piece of waterproof material that covers the section between trousers and your shoes. They ensure your feet stay dry when you’re hiking in the snow Show or heavy rain. They are also useful when it rain the day before and the ground is still damp and muddy. You might also so want to wear them when you are trekking through long grass. They won’t make your footwear completely waterproof but they will certainly protect you you from mud splashes and at the very least keep your socks dry. 

WHAT TO WEAR HIKING IN WINTER 

During the winter the weather in the UK can change within seconds. This is especially the case in the mountains where even on a sunny day you can expect it to snow.  

So never go on a winter hike unprepared. Check the weather forecast before you leave and always assume that the weather conditions will be worse and colder.  

Winter hikes should be taken seriously and certain scenarios definitely need specialised day hiking gear. 

On that note, here are a couple of items you should definitely consider wearing in winter.  

PRO HIKING TIP

To stay warm when it is cold outside, make sure to cover as many parts of your body as possible. Avoid leaving any exposed skin. Wear a long sleeve base layer and obviously full-length trousers. You should also ensure that you stay as dry as possible. Double up on those waterproof layers and pick inner layers that are moisture wicking and quick drying. If your base layer is soaking in sweat, it’s almost a guarantee that you will feel cold. 

WATERPROOF HIKING BOOTS 

Whilst throughout the year, you can generally wear a range of shoes to go hiking, in winter you really are bests served by waterproof high-ankle hiking boots. These will keep your feet and socks dry and warm and support your ankles if you slip in the snow or in a puddle. 

Try to find a pair of hiking boots that are sturdy but lightweight. You will also want to pay attention to the boots breathability and how waterproof they are. Wet feet, especially in winter, tend to ruin your hike. 

When it comes to footwear for hiking, it is best to invest in the best quality that you can afford. This way you can keep your shoes for years, rather than replace them every single or couple of years. 

In our opinion, these are the best boots for winter hiking. 

THERMAL SOCKS 

If you are going for a day hike in winter, plan to wear a thicker pair of socks then you would usually do the rest of the year. In a pinch you can also wear two pairs of synthetic socks on top of each other. 

AN INSULATED JACKET 

When it’s cold outside one single fleece midlayer might not keep you warm enough.  

One option is to wear a couple of extra base layers or an extra fleece mid layers and then pop your waterproof layer on top. The advantage of this, is that additional base and midlayers tend to be light and can easily be removed and folded away in your daypack if you get to hot. 

Another option is to wear an insulated down or synthetic jacket on top of your midlayer. The great thing about insulated jackets is that you can pop them on when you are taking a break mid-hike and be instantly warm. A good quality insulated jacket is designed to keep you warm but be lightweight. It should be flexible to your movement and ventilated so you don’t overheat when you’re active.  

Most insulated jackets won’t keep the rain out, so you will need to wear a waterproof layer on top. There are some waterproof insulated jackets on the market, but these have a tendency to be quite heavy, which is a disadvantage when you’re hiking. If you get too hot wearing one whilst you are hiking, you then are also discarding your waterproof layer. This is why we would personally advise against wearing one of these on a day hike and opt for an extra layer under your raincoat instead. 

THERMAL UNDERWEAR 

When it is extremely cold outside you might need to wear thermal underwear under your base layer to keep you warm enough. If you wear thermal underwear you might not even have to wear a thick coat. Female hikers can opt to wear tights under their hiking trousers instead of long johns. 

When shopping for thermal underwear, look out for garments that will fit you tightly but are lightweight. Merino wool thermal underwear is our personal favourite. 

You can find both long and short thermal underwear. Long thermal underwear is obviously better for keeping warm in cold temperatures. 

A nice bonus of owning thermal underwear is that you can bring it along with you when you are visiting Northern countries such as Iceland in winter

THERMAL HIKING TROUSERS 

If it really is very cold outside, you can also choose to wear insulated hiking trousers. Just like normal hiking trousers these are lightweight, breathable and will give you freedom of movement, but they have an additional thermal lining. 

As always, we would suggest you opt for an additional layer instead. 

FLEECE CAP OR WOOLY HAT  

We suggest you wear or at least bring a fleece cap or woolly hat with you on your winter day hike. We lose a lot of heat via our scalp, and this will ensure you stay nice and toasty. Choose a hat that fits you snuggly and won’t slide over your eyes or off your head. 

If you start your hike without wearing a hat, pack one near the top of your bag or in the top lid pocket for easy access. 

GLOVES 

Warm and waterproof gloves are a winter hiking essential. Mitts are probably the most common type of glove on the market, but they tend to restrict your dexterity. 

We would suggest you wear thin liner gloves and then pack an extra waterproof pair of gloves, that you can wear on top if the weather gets really bad. 

GOGGLES 

Whilst you might wear a pair of sunglasses on a summer dayhike, goggles are the better option for a winter hike in the snow. Not only will they protect your eyes from the glare of the sun bouncing off snow covered surfaces, but they will also protect you in case of a snowdrift

WHAT IS THE BEST DAYPACK TO GO HIKING FOR ONE DAY? 

Once you are suitably clothed, you will need to find a bag to stick all of your gear into. 

Finding your perfect daypack isn’t unlike finding a good pair of hiking shoes. You will need to try on a few different bags before you find the one that fits you the most comfortably and meets all your needs. 

There is a huge variety of daypacks on the market. They come in all shapes and sizes. There are also a multitude of different features available on the market. 

We personally love our Rupumpack. We like the fact that it is well supported on our hips, keeps our back from getting too sweaty and has an integrated liquid pouch that keeps our water cool for 4 hours. 

WHAT IS THE DIFFERENCE BETWEEN A BACKPACK AND A DAYPACK? 

Well, the main difference between a backpack and a daypack is the size of the bag. Daypacks are smaller and more lightweight, since they don’t need to fit quite as many items as a backpack designed for a multi-day backpacking trip. 

Most daypacks are only top loading. Whilst backpacks often have bottom compartment for your sleeping bag and a zip on the side for quicker access. 

Daypacks also usually don’t have an internal frame. They are less sturdy and can be easily packed into your suitcase. 

WHAT IS A GOOD SIZE BACKPACK FOR HIKING? 

You don’t want to get a massive backpack to simply go on a day hike but it still needs to be roomy enough to fit all of your gear. Anything between 20l and 45l will work for a day hike.  

If you tend to only go on half a day hikes then 20l is big enough.  

35l is perfect for full day hikes. You will be able to fit all of your gear into your day pack, as well as sufficient food and water.  

If you go on a lot of winter hikes you might want to consider getting a slightly larger daypack. 40l to 45l will allow you to carry your crampons and bulkier items of clothing. 

Of course, you know your individual needs better, so use the above as a rough guide. 

WHAT OTHER FEATURES SHOULD MY DAYPACK HAVE? 

The most important feature to look out for on a day pack, is that it distributes the weight within it evenly over your back and shoulders.  

Make sure to choose a daypack that is lightweight. There is no point in adding unnecessary weight to your hiking kit. 

Your day pack should definitely have several straps that you can tighten or loosen to adjust the fit perfectly to your build. We like our daypacks to have both chest straps and padded straps that fit around our hips. A close-fitting daypack that rests on your hips is definitely the most comfortable way to carry all your gear with you on a dayhike. 

Another great feature to look for is some sort of breathable material on the back to keep you from sweating. Some daypacks have a panel that creates a bit of a gap between your back and the actual bag. We also personally like daypacks with a variety of compartments. This helps us organise all of our items, so that everything is within easy reach. Side pockets a great restoring a water bottle your rubbish bag and your map. Your day pack should also be hard-wearing and able to take a little bit of abuse. A water bladder is a nice to have, but this comes down to personal preference (more about that in the next section). 

Some daypacks are foldable. Whilst this is useful, if you plan to travel abroad with your daypack, we don’t think it’s a must-have feature for your daypack. 

WHAT OTHER ACCESSORIES DO YOU NEED FOR YOUR DAYPACK? 

A FITTED PACK COVER  OR PACK LINER 

If you ever experience the unfortunate event of your daypack getting drenched in a downpour, you will never go hiking without a waterproof bag cover again. 

Someday packs come with integrated waterproof covers, but if yours doesn’t, then we highly recommend and that you purchase one separately. 

A DRY BAG  

It can rain a lot in the UK and if you are unfortunate enough to go on a day hike when the rain is relentless, the waterproof cover on your daypack might not be enough to protect your belongings from getting wet. Triple protection for anything that you don’t want to get wet (camera, phone, sandwich, etc) is therefore a good idea.   

This is why you might want to consider packing vulnerable items in a dry bag. They come in all sizes and can be found in any good outdoor shop. Not only will they keep your kit dry, but they are also really helpful in organising the content of your daypack.  

Our favourite kind of drybag is the type with a roll top.  

In a pinch, a rubble sack, plastic shopping bag or even a Ziploc back will add a little extra protection if you are on a very tight budget. 

HOW TO PACK A DAY PACK FOR HIKING 

There is nothing worse than discovering the item you need is right at the bottom of your backpack. A well packed daypack doesn’t only prevent frustration, it is also more comfortable to wear. A badly packed backpack in contrasts, encourages a bad posture, which in turn quickly leads to backpain, as well as neck and shoulder injuries. 

Over time we have discovered a few tricks when it comes to packing our daypack for a hike and we wanted to share those with you. Everyone has their own hiking style, preferences and requirements of course, so you don’t need to follow our advice to the T. But we do think it is a good starting point. 

The quickest way to an organised backpack is to ensure that every item has a specific place. Try not to just stuff everything into your daypack haphazardly. Instead, mindfully choose the best spot for each item. Consider in what scenario you might need access to it, how often you will pull it out of your bag and how important it is that you find it quickly.  

Make sure to pack safety items and anything you might need in a sudden downpour towards the top of your daypack. Your spare set of clothes conversely can go in the bottom of the bag, since you hopefully won’t need access to them at all. Things like your camera and packed lunch can be stored somewhere in the midsection of your backpack. 

Another thing to consider when packing your daypack is even weight distribution. For a comfortable fit it is advisable to pack heavier items towards the bottom and close to your back. This is also the perfect location for any hard or squared items, as they will help shape your daypack. Fill any empty spaces with smaller items that you can squeeze around the bulkier ones. You want to avoid item shifting around whilst you are walking. 

Most daypacks have a pouch in the lid. This is a great spot to keep things that you will use frequently and therefore need close at hand like your GPS, map, insect repellent, suntan lotion, tissues, etc. 

We love daypacks that have a little zip pocket in the waist strap, as this is where we like to keep our valuable items (money, phone, car keys, etc) 

Water bottles can usually go on the outside of the bag in a mesh pouch, for easy access. And if you aren’t using your hiking poles you can generally clip them to the outside of your backpack with a set of straps. 

WHAT FOOD AND DRINK SHOULD YOU TAKE ON A DAYHIKE? 

You should always bring something to eat and drink, even if you are only planning to take a short hike on an easy trail and are hoping to stop at a café on the way. You never know what might happen, you could get lost and the café might be closed. Packing snacks and water is an important safety measure. And who doesn’t enjoy an al fresco lunch with a scenic view? 

A HYDRATION BLADDER, WATER BOTTLE OR PURIFICATION SYSTEM 

Many new hikers forget to pack enough to drink and end up with a headache from dehydration. Avoid this and make sure to take enough water to last for your entire hike. A 1 litre water bottle is a good starting point. Don’t forget to factor in the weather too. On a hot sunny day for instance, you should pack at least 2 litres of water per person. As a rule, it is always better to carry more water than you think you might require.   

Some daypacks have an internal sleeve or pocket that holds a hydration bladder with a drinking tube. This is quite practical. You can easily hydrate yourself whilst on the move. You can also buy a separate water pouch fairly cheaply, if you like the sound of a hydration system and your daypack does not have an integrated one.  

Hydration bladders do have a couple of downsides though. Some people don’t like the taste of water kept in a pouch. And a full water bladder will also take up a fair amount of space in your daypack. So do factor this in, when you choose your daypack. 

If you are taking a water bladder, fill it and place it into your bag before you pack the rest of your items. Make sure not to place any sharp or pointy items near it. And clip the drinking tube to your shoulder strap or thread it through your load lifter strap, so that you can find it easily whilst you are hiking. 

If you prefer a water bottle over a hydration system, place this somewhere where you can easily reach it and don’t forget to drink from it regularly. A side pocket is the most obvious place to keep your water bottle. If you do decide to place your bottle into the main compartment of your daypack, make sure to keep the rest of your kit in a dry bag, in case your bottle starts to leak. 

Some water bottles have a purification system, that allows you to fill them up from natural water sources such as rivers and streams. If you are walking in an area that has a lot of water sources, this can be a good way to save space in your daypack and reduce the weight of it. 

Another option are water purification tablets. In fact, these are so small, that we would recommend you pack some just in case. They usually purify the water from a natural source within 30 minutes but check the instructions. 

A THERMOS FILLED WITH A HOT DRINK (SEASONAL OPTION) 

If you are hiking in winter, you might want to bring a thermos along with you. A hot beverage goes a long way warming you up when its cold outside.  

A double-walled metal vacuum flask is the best way to keep tea, coffee or hot chocolate warm on a long walk, while being robust enough to carry in your pack.  

SNACKS 

You should always pack a couple of snacks, even if you aren’t planning to go for a long hike.  Choose a mixture of dense, easy to stow, high energy snacks and take more than you think you will need in case of an emergency.  

Snacks that are high in calories and carbohydrates are perfect for hiking. Slow-release carbs will keep your energy levels topped up throughout the day, whilst fast release sugary snack can give you a quick energy boost when you need it. You should also take something salty to replenish your electrolytes. 

  • Nuts and seeds are a great snack to take on a hike. They have plenty of fibres, so fill you up quickly and are packed with proteins.  
  • Another good option is fresh or dried fruit. Dried apricots are particularly good, since they have a potassium content and will therefore ward of cramps.  
  • Granola, fruit or nut bars are classic hiking snacks, and fig cookies are a personal favourite 
  • Nobody says you can’t bring some jelly babies or wine gums too. After all, you need a treat while you are burning all of those calories. 
  • If you prefer a healthy snack, you might want to pack some carrot sticks since they don’t spoil easily. Broccoli, apples and clementines are other great alternatives. 

Store your snacks in one of the side pockets of your daypack, for easy access. 

LUNCH 

If your hike will take an entire day, don’t forget to pack your lunch, as well as some snacks. When it comes to having lunch on the trail, usually a simple meal is better than a complex one. Just make sure that your lunch is nutritious and will survive a couple of hours in your backpack. 

Here are a couple delicious day hike lunch ideas: 

  • A sandwich is always a winner and one of our personal favourites. A peanut butter and jam or a banana sandwich is a great source of energy.  
  • If you prefer savoury sandwiches, how about tuna, sweetcorn and mayo? Other classics include ham and mustard, cheese ploughman or coronation chicken. 
  • A great healthy option would be an egg, potato and chive salad. 
  • A tasty hunk of hard cheese and crackers are perfect for an impromptu lunch! Cheese actually keeps surprisingly well, even if unrefrigerated for the day 
  • A tin of canned tuna also pairs well with crackers. Just make sure you don’t need a tin opener. 
  • You could even pack an avocado. Use your Swiss army knife to slice up your avocado on the spot. Alternatively prepare your avocado beforehand and drizzle lemon juice over it to keep it from turning brown.  
  • We personally like to bring boiled eggs or sliced meats such as salami and peperoni. But we only do this if it is not too hot outside. 
  • For dessert we love to bring fruit. Our personal favourite is a banana. To keep your bananas from getting squashed, slice them up and freeze them, then pop the frozen chunks into the lunch box the morning of the hike, and they will of defrosted by lunch time. 

Use a small, insulated lunch box to store any perishables. A hard-shell lunch box is useful to protect softer food items, such as cherry tomatoes or grapes. You can include a frozen juice box or some frozen fruit to keep the rest of your food cold.  

If you are using a Bed & Breakfast as a base from which to take hikes from, ask your hosts to put together a packed lunch for you. It is quite common for B&B’s located on hiking trails to do so, but you might want to check before you book. 

A SPORK 

If you are going to have lunch outdoors you might need to bring some cutlery.  

Even if you are not planning to take a packed lunch, a few items of cutlery can come in handy, if you decide to purchase food from a supermarket. Bringing your own is certainly more environmentally friendly than using throw away plastic ones.  

When choosing what cutlery to take, make sure it doesn’t take up unnecessary space and is lightweight.  

Spoons tend to be more versatile than forks. But a spork will act as both a spoon and a fork. A knife is useful to have if you need to cut up your vegetables or spread your cheese onto your cracker. 

There are several good foldable options and the market, as well as multi-tools. 

HIKING SAFETY: WHAT ITEMS TO PACK TO STAY SAFE WHEN YOU GO ON A DAY HIKE 

When you head out into the wilderness, you never know what circumstances you might find yourself in,. You should never assume that you will come across other people. Even on a busy day, you might not come across anyone else.  

We would therefore suggest that you take the following items on every hike. They are lightweight and will keep you safe.  

COMPASS 

A compass will help you find your way back if you happen to get lost whilst hiking. This is why it is an important safety item to have on you at all times.  

It is even more essential to pack a compass if you are planning to hike in a remote area. 

Some phones have a compass integrated into their set of digital tools but we would recommend bringing a physical compass. You never know when your phone battery might run out unexpectedly  

WHISTLE 

A whistle is the best way to draw attention to yourself if you have an accident and can’t move. You might take a tumble off the given path or be surrounded by fog. A whistle is the fastet way to find help. The sound will carry a lot further than your voice. And If you are hurt or lost the last thing you want to do is spend too much energy shouting for help. 

Many backpacks now come with an integrated whistle on one of their buckles. 

THERMAL BLANKET 

It’s a good idea to always carry a thermal blanket with you. The foil type is really lightweight and won’t take up a lot of space in your backpack. If you or one of your hiking partners gets hurt, you / they will be thankful for the extra warmth whilst you are waiting for help. 

MAP 

These days most phones have GPS and Google Maps. So you might not think that it is necessary to bring a physical map. But you simply cannot predict when modern technology might fail you.  

We recommend you bring a map for your safety even if you know the route or are just planning a short dayhike. 

A map will be useful if you need to take an unexpected detour. It is also a great tool to plan your route, find scenic stops, landmarks and the perfect spot for your lunchbreak. 

And in case of an emergency, a map will help you tell the rescue services exactly where you are. 

The most popular maps among most British hikers seem to be ones from the Ordnance Survey (OS) 1:25,000 Explorer series, with Harvey Maps being a close second. If you are hiking in Scotland, you might want to consider getting a map from the OS Landranger 1:50,000 maps. These cover a larger area per sheet. 

A lot of maps these days are waterproof. If yours isn’t, don’t forget to use a case for it. 

A TORCH 

A torch is another important safety item to carry in your dayback. Again we would suggest you bring a physical torch instead of relying on your phone. 

You will be glad that you brought a torch when you realise that you have underestimated the length of your hike and the darkness is closing in on you. This happens far more frequently than you might think. 

It is also a good idea to carry a torch in case you get lost. You won’t want to be stumbling about in the dark. 

A head torch is probably more practical than a handheld torch, since it will keep your hands free. But either one will do. 

One of the most popular torches on the market for hikers is the Diamond Storm. It is very bright (350 lumens), waterproof and very tough. 

We would also suggest you pack some spare batteries, just in case. 

SURVIVAL BAG OR STORM SHELTER (OPTIONAL) 

It’s probably not the first thing that crosses your mind when you are packing for a hike, but a storm / survival shelter is a very useful item to have on you when you go hillwalking. It is basically a lightweight tent under which you can seek shelter in a storm. 

This isn’t just useful in an emergency, but also for taking your lunch break in bad weather. 

They are usually easy to set-up and don’t require pegging down. You can expect an average storm shelter to weigh about half a kilo although you can find some that are half that weight. A window does add weight but will allow you to check the weather conditions outside. 

HOW TO MAKE A FIRST AID KIT FOR HIKING 

A first aid kit is definitely part of our list of day hiking essentials. In fact, it is a complete necessity. You don’t only need it in case of an accident, but also to ensure you are comfortable on your hike. I cannot be the only person who is very prone to getting blisters. 

There is a huge variety of first aid kits on the market, aimed at different situations. Most hiking first aid kits are pretty lightweight and compact. 

We suggest you choose one that is waterproof and has a good range of bandages and sterile dressings. If your first aid kit is not waterproof, we would advise you to place it in a ziplock bag, so that the contents doesn’t get soaked in a heavy downpour. 

The best place to keep your first aid kit is in the inner lid pocket of your daypack. Or anywhere else where it will be close at hand. 

Here is a list of all the items we believe should be included in every hiking first aid kit. 

  • Lots of Plasters – in a variety of shapes and sizes for minor cuts 
  • Blister Relief Plasters – Compeed plasters are our favourite for blisters  
  • Butterfly bandages – for cuts that might need stitching 
  • Assorted bandages and gauze pads – to cover and wrap more serious cuts and scrapes 
  • Medical Tape – to secure bandages and gauzes 
  • Safety pins: to close bandages or improvise a sling 
  • Non-stick pads – to protect wounds from the sticky side of tape and plasters 
  • Antiseptic/antibacterial wipes, spray ointment or cream: to clean and disinfect wounds 
  • Irrigation Syringe: to safely flush out a wound before applying antiseptic and bandages 
  • Medical Gloves: to act as a protective barrier between you and an injured person 
  • Scissors (these can be omitted if you hike with a knife or a multi-tool): to cut bandages 
  • Tube grip bandages – to support your knees and ankles 
  • An instant cold pack or Deep Freeze for aches and pains 
  • Chaffing Cream – to stop your thighs from chaffing 
  • Insect repellent – to keep the mosquitoes at bay (Smidge is a good brand) 
  • Insect Sting Relief: to provide relief from pain and itching if you get stung by an insect or plant 
  • Antihistamine tablets – to treat allergic reactions such as hay fever 
  • Pain killers (Ibuprofen and Paracetamol) 
  • Cold + flu tablets 
  • Tweezers: to safely remove splinters and ticks (you can also use a tick removal card for the latter) 

Don’t forget to also pack any regular medication that you may need. 

We also can’t stress the importance of sun safety enough. Skin cancer is more common than many of us realise. And your skin can get overly exposed to the sun, even on cloudy grey days, especially if you are hiking at a higher altitude. To properly protect your skin choose a sun cream with factor 25 or higher. 

TECHNOLOGY YOU MIGHT WANT TO TAKE WITH YOU WHEN YOU GO DAY HIKING IN THE UK OR IRELAND 

FULLY CHARGED PHONE 

If you are off on a day hike, chances are you want to get away from modern technology for a little bit and just enjoy nature. But it is nonetheless a good idea to bring a fully charged phone, just in case you run into an emergency. 

The perfect phone to go hiking has strong reception (especially in more remote areas), a long battery life and can take some bashing. 

Make sure to register your phone with an emergency SMS service before you go on your hike, as you might struggle to get reception in some parts of the British countryside.  

Apart from being useful for emergency situations, your phone can double up as a GPD device. Furthermore, most phones these days are more than adequate to replace a camera. 

WATERPROOF PHONE CASE  

If you do decide to bring your phone (we highly recommend you do), then don’t forget to protect it with a waterproof phone case.

You can also get a little clear pouch to protect your phone from an unexpected downpour.  

You never know when the heavens might open in the UK. But if you prepare yourself for any eventuality, you can navigate a complicated route even in the rain. 

BATTERY PACK FOR PHONE  

Modern phones are true multi taskers, but this often means that their battery drains before the day ends. You really don’t want this to happen on a hike.  

We therefore highly suggest you bring a portable battery charger for your phone. These are generally fairly lightweight and will save your bacon in an emergency situation. A charger rated at 2500mAh will be just big enough to fully charge most mobile phones once.  

Make sure your portable battery pack is fully charged before you set out and double check you have the right cables to connect any devices that might need charging during your hike. 

GPS DEVICE 

We personally believe it is very important to have a physical map, but a GPS device can be a useful tool to have in addition to the map.  

You probably won’t need a GPS device if you are hiking on a well sign posted and highly trafficked route, but it can make your life easier if you are plan to go on a day hike in a remote area you don’t know. 

There are several GPS apps that you can download on your phone. Maps.Me is a good option for hiking. 

Using a separate handheld hiking GPS machine however will conserve your phone battery. The Garmin eTrek 22 is a popular choice among British hikers. It isn’t too expensive, features a topographic map and tracking system and it allows you to upload your own GPX files. 

PLANNING A TRIP?

BOOK YOUR FLIGHTS

Book your flight now through one of our favourite search engines. We love all three of these because they search the entire web for the best prices and deals. Alternatively, book your flight and hotel in a package directly with Expedia, this could be the cheapest option.

BOOK YOUR ACCOMMODATION

Check out the latest hotel prices in Germany right now. Our personal favourite hotel booking website for Europe, is Booking.com, since they consistently return the cheapest rate for hotels and guesthouses. Expedia is another good option if you are planning to book your hotel in a package with your flight and car.

BOOK YOUR ACTIVITIES AND TOURS

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ABOUT KATHARINA

Katharina is the founder, editor, photographer and the main travel writer at A Life Beautifully Travelled. She created this British family travel blog in 2017 to document her adventures around the globe with her husband. Born in Munich, Germany she has since lived in Dusseldorf, Paris, Glasgow, and London. She currently resides in Yorkshire with her family.

Katharina started travelling in her early teens and has explored over 4 continents, 16 countries, and 87 cities. Growing up trilingual and having graduated from an international school, she has a strong interest in other cultures. When she isn’t gallivanting around the globe or busy in her 9-to-5 job as an architect, she can be found exploring the UK (the country she currently calls home). There isn’t much Katharina, her husband and their son Finn love more than a fun family weekend getaway.

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