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What to Pack for a Day Hike in the Mountains?

So you want to start hiking, but aren’t sure where to start? I’ve compiled a list of my gear for a long day hike in the mountains during the summer. This would be for a four hour, or more, day trip spent hiking. 

Clothes for a Day Hike in the Mountains

Rain Jacket – The Apollo Rain Jacket from Outdoor Research. It holds up against a decent amount of rain and is pretty inexpensive. If I lived somewhere like the Pacific North West where it rained all the time, I would probably invest in something meant for more intense rain that breathed better. For Colorado though, this jacket does everything I need it to and more. 

Insulation Jacket – The Micropuff  Hoody from Patagonia. This item has been a staple for in the backcountry for years. I’ve taken it skiing, hiking, climbing all around the world. For extreme cold days in the winter, I would bring a different jacket, but this jacket does what I need it to when I bring it. 

Sun Shirt – This option varies depending on the trip. I have a few light long sleeved pieces that I like from Toad and Co that are treated with Bug Repellent. Bugs really like me so that shirt has been awesome. I also have a light one from Mountain Hardwear and some short sleeved ones from Patagonia and The North Face. You want this shirt to be wicking. Sun protection (UPF) is extremely helpful in this layer too. 

Pants – Chockstone 2 from Mountain Hardwear. These pants are stretchy and have done a lot of activities with me. I love them for hiking. They are lightweight, durable, have a lot of pockets, and have a cinch at the bottom. They also are slightly water repellent. Again, if I was hiking somewhere where it rained a lot, I would use pants that were more water repellent, if not waterproof. But they are great for Colorado.

Shorts – Dynama Shorts from Mountain Hardwear. I can’t recommend these enough. They are stretchy and comfortable. I wear them all the time for hiking, climbing, kayaking, and summer skiing 😉 

Socks – Farm to Feet, SmartWool, Darn Tough.  I use socks from all of these brands and I love them. I especially love the Coolmax ones from Darn Tough for days when I know my feet will get hot and therefore sweaty. 

Hat and Gloves – I bring a cap to shield my face, a beanie, and a pair of thin gloves. I use SmartWool for my gloves. 

Shoes – Lone Peak Mid RSM from Altra. I traded my hiking boots for running shoes quite a while ago. I could never make hiking boots work the way I wanted them to, so I switched a few years ago. These shoes are waterproof and mid height, a feature I enjoy when crossing a good amount of streams. Combined with the lightness and feel of a trail runner, they have quickly become some of my favorite shoes. 


10 Essentials

Water – Hydration 3L Reservoir from Gregory Packs. There are a few different options for hydration bladders out there. I have some from CamelBak, Platypus, Osprey, and Gregory, but one of my favorites is my Gregory one. I like the seal on it for hiking when I probably won’t refill the pack, and the hang clip makes it easy to dry out after I am done.  It depends on the day as to what I carry for water treatment options, but the Sawyer Mini has been a good choice. 

Headlamp – Spot from Black Diamond. This isn’t the brightest out there, but it is up there. I have yet to use it on its highest setting. It is small and compact so it fits well into my bag.. It also has the red light feature to not ruin your night vision. Perfect for those who like star gazing. 

Shelter – Emergency Bivy from Sol.  I have yet to use this one, but I have used their emergency blankets in the past and they work well. The bivy sack shelters you from the elements in the case of things going horribly wrong. It won’t be comfortable, but it may keep you alive. 

Pack – It completely depends on the trip, but I usually carry the Osprey Sirrus 36 with me. It’s on the bigger side for day hikes, but allows me to pack my camera gear when I decide to take it. This pack also holds more gear for my more extreme adventures when needed so I love the versatility. 

Repair Kit and First Aid – I carry a MultiTool from Leatherman that has a knife and quite a few other features. I also have duct tape and a lighter. My first aid kit I have built up over time to match my needs, but you can get a prepackage one at an outdoor store. An emergency whistle comes in the harness strap of my pack. 

Food – I usually will pack a sandwich (there is nothing better than a sandwich on top of a mountain), chips, granola bars, chocolate,  energy chews, and energy bars. 

For more on the 10 Essentials and why you should carry them, read my blog post about ‘What the 10 Essentials Are’.


Extra Day Hike Items I Bring

Trekking Poles – Journey Lite from Leki. I’ve had a few friends laugh at me at first. Who in their 20’s uses trekking poles? Well, I do. Especially when coming down steep hills. I don’t typically use them going up, but they are knee savers coming down. I have bad knees from ski injuries, and the trekking poles on steep downhills keep me going all day. 

Traction – Microspikes from Kahtoola. These are great when you might encounter snow, a big possibility in the mountains in Colorado. They are grippy in the ice and help keep you from sliding around and down the mountain.

Camera – Alpha 6000 from Sony. I bring this camera on most of my hikes and travels. It is compact and lightweight, but still takes amazing shots. 

If you have any more questions on what to bring for a day hike in the mountains, leave a comment below! 

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