Hiking Part 1: Day Hikes
July 16, 2013

Hiking Part 1: Day Hikes

I am sure you have noticed a theme with many of my recent posts: the outdoors. I have been writing about traveling and National Parks and my experiences therein. In many of those, I wrote about activities to undertake while experiencing our National Parks and one activity that made the list for each of the parks I have recently visited was hiking. Now, there are two types of hiking: day hikes and backpacking hikes. Each has a different goal and requires differently of participants, so I thought I would write about them, starting with day hikes.

The first thing to know about day hikes is that they can be accomplished in just one day for most individuals. These will be shorter hikes that tend to lead to a specific location for sightseeing or to some sort of historical marker or marker of other importance. Usually these can be as short as a mile or under or as long as about six miles and sometimes longer depending on the terrain. What is key for day hikes is that hikers can get there and back to the trailhead in just one day, which means no overnight stay.

Before getting to what you should consider taking on a day hike, you should always let someone know where you are and how long you expect to be hiking, even for day hikes. It is crucial to safety that someone, be it the park, a family member, or a friend, knows where you are just in case.

Day hikes require gear just like any other hiking, but less of it. With any hiking, water is of utmost importance. You will want to start with a full water bottle (e.g. Nalgene makes great BPA free products that are well-suited to hiking.), and depending on the length of the hike consider bringing along a light-weight water filter (click here and here for a couple good options.). Water filters will allow you to refill your bottles as you are hiking if you should need to. Water is the most important thing to bring on any hike.

Second to water is a first aid kit stocked with everything from bandaids to alcohol swipes to antibiotic or antibacterial cream to wraps for ankles or wrists and so much more. Even a scratch can be dangerous when hiking.

Next, you should bring snacks, preferably higher calorie snacks. Hiking takes a lot out of our bodies, so you will need to refuel. I like to bring bars like Larabar for the gluten-free or Clif Bars for those who can have gluten. I also bring dehydrated fruit and sometimes gummy candies, which are high in sugar. My carnivorous friends bring jerky. Any of these will help to fuel you on your hike without weighing you down.

Obviously, a light daypack is in order to carry the first aid kit, water bottle, filter, and food. Something like what you used to use for school works great. You want it to be comfortable on your back with enough pockets for all your stuff.

Beyond these, a good day hiker should have a map, compass, sunblock, hat, and sunglasses. Each one insures that the hiker has a good trip without worrying about too much. Some hikers also use poles to help them on the trek. These balance and provide more stability.

I would also suggest taking pen and paper and a camera. I promise that you will see stuff worth writing about or memorializing in picture. I cannot count how many times I have taken a break on a day hike to write, sometimes a poem, sometimes an image, sometimes the start to a story. I would imagine that artists could draw what they are seeing and feeling in much the same way.

Backpacker Magazine has a great, comprehensive list of other items including:


Synthetic short-sleeve t-shirt

Lightweight synthetic shorts or trekking pants

Synthetic briefs or boxers

Synthetic bra

Wool hiking socks (liner socks optional)


Sun hat

Gaiters (optional)

Hiking shoes or boots


Midweight synthetic or fleece long-sleeve top

Waterproof/breathable jacket or windproof shell

Waterproof/breathable pants (optional)

Extra pair of socks (optional)

Wool or fleece hat

Lightweight gloves

Sunscreen (SPF 15+)


Compass or GPS


Extra food

Water bottles and water treatment (drops, tablets, or filter)

First-aid kit (with personal meds)

Firestarting kit

Toiletries and trowel

Personal locator beacon (optional)


Down or synthetic insulated jacket

Emergency shelter (bivy sack, tent, tarp)

Sleeping bag

Fleece pants

Insulated gloves or mittens

Some of these are a little bit of overkill, but it is a good idea to check with a day hike checklist to make sure you have everything you need. You can never be too careful when hiking. Considering your location and the weather is also important to deciding what to bring, as is the length of the hike. A two-mile roundtrip hike may not need all of this, but a 10-mile roundtrip hike likely would.

Hiking is great exercise and a great way to see the world. It also brings you closer to Nature. It is beauty in all sense of the word. You will feel good and healthy while also see parts of the world that others can only imagine.

Image Credit: Thinkstock.com

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Rayshell E. Clapper is an Associate Professor of English at a rural college in Oklahoma where she teaches Creative Writing, Literature, and Composition classes. She has presented her original fiction and non-fiction at several conferences and events including: Scissortail Creative Writing Festival, Howlers and Yawpers Creativity Symposium, Southwest/Texas Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association Regional Conference, and Pop Culture Association/American Culture Association National Conference. Her publications include Cybersoleil Journal, Sugar Mule Literary Magazine, Red Dirt Anthology, Originals, and Oklahoma English Journal. Beyond her written works, she successfully created a writer's group in rural Oklahoma to support burgeoning writers. The written word is her passion, and all she experiences inspires that passion. She hopes to help inspire others through her words.

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