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Must Have Day Hike Essentials

Alpinistas hiking

​Must Have Day Hike Essentials

Posted by Alpinistas on Aug 12, 2021

So you have done your research, picked your trail and are ready to get on the road to the trailhead for the weekend hike!

Narrowing down what trail to start with is over half the battle. Alpine lake or rocky seashore?? So many amazing options.

Congrats for getting that far!

So before you jump in the car and get on your way, there are a few key preparations that you must make! Think not only safety but FUN...and also a chance of the unexpected.  Here we have a rundown on what every great hiker goes over before every day hike.

Check the weather!

Make sure you know what the forecast says about both your destination and the drive there. While it might be sunny in SoCal, by the time you get to the Eastern Sierra a big storm might be rolling through. It is also helpful to not only get the trailhead weather, but also pinpoint the forecast for the furthest point of your hike. This may not be super important if you are taking a lower incline trail to some further point, however, if you are planning to gain elevation on your hike and get into the ridges or mountains….the weather could be drastically different. Sunny and hot 80 degrees in Bishop is definitely not going to be the temperature on Shepards Pass.Alpinistas hiking gear

If you are traveling in the winter or early spring and headed to the mountains, definitely keep an eye on the weather as well as the road conditions. Mother Nature can change drastically and you really need to make sure you are prepared. It is good to know in advance if you are entering a territory where you might need AWD, 4WD or chains for your vehicle. We have a whole bunch of info here for driving in the snow, chains? what chains? (not the pretty shiny ones you wear on your neck but those are always welcome) and planning for cold emergencies.

With snowy conditions still in mind, it is a good idea to check the destination avalanche forecasts and compare that with a hike you are planning to do.


Let another person that is not joining on your adventure know about your plans. That means, when you plan to leave home, where the trailhead is, when you plan to get on the trail and a rough idea on when you will get off the trail. Usually a good idea to factor in hiking delays for photo ops or rest breaks so it is okay to pad the return time a little. Also, a lot of trailheads are out of cell service zone so it is a good idea to let the home party know that and buffer in some additional time for when you expect to be back to an area with better connection to check in.

It is often helpful for the home contact as well as your group to know the local emergency assistance, usually 911 but not always. Helpful to know where the nearest hospital is and the local police department.

Day Pack!

Your backpack should contain some key essentials that any gal should have along with her for the day.

  • Cell phone w/ navigation app
  • Map & compass (and know how to use them)
  • Sunblock
  • Lip balm
  • Tissues - runny nose from the dust or for a bathroom break
  • Sunglasses
  • Headlamp
  • Water
  • Hand wipes - keep the germs away when it is time to eat
  • Food and snacks
  • Emergency foil blanket
  • Extra layers - depending on the climate, puffy jacket, hat, wind / rain / snow protection
  • First aid kitAlpinistas mono lake, mono county, CA

For winter hikes, it is really important to bring extra layers in case of delays, sundown or emergencies.

  • Down puffy
  • Neck cover
  • Light and heavy gloves
  • Water cozy or thermos
  • Hand warmers
  • Extra socks
  • Hot chocolate - the debate lives if this is a requirement or a nice to have :)

Nice to Haves

  • Backup battery charger - helpful for longer day hikes
  • Seat pad
  • Hot chocolate
  • Satellite communication - for remote areas or more intensive terrain without cell service


Since you have already checked the weather and know what the travel will be like, the trailhead temps and an idea of what the furthest point of your hike might be, let’s narrow down what to wear!

Regardless of the weather or season, it is important to wear breathable and comfortable clothing. You want to make choices that wick away sweat and keep you dry..

In the summer it is always nice to wear shorts or workout leggings with a tank. The only caveat to that is if you are heading into an area with mosquitos. I personally prefer to be totally covered up to avoid any unwanted bites... they definitely can bite through my cute workout leggings!

The other thing with skin exposure is a higher risk for sunburn. Being out in the sun all day requires conscious reapplication of sun protection so if you don’t want to deal with all that then light colored, lightweight long sleeves and pants are the best choice.

Your socks should be sports or performance socks, preferably wool. Cotton is a terrible choice for any garment in any sport where you will be sweating. It is a good idea to pack extra socks. Just in case you get sweaty, a nice replacement pair of socks will be helpful to prevent hot spots and blisters. This can happen in the winter as well.

Alpinsitas hiking Tahoe

A hat is crucial. It is helpful to keep the sun off of your face. (Sun breaks down collagen = aging skin.) A hat also protects your hair, whether you spend money to get it lightened or died or if you are au natural. The sun can dry out your hair and make lose its luster and color. A mesh trucker hat or a ball cap is great to have all seasons. It is also helpful to have one in the winter. When you are climbing up, a bit sweaty, but it is still too chilly to not have anything on your head. No question about it, you must have a warm hat for any winter activity. Tons of body heat escape from your head this way.

In the winter, you are going to want heavier weight items and more layers. Gloves, neck warmer, down or synthetic puffy jacket, lightweight fleece and wool baselayers.


Every beginner hiker faces the challenge of choosing the right hiking shoes. The best hiking boots for women can vary depending on the type of hiking you do, the season and the amount of weight you expect to carry in your pack.

For a beginner on a moderate hike, sometimes gym sneakers are sufficient. You don’t want to go out spending a lot of money until you know that hiking is something that you will want to do multiple times a year. Keep in mind though, your street or gym shoes don’t have great traction on hills, rocks or dirt terrain. Some brands are also non-supportive (Vans or Converse) so it is better to try to lean in the direction of a sports shoe.

You can definitely spend a good amount of time debating the best hiking shoe or boot and that is an entirely different article!


First - some of the brands are super cute!  These are sneakers that are made to handle trail terrain. They are comfortable like sneakers but have a sole that is tougher and has grip to handle tree roots, rocks and other natural debris you could encounter on a trail. Some of them have such amazing grip (Vibram material sole) that they can handle slick rocks pretty well. I would never suggest them for steep, technical snow or stuff like that without addition traction. Safety first.

Another reason why trail runners are a great solution is not only can can handle a variety of terrain but you could actually run in them if you wanted to get some local miles in. It isn’t suggested to run on pavement with them as it has been known that the bottoms could deteriorate but if you have a grassy track or rocky path nearby they are pretty versatile! Also, again, some brands are super cute!

Other things!

Depending on the type of day hike and whether it is summer or winter, there are some other things that you might want to bring.


Trekking poles are helpful to take the pressure off of your lower body and distribute more of your body weight on the downhill sections of the hike. They can make carrying a heavier pack easier and relive the weight from your knees. Depending on the dayhike that you choose, you might not need any at all, especially if you have a light backpack and are headed on a relatively flat path.

Alpinistas hiking Mammoth Lakes, CA


Water is definitely on the list of requirements for any outdoor activity. You can carry water in with you in any manner you wish, however, sometimes there is an easier solution than stuffing a nalgene into your pack.

Hydration systems consist of a pouch that holds water that connects to a hose that is fed through the shoulder of your pack. This allows you to sip your water as you walk rather than stopping to break open your pack for the water bottle. It is also better for your system to absorb small sips rather than giant chugs of water in one sitting.


If you are planning to do a hike in winter then you may want to take along a pair of snowshoes. These will help you to stay atop fresh snow rather than sinking down an postholing. (We have a lot of information over here on snowshoeing.)


There are some pretty inexpensive and reusable hiking nets that fit over your head (hey Walmart or Amazon) that are loose but protect your face and neck from mosquitos. This is especially crucial in damp destinations near wooded lakes and even on certain high mountain peaks at the beginning of the trail where streams may be present.

I personally do not love to put chemicals on my bare skin but on certain trails where you might pass a pretty horrendous patch of these bloodsuckers, I do put it on my clothing. If they are really really bad, I just give up and spray it all over. They are ruthless….but not to scare you as mosquitos aren’t a problem everywhere.

With the above information you are more than ready to head out on a successful day hike. Enjoy mother nature and send us your pics!