Updated: Nov 6, 2020
DAY HIKE (part one)
During my years of hiking, climbing and other outdoor activities as well as my job as a guide there is this one line that I always refer to if someone is asking me what they should pack for their hike:
"As much as necessary, as little as possible."
So I would like to divide this packing list into two pieces as there is a difference between day hikes and multi day hikes.
One piece of advice, no matter if you are going into the mountains or the bush - ALWAYS check the latest weather forecast. I have seen so many people struggling who came unprepared just by not checking the conditions. There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.
So let's dig in:
● Water (bottle or other drinking system - min. 1.5l)
● Small backpack (20l should be sufficient for a day hike)
● Mid Layer (Shirt, (Zip-off-)trousers)
● Hiking shoes or boots
● Rain jacket
● Fully charged mobile phone and/or map
● Small care package (sun screen, tissues, blister plaster, antihistamines etc.)
● Lunch box (bread, fruits, muesli bar)
● Nice to have (pocket knife, poles)
Please do not underestimate this very first point. Rather take too much than too little. Not enough water, especially on hot days, can cause you some serious problems such as disorientation, dizziness etc. So for a big guy like myself (1.94m | 6 foot | 100kg) I need to take at least 3 liters for a hot day and a full day hike, while my girlfriend is okay with 1.5l per day. So know your consumption.
Don't make it too big or fancy on your day hike. 20l should be absolutely sufficient and an old rucksack does the work just as well as a new one from your retailer. So better safe your money here for some proper shoes or boots. If it doesn't have a rain cover - no worries about that, just pack yourself a rubbish bag where you can still store all your belongings.
Depending on the weather circumstances you certainly need different clothes. But let's make it easy: - Zip-off hiking pants come in super handy
- T-shirt: Synthetic fibers are much lighter, cooler and dry faster, but they start to smell quite fast (which is not important while on a hike). Me personally I still prefer cotton on cooler days. The non-plus-ultra are the Merino fibers, but they cost a fortune. So if you don't plan to hike for days it is probably not necessary to invest in that kind of equipment.
- Fleece sweater for colder days - light and warm
Hiking Shoes or Boots:
On shoes you could probably argue for ages - but our advice is: Make an investment that fits your goal. We know that discounters have their shoes as well, but from our one test pair we had, we were super disappointed. So if you are just starting or would like to go on a hike here and there there are cheaper boots (from CHF 80 to 120) from almost all better known companies. For more experienced hikers a once in a lifetime investment makes sense - the price can go up to CHF 500 per pair. BUT that is probably a shoe you only have to wear in once and then keep for your entire life. If your soles are worn down - no worries. Most companies in that price range offer a service for new soles for your shoes for a reasonable price.
Shoes or boots? Really depends on your goals and personal physical conditions. I personally have very weak ankles, so I take my boots on almost every hike, even though they are much heavier than shoes, they provide me with a certain stability to support my ankles. Nothing is more frustrating than quitting your hiking plans just because of one stupid stone you haven't seen on the path.
Take it wherever you go! Folded together they almost take no space and are really light compared to the benefit you can get out of it. In case of an emergency or sudden weather change they are just incredibly helpful - rain jackets are wind proof as well, can work as emergency blanket and so on.
Fully Charged Mobile Phone and/or Map
Know where you want to go and how you are going to get there! Here in Switzerland the reception coverage is very well constructed, so if you are having your hiking map on your phone and your phone is fully charged you probably won't get lost. Also the paths in Switzerland are very well maintained and signed, so even if you get lost it is not that difficult to find the next hut to ask for help or find the shortest way back to one of the villages. This is not a recommendation for just any hike that comes to your mind, so please know your limits → Hundreds of people need to get rescued due to lost orientation or bad weather every year.
If you are going to more remote areas in the world you should rather have a map with you and know how to read it. A compass is a good thing as well if you know how to use it.
Small care package
Do yourself a favor and pack a small box with the utensils you could need. A small tube of sunscreen, blister plaster, tissues and antihistamines cost close to nothing and can be super useful. In case of antihistamines they could even safe lives, e.g. in case someone else with an allergy gets stung by a bee: Sure an emergency call might be still a good idea, but at least having the very first treatment with you is better than nothing.
Energy bars came into fashion in the last years. But to be honest, you get everything you need from some bread, fruits and / or a muesli bar for the day.
Other useful items:
Hiking Poles Pocket Knife Sunglasses & Hat