Hiking Guides

What Is Day Hiking?


Are you looking to find a new hobby?

Or, do you want to take a moment away from technology and get out into the open air? 

Day hiking may be the next best activity for you.

What is day hiking, exactly? Precisely what it sounds like, day hiking is a great way to recharge, while also offering many tremendous mental and physical benefits. 

Endorphins are released into the body during a walk, which in turn benefits both your brain and your body.

If you are ready to reinvent your life, read on. This guide covers the following:

  • An overview of day hiking
  • Different types of hiking
  • A hiking essentials checklist
  • How to have a successful day hike
  • Key takeaways

Let’s begin!

What Is Day Hiking?

Day hiking is simply a walk out in the outdoors that can be achieved in a single day. 

It could be something as simple as a brisk walk around your neighborhood, or an uphill climb through native bush from dusk till dawn. 

It typically involves setting out early in the morning and returning by evening, covering a distance that can range from a few miles to several dozen miles. 

Day hiking is a popular outdoor activity that allows people to explore nature, get some exercise, and enjoy the fresh air and scenery without the need for extensive gear or preparation. 

It is often done on established trails in national parks, forests, or other protected areas, but can also be done on less formal routes in local parks or open spaces.

Other Types of Hiking

Long-Distance Hiking

Unlike a day hike, long-distance hikes can take weeks– or even months– to complete. 

Long-distance hiking is generally for the more experienced hiker, as you’ll have to power on until you reach the end of your trail instead of calling it a day when you’ve had enough.

That’s not to say that people don’t sometimes cut a hike short — perhaps due to injury, weather, or otherwise — but the goal is to hike to a particular spot over a lengthy period of time.

Summit Hiking

Summit hiking (or peak-bagging) can be both as fulfilling as it is challenging. 

As the name implies, the aim of these hikes is to reach a summit point (such as the top of hills or mountains). Doing so will offer breathtaking views and landscapes, along with a great photo opportunity.

People enjoy journaling their peak-bagging trips, marking down how many ‘peaks they’ve bagged’ throughout their hiking career. 

Checklist for Day Hiking Essentials

To determine what you may need on your hike, be sure to consider the length of the walk, its terrain, location, and weather.

Gear can be purchased online or at any local outdoor gear store. It may even be worth checking out local charity shops or places like Facebook Marketplace for cheaper alternatives.

Day Hiking Clothing

Hiking Footwear

For gentle hikes, hiking shoes or sneakers will do. 

For more intense terrain, it would be worth investing in some heavy-duty hiking boots for additional support. 

Hiking Shirt

Investing in an appropriate hiking shirt will ensure you are comfortable during your hike. 

Avoid cotton as it absorbs sweat and keeps you moist. Instead, opt for synthetic fibres like polyester or nylon, or natural fibres like merino wool, to keep your skin warm and dry.

Hiking Pants

Most hiking pants are made with nylon, polyester, spandex or a combination of the three. 

Spandex also has a little stretch in it, which is a good option if you potentially end up doing some climbing.

Rain Jacket

A rain jacket is an essential for a rainy day, but it’s definitely still worth packing on a good day just in case the weather turns on you unexpectedly. The key is to always be prepared!

Not only will wet clothes make you cold, but your clothes will also be heavier, and as a result you will find movement more difficult causing higher levels of fatigue quicker.

Eye Protection

Protecting the eyes is even more important on a hike especially at elevation, as the UV radiation is much stronger and can be harmful. 

Polarized lenses are much better than regular glasses, and a good pair is worth the investment. 

Day Hiking Gear


A backpack that holds around 11–20 litres of gear is substantial for short, simple hikes. 

Anything longer and more intense may call for something larger to hold any extra gear needed.

First Aid Kit

Many pre-made first aid kits for hikers can be purchased at outdoor retailers. Generally speaking, a basic first aid kit should contain:

  • Antiseptic wipes and antibacterial ointment
  • Assorted fabric and butterfly bandages
  • Various sizes of gauze pads
  • Non-stick sterile pads
  • Medical tape (a minimum of a 1” width is recommended)
  • Blister pads
  • Ibuprofen
  • Antihistamines
  • Insect sting or anti-itch treatments
  • Tweezers suitable for splinters
  • Safety pins.


Whether you use a map, compass, GPS, or your phone, navigation is essential to help you get from A to B. 

Just make sure you have a backup to any tech products, as they can potentially let you down!

Trekking Poles

This one is more a matter of personal preference, but it can help assist with any steep climbs or tricky walks.

While not necessary, they can be great for beginners on day-hikes or for those who feel more comfortable with a stability support aid.


In case you find yourself adventuring through dark spaces like caves and tunnels, a headlamp will come in handy.

Also, if you’ve miscalculated how much time you need to complete the hike before it gets dark, a headlamp can be a life-saver – literally.

A headlamp will free your hands when natural light gets scarce. Unexpected situations are just that – unexpected. So being prepared for as much as you can will come in handy when you need it most.

Food and Water

Snacks like muesli bars and nuts are a great option to pack for a quick energy booster. 

Water is a must-have! Two liters is about the recommended minimum on a full day’s hike.

When you exercise, you sweat. When you sweat, you lose electrolytes– which can then decrease your energy levels significantly. Make sure to stay hydrated to keep those energy levels up! 

How to Have a Successful Day Hike

Choose a Trail

Before you set out on your hike, you need to pick a good trail for your circumstances. It is best to start small and pace yourself if you are just starting out. 

Apps like AllTrails and TrailLink are excellent tools for finding a route that will suit you and your hiking ability.

Plan Ahead of Time

Day hikes can end up being fairly spontaneous. However, all hikes should still be well planned in advance. 

Be sure to check the weather beforehand, and always let someone know where you are going and when you plan to get back– especially if you plan to go on your own.

Prepare Your Equipment

For a day hike, you may not need as much equipment. However, you should still never head out with just the clothes on your back.

You can always refer back to this guide if you ever need clarification on exactly what you should bring.

Practice Hiking Etiquette

Practicing proper hiking etiquette is crucial and should not be ignored. Doing so will ensure a positive atmosphere on the trail.

A few ways you can practice this is by leaving no trace, giving up-hill walkers the right of way, and saying hello to your fellow hikers.

Key Takeaways

Countless research has shown that day hiking has immense benefits to your physical and mental health, while also improving the length and quality of life. 

However, all endeavors work best with great preparation, so keep note of what you have learned through this article to ensure your day hikes run smoothly. 

Have fun, pack your bags, and get ready to head out in the open air!

Mitch Taylor
With over 20 years experience with camping and hiking, I've taken it upon myself to share my insights. From common camping and hiking questions to gear recommendations, your adventure starts here.

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