Essential Hiking Checklists: Head Out Prepared and Secure

Updated July 23, 2021
Low section of man standing with hiking and fishing gear arranged on table at home

Anytime you're planning on taking a trip away from home, there's an immense amount of pressure to make sure everything is organized and ready to go a few days beforehand. Prepping for hiking trips isn't any different from your run-of-the-mill vacation, but one way you can make packing a smoother experience is using a hiking checklist. With all the essentials you need carefully compiled into one handy sheet, you should be able to cut your packing time down significantly. Take a look at these ultimate hiking checklists to solve all of your packing problems in a pinch.

Things to Consider When Packing For A Hike

While an essentials checklist for your hike will help ensure you don't forget any item before you head out, it's good to make sure that you've got a real grasp of what it takes to prep for a hike, especially since no two hikes are exactly alike or require exactly the same equipment. Here are some useful tips for what you might want to consider when prepping for your specific route.

Young couple taking backpack out of car trunk in nature

Always Remember the Basics

No matter where in the world your next hike takes you, you can never go wrong with having items that fulfill these three needs: hunger and thirst, protection, and rest. Make sure to pack appropriate shelter for your hike, cooling or insulated sleeping bags to rest in, and food packed with enough nutrients and calories to get you through the next part of your hike. Dehydrated foods are a great option for people who are trying to pack light.

Paperwork Is Your Friend

An essential motto to remember when packing for a hike is that paperwork is actually your friend. Many parks require you to have an admissions pass, and need you to get passes and permits for any campgrounds or thru-hikes you are taking in the backcountry. Similarly, the last thing you want to do is get turned around on your trail -- especially if it's not a frequently traveled one -- so don't forget to pack a compass and map of your route. At the very least, these will help keep you from going off the trail, and might save your life.

Ditch the Digital Equipment

In this truly digital age, going technology-free might feel like cutting off a limb. However, adding cameras, battery packs, and charging cords can add pounds to your pack quickly. It's not ideal, but bringing along this heavier equipment on a day hike is a much safer option than doing so on a multi-day one. Just remember that you only have so much space to carry your goods and so much strength to lug them on the trek. If it's not essential, you can probably go without it.

A photographer carrying her tripod hiking up a mountain

Check and Double Check the Weather

Weather can be an unpredictably fickle beast, and many of the essentials you'll need are unfortunately dictated by the weather. Thus, you need to keep track of how the weather is changing where you are hiking. If there's a high percentage chance of rain, don't forget to pack rain gear. Similarly, if weather reports are calling for a cold front to move in, pack enough layers to keep warm throughout the day and night.

Single Day Hiking Essentials Checklist

Single-day hikes are perfect for people who only have a little time to spend outdoors, are less experienced, or who might be visiting somewhere for the first time. Planning these hikes can almost feel more daunting than planning multi-day hikes because condensing your essentials into just a few items is really hard work. Thankfully, here's an already prepared checklist you can print out that goes over all the things you absolutely should bring on any day hike, as well as some of the things you might want to include if you have enough space.

Ultimate Single Day Hiking Checklist

Multi-Day Hiking Essentials Checklist

Multi-day hikes require greater planning than day hikes because you're going to be away from civilization for a few days at least. Therefore, you absolutely don't want to miss a single thing on your to-do list. In order to help you maximize packing efficiently, use this helpful printable checklist to ensure that you don't forget anything. Make sure to triple check your checklist before calling it quits on packing -- you don't want to be caught on the trail with only one pair of socks and no toilet paper.

Ultimate Multi-Day Hiking Checklist

Packing Shouldn't Take Longer Than Hiking

Your hike can take anywhere from a few hours to a few days, but your packing for the hike shouldn't take you longer than 30 minutes. Of course, sometimes life gets in the way and you don't have time to make a new checklist for your upcoming adventure. Thankfully, these useful guides on hiking essentials that you can print out and take with you will help save you from making a grave packing mistake.

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Essential Hiking Checklists: Head Out Prepared and Secure