Day Hike Checklist

| Day Hiking | Backpacking | Tent Camping |


One of the nice things about day hikes as opposed to backpacking trips is that you can afford to splurge a bit on the weight. Even if you do bring that Frisbee or extra sandwich, it doesn't really matter because you're not carrying that much in the first place. Besides, a bit of extra weight on a day hike is par for the course because it gives you a better workout.

Physical Shape

Most of the day hikes described in this web site are achievable for virtually any physical condition. Therefore, in the interest of health, I encourage you to never let you physical condition stand in the way of exploring these wonderful trails. I do encourage you to check with your doctor before beginning any kind of exercise routine such as trail hiking. If you want to get ready for hiking in the Sierra try exercises like walking, jogging, and riding your bike. All of these exercises will help strengthen your legs and knees.

Day Hike Checklist

Use the following checklist as a general guide to planning what to take on half or all-day hiking trips. A '+' sign indicates that the item may be shared between one or more hikers and, therefore, reducing the amount carried. An '*' means that the item is only required when the trail or other situation demands it.

Required Suggested
Good Attitude

If you go hiking alone, then you can have any grade of attitude you want. Otherwise, complaining about a hard hike is one of the best ways to ruin a fun trip for everyone else that you're with. Therefore, make sure that you plan properly for the trip. This means that you bring the right stuff and that you're in decent shape.

Water Containers

Yes, there is usually some water on the trail but you should never count on it being there and you can't count on it being free of disease. This is why you always need water and plenty of it! Any sturdy water container will work but I always take two one-liter Nalgene water containers. The clear brown Nalgene are a good brand and type because they can come in wide mouths and don't absorb odors and tastes from previous liquids.

On my last trip up to the top of Upper Yosemite Falls, I downed 3 liters easy and was still dehydrated when I reached the top. On one of my trips to the top of Half Dome, I encountered a man and his young boy begging for water from everyone else's already depleted supplies. Don't be one of these people! Depending on how shy you are and how many other people are on the trail, not having enough water can be anything from embarrassing to dangerous.

Water Filter Pump

On the subject of water, remember that you may need to fill those containers up again. Make sure that you or someone you're hiking with has the ability to make potable water. The most common methods used are pump filtering and iodine tablets. I usually go through the extra effort of bringing a good pump filter because the iodine tablets taste yucky and they don't get rid of the floating debris that a pump does. And besides, the best way to meet people on a day-hike trail like this is by pumping water. Why? Because everyone else forgot their pump (or don't have one) which makes you their best buddy. This will give your arms almost as much of a workout as your legs so remember to switch between your left and right arms when pumping. You don't want one arm bigger than the other do you?

Sturdy Shoes . . . Boots

Shoes. Shoes. Shoes. Actually . . . Boots! I wouldn't let not having boots keep me from a trail but I suggest getting a good pair of medium duty or better hiking boots as soon as possible. A good pair of boots provide the ankle support you'll need to protect from spraining. If you're going to be spending some time on the trails, don't be afraid to drop some money into a good pair. A good pair of medium duty trail boots will cost you around $120 - $200 but can vary widely based brand and model.

If you decide to go shopping, then try to get boots with a steel shank in the sole. The shank will protect from sharp rocks as you're climbing over them. Also, make sure the boots are water resistant with a fabric like Gortex or something similar. When you're trying on the boots for fit, make sure you use a combination of wool and silk socks.

Day Backpack

Since the best place to carry a backpack is on your back, make sure that your backpack is strong enough to carry all of your stuff and not break in the process. The second most important quality of a daypack is it's comfort against your back. Mine has thick cushioning that makes for a more comfortable fit. Another great feature of a daypack is the ability to hold your drinking water in an external pocket so you don't have to dig around every time you need to take a drink.

Warm, Waterproof Jacket

The high country weather in our Sierra is, at the least, unpredictable. For the most part, I never need the jacket that I bring with me. That is, I rarely need it to keep warm or dry during the day. My jacket usually serves the purpose of a ground cover that I either sit or lay down on. On the right hikes, next to a river, under a group of pines, and on top of a bed of needles, you'll find the perfect place to lay on your jacket and take a nap. Just watch out for those Herculean ANTS!

Food for the Day

No dieting allowed on a hike! Besides, this is the time when you're really earning your food and will need the energy. Before most of our hikes, we stop at a grocery store and buy whatever we didn't remember to pack that morning. So bring a couple of bucks.

Napkins/Toilet Paper/plastic Bags

You'll probably need napkins for your meal, toilet paper just in case, and small plastic bags to put your trash in that will keep the rest of the backpack from smelling.

Flashlight + Extra Batteries/Bulbs

This isn't one you'd normally think of on a day hike is it? Fact is, on a long day hike you may be stumbling back down that trail in a moonless night. I tell you from experience, it isn't fun. Even when the moon is out, the light just isn't enough to make out all the rocks in the trail and you'll end up stumbling anyway. If you're lucky, you won't fall off of a 2,000 foot cliff when you fall.

So when you bring your flashlight, don't forget to bring extra bulbs and batteries. If you really want to be prepared, go to a sporting goods store and get yourself a "headlight" that you actually wear on your head. Sure, you may get a few snickers when showing it to your friends, but you'll be the one smiling at night. Having your hands free to help maneuver among the rocks can be a definite advantage.

Even though two people can share one flashlight in a pinch, you'll want to have flashlight for each person. On the Sierra trails at night, your watching each and every step and you can't do that safely when sharing a flashlight.

First Aid Kit

Since you can never predict what kind of problems you'll encounter, if any, it always good for at least one person in your group to have a well stocked backpacking first aid kit. You'll find these on the net or a sporting goods store. I purchased mine at Target for around $16 and it even came with a soft case made especially for backpacking.


Gloves are only required when you plan on doing a bit of climbing, boulder hopping, or doing something else with your hands. They are especially required when climbing Half Dome because of the cables you will be pulling yourself up with.

This Checklist

Printing out and bringing this checklist along can be especially useful if you plan on camping near the trailhead before starting your hike. I know that because I used the bug spray out of my daypack while camping, forgot to put it back in, and was then eaten alive by skeeters!

Sun Glasses

I hope this is an obvious one. A lot of the hikes we attempt are at very high elevations. Most reach elevations from 7,000 to 11,000 feet. At these heights there is less atmosphere to protect from the sun (you'll burn faster) and there are no trees for shade. In addition to no trees, the lightly shaded granite reflects the light of the sun quite well.


Make a recording where you've been. Percentage wise, an extremely minute portion of the population have ever been where you're going.

Sun Block

One of the best ways to ruin your fun is the get a sun burn. No matter how much cloud cover there is, you can always safely anticipate getting darker. The trick is to not get redder.

Insect Repellent

At least one person in your group should have some insect repellent. Since everyone's body chemistry is a bit different, you might find that some insect repellents work for some people and not for others. If you've never run into this situation, than just plan on sharing what someone else is using (if you're traveling in a group). Otherwise, if you know what works for you, then bring that.

Extra Pair of Socks

The best thing you can do for your feet is to get a good pair of hiking boots that fit snugly when you're wearing two pair of socks. The two pair of socks should be a wool outer pair and a silk inner pair. The silk socks will stick to your feet using your skin's sweat layer. The outer wool socks will stick better to the boots. When you're walking, the two pair of socks will rub against each other instead of the boot against your feet thus providing a greater margin of blister protection for your feet. You can find both kinds of socks at virtually all sporting goods stores that supply hiking supplies.

Shade Hat

I get burned most on my neck and face; especially my nose. That's why a good shade hat is hard to do without. On a hot day, my first choice will always be a wide brimmed straw hat that I can dip in a stream to cool off. It gives plenty of shade and can also act as a swamp cooler in a pinch.

Knee Support

Most of the longer trails within the Sierra are very steep. The steepness of these trails means that there will be a lot of pounding pressure on your knees; especially while going downhill. The worst part about this is that, even if one of your knees gives out, you still have to finish the hike. Aside from the pain, you could be talking some serious long-term injury. Bringing some kind of knee support is only a quick fix that might not even help. The best advice is to not try something too ambitious the first time out. The second best advice is to choose a regular exercise (when you're not hiking) that will constantly strengthen your knees (i.e., walking, jogging, running, and bicycling). If you're worried about your knees because of past injuries, make sure you see your doctor for advice.


If you've got space in your pack, bring em. There's no end to the number of magnificent vistas you'll find on these hikes. Besides, if you get to the top of a popular lookout (Yosemite Falls, Half Dome, El Capitan, etc.) binoculars are a great ice breaker when meeting new people.

Sandals for Afterwards

There's nothing that makes the dogs stop barking after a long hike faster than to simply remove your boots; besides removing your boots and putting your feet in the stream. The sandals, which should be left in the car, are a nice change when you've just completed your hike.