Day packing is a means to get out and enjoy nature when time may be limited or other means prevent you from spending the night in woods. A day pack hike can range anywhere from an 1-12 hours. Depending on experience and physical ability a day pack can cover up to 20 miles.
Most backpacker back all their gear to spend the night or many nights in the area where they are hiking. Day packing on the other hand is meant to take from your starting point and pack all in one day so there is no need to pack tents sleeping bags and much of the other gear that is involved in a multiple day backpacking trip. Day packing is also perfect for those who may not have the equipment to stay the night. Day packing allows for those that may not have the confidence or know how to safely set up an overnight camp site, to still get out and enjoy the great outdoors. I will explain some preparation and gear that will help you have a safe and enjoyable day pack hike.
Location, location, location
The first step in going on an enjoyable day hike is to, choose a location and a path to hike. Most day packers choose a location close to home or camp. Always remember that just because a trail is close to home it does not mean that it is any more or less safe. When selecting a location an often overlooked aspect of a hike is the topography. Check elevations and slope when looking at maps. Any trail that goes down in elevation will eventually go back up, so plan accordingly.
Understand your physical capabilities
With any hike, it is important to understand your physical capabilities. If you don’t know how far you can make it, always air on the side of caution. As you gain more experience you know exactly how far you will be able to go and how long it takes to get to that distance.
Time and weather
If you plan on hiking on government land always make sure that it is open, you wouldn’t want a trespassing ticket. As mentioned previously know how fast or slow you hike and make sure to start your hike early enough so that you back while you still have sunlight. Refer to Naismiths rule below for average hike time. It is obvious that the weather forecast for the day should be checked before your hike. Not only should you know what the weather will be the day of the hike. You should also look into the weather of the days preceding your hike. If there was any precipitation on the previous days realize that the terrain will be slippery and possibly flooded.
What to pack
Although you planned your trip in advance, a map of the trails is a great reference if you get lost or decide to alter your route.
A back pack
Make sure that you have a pack that fits properly and is comfortable. Your pack must also have enough room for your gear.
The footwear that is worn should have ankle support and be waterproof. There is a variety of outdoor footwear that is on the market
This is a necessity and is vital anytime you’re out in the woods. The average hiker will lose about a liter of water an hour when hiking so pack enough for your planned hike.
Depending on the length of your trip some on trail food may be in order. Unless you have means to keep your food cold your will need to bring non-perishable items. A classic is some form of trail mix. Some other good options are protein bars. Carbohydrates and sugars will give you shorter termed energy. Proteins will give a longer energy store.
If you’re going out during colder weather, dress in layers. Dress for the conditions, but be prepared for conditions to change. Breathable fabric is always a good choice. A hat and sunglasses should be brought as well.
Bug spray, hiking pole, sunscreen