The 21 Essential Items to Pack in Your Daypack

There is nothing that I love more than going on epic international mountain adventures. However, with my busy schedule, I have to largely rely on my local day hikes to get my adventure fix. As I live in New York City, I am very fortunate to have endless options of great hikes and trails nearby.

Before any hike my friends can usually find me lost in the aisles of the local adventure store for hours at a time checking out the latest and greatest gear. I am a bit of a gear junkie! This is why I am always being asked: What do I keep in my daypack?

While I would love to load up my daypack with every new gadget that comes on the market, that is not practical. Packing a daypack is truly an art. Your daypack must consist of the essential gear, yet must not be too heavy. Over the years, through trial, error, and adventure, I have created my own checklist as to what items are essential to bring on any day hike.

Below is my list of the 21 essential items that I keep in my daypack.

  1. Water Purification

You never know if you might end up stuck in the mountains longer than expected, therefore, knowing that you are able to stay hydrated is key. Having a method to purify water is a MUST! Consequently, I have three different purification methods that I like to use.

  • Potable Aqua Iodine Tablets41IRyBlx0LL._SX300_
    • Just pop in one of these tablets into your water and after 30 minutes the manufacturer claims that your water is clear of any bacteria and safe to drink.
  • LifeStraw
    • One of the coolest devices that has come out into the market! The LifeStraw enables me to drink directly from a steam or river.
  • SteriPEN Adventurer Opti
    • I have had my SteriPEN for 2 years now. I have used it on a number of mountain adventures and each time it never let me down. All I have to do is turn it on, place it into my water container, and after a few minutes, it lets me know when I can safely drink.
  1. Two Nalgene Bottles (32 Ounces/1 Liter)

Whenever I embark on a day hike I always come prepared with two Nalgene bottles filled with fresh water. I prefer the BPA free ones that Nalgene makes with the wide mouth opening that make it easier to fill up.

  1. Electrolyte Tabletsgu-brew-electrolyte-tablets-group-large

Electrolyte tablets are an essential item for a daypack. People do not always realize how much they sweat during hikes.
With electrolytes being lost these tablets can solve the issue. I always keep one of my Nalgene bottles filled with regular water and the other with two GU Brew tablets in it.

  1. Snacks

Hiking burns a ton of calories. Therefore, I make it a habit to bring 200 calories of food and snacks for every hour that I plan to be in the mountains. A favorite snack of mine on the trail is rice cakes with almond butter. I also bring Honey Stinger gel packs and pistachio nuts for some extra energy and calories.

  1. Mini First Aid Kit

The unexpected can always happen in the mountains. It is important to always keep a first aid kit handy to deal with any bumps or bruises on an adventure!

  1. Duck Tape 91Sx-AgoBTL._SY450_

Some people use Band-Aids while others use Nu Skin, however whenever I have hotspots or blisters on my feet I always use duct tape. Duct tape provide instant foot relief. SOL makes mini rolls that are the perfect size for a daypack.

  1. Headlamp

I can not explain how many times I have headed out on an adventure and planned to make it back to my car before nightfall and I lost track of time. One way to help in these situations is to bring a headlamp. I bring along the Black Diamond Spot Headlamp on all of my local adventures. Also, do not forget to bring spare batteries. The last thing you want is to have a headlamp that has run out of batteries.

  1. Bivy SackONECOL

A Bivy Sack can do wonders to prevent the possibility of hypothermia. It is basically a portable, lightweight sleeping bag that keeps one warm and protected from the elements. I bring my Bivy Sack with me on every climb. I use the SOL Escape Lite Bivvy. At 5.5 ounces it is one of the lightest and most compact Bivvy Sacks on the market!

  1. Bear SprayBearSpray

This is the one item in my bag that I hope I never have to use. While I have seen bears only at a distance, fortunately, I have never had a close encounter with one. However, it is always good to be prepared. I use Counter Assault Bear Spray. The founder of Counter Assault started the company after a grizzly bear almost killed him. It is important to note: Do not leave the Bear Spray in your day pack. I use a carabiner to connect mine to the side of my daypack for easy access.

  1. Knife

You should always carry a knife when heading into the mountains. It can help in a variety of situations such as: opening food packets, splitting wood, and cutting cord.

  1. Rain Gear

It is always a good idea to bring a rain jacket along on a day hike. Even if it is warm outside, if the sky opens up you will get cold very quickly when wet.

  1. Compass

Many hikers nowadays rely on technology to navigate in the mountains, such as their cell phone GPS, or electronic maps. I can not stress enough the importance of bringing along a compass. I use a Brunton TruArc 3 Compass. Technology can and does fail. Therefore, relying on it is not the best idea. There have been numerous times when I was lost but was able to successfully navigate my way with the help of my compass.

  1. Map

If a paper map of a specific trail is available, then bring it! The map, along with a compass, are powerful tools to help navigate in the mountains.

  1. Carabiner

I never head out into the mountains without a few carabiners. I typically use them for both my water bottle and bear spray. They help keep the items I need most conveniently right next to me for easy access.

  1. Fire Starter775076

It is always good to bring a method of making fire into the mountains as an emergency precaution. If a worse case scenario were to happen, a fire can help keep you warm. One great way to make fire is by using the Ultimate Survival Technologies BlastMatch Fire Starter.

  1. Re-Useable Bags

In following Leave No Trace principles, I always leave the mountains with everything that I bring in. Whether it is food or snack wrappers, I find that having a re-useable bags handy is a perfect way to keep my trash separated from the rest of my daypack contents.

  1. Battery Pack

Long hikes in the mountains can really drain batteries. When I need to charge my cell phone, GPS device, or satellite communicator I always bring a back-up battery charger with me.

  1. Sun BlockONECOL-1

I always find the sun to be strongest in the mountains. Since you will probably want to continue to hike into old age you must protect your skin. I use SunBum 30 SPF sunscreen before and during each of my adventures.

  1. Bug Spray

Depending on which part of the world that I am hiking, you might need bug spray. In the northeast U.S., we do have to worry about deer ticks which can cause Lyme Disease. In addition to finding the right kind of spray for my hiking location, checking the ingredients is necessary as well. For example, many of the tick repellents contain Deet, which studies have proven to be harmful. Therefore, I use Tick Tock Naturals, which has been an effective, and safe alternative from Deet products.

  1. Toilet Paper

I don’t think a description is necessary for this item. It should be pretty self explanatory! 🙂

  1. Satellite Communicator81RyDM0BT1L._SL1500_

One of the coolest and handiest pieces of equipment that I own is the Delorme InReach Communicator by Garmin. From pretty much wherever I am on Earth I can easily send messages to clients, friends, and family which shows my exact location. Additionally, if trouble arise and the need for an emergency evacuation is needed, there is a SOS button which connects directly to an emergency response center.


I hope this list has been helpful. If you don’t have all of these items yet, then please purchase them. Trust me, you don’t want to head into the mountains without the proper gear in your daypack. Pack smart and then you can focus on enjoying your adventure!

If you would like to learn more about our adventures click HERE or if you have a favorite piece of adventure gear we would love to hear about it just shoot us an email at

I look forward to seeing you on the trail.



Jeff Bonaldi
Founder & CEO
The Explorer’s Passage

About Jeff Bonaldi

Jeff Bonaldi is the Founder and CEO of The Explorer’s Passage, a premier adventure travel company. His mission is to provide travelers with the opportunity to transform their lives and the planet through the power of adventure.

Learn more about Jeff’s story and his company HERE.

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