MARK SIREK Administrator Posts: 313
edited October 2023 in THE GEAR LAB

Words and Photos from the HMG Team and Rebecca Sperry (@sockedinhikes)

An open schedule and a sweet weather window–the foundational elements required for a great day out on a trail. Time outside counts no matter how long you're out there, and some of our favorite memories in the wild happened between one sunrise and sunset. Day hikes allow you to get your fresh air and vitamin D fix, help to maintain fitness, and provide an opportunity to really dig into details over a palatable distance between Point A and, well, back to Point A.

While all of these features are in and of themselves more than enough to motivate you to rustle up a small kit and consult your AllTrails app, we like to up the ante by adding photography and a great lunch to the mix. Short of handing you a ready-to-go pack and camera kit, this guide will show you just how to set up days like this for yourself.

First, let's start with getting the gear you'll need assembled. For that, we turn to our pal, Rebecca Sperry.


This is one of the most asked questions hikers get out on trail, whether they're day hiking or backpacking. Looking back to what I carried in my pack during my first two years of day hikes, I cringe! Knowing what essentials should be in your pack–regardless of the length or location of your route–may not be common knowledge to new hikers, so here are the key ingredients to get started.

More important than carrying these essential items is knowing how to use them (especially the compass). For example, in New Hampshire, where I do a lot of my hiking, you run the risk of being billed if you need to be rescued.

This list of items, created by The Mountaineers in 1974, has been the bare necessities benchmark for all hikers ever since.

Of course, you need a pack, and when I head out, I grab my Daybreak (Shout out also to the Elevate 22 or Summit 30 as other great options! - ed.) Then I begin to load it up with the following:

NAVIGATION - I recommend a paper map and compass on any hike, but make sure you know how to use them if you're going to bring them. I also carry a Garmin InReach satellite phone which is useful if you're committed to spending a lot of time in the woods.

SUN PROTECTION - This is a given when the forecast calls for it, but something I sometimes leave behind when I know it's not going to be sunny (always check the weather before you hike).

INSULATION - I carry a puffy and wind-breaking layer on all hikes, regardless of length or weather. In winter, I take more layers.

ILLUMINATION - This is one of the most common things people don't have when they need to be rescued. Always carry a headlamp or flashlight.

FIRST AID - When I first started hiking, I went out and got one of those generic first aid kits, but with years of experience under my belt, I've created a custom kit. Carrying band-aids, gauze, superglue, leukotape/medical tape, ankle splint, aspirin/ibuprofen, and antacids are a great place to start.

FIRE STARTER - Carry a lighter. It's that simple.

NUTRITION - They say we carry our fears on our backs. One of my biggest fears is running out of food, so I always carry extra.

HYDRATION - Bring more than one 16-ounce water bottle! I carry 64 ounces on all of my day hikes over five miles in length and a water filter.


On top of these essentials, I carry a small pocketknife, Chapstick, toilet paper, emergency bivy, emergency blanket, hand warmers, bandana, Purel, and bug spray. With everything listed above and these extra items, my day pack still weighs well under seven pounds (including food and water).

A rule of thumb is to imagine what you would need to survive a night in the woods and bring that. Do you need to carry a sleeping bag/pad/tent? Not necessarily. Will you be uncomfortable without these items? Probably. Will you survive with an emergency bivy/blanket/hand warmers? More than likely!


Now that you're dressed for success and ready for whichever trail is calling you forward, wouldn't you love a record of the all-but-guaranteed awesomeness that lies ahead? Grab your camera, folks–this day is going to live on forever!

Outdoor photography is a lifelong pursuit, but we're lucky enough to know some of the best shooters in the field, and they'd like to help you get better at the craft! Our "Details From the Witness" series is loaded with education you can begin to apply on your next trip out, and we're sure you'll see the results immediately. Hit the links, read up, and load up your Camera Pod. It's time to start documenting these trips of yours!

Eszter Horanyi

Jessica Kelley

Mike Jones

Bjorn Olson

Brian Threlkeld

Shaun Mittwollen

Michael DeYoung

Samuel Martin

Hansi Johnson

Eleanor Moseman


You've spent all morning hiking and snapping pics, and no doubt you're hungry as all get out. The summit, coveted highlight of the trail, or secluded lookout you've found presents a great chance to take a breather and top off the tank.

Our friend and frequent contributor to our blog, Hillary Pride, came up with this "REpack Perfect" recipe that's easy to put together and even easier to snarf. Most day packs should still have plenty of room for these relatively small additional items required to cook this up.

As the name implies, it's tailor-made for our REpack Freezer Bag Cook System. Additionally, you'll need a stove like the JetBoil Stash that includes its own pot, or the MSR Pocket Rocket Deluxe and a vessel like the Vargo Ti-Lite 750ml mug. Don't forget your spoon!

Make your delicious lunch, soak up the scenery, and reward yourself for the effort you've put in so far. Leave your spot cleaner than you found it, and know you've got what it takes for a repeat performance on the return trip home!

What a day! We're looking forward to your photos!