Bringing just enough, but not too much is key to a nice day hike. Most of my day hikes usually fall in the 3-6 hour range. The first thing you need to invest in is a Camelback of some sort, preferably one that is not too large but can still carry your essentials like this one. Having water available as part of your backpack will allow you to keep your hands free and you'll stay more hydrated, since you don't have to stop to drink water every time. Instead you can sip here and there and not take big gulps less frequently. It makes a huge difference. So now you have your camelback that's not too big and it should be able to carry your wallet, cellphone, small camera (if you don't use your phone camera like I do), and 1-2 granola bars (I prefer clif bars). This is all you should really have in your backpack, maybe a couple bandaids or wet wipes too. You don't want your pack too heavy, but you have to make sure you have that water and a snack for energy if you are going to be out for over three hours.
You have a pack with your essentials, now you need to invest in some nice hiking boots. A nice pair will last you many years. I like Merrell's hiking boots - women's and men's. They seem spendy, but for real they will last. I have had mine for 5 years and I still see no sign of wear and I use them A LOT. Don't forget to pair your boots with some good hiking socks, go somewhere like REI or your local outdoor store. I like these SmartWool hiking socks. Bring an extra pair shoes and socks with you for AFTER the hike. Trust me, it feels so good to strip off those socks and put on some sandals or other shoes for when you go celebrate your awesome hike at a restaurant or pub.
What clothes to wear? This may be obvous - something comfy and that you can move in. I prefer not to hike with jeans. I enjoy wearing a nice pair of Zella stretchy pants. I know some people that like to wear lightweight shorts. Whatever you choose, think about the weather. In the Pacific Northwest, it can be chilly in the morning and then really warm by noon. I like to put a long sleeve over an exercise tank, that way you can be warm enough but also shed once you or the weather gets warmer.
Day hike essentials:
- Camelback filled with delicious cold water that holds your wallet, camera phone, 1-2 granola or protein bars, small firstaid items like bandaids
- Hiking boots and socks
- Extra pair of shoes and socks for after hike
- Stretchy pants or lightweight shorts
- Longsleeve breathable exercise shirt
- T-shirt or exercise tank top