Summer Day Hiking Checklist

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Submitted by damien on

If you aren't into backpacking, but are interested in spending more time in the outdoors and don't really no where to begin, this is our gear list for day hiking in the summer (we have a list for each season). If you plan to head out for only a few hours then this might be overkill, but it is a good place to start. This list is everything we need to be in the outdoors for the entire day. It is also the foundation for our backpacking list.

The night before our hike, we have the kids pack their gear and make their snacks. The process is pretty hands-off now, they are used to the drill, which makes getting out the door a lot smoother than it used to. To make the list easir for the kids digest, we broke it up by parts of the body; from head-to-toe, from inside-to-outside.

Unless otherwise noted, all clothing items in this checklist are made out of quick-drying fabrics like nylon, polyester, or merino wool. We avoid cotton for all of our outdoor clothing.


  • Sun hat: A hat with a stiff brim is important for both shielding the sun from your eyes and keeping the bug net off your face. Please see this comment at the bottom of this post for more information on what brands we've experienced and recommend.
  • Bug net: Much more effective than bug repellent, we always pack these in the summer.
  • (Optional) Sun glasses: If we are going to be hiking in wide-open areas, above treeline, or near the water we bring them.
  • (Optional) Buff: A buff is a super handy item to have on hand. My son likes to use his as a hat. My girls like to use them to manage their hair. They can also be used as a bandana to keep the sun off your face, as neck warmer, as a towel... the possibilities are endless.


  • Undershirt and/or t-shirt: All of our kids have close-fitting sleeveless shirts, and they love them. Renee and myself prefer lightweight baselayer t-shirts. Some of our kids also bring a lightweight t-shirt in addition to their sleevless shirt. See this post on underwear for more recommendations.
  • Long undershirt or lightweight fleece hoodie: We always bring a warmer layer no matter what the weather. If things get cooler especially near the evening, having a little extra insulation is helpful.
  • Wind breaker: Also known as a windshirt, these are absolutely essential. The lighter weight the better, as you want it to be very breathable. Besides keeping the wind off, they can be used to keep the bugs and sun off as well.
  • (Optional) Rain jacket and/or umbrella: If the weather forecast is for rain, we will pack a waterproof/breathable rain jacket. In addition to the rain jacket, some of us will pack a lightweight umbrella too. Umbrellas are great because they don't get hot and sticky like in a rain jacket. The downside to an umbrella is that they don't handle the wind well.


  • Underwear: Underwear that can double as a bathing suit is very handy for kids.
  • Hiking pants: We always bring long pants. They keep the wind, the sun, and the bugs, and the thorns off our legs.
  • (Optional) Shorts/skirt/skort: If someone wants to bring one of these items, we let them as long as they also have long pants. Convertible pants that zip-off into shorts are a great option.


  • Thin wicking socks: Thin is important as you want them to dry quickly, not be too hot, and not absorb too much water in the rain.
  • Minimalist footwear: Of course!

Other Gear

  • Lunch
  • Snacks
  • Water
  • First aid kit (includes fire starter and water treatment tablets)
  • Toilet paper and potty trowel
  • Bug repellent
  • Sunscreen
  • Camera
  • (Optional) Towel



What bug spray do you use?

What bug spray do you use? The bugs are really bad where I live (mosquitoes, black flies mainly) and when we went out in June we certainly hiked fast...if we stopped we were swarmed. I don't want to use anything with Deet or any chemicals. We've tried a few natural brands but they don't work so far.

Please post about this or let

Please post about this or let me know when you find something, since I am also in Canada. I'm not much bothered by the bugs myself but my husband is majorally. I've tried Dr. Mercola's, Herbal Bug X and a locally made herbal spray with no success. The herbal bug x also leaves a really strong scent on our clothes (sort of a vanilla like scent) that I can't wash out for many washes. Its not an allergic smell, since its natural, but its bothersome to myself and my family. So please do share if you find something!!!



I thought I would comment as I am in canada (west coast) too. Ive always been around horse barns and we always used an AVON product. "skin so soft". we used the lotion watered down and sprayed on but I think ive heard that theyve come up with a bug product. I cant say its completely natural but Id say better than deet. It was the only thing that worked well for many hours while out on sweaty hot horses!!

just thought maybe this might help!

good luck.

Im enjoying your redo and am getting inspired to get back out into nature with our 1yr old and 3 yrd old.

A reader sent a contact

A reader sent a contact question regarding hats and I thought I would post my response to that question here also.

Q: Our family is being very careful about UV rays as we have a major cancer risk in our family. I've looked around trying to find some other options, but haven't found anything that really strikes me. Has anyone in your family found a brimmed hat (if they wear them) that they really like? thanks so much!

A: We have experimented with several different wide brimmed hats. Céline really loves her blue hat (you'll see it prominently in this post).

This particular hat of Céline's is a LLBean unisex size small. It's adjustable and she's had it now for 2 years and will fit her head for awhile yet. She is 12.

Laurent's hat is North Face, one size, adjustable. He's had that hat for 1.5 years I believe. He's 10. He's be able to fit it for awhile yet also.

We like the wide brims both for sun protection and for bug nets. Wide brimmed hats work best with bug nets, help keep the net off your face.

Both of those hats have under chins cinch straps also for really windy conditions. They are made from 100% nylon vs. canvas which is heavy and does not repel water.

We've had less luck with Brienne's hats. She's 8 and the youngest. I can't recommend a particular brand for that age. Once the kids get old enough for women's small we have better luck.

Having read the Hitchhiker's

Having read the Hitchhiker's Guide "Trilogy," I would argue that the towel is manditory. In all seriousness, thanks for the great list. We frequently forget bug nets and frequently regret it.