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Please select the hiking program you want to join either the Half Day LA hikes or the Seven Summits of SoCal Challenge, then select the month to see all of the hiking days and hikes. Sign up is free except for hikes that require group access fees like the San Jacinto Tramway tickets. Other fees for parking or permits are done individually and not charged through the sign up.
Please check out our day hiking gear essentials list below for suggestions on gearing up for a great adventure! No experience is necessary for these hikes, we have planned them for all levels.
DAY HIKING GEAR LIST
Your shoes are one of the most important things to get right for your hike. You should never break in a new pair of boots or shoes on the trail, always wear them around for a week or so to break them in before the hike.
Know your terrain! Make sure that your footwear provides adequate protection and support for the hike. This includes some ankle support especially for rocky or slippery terrain where you have a higher likelihood of rolling onto the inside or outside edges of your foot. Some people prefer not to have the ankle support and trail running shoes have become a very popular and comfortable alternative for light hiking. Hiking boots come in many varieties designed for different conditions and loads.
I recommend going to your local gear store and trying on several different brands to find the one that fits you best. Each manufacturer has a different fit so find the one that works best for the shape of your foot.
When you get measured its best to do so later in the day when your feet are swollen, they will swell on the trail and you need to account for this. Be sure to also account for thick hiking socks. Properly fitted your boots may end up being a half size larger than your other shoes.
Always check the weather conditions and know your terrain when you are selecting your clothing. It’s always good to have extra clothing with you in case you get into an emergency and need a change of clothes.
Layering is your friend so find the right combination for the high and low temperatures on your hike and be sure to prepare for the night time low’s in case you get lost or end up not getting back before dark.
- Hat with a wide brim. I use one that can be rolled up and stored in my pack.
- Sunglasses with adequate UV protection.
- Sunscreen. Carry it with you to reapply throughout the day.
- Protective clothing. A light weight long sleeved shirt is great sun protection.
There are a lot of benefits to using hiking poles.
- A study in the Journal of Sports Medicine reported that hiking poles can reduce the compressive force on the knee by 25%. So, you are saving wear and tear on your knee joint with each step.
- Hiking poles allow you to get your entire body involved with the movement which increases the efficiency of forward motion by engaging your arms and shoulders.
- Hiking poles offer two additional points of contact when descending steep or slippery slopes, crossing streams, or walking along tight edges and logs.
- Hiking poles are handy for moving things off the trail like spider webs and thorny brush.
- Hiking poles offer all sorts of other handy uses such as building shelter if needed or probing into areas and testing the depth of a water crossing.
- Hiking poles are great for establishing the rhythm of your hike. They can be collapsed down and stored on your pack when you aren’t using them or when you are climbing and need your hands free.
REI makes a good and inexpensive set and Lekki is also an excellent choice.
I used to bring water bottles with me unless it was a longer hike, but a hydration pack is so simple and handy that I use mine for every hike now. The only thing I change depending on the activity is the size of the pack.
Personally, I have two sizes but generally only use the larger one. This has more to do with the other items I have in my pack for first aid.
My favorite pack and size for day hiking is the Camelback fourteener 24. It comes with a 3-liter reservoir and a 21-liter gear capacity. Why get a smaller reservoir? You can always just put in a liter or two if that’s all you need. I also have a lightweight Camelback that holds the same reservoir size without much capacity except for wallet and keys. It’s nice for the short canyon hikes nearby.
When choosing a pack consider the following:
- Get the correct fit on your torso, gender specific designs are best because they account for body features.
- Make sure it has a waist strap. This takes a lot of weight out of your shoulders and is essential.
- 3-liter water reservoir.
- Get a mouthpiece cover. This is sold separately but when you bite into a mouth full of dirt or sand you will regret saving a couple of bucks on it!
- Another optional accessory is an insulated tube which is kind of nice so your fist sip isn’t hot all the time.
- Pack your bag and take some time to adjust all the straps so that it sits correctly on your hips and shoulders. This step will prevent a lot of pain and chaffing especially around your arm pits.
There are other brands but I have found that the Camelback is the most versatile, easy to maintain, and its easy to get replacement parts.
International travelers should always have some form of effective filtration with them as should overnight hikers or day hiking guides. A versatile filter should eliminate heavy metals, chemicals, viruses, bacteria, protozoa, and particulates at a minimum. Most filters do not do all of these things but there are a few that do. So rather than having a filter for fewer water concerns and different filters for really dirty water or sketchy situations where heavy metal pollution is a concern, I prefer to just invest in one that works on all of the things.
There are two kinds of filters that I recommend. Both filter all the things but they have different uses. For longer hiking trips or if you are leading a group of day hikers, I recommend the MSR Guardian. This is reasonably light weight and will filter everything. Great for filling hydration packs and water bottles.
The second is my personal favorite for travel. It’s the Grayl Geopress. Again, it filters all the things but it’s also your water bottle, so you only have one thing to carry.
The main consideration here is how much water you will need to process. The Geopress is adequate for most every situation except where you need to filter larger quantities of water.
Even if you are not planning a long hike, you should always carry extra food. You never know when a short hike will turn into something else due to injury, weather, or navigational challenges. Energy bars and a healthy trail mix, nuts, and dried fruit are great options. Its light and you can easily carry an extra day’s worth of calories just in case. For longer trips you should plan to carry even more excess food.
For day hikes where you are stopping for lunch you don’t need a shelf stable lunch but your extra supply should be. For the most part you should try to pack food that doesn’t require cooking.
Downloading the map on your phone is a great idea until your phone is dead so be prepared. Some or all of the following items should be in your pack depending on your trip. You don’t need all these things all the time, use your judgement. Items 1 and 3 are usually a must have.
- Paper topo map and manual compass. I carry the Suunto M-3. And you should know how to use it!
- Altimeter. This is handy when you are trying to pinpoint your exact location on the map.
- Phone GPS with map downloaded. Alltrails is a great app for hiking maps but be sure to get the pro version and download the map before you leave. It will still work with the GPS on your phone without cell signal in an offline mode.
- Personal locator beacon. I use the Garmin In Reach. It has a longer battery life, two-way satellite txt communication and an SOS beacon among other cool options. You can also download maps into this device. Requires a satellite subscription.
- Don’t plan to rely on trail signs or blazes. These are nice if they exist but most trails are not full of signs at every junction or what may look like a junction or fork in the trail.
- Utility knife. I carry an old school Swiss Army knife but I take a Gerber Multitool on larger trips.
- Headlamp with spare batteries. I also carry a small flashlight and usually have a light stick or two as back up for the back up. But its not necessary.
- Waterproof fire starter. I like the UST Strike Force and a few pieces of dry starter material.
- Emergency shelter. I carry a space blanket and hiking poles and you can fashion all sorts of shelter configurations with those two things.
- First Aid Kit. There are good lightweight versions made for hiking that contain all of the basics for cuts, scrapes, and blisters. Trip leaders and guides will carry a more extensive kit and are trained to use it. If you spend a lot of time outdoors in remote areas its a good idea to take a wilderness first aid course.
- Repair kit. It is essential to be able to repair what you are carrying and wearing. On a light hike this may be a bit of duct tape and some safety pins for a pack repair or some extra cord to repair a boot. But if you are carrying a water filter, have the repair kit and know how to use it, same with a stove or anything else you bring. Take everything apart at home so you know how to clean, repair, and maintain it in the back country.
- Rain Poncho. No matter the forecast an emergency poncho is always in my pack. You can get the clear disposable ones. Its not a bad idea to have a more durable one if you do a lot of hiking.
- Signaling devices. With modern beacons its kind of gone by the wayside but I still carry a whistle and a small mirror. Call me old fashion but if all else fails I have that.