Ready to hit the trail, and wondering what to pack for a great adventure? Our packing philosophy for a day hike is simple: we aim to balance lightweight with safety. An easy, short loop can get confusing if we’re lost, or seem really long if we’re injured. We always pack these essentials to stay safe and keep us headed in the right direction. And we always assume that we might not have mobile phone service, we might be the only ones on the trail, and if we get lost (or injured), we might be out later than we expected… or possibly even overnight.
Backpacks & organization
We’ve tried and tested a ton of backpacks over the years. Our favorite day packs combine light weight, comfortable wear and convenient gear organization. For warm-weather hikes, we love the Osprey Stratos 24 and women’s Osprey Sirrus 24 backpacks: they feature a curved aluminum frame and a perforated back panel to maximize airflow between the pack and our backs, helping keep us cool and dry when summer’s swelter sets in. Both also feature an integrated rain cover to keep the pack dry.
For shorter trips, the Osprey Daylite is our go-to favorite. The Daylite is streamlined, minimalist, lightweight, and durable – and also packs small for travel, or for use as a day pack on a multi-day backpacking adventure.
Weather in the South is unpredictable. It’s amazing how quickly a “zero percent chance of rain” turns into a heavy afternoon shower. We always pack several lightweight dry bags to stash our phones, cameras and extra clothing layers in case of rain. And lightweight stuff sacks are great for keeping our gear organized, and make it super easy to transfer gear between backpacks for different adventures.
Layers rock: with a great layering system, it’s easy to stay warm (or cool) and dry, no matter what the weather throws at us.
Our Asheville Trails t-shirts feature our own original designs screen printed locally in the South on the absolute softest, most comfortable shirts we could find. They’re tagless for on-trail comfort, and great for hanging out around town after the adventure, too.
Weather in the mountains can range from chilly in the morning to sunny and warm in the afternoon, and then right back to chilly by sundown. We always pack a long sleeve shirt or fleece for those unexpected drops in temperature.
We always pack a jacket, like the budget-friendly Marmot Precip Eco Jacket, which is also available as the Women’s Marmot Precip Eco Jacket. For longer adventures and for serious foul-weather protection, we pack the Kuhl Jetstream Jacket. The Jetstream is waterproof, windproof, and it breathes exceptionally well. For cooler weather, the KUHL Men’s Spyfire Jacket and KUHL Women’s Kadence Jacket are two of our favorite insulating outer pieces, featuring warm insulation without a ton of bulk. And KUHL Renegade Convertible Pants and KUHL Women’s Horizon Convertible Pants simply rock: they’re toasty warm as a full-length pant, and after temperatures warm and it’s time for shorts, the Renegade’s legs zip off easily.
Navigation: GPS, compass & trail maps
Trail routes can change, and sometimes, it’s easy to get turned around. And getting lost takes the fun out of a hike, so navigation gear tops our hiking gear list, even on local trails.
We track the trail with a Garmin Oregon GPS. It’s a handheld GPS that works offline, so we can view maps, waypoints, tracks and trail info even if we don’t have a mobile phone signal. And Garmin’s Tracback feature guides me back to the trailhead where we started from, following our outbound hike in reverse.
But as much as we love our Garmin, electronics can fail and batteries drain. We always carry a Suunto compass and a printed trail map to help navigate in an emergency. Our favorite maps are the National Geographic Trails Illustrated series; they’re lightweight, durable, waterproof, and cover much of North Georgia and western North Carolina’s prime hiking trails.
First aid & safety
The Adventure Medical Ultralight Watertight first aid kits are lightweight, small, and carry medical essentials in case of injury out on the trail. Watertight packaging keeps the contents dry, making them useful in rainy weather and on water-filled adventures.
Sometimes a great waterfall or stunning sunset keeps us out on the trail later than we expect, so we always pack our Black Diamond Spot headlamps. They’re small, lightweight, bright (200 Lumens), waterproof, and keeps our hands free. (Not into headlamps? A mini flashlight works well, too.)
We always pack sunscreen and Sawyer insect repellant. For sun protection, sunglasses, like our favorites from Rheos, and lip balm are a must. Carabiner clips are randomly useful on the trail, and we always have a few extras clipped to our backpacks. Ditto for a mini roll of duct tape, a length of paracord and a lightweight knife. We also carry a reflective emergency blanket and a fire starter, like the Adventure Medical Fire Lite Kit.
Fuel & hydration
We always pack more water than we need, and high-calorie food when we head out on a long day hike. Trail mix, bananas and Jelly Belly Sport Beans are staples in our packs. To help stay hydrated on the trail, we always pack NUUN Hydration Tablets: drop them into a water bottle, and they fizz and dissolve to create an electrolyte-fortified drink.
On shorter (and local) adventures, we almost always pack a trusty Nalgene water bottle: they’re inexpensive and nearly indestructible. For longer adventures, we love using a hydration pack: the Osprey Hydraulics LT 1.5L is our favorite, and it fits easily in all of our backpacks, making hydration easy on the go.
We always carry water treatment gear in the backcountry, and use a Sawyer Mini Filter to filter water from springs and streams. As a backup on long day hikes in the backcountry, in case we lose our Sawyer Mini (or it fails), we pack Potable Aqua Iodine Tablets.
Chilling out on the trail
We almost never forget to pack our ENO DoubleNest hammocks and our ENO Atlas hammock straps. There’s nothing like soaking in a stunning summit view from the comfort of a hammock, or cozying up in a shady hardwood forest for a quick mid-hike snooze. There’s really no better way to hang out on the trail.
Dog hiking gear
We almost always hike with our dog, Jake, so we always carry a leash, a water dish, and extra water, food, and snacks for our four-legged adventurer.
We absolutely love Ruffwear dog gear: it’s thoughtfully designed for outdoor adventures, ultra-durable, functional on the trail and stylish around town. The Ruffwear Bivy Bowl is a lightweight, collapsable water bowl that’s equally great for backcountry trails and local walks. Our favorite leash and collar combo is the Ruffwear Slackline Leash paired with a Ruffwear Top Rope Collar: the Slackline Leash is adjustable in length and features a swivel clip to prevent tangles, and the Top Rope Collar makes clip-in easy (which is great for a high-energy pup like Jake). And in the summertime, we always pack the Ruffwear Swamp Cooler; it’s a cooling vest that helps reflect sunlight, and wets to keep Jake cool.
More of our favorite outdoor gear
Wondering what to pack for an overnight – or a few – on the trail? Our backpacking gear list features our favorite backpacking essentials. Or if you’re chasing some car camping luxury, check out our camping gear list, featuring our favorite tents, sleeping bags, furniture, cookware, and campsite essentials.
Pack it in, pack it out
And, please remember to pack in everything you pack out! Always follow these simple tips to Leave No Trace when you’re exploring the great outdoors, and please practice good trail etiquette to help make the trail enjoyable for everyone. And have fun out there!
Always leave no trace, pack out everything you pack in, and if you see trash, pick it up and pack it out.
Stay on the marked trail, tell someone where you're going, pack safety and wayfinding essentials, and don't rely on a mobile phone to find your way. Please always practice good trail etiquette. And before you go, always check the trailhead kiosk, official maps, and the park or ranger office for notices of changed routes, trail closures, safety information, and restrictions.