What to pack for a day hike in PNW

Now that you’re sorted on what to wear hiking in Washington, you probably want to know what to pack!

Renee Roaming

Pacific Northwest

Below I have listed some recommended items. In terms of what gear is absolutely essential for survival versus “nice to have”. I would first make sure you have the 10 essentials : navigation, sun protection, insulation, headlamp, first aid supplies, fire starter, shelter, repair kit, food, and water.


You could technically hike without a daypack, but it might be challenging to carry your drink bottle, layers snacks, etc. without a small space to store them. I would recommend you use a backpack that you already have at home or invest in one that is made for hiking. Key features include adjustable straps, waist belt/strap, chest strap, and somewhere to easily access your water bottle or water bladder. I swear by my Osprey Tempest 20L Daypack (comes in 9L , 24L , 34L , 40L , and a 6L lumbar pack for trail runners). Another good option is the Topo Designs Rover 20L Pack , or sometimes I opt to use my camera bag if it’s a short hike (the Peak Design Everyday 20L Camera Backpack ).


You will want to pack some sort of insulation layer in case it gets cold, even if it seems like a sunny day! The weather can change very fast in the mountains of Washington. A nice breathable mid layer I love is the Patagonia R1 Fleece and I will even hike in this on cooler days. Another one of my favorites is the Patagonia Better Sweater 1/4-Zip Fleece , but keep in mind that it is heavier and also warmer than the R1.

For an additional warm layer, I would suggest something like the Backcountry Synthetic Insulated Jacket or the Patagonia Down Sweater for extra warmth in a really lightweight jacket. I also really love wearing a Patagonia Nano Puff Vest hiking because it regulates your core temperature without overheating or adding bulky layers to your extremities.


I rarely go on a Washington hike without bringing a rain jacket. You just never know when the weather will turn! My go-to is the Marmot PreCip Eco Jacket . It’s really lightweight and will keep you dry in a downpour. I also usually pack a lightweight wind jacket. This is completely optional but I find these are often the perfect thing to throw over a t-shirt when there is wind chill but it’s too hot for a fleece. Plus they stop mosquitoes biting you! Over the years I have owned the Patagonia Houdini Jacket , and the Backcountry Mad Creek Jacket and they both do a brilliant job.


A water bottle or hydration bladder is an absolute must when hiking! Dehydration can be a killer so it’s not something to skimp on. I personally haven’t had a great experience using hydration bladders so I stick with my trusted Hydroflask bottles which keep your water nice and cold.


Hiking snacks are a personal preference and the amount you pack will depend on the length and difficulty of trail. I will typically pack some granola bars , protein bars , energy chews , homemade trail mix, gummy worms, nut butter sachets , waffles , or dark chocolate. If I want something more substantial I will pack a bagel or fresh bread and cheese.


Another one of the “10 Essentials” is a means of navigation. A great starting place is purchasing or printing a topographic map for the area you will be hiking (keep it inside a waterproof sleeve ). It’s also a great idea to bring along a compass and have some basic skills to use it. In addition, it’s a good idea to save some offline maps to your phone. For instance, I use Gaia GPS to save offline maps for hiking and backcountry trips.


This isn’t a “must have” but more a piece-of-mind item that is good to have if you can afford it. Emergency devices essentially provide a means to call for help if you find yourself in a precarious situation. You may be taking local trips where you have phone service, but if not it might be worth investing in a device that has an SOS feature and tracker, like the Garmin InReach Mini or SPOT Gen4 Satellite GPS Messenger . My husband and I didn’t make this purchase for quite some time after we got into hiking and backcountry camping, but it now gives us peace of mind on longer treks and more risky hikes.


I typically take a small, lightweight first aid kit on hiking trips. You just never know when it will come in handy for yourself or your hiking partner. I really like the kits made by Adventure Medical Kits as they are ultralight and waterproof. I always throw in a couple of extra  blister-pads too, just in case!


Depending on where you are hiking, it’s probably a good idea to take some bug spray with you. Clothing is often the best protection against both bugs and sun, but even long sleeves and pants don’t always deter the peskiest mosquitos. I sometimes spray my clothes with mosquito deterring solution for longer trips. I also nearly always take a bug headnet with me. Sunscreen is a must, especially on hot summer days that you might be hiking above treeline!


Even during Washington’s summer months I will often pack a pair of lightweight gloves and a beanie. Especially if I am going on an early morning or late afternoon hike. The weather can change very fast in the mountains and I personally get cold easily, so it’s worth the extra weight for me to be comfy. Do what suits you! The North Face and Icebreaker both make a range of good glove choices. But for beanies I usually opt for my Pendleton Cable Hat .


If you plan to stay out for sunset or will be hiking up pre-sunrise, then I would highly suggest packing a headlamp . My go-to is the Petzl Actik Core Headlamp . Some extra “just in case” items you may consider bringing along are an emergency blanket , means to start a fire , a knife or multi-tool, and a whistle .