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What to Wear and Pack for a Day Hike

What to wear and pack for a day hike by Jo Castro.

The following piece was submitted by Jo Castro. See all our packing list posts here.

It’s no secret that I love hiking. I think it’s a wonderful way to get out in the open air, get your heart pumping, open your lungs and even engage your chin in a bit of social action if you go with friends!

In the past I liked to jog to stay fit. However, there is a saying:

“The main trouble with jogging is that the ice falls out of your champagne glass.”

So I’ve given up jogging! These days I like to go walking over hill and dale (without the champagne) in an attempt to stay healthy and keep my cheeks rosy. It’s also good for your general state of mind, and you’ll sleep like a baby after a day in the fresh air.

What to wear and pack for a day hike by Jo Castro.
Hiking is such a healthy pursuit. In the picture … walking along the stunningly beautiful Cape to Cape track in Western Australia. Note, the comfy hiking boots and stretchy hiking pants.

When we walked the beautiful Cape to Cape track in Western Australia last year most people we met were really well decked out for hiking. Some though wore thongs (not recommended) and jeans (uncomfortable after a while), so without further ado, here are some tips for staying warm and comfortable when you’re out on a day hike.

What to wear

  • Comfy hiking shoes, or hiking boots depending on the terrain.
  • If you’re wearing boots, then wear one pair of thin cotton socks that will absorb sweat, and a thicker (scratchier) pair of hiking socks that you can pull up over your ankles – a good ploy to help guard against snake bites. Wearing two pairs of socks greatly reduces your chance of getting blisters too.
  • Comfy trousers, hiking pants, or long shorts that do not clinch your waist in tightly, and which are stretchy enough to bend with you as you climb up steps or over rocks. I cannot overstress the waist bit – there’s nothing worse than feeling as if you’re confined in a corset when after a few hours’ walking every muscle is screaming for mercy.
  • Because I’ve had a melanoma recently I would now always strongly recommend a long sleeved top that is tightly woven to protect against the sun. If you can’t bring yourself to wear long sleeves, then slap on an indecent amount of sun cream. Let’s face it there’s nothing as unflattering as sun damaged skin.
  • A Cap. I take a lightweight one that’s a bit like a Legionnaire’s hat…incredibly unflattering but it covers my neck and ears. Again, the tips of your ears are often unknowingly exposed to a lot of UV rays.
  • Lightweight rain jacket

What to pack

  • Small day rucksack
  • Camera
  • Note pad the size of your palm, and a pen
  • Phone (in case you get lost or suddenly get the urge to Facebook or Instagram – it happens, even on a hilltop…ewwww!)
  • Business cards (well I’m a saddo and take them just in case I meet someone along the way who shows an interest in my blogs!)
  • Tissues
  • Sun tan lotion
  • Sun glasses
  • Lipstick and tiny hairbrush (in case you stop for lunch or tea)
  • Lightweight fleece
  • Paracetamol and anti-histamine tablets.
  • Plasters (band-aids) and antiseptic/antihistamine cream for small cuts, bites or blisters
  • Water, a few nuts, a bit of chocolate and some suckey sweeties.
  • Lunch – ahem, if possible find a cosy little cafe somewhere, rest your weary legs and have a glass of something preferably with alcoholic bubbles – if not, pack the sandwiches, energy drink and some fruit too.
  • Oh, and most of all. Don’t forget your sense of humour.

I do love walking when the weather is fair, but so often it’s not.

When I was in England we walked along the Devon coastal path from Westward Ho to Clovelly in England’s rural South West, a distance of about 17kms. It was meant to be easy but it turned out that due to challenging conditions this Devon country walk was hellish – I kid you not.

What to wear and pack for a day hike, collage, by Jo Castro.

The path was waterlogged and we walked mostly through a bog of mud, that stuck to our shoes and actually pulled the sole off one of my trainers. Note for future: Bad move Jo not to wear hiking boots.

What to wear and pack for a day hike by Jo Castro.
The sole came off my left shoe. It was pulled off by the mud.

We arrived at the ancient village of Clovelly pleased to have accomplished the full route, notwithstanding the fact that we’d variously slipped over, squelched unceremoniously at vertiginous angles, sprained muscles and oh yes, cursed constantly.

But despite the challenges, the walk was (ahem) fun, culminating in a fine ploughman’s lunch at the ‘Up-A-Long-Bar’ in Clovelly. Yes, the streets are all cobbled and it’s very pretty.

What to wear and pack for a day hike by Jo Castro.

Over the years I like to think that I’ve got packing my day pack down to a fine art – I probably haven’t, but I hope you find my tips useful.

So here’s to sloshing, quaffing (not jogging) and hiking.

What would you pack for a day hike? What have I missed out?

P.S. See Jo’s other post about packing for an Outback camping tour of the Kimberley.

About the Author: Jo Castro is Managing Editor of Lifestyle Fifty a life and style blog for Fun, Feisty and Funky Women. She also writes The ZigaZag Mag, a blog all about life and travel in beautiful Western Australia. Jo’s a freelance writer and creative writing workshop facilitator. She also offers courses in blogging.

*All photos provided by Jo Castro.

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Reader Interactions


  1. amybamy says

    I’d like to add a couple things…

    leave the lipstick at home. Maybe you mean some good chapstick? Chapstick with SPF protection is good to have when hiking at high altitudes or just on sunny days.

    the double socks thing has never worked great for me and cotton is not good for moving moisture… I swear by merino wool socks. Super soft, antimicrobial and wicks sweat very efficiently. Darn Tough and Keen make great merino wool socks that are made in USA and have a lifetime guarantee. Icebreaker and Smartwool are other good brands.

    Merino wool is great for the longsleeve too… keeps you warm when it’s cold and cool when it’s warm.

    A small pocketknife or multitool. Always good to have one in your pack.

    As is a bandana. Can be used for first aid, sun protection, or soak it in water and tie around your neck if you’re hot. I’ve even used one as a towel to dry off after taking a dip in a lake.

    A book… If I’m hiking alone I love to bring a book along to read while eating lunch and catching some sun at a lake.

    Another great thing to bring when hiking to a lake is a collapsable fishing rod and a small tackle including lures, line, pliers for getting the fish off the hook, a bit of paracord to string the fish up (if there are no rules about catch and release) and your fishing license if necessary. What can I say, I love to eat fish and nothing is better than baking up some fresh trout with lemon and garlic after a good hike.

  2. Elfina Courtland says

    Well, just to ask-I’ve been invited on a “hiking date” and I’m 57. A fit 57 but 57. So what would y’all suggest? I’ve got yoga pants but that seems weird to me. I have some stretchy jeans? I have some looser pants. What shoes? I guess I need to go buy some? I have work boots (I have a horse and they are for working around the barn-I guess I could wear riding pants-ha). Other than that, I can’t really think of appropriate shoes that I already own. Sigh the things I get myself into! Elfina

  3. Natalie Terry says

    England will sneak up on you like that. ALWAYS have a pair of wellies to hand if you’re going for a country jolly. Unless we’re in a freak mid-August heatwave (cheers jetstream), most National Trust trails and other country hikes are likely to have at least one treacherously muddy path which WILL steal your dignity in exchange for a brown bottom.


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