Top 10 Day Pack Essentials

Izzy Perry04 Mar, 2024

Two boys overlooking a cliff while hiking in Hawaii

The day pack is an essential piece of gear on any outdoor trip, from a day hike in the mountains to a snorkel trip by the beach. When setting off on a Bold Earth summer adventure for teens, it’s a mandatory item on our packing list because of its versatility and every-day use. Whether your exploring ancient cobblestone streets in Croatia or making a summit attempt on Kilimanjaro, the day pack is about to become your very best friend.

Why are day packs important?

On a Bold Earth trip for teens, there are certain items that we never leave the house (or campground, hostel, lodge, etc.) without. Some of these items are things we’re going to need throughout the duration of our day, every day. Some are things we might suddenly require under special circumstances only. We’ll need to have all of our essentials with us for the day to be prepared.

Day packs also bring a level of agency. On a trip where adults will be making many of the logistical decisions, day packs are essential to give our students the chance to meet their own needs whenever possible. Carrying your own water, cozy sweatshirt, sun protection, and favorite book allows you to become a more self-sustaining unit.

Carrying your own daily gear is also important for safety. The National Park Service suggests no hiker travel without certain essential items in their backpack. Getting into a good day pack routine on a Bold Earth adventure ensures good habits when recreating outside in the future. Having what you need, when you need it is one of the most important skills for anybody interested in spending time outside.

1. Water

A liter or two of water in a durable, reusable bottle is essential. Drinking water consistently throughout the day, whether engaging in high activity or not, makes us feel better and stay comfortable. Water helps our body stay warm in cold climates and stay cool in sweltering ones. It reduces the chance of serious environmental injuries, like hypothermia and heat stroke. Carrying a personal water bottle also reduces the waste of needing to buy a single-use plastic bottle and saves money along the way.

2. Layers

The climate is variable on every single Bold Earth adventure trip. Even in sunny Hawaii, temperatures can dip with wind and rain or at higher elevations. Layers are the key to staying comfortable outdoors. We recommend carrying a rain jacket and an insulated or fleece jacket, even on our warm climate trips. In colder environments, throw in a puffy jacket. warm hat, gloves, and neck buff. Avoid cotton whenever possible, even in warm temperatures. Wool and synthetics will wick moisture away from the body and dry faster.

3. Headlamp

A headlamp provides reliable, hands-free illumination which is essential at night and useful in many situations during the day. Once the sun goes down in a campground, headlamps are the best way to see what’s around you before setting up camp as well as navigate in the dark. Headlamps can help you see into dark spaces if you need to fix something that’s in shadow or explore caves, crevices, and overhangs. Strap a headlamp onto your water bottle to create an ambient light source that’s soothing and practical.

4. Sun Protection

The sun is our greatest friend and also our worst enemy. On our summer adventures, we take sun protection as seriously as it gets. A trip looses fun points quickly when sunburns become itchy, blistered, or peeling. Being outdoors for most of the day results in a high level of sun exposure, meaning that sun protection is no joke. A day pack should always have a healthy supply of sunscreen (reef safe and mineral based is best), a sun shirt (or light, breathable shirt with full skin coverage), and brimmed hat.

5. Snacks

On Bold Earth adventure trips, we provide all the snacks for our students and accommodate dietary restrictions as well as personal preferences to the best of our abilities. You won’t need to bring any snacks from home or buy them along the way, but a day pack is the perfect place to carry the group snacks we provide when we hit the trail. Snacks are energy and morale boosting, but also necessary for safety when traveling through National Parks and other outdoor recreation sites. Being prepared for an emergency means having extra food and water at all times.

6. Navigation

Trip leaders will be the ones responsible for packing any navigation equipment on a Bold Earth adventure trip, but when planning your own outdoor pursuits its important to know the options when it comes to maps and GPS. A paper map (waterproof is best) and compass are excellent options, if you know how to use them. A simple and easy way to know where you are in the world is by using Gaia GPS, an app that can be downloaded on your phone. Gaia GPS allows you to plot courses, track your progress, and view topographical maps of your location.

7. First Aid Supplies

A fully outfitted first aid kit is carried by all trip leaders on Bold Earth adventure trips, but if you’re headed off with friends or family for a day in the mountains, you should also carry first aid supplies. One of the most important parts of first aid preparedness is knowing what you have and how to use it. Building your own kit with the supplies you know how to use is safer than buying a preassembled kit from the store. If you already have a preassembled kit, pull everything out and take a look at it. Familiarize yourself with all the components and know what resources are available to you.

Every Bold Earth trip leader is Wilderness First Responder certified at a minimum, meaning that they are trained to handle outdoor emergencies.

8. Prescription Medications

Being prepared for the outdoors means knowing that a day hike could turn into a longer adventure if things don’t go according to plan. On Bold Earth adventures, trip leaders will be responsible for carrying all prescription medications at all times on their person that you always have access to the medicine you might need.

On your own adventures, think ahead to what you might need if your outing goes longer than planned. If you take prescription medications at specific times of day, consider carrying them with you so that you don’t miss an important medication window.

9. Multi-Tool

Improvisation is the name of the game when unforeseen circumstances change your outdoor itinerary. Broken gear can stop you in your tracks on a hike in the mountains and sometimes a simple pair of pliers is all you need to get back on the trail. A multi-tool is useful for a variety of situations, from fixing a broken tent zipper to cutting up cheese for lunch.

10. Overnight Essentials

When flying out to the start of an epic Bold Earth summer adventure, there’s always the chance that you could become temporarily separated from your checked luggage. In the unlikely event that you reach your destination before your duffel bag does, having one change of clothes and a few overnight essentials makes for a much more comfortable 24 hours waiting for your belongings to arrive. If you wear contacts, a retainer, or anything else that requires special care at night, consider bringing it along on your carry-on.

Ready for Adventure!

With these top 10 essentials in your day pack, you’ll be prepared for the vast majority of situations that can arise in the outdoors and on a Bold Earth trip. If you have any other questions about day packs, what to pack, or why, don’t hesitate to reach out. We’d love to hear from you!

Two boys waving underwater




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