Day Hikers Checklist

Proper planning and preparation is necessary anytime you venture into the great outdoors. A day hiker's checklist is a great way of helping you to prepare for your hike, while helping to make your trip safer and more enjoyable. Of course the hiking gear you'll need will vary according to the type of hiking you've planned: the length of your hike, the time of year, as well as the destination and the terrain you'll be traveling over.

Hikers should always be prepared for a wide range of temperatures and weather conditions while hiking in the Great Smoky Mountains. Temperatures in the mountains typically fluctuate as weather patterns change. If your hike involves a major change in elevation, you should reasonably expect a change in temperature of 10 degrees or more. Combine this with the fact that the Smokies are the wettest place in the south where the higher elevations can receive up to 90 inches of precipitation a year. If not properly prepared, a sudden storm could result in a great deal of discomfort for you.

During the summer, days usually start out clear. However, clouds tend to build up as the day heats up, resulting in frequent afternoon showers and thunderstorms.

Winter is a great time to be in the Smokies, but also represents the most challenging time as well. Although temperatures may be mild in the lower elevations, the higher mountains will experience much colder weather and the possibility of snow. Winter storms can dump up to two feet of snow at the higher elevations.

When hiking in the Smokies it's always a good idea to carry gear and clothing for a variety of weather conditions. It's also best to dress in layers, and carry rain gear in your backpack. Although not an exhaustive list, the following day hikers checklist (and first aid kit) is a good starting point for ensuring that you'll have all the essentials before heading out on your next hiking adventure. You may want to add or remove items based on expected conditions and your personal needs. If you discover that you're missing any of the essentials, REI has all the necessary hiking apparel and gear you'll need to prepare you for any conditions.

Essential Gear

Backpack, daypack or fanny pack

Base Layer (polypropylene)

Mid / Heavy weight fleece or pile jacket

Rain / wind shells (jacket and pants

Supportive footwear for the length and terrain of your hike

Extra socks (see REIs guide for choosing socks)

Wool or fleece hat


Extra clothing / layers (polypropylene)

Thermal underwear for cold weather hiking


Water: full canteen(s), water bottle(s) or hydration pack

Extra food: high energy snacks

Map and/or National Park Map and Hiking Guides Bundle

Compass (with the knowledge how to use it)

Emergency Space Blanket or Emergency Bivvy

Waterproof matches / fire starters

Pocket knife

Flashlight or headlamp with new batteries

Whistle (in case you got lost)


First aid kit (see below)

Personal medications

Moleskin (for blisters)

Insect repellent

Sun protection (sunglasses, sunscreen, lip balm)

Baseball style hat / Wide-brimmed hat (protection from sun)

Toilet paper (protected in a plastic bag)

Money / ID

Many of the items above can be found at REI

Suggested/Optional Gear

Trekking poles

GPS (with extra batteries)

Knee Support

Hiking Boots


Disposable contact lenses or non-expensive glasses if you have impaired vision.

Notebook with pencil

Camera (film / extra batteries)


Cell phone (though likely you won't have coverage in the Smokies)

Feminine products

Water Filter / Iodine Water Treatment Tablets


Bear Spray

Zip seal plastic bags


Basic First Aid Kit

Some examples of items for your First Aid kit are listed below. Customize your kit according to your personal needs. Be sure you're familiar with everything in your kit and remember to keep items up-to-date and replenished. It's also important to keep your first aid kit in a waterproof container. Finally, we strongly recommend that you take a First Aid class and a CPR class, and make sure that you keep current on these skills.

Personal medications

Roll bandages

Triangular bandages

Ace bandages

Butterfly bandages

Sterile compresses

Adhesive tape

Sterile gauze pads

Antiseptic wipes

Miscellaneous band aids



Safety pins



Latex gloves


Plastic Bags

Small mirror

Antibacterial soap / wipes

Eye drops

Burn ointment

Sunburn lotion

Disinfectant cream

Decongestant and antihistamine tablets


Antibiotic cream

Aspirin / ibuprofen

Hydrogen peroxide

Diarrhea medication

Hydrocortisone cream

Poison Ivy cream / cleansers

Bee sting kit

Snake bite kit

Heat / cold packs

Personal information / contact person

First aid manual

REI sells a variety of First Aid Kits for camping, hiking and backpacking, including Adventure Medical Kits.