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.
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
Compass (with the knowledge how to use it)
Emergency Space Blanket or Emergency Bivvy
Waterproof matches / fire starters
Flashlight or headlamp with new batteries
Whistle (in case you got lost)
First aid kit (see below)
Moleskin (for blisters)
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
GPS (with extra batteries)
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)
Water Filter / Iodine Water Treatment Tablets
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.
Sterile gauze pads
Miscellaneous band aids
Antibacterial soap / wipes
Decongestant and antihistamine tablets
Aspirin / ibuprofen
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.