• Kate Sielmann

The 13 Items You Should Always Have In Your Day Backpack

Updated: Jun 7, 2020

Learning how to properly pack your day backpack with the right pieces of equipment may seem mundane and boring but it can save your life. And it will certainly save you for lugging around too much unnecessary gear, as most beginners tend to over pack rather than under pack. Preparing and packing your day backpack as well as your big backpack that is often moved around for you by porters is an essential lesson that should be learnt for any high altitude adventure of any duration.


This blog is about what you should pack in your day backpack and how. This is your light day backpack that you will use on day long treks or moving between camp sites on your trek or mountain climb, while your big bag with the rest of your gear is carried and moved by the help of porters.


1. First Aid Bag

I won’t go into too much detail on this point as I have written a very useful and informative blog about “The 11 Essential Items That Should Be In Your Mountaineering & Trekking First Aid Bag”. Click here to read it.


2. Identification Documents and Insurance

Regardless where you are trekking, be it, alone on a quiet day trek or in a group moving up towards the summit, you should always carry your identification documents and insurance with you. If you are on the mountain with your team and need to be evacuated down immediately, then it is critical to have your ID and insurance documents with you. The same scenario applies if you were doing a day trek alone.


If you are allergic to anything, attach a sticky note attached to your documents stating your allergy, just in case you are unconscious or unable to tell the medics.


I know this item may seem a little dramatic of me to suggest but there have been plenty of horrible stories of trekkers and mountaineers adventuring at high altitude without their ID’s and Insurance documents and then having an issue with being evacuated. When your life is on the line, you really don’t want to be held up because you forgot those documents


3. Water

Depending on the duration of your trek or climb that day, I would always suggest taking close to three litres of water. At high altitude you tend to lose more water even without exerting yourself and of course even more so when you are moving around and trekking. I personally like to take two 1-litre Nalgene bottles of water and one flask of tea, “cup-o-soup” (instant powdered soup) or hot chocolate.


4. Food

This is a matter of personal preference. Some people like chocolate bars while other prefer energy gels or sandwiches. Whatever you choose, you should know without a doubt that your food is not going to upset your stomach. Don’t pack foods or snacks that make you gassy or bloated at sea level because they definitely will at altitude.

It is useful to pack a few of your favourite sweets in your pockets that you can grab and eat while trekking, if you find yourself needing to eat something in between your rest stops.


I personally like packing a little bit of a variety, some sweet and if possible some savoury. My taste buds tend to love sweet things at sea level but go the complete opposite direction at altitude. It is not always the case, which is why I pack a few options but some days and at some altitudes, I just can’t stomach anything sweet, which is why I will take a “cup-o-soup” in my flask.


5. Sunscreen & Sunscreen Lip balm

You may have to apply sunscreen a couple of times throughout the day and lip balm even more often. It is often not enough to just put on sunscreen at the start of the day and spend the entire day out in the sun at altitude so find a convenient pocket and stash your sunscreen and lip balm there.


6. Survival/Emergency Blanket

This is normally a bright orange/gold blanket that is designed to protect you from heat, cold and moisture if you get caught in an emergency situation. It will have two different sides, the orange or gold traps warmth and the silver side is designed to protect you from the heat. It is one of those things that you may never use but the one time you you are caught in an emergency situation, you will be very, very grateful that you did have it.


7. Warm Layer

Depending on where you are adventuring and at what altitude, this could be a fleece layer or a synthetic down jacket. This is even more important on a route or mountain that tends to change weather patterns quite quickly or become very windy very suddenly, moving from warm to freezing in matter of minutes. You never, ever want to be at high altitude with the wrong gear because a lot of the time, the weather will be unpredictable and severe in its changings.


When you stop to rest, make sure you put this layer on so that you don’t get cold while you wait.


8. Gloves

This follows the same reasoning as packing a warm layer in your day backpack. If the weather changes suddenly, you’ll want to cover your hands up too. Depending on the altitude and general weather patterns of that mountain or route, you could make glove liners or a pair of mid-weight gloves if the mountain or route tends to get cold.


. Goretex® Jacket & Trousers

This layer is your outermost layer and is there to protect you from rain or snow as well as wind. The layers beneath this layer (fleece/synthetic down) are not windproof and without a Goretex® layer, you will still feel the bite of the wind and what is commonly known as the wind chill factor. The same principle applies in terms of getting water or snow on your lower layers. They are not designed to be waterproof nor dry quickly once they become wet, so if they do get wet, you will more than likely spend the rest of the day miserably soaked. Goretex® trousers are also if you think you may be moving through snow as it will stop the lower part of your leg from getting wet and cold.


10. Sunglasses

Often when the day starts out cloudy and gloomy, people forget their sunglasses and tend to suffer from the brightness later on in the day. Make it a habit of keeping your sunglasses in a specific pocket and always taking them even if the day starts out cloudy. If you are at high altitude, make sure your sunglasses are at the very least Category 3.


11. Camera or Phone

Some days you remember to take pictures, others you don’t but it’s always nice to know that you have the option to if you want to. I turn my signal settings on my phone completely off when I go on a mountain climb or trekking adventure so that no one can contact me and instead use my phone for pictures rather than a traditional camera.


12. Waterproof Backpack Cover

Most backpacks these days come with a raincoat or waterproof cover, but be sure to check yours and if it doesn’t have a waterproof cover of some sort then you can easily order one line and keep it tucked up in an easy to get to pocket.


13. Toilet Paper & A Spare Ziplock Bag

I don’t need to explain why toilet paper makes the top 13 list, but in case you were wondering what the spare ziplock bag was for, it’s for any used toilet paper so you don’t litter the mountain or trekking route you are climbing.


Depending On Your Mountain Or Route - Ice Axe & Crampons


Depending on the terrain you are moving over, you may need to pack your ice axe and crampons with you if you are expecting snow or ice. Your guide will tell you when you need to pack this and when you don’t.


Now that you know what is essential to pack in your day backpack, make sure you check out my next blog with all the tips and tricks you need to know on how to pack your backpack. You would think it was simple, but the tips and tricks that I share are the kinds that only come with experience.


Click here to read The 7 Best Tips & Tricks For Packing Your Backpack”

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