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Is there kind of a checklist what to consider before going on a day hike? Like which preparation should one take, things to pack (not detailed, like "food"), useful information (weather forecast e.g.) and so on.

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You might look up "ten essentials". – Nate Eldredge Feb 13 at 4:02
    
Just grab a canteen and go. – ShemSeger Feb 14 at 0:06
    
@ShemSeger word :) – OddDeer Feb 14 at 8:17
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My checklist changes depending who I'm going with, even bringing just the dog makes a difference – Erik vanDoren Feb 19 at 16:27
    
Should the answer be in community wiki form? – Dzhao Mar 23 at 21:58
up vote 13 down vote accepted

It depends on your destination. In general I would think of:

Preparation

  • organise one or more detailed map(s) of the area to go to
  • check the weather forecast
  • organise your way to your destination and back home (in case you do not start walking at your door). This could include:
    • check public transport and buy tickets
    • check fuel of your car; rent a car; check parking options; etc. (inspired by mattnz's comment)
  • make sure, you have appropriate clothes, shoes and backpack (and everything else, you want to take with you)
    • clothes and shoes should be hiking or trail shoes and non-cotton exercise clothing (comment from Radar)
  • pack
  • charge your cell phone and check, whether it will have reception at your destination (comments from jamesqf and Peter Green)
  • depending on your destination: plan sight seeing stops (e.g. check opening hours of the castle you want to go in or anything)

Thinks to pack

  • water
  • food
  • money, ID card, emergency information
  • a hiking map
  • medication etc. (if you need any)
  • a fully charged cell phone
  • additional rain/sun/wind/cold protection (depending on the weather forecast and the area you want to go to)
  • maybe a pencil and a small notebook
  • maybe stuff to take pictures (make sure the battery is charged, the memory card empty)
  • the above mentioned tickets

Edited to incorporate comments

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3  
Before depending on a cell phone, it's a good idea to check whether the area you're going to actually has cell phone reception. Even close to populated areas, trails in e.g. mountain canyons may not. – jamesqf Feb 12 at 19:21
    
+1 I would also add that appropriate clothing means suitable footwear (hiking or trail shoes, not flip flops) and non-cotton exercise clothing. Way too many people have rough hikes (even day hikes) due too poorly selected clothing. – Radar Feb 12 at 20:24
    
Be aware that mobile phones don't work everywhere. In some areas you might want to consider carrying an emergency locator beacon or a satphone. – Peter Green Feb 12 at 20:59
    
Why would I need to check public transport? I have a car and can drive to the start of the hike and where I live, the public transport will not get to to most anyway. – mattnz Feb 14 at 2:03
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mattnz Remember that this answer to your question will be read by many people, not just you. That's part of the point of public forums - while you are getting help, this becomes a resource for others searching for the same information. Ignore the bits that doesn't apply to you and use the rest. This is a good answer but I will add my own preparation checklist as well. – Johan Feb 23 at 5:11

As well as checking the weather forecast you should research the general weather conditions for the area you will be visiting, often conditions in hilly or mountainous areas can change quickly and without warning so you should be prepared for the worst possible conditions you might encounter. This also includes checking sunset times for the time of year.

It is also important to consider your route carefully, looking at gradients and terrain as well as distance. Satisfy yourself that all of your party can manage it in the time available. Ideally you should have an alternative or exit route in case you are delayed for any reason. Even on well marked paths a map and compass and at least a basic understanding of how to use them are essential, GPS etc should be considered useful additions not the sole means of navigation.

Also consider any potential hazards on or near the route such as cliffs or rivers which could be danger if you get lost and/or visibility deteriorates. Some areas may have particular hazards in the form of wildlife or be prone flooding etc etc.

Inform somebody reliable of your route and the time you expect to be back and check in with them when you return.

In many areas it is wise to take at least some preparations for an emergency overnight stay. In most cases this will not be full camping kit but might include extra food and water, some sort of emergency shelter and torches. The simple fact of being prepared can do a lot to prevent panic if you do get lost.

Have an emergency plan in case you get lost or separated. In most cases this means deciding in advance whether people will stay put once they realise they are lost or head to a prearranged meeting point.

As well as the obvious safety implications this sort of thinking ahead will tend to make a trip more relaxed and enjoyable.

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+1 specifically for "Inform somebody reliable of your route and the time you expect to be back and check in with them when you return." – Radar Feb 12 at 20:26

Some good answers here, but so far no-one has mentioned perhaps the single most important safety-factor:

Understand the reality of the hazards you are facing, and be sure you have the skills to cope with them

Depending on the area and the season, the risk factors you should be considering might include:

  • Weather: How challenging can it get? Do you really have the equipment and experience to cope? If need be, can you handle extreme heat, wet or cold?

  • Navigation: How hard is it to find the route? This can vary hugely. Even on marked trails you'll sometimes come across a baffling junction. If need be, can you navigate the route in cloud, dark and storm?

  • Emergency: If you get into trouble, how hard would it be to get help? Does your party have the experience to extract yourselves in case of illness or accident?

  • River Crossings: These can be lethal. Do you have the skill and judgement to keep safe?

  • Snow and Ice: What can you expect to encounter? You can't always see this from the valley. If you have any doubt about your ability to cope, ask locally about current conditions.

  • Bears and other wild animals: Do you know the local regulations? Do you know what precautions to take?

Over the years, most of the issues I've seen in the hills have stemmed from a party underestimating the route or overestimating their skills.

Sometimes this can be quite extreme: I once had to help rescue a lady who was attempting Ben Nevis in full winter conditions and a gathering blizzard while shod in high-heel shoes!

So do your homework, get a realistic idea of what you're up against, and make a realistic assessment of whether it's the right route for you and your party.

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I'll second the earlier nomination of the "ten essentials" list (@Nate Eldredge). There are two versions of this list, with the classic version of the list tracing its roots back to the 1930's. These lists are presented convenently on REI's web site (http://www.rei.com/learn/expert-advice/ten-essentials.html), but I will reproduce them below for posterity.

One bit of wisdom often not given in association with these lists is "...and the knowledge to use them properly". Without knowledge, these items are little more than additional pack weight. If you are going into any sort of a remote area, get proper training in navigation, first aid, and basic survival skills.

For anything much more than a short outing at a local park, I will pack enough for an overnight including all of the items on the modern version of the list. Understand that this would NOT be a comfortable overnight, but I would be protected from the forecast weather conditions and have sufficient food and water. This typically weighs in at 12-14 lbs (and this is where the ultralight backpackers get to chuckle...).

Updated Ten Essential "Systems"

  • Navigation (map and compass)
  • Sun protection (sunglasses and sunscreen)
  • Insulation (extra clothing)
  • Illumination (headlamp/flashlight)
  • First-aid supplies
  • Fire (waterproof matches/lighter/candles)
  • Repair kit and tools
  • Nutrition (extra food)
  • Hydration (extra water)
  • Emergency shelter

Classic Ten Essentials

  • Map
  • Compass
  • Sunglasses and sunscreen
  • Extra clothing
  • Headlamp/flashlight
  • First-aid supplies
  • Firestarter
  • Matches
  • Knife
  • Extra food
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