I write guides and make YouTube videos about and for hikers and would love to hear from the group what items they never leave home without when heading out on a day hike. Here's my last backpack video
@DougLoweSJC - there are some great packs out there but each one will have different ways of fitting. If you have an REI near you, I would strongly encourage you to go in and get fitted. Things like your torso length, hip measurement, height, and so on will all affect proper fit.
My day pack is the Gregory Zulu 30 and I couldn't be happier with it. It fits me like no other day pack has. But I also have read reviews from people who say it didn't fit them very well so they returned it. And you'll encounter the same kind of thing with Osprey, Kelty, REI, North Face, etc.
If you're not near an REI store, you can sign up for a free virtual outfitting session (I did that twice this year - once for helping me find a new shelter and once to assist me in properly fitting my new multi-day backpack - Another Gregory). The person you speak with will be able to help you dial in the right pack for you.
And, welcome to the community!
too general of a question ... better, "What's in your day pack for summer hike <10 miles?" ... and, "What's in your day pack for non-summer hike <10 miles?", and "What's in your day pack for hikes >15 miles?"
My answers will be different for each ... there's not even a core beyond phone and water.
For me, always, always, always the 10 essentials. Even if I am doing a heavily-trafficked local hike in a forest preserve. Five miles on a crushed gravel path with a total elevation change of 50' (I live in Illinois lol), I take it. Not because I think I'll need it but to develop the habit of always making sure my pack is properly outfitted.
Okay, if I am on one of those short local park paths, I don't have a paper map but I do have my compass. And I do change things up:
And so on. But always the 10 essentials.
Plus, I always carry my Zoleo unit, comprehensive first aid kit (and knowledge on how to use it), tick removal kit, my Helinox Zero chair and camp table... again, not that I will use them but I want to be in the habit of making sure I remember them.
Most have covered the basics.
Mostly my day pack (hydration pack) has things orientated towards First Aid:
Mini First Aid kit; all the usual things for booboos (bandaids, Motrin, Tylenol, tube of Neosporin) plus, a couple of ammonia inhailants, a capsule of Benzoin tincture, two tick twisters (large & small), a sewing needle, mini roll of dental floss.
Also, an ACE bandage, Leukotape, roll of 1/2" medical tape, a few 4"x4" sterile pads, an emergency blanket.
Also a compact mirror (very difficult to treat eye issues without one).
Some spare batteries for my small flashlight and headlamp.
A mini tripod for my camera and phone.
A solar charger.
A couple of 24" lengths of 3/4" velcro tape and 12' of paracord.
Of course spare socks.
Also a Rothco lightweight MOLLE water bottle carrier velcroed to the shoulder strap (for a 20oz SS water bottle......for GatorAde 😉).