Build the Best Day Pack (Includes Checklist and Products)

Day Pack

Whether your adventures are urban, suburban, rural, or back woods you can be prepared for common emergencies. Your day pack will be custom to your needs. We spend a ton of time outdoors so we'll refer to a day pack that can be used on common outings (hiking, biking, fishing, etc.) Your adventures may be urban and your day pack may be a briefcase or purse so the gear you carry just in case will be different. We have some ideas for that as well.

Experience: Bad Directions

Last year we were given bad directions on a new mountain bike route. We had a map but the trail wasn't listed. Our 'direction-giver' sent us down a steep trail into a ravine. As we dropped elevation, we wondered how we were going to get to the ridge we were hoping for. We kept thinking the trail would turn upward but we were mistaken. We found ourselves at the bottom of a long valley and it was getting dark. The trail we came down was so steep we couldn't ride back up it so we had to continue on the trail until it connected with another one.

Fortunately, we had water, headlamps, food, and insulated jackets in our day packs we ALWAYS take with us on our adventures. Hours later we wound around on a connecting trail back to the saddle we wanted to reach. The sky was cloud covered and it was dark and chilly. We were exhausted and a bit unnerved but we got out. We were so glad we were prepared with the necessary supplies.


  1. Always have basic first aid supplies with you
  2. Carry a multi tool with a blade and pliers at minimum
  3. Have a bit of extra cash on hand

This day pack assumes you have the recommended emergency essentials pouches from Stage 1. Be sure to build the Emergency Essentials Kit from Stage 1 to include in your day pack.

Notice the Essentials Kits in the day pack image below.

Day Pack

About This Article


Table of Contents

  1. Best Day Pack
  2. Survival Priorities
  3. Complete Checklist
  4. Recommended Products
21 10 01 14 37 48 original b09dqz9vnl epg gear black main

Excursion Gear Organizer (Tactical, Full Size, MOLLE)

Gear organizer for tactical and hiking backpacks (full size, MOLLE)

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Excursion Gear Organizer (Tactical, Compact, MOLLE)

Compact gear organizer for tactical and hiking backpacks (compact, MOLLE)

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Survival Priorities

The human body has certain requirements to survive. For example, we need clean air, water, food, etc. We also want our blood on the inside of the body. These human needs can be prioritized based on urgency (i.e. drinking water doesn't matter if we can't breathe, etc.)

We recommend gear based on our list of survival priorities. The gear we recommend at each stage will have these priorities in mind. We should purchase critical gear and supplies first and organize it so it's portable and accessible.

We also take into account the likelyhood of needing a particular item in most survival situations. While it's possible, the odds aren't high that we might need a facemask over a flashlight or multitool, etc. We do recommend some tools early in the checklist because they facilitate other higher priority items. For example, a good multi-tool can help out in so many ways. We push it toward the top of the list.

Our day pack checklist takes into consideration years of experience in the outdoors as well as the checklists provided by the Boy Scouts, research on the web, military personnele we know and recommendations from first responders. 

We do urge you to customize your kits to tailor to your needs. Consider your common activities, health requirements, people in your household, etc.

Keep in mind, this day pack is part of another kit. Make sure you have Stage 1 Emergency Essentials to complete the kit

Survival Priority List

Priortize your gear and supplies based on this list.

  1. Air
  2. First Aid/Mental Health
  3. Communication
  4. Tools
  5. Shelter
  6. Warmth
  7. Water
  8. Food
  9. Hygiene
  10. Self Protection
  11. Extra Clothing
  12. Container 


Survival Priorities Explained

Complete Day Pack Checklist

Step 1. Start here: A good Day Pack requires the modular, portable emergency essentials survival kit designed for all go-bags. It contains the most essential gear, first aid, and toiletries for emergencies. Be sure to start with the essentials.

Step 2. The Day Pack Checklist has everything you need for an effective day pack. We recommend you download and print out the checklist. Then below, shop for recommended products you need. 

The Best Day Pack

Pack highly effective gear for the critical functions of life. Gear should be stowed in a sturdy, comfortable backpack for mobility. Here's a sample of some of the recommended survival items:

Survival Gear

  1. Cell Phone
  2. Headlamp
  3. Multi Tool
  4. Paracord
  5. Water Bladder (full)
  6. Backpack
  7. More...

First Aid

  1. Moleskin
  2. Rolled Gauze
  3. Triangle Bandage
  4. Butterfly Bandages
  5. Safety Pins
  6. Ace Bandage
  7. More...

Survival Clothes

  1. Hat
  2. Gloves
  3. Waterproof Jacket
  4. Footwear


Start Here:
1. Emergency Essentials Kit

Explore Checklist
(Required for all go bags)

Day Pack

2. Day Pack Checklist

Download Checklist

For personal use.

Recommended Day Pack Kit Products

Explore recommended survival products for the day pack gear. Below we go through each checklist item and suggest highly-rated, quality products.


Hands free working during an emergency is crucial. A rechargeable headlamp is perfect for activities in the dark.

Required Attributes:

  • rechargeable
  • multiple brightness modes (to save batteries or brighten an area intensely)

Reasons for Our Recommendation(s):

We have multiple options here. They are all quality products. The ultra bright lamp lights up a whole section of the forest and lasts for hours at a time. The others are more modest in brightness but last much longer.

20 10 26 11 10 55 original 600x600 rechargeable led headlamp 450 lumens

Rechargeable LED Headlamp 450 Lumens

Durable, rechargeable 450 lumen LED head lamp for hands free survival

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20 10 26 11 14 38 original 600x600 rechargeable led headlamp 300 lumens

Rechargeable LED Headlamp 300 Lumens

Durable, rechargeable 300 lumen LED head lamp for hands free survival

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Ultra Bright Headlamp

Ultra bright, rechargeable 6000 lumen LED head lamp for hands free survival

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Multi Tool

A multi-tool might be one of the most used, most handy items on the list. You'll use it to build shelter, process firewood, process and cut food, fix gadgets, etc. You should have a multi-tool in Stage 1. We recommend having a second, more robust multi-tool in Stage 2 as well - it's worth the extra weight.

Required Attributes:

  • 2 blades
  • pliers
  • saw
  • file
  • screw drivers
  • can opener

Reasons for Our Recommendation(s):

The Leatherman Wave is the most popular multi-tool for sale - and for good reason. It is super reliable and has all of the required functions plus other hand items. We use our Wave all the time - seriously, every outing.

Our favorite survival multitool is the ACTION Multitool. It was designed for survival. Definitely check it out.

There are other great options but if you can, spring for the Wave or Signal.

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Heavy Duty Survival Multitool

Heavy-duty multitool for emergencies, survival and the outdoors

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Leatherman Wave Multitool

Popular, reliable light-duty survival multi-tool

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Leatherman Skeletool Multitool

Compact EDC survival multitool for emergencies and the outdoors

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Field Master Swiss Army Knife

Best Swiss Army Knife for emergencies and EDC - light weight folding multi-tool that covers everything

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Cell Phone

A cell phone can be a great communication device if the grid is still up. It can also connect you with the internet and provide entertainment in dull periods.

Required Attributes:

  • phone
  • GPS
  • data connectivity

Reasons for Our Recommendation(s):

If the grid is still up your cell phone can be used to call for help, find your location (GPS), look up first aid and edible plants, keep from boredom, etc.

We strongly recommend including a method of generating power (solar, crank or both) so you can keep the phone going. We live where there are a lot of clouds so a crank option is best.

Use your own device. Most devices today have phone, text, Internet, and GPS capabilities.

Fire Starter

A Bic lighter is a great tool for starting fire. However, for long term use, a quality ferro rod is the best option. Fire is required for warmth, cooking, light, sterilization, etc.

Required Attributes:

  • light weight
  • adjustable flame
  • reliable
  • low effort

Reasons for Our Recommendation(s):

Bic lighters have a reputation for reliability. The one-flick open flame is a welcome site when it's night or cold. They require so much less effort than a ferro rod, bow, etc. Of course they'll eventually run out of fuel, but while they last they're ideal.

The Hot Strike Ferro Rod is ideal for emergency and survival situations. It works even when wet.

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Ideal primary option for rapid fire starting

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Hot Strike Ferro Rod Fire Starter

Best ferro rod fire starter for emergencies and survival

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Paracord (50 ft) (Extra)

Paracord can be used to build shelter, hunting traps, attach gear, make a perimeter, etc. You should have 50 ft in Stage 1 and we recommend another 50 ft in Stage 2.

Required Attributes:

  • Type III 550
  • certified paracord
  • 7-strand

Reasons for Our Recommendation(s):

For the weight 550 paracord is widely regarded as the standard. The military has chosen type 3 550 paracord for its parachutes and other functions. We're going to side with them on our recommendation - especially for the cost.

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550 Paracord Type 3

Milspec type 3 550 paracord for survival

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Water Container (Bladder)

Hydration bladders are typically larger and more flexible. You want to carry as much water as your weight limits will require. We strongly recommend including one. 

Required Attributes:

  • light weight
  • name brand (a cheap bladder can fail quickly)

Reasons for Our Recommendation(s):

Carry as much water as you can. This water bladder is name brand and reliable. Your back pack may come with a bladder so buy this after the pack.

20 12 15 15 14 01 original 600x600 hydration bladder

Hydration Bladder

2 Liter leak proof hydration bladder for emergency kit packs

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Backpack (Tactical or Hiking)

Make all your gear mobile with a well fitting, comfortable backpack. Consider tactical packs because you can attach molle pouches to them or a waterproof option if you live near a lot of water.

Required Attributes:

  • Backpacking or military style
  • Internal frame
  • Right size for your body size
  • Has a number of compartments and pockets

Reasons for Our Recommendation(s):

We highlight a number of packs to fit your size, climate, and preference. We've used a number of these packs and they've held up well.

  • We like our compression packs because you can get a lot of gear inside a compact format.
  • We like our military pack because its versatile and we can add pouches
  • We like the waterproof option for people on the water
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Hiking Backpack - Medium

Quality backpack for bug out bags, 72-hour kits or other emergency organization

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42L Tactical Backpack

Quality military-style backpack for bug out bags, 72-hour kits or other emergency organization

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Bear Spray

Protect yourself from animals and humans alike with a canister of bear spray. 

Required Attributes:

  • Reputable brand
  • 30 ft range

Reasons for Our Recommendation(s):

We've spent enough time on the trail to appreciate the protective qualities of a can of bear spray. Whether you encounter a wild animal, cranky domestic dog, or cranky domestic person you can disable the threat quickly with a shot of this stuff.

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Bear Spray

Primary self defense method

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Recommended Day Pack First Aid Kit (IFAK)

Explore our recommended survival products for the day pack First Aid Kit (IFAK). Below we go through each checklist item and suggest highly-rated, quality products.

Personal First Aid Kit (IFAK)

Treat injuries or illnesses with your robust field individual first aid kit IFAK. You can find a basic first aid kit to fit the objective. 

See the checklist for the complete list.

Required Attributes:

  • light weight
  • compact, pocket-sized
  • contains bandages, meds, and other items for very common cuts, scrapes, etc.

Reasons for Our Pick:

Choose the basic first aid kit and then modify it for the weight you want in your pack. You may take first aid supplies out and put them in a ziplock bag.

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Excursion Field First Aid Kit (Tactical, Compact, IFAK)

Light weight, compact survival first aid kit for emergencies and camping - includes supplies

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First Aid Kit - Compact

Standard, Portable IFAK First Aid Kit

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20 10 27 09 57 46 original 600x600 tactical full

First Aid Kit - Tactical

Tactical, Portable IFAK First Aid Kit

Buy on Amazon

Recommended Day Pack Toiletries Kit Products

Explore our recommended survival products for the Toiletries Pouch. Below we go through each checklist item and suggest highly-rated, quality products.

Portable Toiletry Kit

Stay clean and comfortable with a personal, portable toiletry kit. A toiletry kit tends to unique to each individual. Select products you enjoy day to day.

Required Attributes:

  • complete
  • compact

Reasons for Our Pick:

We recommend you make a list and buy extra items next time you go grocery shopping. Include the items in a cosmetic or toiletry bag. 

This kit needs to be mobile so weight is still an issue. Include only critical supplies in this Stage.

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Toiletry Kit

Toiletry kit for emergency preparedness

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Travel Toothbrush and Toothpaste

Travel sized toothbrush and toothpaste for emergency toiletries

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20 10 26 11 34 41 original 600x600 body wet wipes

Body Wet Wipes

Clean your body with large wet wipes

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Recommended Day Pack Extra Clothing Products

Explore our recommended survival products for the day pack extra clothes. Below we go through each checklist item and suggest highly-rated, quality products.

Complete Change of Clothes Plus Cold Weather Gear

Your change of clothes should be waterproof. Use a drybag and pack a complete set of clothes. Also include the cold-weather gear and jacket. It is so important to maintain a healthy body temperature. Stay dry, stay warm.

Required Attributes:

  • underwear/socks
  • base layer
  • shirt/pants (we love zip offs so you have shorts as well)
  • hat/gloves
  • insulated, waterproof jacket
  • good footwear - we expect you'll have this at the time of evacuation 

Reasons for Our Recommendation(s):

In a bug out situation you want extra clothes and outerwear to stay clean and warm. At the same time you don't want too much extra weight so only carry what is recommended.

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Knit Hat - Beanie

Durable, stretchable rib-knit insulated beanie hat

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Waterproof Gloves

Durable, waterproof gloves for emergencies

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Waterproof Jacket

Comfortable, waterproof jacket for emergencies

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Waterproof Hiking Shoe - Keen

Waterproof hiking shoe for survival

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Recommended Day Pack Food Products

Explore our recommended survival products for day pack extra food. Below we go through each checklist item and suggest highly-rated, quality products.

Food Ready to Eat and Food Production

A bug out bag has limited space for food and water. However, it's important to have light weight calories ready to go. We recommend keeping energy bars, trail mix, and dehydrated meals along with a light stove and fuel. 

Also include fishing gear, snares, and paracord to make a bow. Of course you want to modify your emergency kit for the area you live in. 

If you know you'll be in the outdoors indefinitely try to save the ready made food by eating food you can forage or hunt.

Required Attributes:

  • light weight
  • effective
  • legit

Reasons for Our Recommendation(s):

We live in an area where fishing, hunting, and foraging are options. We recommend buying a fishing kit and modifying it for the fish in your area. Add bait you know will work. 

Also, we like real snares over cheap wire. They're more effective and ready to go.

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Mountain House Emergency Food Pouches - 2 Servings

Emergency dehydrated food storage 2 servings

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Recommended Day Pack Documents Products

Explore our recommended survival products for the day pack documents for evacuation. Below we go through each checklist item and suggest highly-rated, quality products.

Documents, ID, and Cash

Keep critical ID and docs on a small thumb drive as well as paper copies. Keep an amount of cash in a variety of bills.

Required Attributes:

  • light weight
  • waterproof container

Reasons for Our Recommendation(s):

Stow important documentation in a waterproof ziplock bag or container. In an evacuation it's possible you may need to verify who you are and purchase things like food, fuel, ammunition, etc.

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Minimalist Wallet

Durable, minimalist leather wallet 

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3 Most reviews are based on personal experience from one of our content editors. Some are based on research and the opinions of other reviewers.


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