Brittany–for day hikes one pc of gear i now consider as essential is my Thermarest Z-Lite-Sol accordian pad. i use the short, 48″ version for sitting on when eating lunch or messing with lower layers or traction devices. i strap it on the outside of my pack with some shock cord so its fast and easy to deploy. Second pc would be my climbing helmet–esp. if i’m planning on cross country routes. Not just for potential falls but for possible ice-bombs dropping from tree branches above in wind or thaw conditions.