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What To Bring On A National Parks Trip

Packing Lists For Hikes And More

It’s best to go as prepared as possible when visiting the national parks. Some parks have stores for if you forget certain things, but their prices are usually high and cannot guarantee they will have what you need. This national parks packing guide is broken down into four categories: essentials, hiking, car camping, backcountry camping.

Trip Essentials

The below items are general things most visitors will require no matter what national park they are visiting. Use it as a guide and make adjustments based on where and when you are traveling.

  • Water + reusable bottle
  • Food (including snacks)
  • Identification
  • Travel documents
  • Cash + debit/credit cards
  • Annual national parks pass
  • Cooler for food storage
  • Picnic tablecloth
  • Reusable cutlery/utensils
  • Reusable plates/cups
  • Day bag / fanny pack
  • Comfortable shoes
  • Insulated jacket
  • Rain jacket
  • Camera + batteries
  • Phone + phone charger
  • Sun hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Mosquito repellent
  • First aid kit
  • Park map

 

Hiking Gear

The majority of national park visitors are interested in hitting the trails and getting in some hiking. The below items are a good starting point for what to wear and pack for hiking adventures. The National Park Service also has this handy guide to packing the 10 essentials for safe hiking in the national parks.

  • Hiking shoes
  • Merino wool socks
  • Hiking pants or shorts
  • Quick-dry hiking top
  • Hiking backpack
  • Trekking poles
  • Insulated jacket
  • Rain jacket
  • Navigation (map, compass)
  • Head lamp
  • Drink bottle
  • Sun hat
  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Mosquito repellent
  • First aid kit

 

Car Camping

When car camping in a national park or nearby, the below items are what you should consider bringing. “Car camping” refers to a drive-up camping spot (usually in a campground) where you either sleep in your vehicle or set up a tent.

  • Light source
  • Drink bottle + water storage
  • Tent, if sleeping outside
  • Sleeping pad
  • Sleeping bag
  • Camp pillow
  • Camp stove + propane
  • Firewood + fire starter
  • Camp plates, bowls, cups, mugs
  • Camp cutlery / utensils
  • Coffee making kit
  • Cooler + food storage containers
  • Biodegradable soap
  • Small camp towel
  • Camp table
  • Camp chairs
  • Charging device
  • First aid kit
  • Body/face towel
  • Toiletries

 

Backpacking

Backpacking is when you head out into the wilderness to camp, away from comforts like electricity and phone service. Keep in mind that every backpacking trip will be different, so use this as a guide and make adjustments according to your climate and length of trip.

  • Backpack + rain cover
  • Tent / shelter
  • Sleeping pad
  • Sleeping pad
  • Pillow
  • Trekking poles
  • Hiking shoes
  • Merino wool socks (+ spare pair)
  • Hiking pants
  • Quick-dry top
  • Sunglasses
  • Sun hat / bandana / buff
  • Baselayer bottoms
  • Baselayer top
  • Mid layer top (fleece)
  • Insulated jacket (puffy)
  • Rain jacket / pants
  • Camp sandals
  • Beanie
  • Gloves
  • Bear spray + canister
  • Head lamp + batteries
  • Meals + snacks
  • Water + bottle / bladder
  • Water filter
  • Gas backcountry stove
  • Gas canister
  • Lighter / matches
  • Cookset
  • Food storage bags
  • Spork + mug
  • Map + compass / GPS device
  • First aid kit
  • Knife / multi tool
  • Whistle
  • Repair kit
  • Trail permit
  • Tooth brush + paste
  • Body / face wipes
  • Sunscreen + lip balm
  • Bug spray + head net
  • Trowel + toilet paper
  • Mini pack towel
  • Camera + batteries
  • Water + bottle / bladder
  • Water filter
  • Gas backcountry stove
  • Gas canister
  • Lighter / matches
  • Cookset
  • Food storage bags
  • Spork + mug
  • Map + compass / GPS device
  • First aid kit
  • Knife / multi tool
  • Whistle
  • Repair kit
  • Trail permit
  • Tooth brush + paste
  • Body / face wipes
  • Sunscreen + lip balm
  • Bug spray + head net
  • Trowel + toilet paper
  • Mini pack towel
  • Camera + batteries

 

Renee Hahnel is a Backcountry ambassador, professional photographer, and national parks expert. She took a road trip in 2017 to visit every US national park, so you can say she knows a thing or two about planning a national parks trip. Click here to learn more about her road trip and see the route she took.