Updated on August 31, 2020 by Asher Fergusson
What to Pack for Arizona – 17 Essentials
The last thing you want is a twisted ankle while exploring Arizona’s rugged landscape. Sturdy but lightweight hiking boots are an essential part of your trip, whether you’re hiking to the bottom of the Grand Canyon or among the towering cacti of Saguaro National Park. Look for boots with good ankle support and with enough room for a good pair of wool hiking socks. It’s hard to be this pair from Merrell:
For much of the year and in much of the state, the heat is intense. If you plan outdoor activities, particularly something potentially rigorous like a long hike or rock climbing, you should guard against dehydration by packing electrolytes. Lugging around jugs of water or sports drinks is cumbersome and impractical. Instead, opt for these easily packable packets of electrolyte powder:
Electrolytes won’t do much good if you don’t have adequate hydration. The sun can be blistering in Arizona and having plenty of water is essential. It doesn’t get much easier than this slim, lightweight hydration system that you wear like a backpack:
Avoiding heat exhaustion and sunburn will be a critical part of your trip, but you don’t want to load up your pack or suitcase with a lot of extra items just to stay cool. You can keep the sun off your face and out of your eyes without taking up a lot of space with this sun hat:
No one wants to spend their vacation swatting insects away or dealing with itchy bug bites. And the idea of slathering yourself with sketchy chemicals isn’t very appealing, either. Instead, opt for this DEET free insect repellant that comes in the perfect size for packing:
Travel umbrellas are notorious—most of them are too small, too light, or just poorly made. When you need shelter from the rain—or the sun—pack this compact travel umbrella that actually does what it’s meant to do and is rugged enough to keep you dry through many trips:
Whether you’re heading to Arizona or anywhere else, you want to be able to move as easily as possible, without a lot of excess weight. But you also need to be able to carry everything you need. This lightweight pack has plenty of room and zippered compartments galore, but won’t weigh you down:
No matter the destination, comfortable walking shoes are a must. Blisters and rubbed heels can ruin any trip. These Adidas running shoes are both comfortable and affordable and have accompanied me to countries around the world:
The person who invented convertible hiking pants deserves an award. They are perfect for days that start out cool but warm up, or vice versa. These hiking pants from Columbia are not only comfortable and convenient, they’re also very lightweight.
If you find yourself in a remote location while camping or hiking, potable water may be in short supply. An easy solution is the Life Straw Water Bottle, which can keep you hydrated no matter the environment:
Sometimes it’s great to go off the grid and just enjoy nature. But sometimes you just need to make a call or send an email and you won’t find any outlets in the desert. To make sure you can be connected when you need to be, be sure to carry this handy charger:
When packing for a trip, you want to bring as little as possible, and that requires pieces that can do double-duty. This versatile sundress can be as casual as you like but can also easily be dressed up:
Arizona offers so much incredible scenery—you won’t want to miss any of it. Whether you’re a birder or simply want to take in all of the state’s incredible views, these binoculars are affordable, compact (not much bigger than the palm of your hand) and even offer night vision:
14. Neck Wallet
When you’re traveling light but need to keep essentials close at hand, a neck wallet can be your best friend. This one is lightweight, water resistant, and provides RFID blocking. It’s a must-have for keeping money and credit cards safe.
Whether you’re going for a swim in Lake Havasu or working up a sweat in the Sonoran Desert, you’re likely to need a towel at some point on your trip. There’s no need to pack a big, traditional bath towel to keep dry when you can take this thin, microfiber travel towel instead:
If Coronavirus has taught travelers anything, it’s that plans can change, and insurance is a must. Whether something happens to you and you need emergency medical care, or your plans simply fall through, you want to be covered.
17. Cooling Towel
To keep cool while hiking or even walking city streets, carry this little wonder with you. It’s not complicated; just rinse it in cold water, wring it out, then place it anywhere you want to feel instantly cooled-off:
Other Arizona packing list items not to forget
Waterproof Phone Case
Travel Sized Bottles
OTC Pain Medication
Makeup Remover Wipes
Travel Tissue Packs
Travel Laundry Detergent
First Aid Kit
What to Wear in Arizona
Another consideration is what activities you plan on doing. Arizona is an outdoor lover’s dream, but you might be drawn to museums and restaurants, which would require less casual attire. Packing a few key pieces can make your trip a breeze and your suitcase a whole lot lighter. And like many destinations, wearing layers in Arizona is generally a smart move.
SPRING in Arizona – (March, April, May)
By spring, Arizona is getting considerably warmer, particularly in the western part of the state. In the northern part of the state, high temperatures will likely stay around 50 degrees Fahrenheit, while elsewhere, temps could get up to 80 degrees. Layers are a must.
SUMMER in Arizona – (June, July, August)
Summers in Arizona can be exceptionally hot. Temperatures across the state will likely be in the 90s, but in the southern desert, temperatures can get up to 125 degrees Fahrenheit. Light, quick-drying fabrics are essential.
FALL in Arizona – (September, October, November)
Fall is perhaps the most pleasant time of year in Arizona. Temperatures are still warm (in the 80s) but evenings are cool. If you find desert heat unbearable, fall might be the ideal time to go. Again, layers are great, and you’ll want to bring at least a light jacket.
WINTER in Arizona – (December, January, February)
Temperatures can vary widely during winter and can still occasionally be quite warm. Nighttime temps typically average in the 40s, and there may be snow in the northern, high altitude part of the state. You should definitely pack cold-weather attire, but a light jacket may suffice if you’re sticking to the southern part of the state.
Hiking: With Arizona’s incredible scenery, hiking is a widely popular pastime. If you plan on heading out to Humphrey’s Peak or Devil Bridge Trail, be sure you pack some solid hiking boots, quick-drying shirts, and hiking pants or shorts.
Watersports: Though many people picture deserts when they think of Arizona, the state offers great opportunities for fans of watersports. Whether you plan on rafting in the Upper Salt River or boating in Lake Havasu, be sure you have quick-drying clothes, water shoes, sunglasses, and a hat.
What NOT to Bring to Arizona
3) DON’T BRING Lots of cash Debit and credit cards as well as digital wallets are widely used (as in virtually everywhere) in Arizona, so there’s really no reason to carry a lot of cash. Arizona doesn’t have a high crime rate, but to be on the safe side, carry only small amounts of cash in addition to your cards and/or digital payment methods.
5) DON’T BRING Lots of books One of my travel rituals is to bring a famous novel set in whatever destination I’m visiting to read while I’m there. But I bring ONE book. A suitcase full of books is a drag (literally), so leave all those heavy titles at home and if you want to read, bring an e-reader.
4) DON’T BRING Unnecessary gear Sure, it’s tempting to pack everything you think you might need. But all that extra gear takes up a lot of space and weighs you down. Take only what you know you will use, and you’ll travel much lighter and easier.
6) DON’T BRING Multiple beauty products You may be a makeup junkie, but when you start packing for Arizona, it’s best to streamline your beauty routine. Find beauty products that serve multiple uses (like an eye, lip, and cheek stain) and keep your bags a whole lot lighter.
FAQs About Arizona
1. What is the weather like in Arizona?
For most of the year, Arizona can be counted on to be hot and dry. The summer is exceptionally hot, with the southern part of the state occasionally reaching temperatures as high as 125 degrees. Winter can sometimes bring snow to the northern part of the state, but elsewhere, highs in winter may run from the 40s to the 60s. With more than 300 days of sunshine, no matter where you go in Arizona, you can probably count on lots of rays.
2. What are the best places to see in Arizona?
Arizona is a big state and offers a multitude of places to go and things to do. Its natural beauty is incredible, from the otherworldly Antelope Canyon to the majesty of Monument Valley. Old West aficionados will enjoy the ghost towns of Goldfield and Jerome while those with an interest in Native American history can explore the Apache Trail and the striking cliff dwelling known as Montezuma Castle. And you can’t miss the Grand Canyon, one of the most visited sites in the United States. Arizona’s cities offer their share of attractions as well, from the lush resorts of Scottsdale to the Spanish-style architecture of Tucson. And Phoenix, as the fifth-largest city in the United States, offers a bit of everything—museums, an emerging culinary scene, and easy access to some of the state’s most impressive natural sites.
3. What is the best way to see the Grand Canyon?
They call it “grand” for a reason. At nearly 300 miles from end to end, the Grand Canyon is magnificent and is one of the most visited national parks in the country. First-time visitors to the canyon often choose to start at the South Rim, which offers stunning views as well as a host of tourist amenities. As an added plus, the South Rim is open year-round. If you want to fully explore the canyon, however, you can explore the North and South Rim, hike down into the interior, then raft the Colorado River. There are also rail and helicopter tours of the canyon. No matter how you choose to see it, you’re sure to have a mind-blowing experience at one of the world’s natural wonders.
4. What is the best time of year to go to Arizona?
This is often a matter of opinion, no matter the destination. But many people agree that spring and fall are the best times to visit Arizona, as the temperatures are less extreme. Aside from the Grand Canyon, which draws the largest numbers in summer, spring and fall are the busiest seasons in the state, meaning you’ll also pay higher rates during those months.
5. What national parks are located in Arizona?
Mother Nature outdid herself in Arizona. The state is justifiably famous for its natural wonders, which include three national parks: Grand Canyon, Saguaro, and Petrified Forest.
6. What are the best things to do in Phoenix?
As one of the largest cities in the US, Phoenix has no shortage of activities and attractions. Art lovers can while away the hours at Roosevelt Row, an arts district lined with vibrant street art, boutiques, and galleries. Downtown Phoenix has a world of museums, including the Heard Museum, a treasure trove of Native American artifacts, and the Phoenix Art Museum, the largest in the Southwest. The city is also home to several pro sports teams—the NBA’s Phoenix Suns, the MLB’s Arizona Diamondbacks, the WNBA’s Phoenix Mercury, and the Indoor Football League’s Arizona Rattlers.
7. What are the best things to do in Sedona?
Arguably one of the most beautiful places in the state, Sedona is a charmer. Hikes and jeep tours take visitors into the city’s famous red rocks, a not-to-be-missed experience. A mecca for New Age devotees, Sedona is believed to be located along with several vortexes, and there are guided tours that offer visitors a glimpse into the city’s famous mystical energy.
8. What kinds of wildlife does Arizona have?
Arizona is home to some fascinating wildlife species. As you’re exploring the state’s outdoors, don’t be surprised if you spot coyotes, javelinas, bears, deer, and coatimundi. Expect to see some interesting reptiles as well, including Gila monsters, which can be found in several state parks. And keep an eye out—or an ear—for diamondback rattlesnakes. Solitary creatures, they tend to give a quick warning rattle if you get too close.
9. What are some off-the-beaten-path destinations in Arizona?
There are loads of interesting sites in Arizona that you rarely hear about. Tucson, for instance, is home to the Diamondback Bridge, a rattlesnake-themed, award-winning bridge in downtown that rattles when you cross it. Fans of the rock band the Eagles should head to Winslow and have a photo taken while “standing on a corner.” It’s on iconic Route 66 and there are plenty of signs to direct you to said corner. The colorful town of Bisbee—worth a visit in its own right—is home to the Shady Dell, a collection of vintage, midcentury travel trailers, complete with black-and-white TVs and radios that play historically accurate music. If you have a fascination for all things midcentury, book a stay in one of the trailers.