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17 Top Big Bend National Park Packing List Items for 2024 + What to Wear & NOT to Bring

what to pack for big bend
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The national parks in the United States are all such beautiful spaces of land, all with their own unique qualities. Big Bend is one of these incredible national parks. Located in Texas, it includes the mountain range called Chisos and has a large part of the Chihuahuan desert. It also has the beautiful Rio Grande river and Santa Elena Canyon. All of this combined makes for beautiful hikes, amazing wildlife sights, and some peaceful desert camping.

Taking a desert trip is something to be prepared for, and we’ve got you covered! In the article below, we have all the essentials for desert hiking, what to wear, what not to wear, and some FAQs.

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What to Pack for Big Bend National Park- 17 Essentials

  • 1. Cooling Towel

    There is doubt about it that Big Bend gets hot! Hiking during any time of the year may leave you sweating. This cooling towel is literally a lifesaver for desert hikes. Just dip it in water, and wear it around your neck as you hike for up to one hour of cooling relief.

    cooling towel

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  • 2. Hiking Pack with Water Bladder

    To hike anywhere in Big Bend, you must have a quality hiking pack for everything you may need. This hiking pack is perfect for day trips because it has a decent amount of space to bring everything you need for one day, but the key is the water bladder. Even if you have a water bottle, the water bladder is always amazing for extra water storage.

    Hiking Pack with Water Bladder

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  • 3. Packing Cubes

    Whether you are taking a 1-day trip or a week-long trip, these packing cubes are amazing. To have all your clothes neatly organized and tucked away, these packing cubes are the way to go.

    Packing Cubes

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  • 4. LifeStraw Water Bottle

    Water can be tricky in the desert. There are water fill-up stations within the national park, but you never know when you might have to get water from a questionable location. This LifeStraw water bottle allows you to fill up from anywhere and the LifeStraw filters out 99.9% of all bad bacteria so you don’t have to worry about what you’re drinking.

    LifeStraw Water Bottle

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  • 5. Travel Umbrella

    The desert is an extremely sunny place, with not much shade. For when you’re resting out on the rocks or even when you’re walking around, this umbrella will provide amazing shade, and of course protection from any rain and wind.

    Travel Umbrella

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  • 6. Portable Charger

    Although the desert doesn’t have much service, it’s still nice to have your phone for photos or for emergencies. There isn’t much for charging capabilities in the desert either. That’s why having a portable charger is so handy. It fits in any small purse or fanny pack and will charge your phone for two full charges.

    Portable Charger

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  • 7. Quick Dry Travel Towel

    There are some water activities around Big Bend that will have you wishing you had this quick dry travel towel. It’s the perfect towel for hiking because it rolls up so nicely and dries up to 10 times faster than regular towels.

    Blue travel towel

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  • 8. Hanging Toiletry Bag

    If you are someone like me who always leaves their toiletries strewn about the car or the tent, then you need this toiletry bag. It’s so easy and holds everything you might need. Then it hangs right up or folds up in a perfect easy-access, out-of-the-way location.

    Hanging Toiletry Bag

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  • 9. Neck Wallet

    Make sure you always have your important cards and IDs in one safe place, right around your neck. Not only is it the safest place, but it is always super easy to access and stuff never goes missing!

    Neck Wallet

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  • 10. Waterproof Phone Case

    Big Bend is, yes, a desert. However, one of the main attractions in the desert is the beautiful Rio Grande river which you walk along, take a kayak out on, or swim in some specific locations. If you plan on doing any of these activities, protect your phone first with this waterproof phone case.

    Universa Waterproof

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  • 11. Travel Insurance

    Whether you booked an Airbnb nearby or made a reservation for a campsite or rental car, make sure everything you buy is covered with travel insurance so if anything goes wrong, you get your money back guaranteed. We use to compare policies form top companies and find the best option for our travel plans.

    Travel Insurance

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  • 12. Head Lamp

    Even if you do not plan on being around the park at night, it is so important to have a headlamp just in case that hike runs a little longer than you expected or whatever else may have happened. It’s better to be prepared.

    Head Lamp

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  • 13. First Aid Kit

    Being in the desert, there are many things that are out to get you. Not to mention, blisters from long days of hiking or even just small cuts from rocks, etc. Having a first aid kit with you can help with small cuts, but also may provide life-saving instruments. Never go anywhere without one!

    First Aid Kit

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  • 14. Walking Stick

    There are a lot of elevation changes while hiking around the park. Having a walking stick can be so handy, especially for those longer, more taxing hikes.

    Walking Stick

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  • 15. Multi-Tool

    More important than you may think, having a multi-tool is extremely important for hiking. Whatever accidents may happen, be prepared with a multi-tool.


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  • 16. Sunscreen

    While walking or hiking around Big Bend there is some shade, however many of the hikes are under the open sky, with not much shade. It isn’t uncommon to come back with a sunburn! Protect your skin and make sure you have strong sunscreen for walking around the desert.


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  • 17. Camera

    I wouldn’t bring my nicest camera with me to Big Bend, but what’s a better way to document the experience than with a disposable camera? With all the beautiful sceneries and views, you will definitely have so much to take photos of.


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What to Wear to Big Bend National Park

It is important to consider desert temperatures before packing for Big Bend. The desert is unpredictable, it gets extremely hot, and extremely cold at night. Flash rains and high winds are all something to expect from the wild desert.

In the summer, the days can be very hot so pack light clothing and layers that can be removed. On the opposite side, the nights can be extremely cold so bring layers! Never wear cotton while you are hiking as it doesn’t breathe and doesn’t dry very well. Wear quality moisture-wicking clothing meant for hiking and make sure you have strong footwear.

What Should WOMEN Wear to Big Bend National Park? – (Click to expand)
Below is a sample women’s clothing list. (All items link to for your convenience).

Women should wear comfortable, loose-fitting clothing. It is best to pack layers of all kinds, like sweatshirts, light jackets, leggings and t-shirts, and shorts. Footwear is very important when being in the desert. Having a quality pair of hiking shoes will make a huge difference. Unless you are going swimming, you don’t really want open-toed shoes, but waterproof sandals are advised when you are taking a river trip.

What Should MEN Wear to Big Bend National Park? – (Click to expand)
Below is a sample men’s clothing list. (All items link to for your convenience).

Like women, men should wear clothes that are comfortable, athletic, and moisture-wicking. Wear clothing that you don’t mind getting a little dirty as that is bound to happen out in the dusty desert. Always remember to have layers of all kinds, sun protection, and quality hiking shoes!

Packing for the Seasons in Big Bend

Winter – December, January, February

Winter is one of the more peaceful times to visit the park. It’s not yet the busiest season, and the temperatures are perfect, especially for hiking. During the day, winter temperatures are around mid-55-60 degrees F. During the nights, it can get a little chilly, at around 40 degrees F, but it’s not bad if you bring the right layers.

Pack comfortable moisture-wicking clothing, hiking pants, and base layers. You could bring a t-shirt and shorts in case it warms up during the days while you are hiking. You will want a down jacket for the evenings, along with a hat. Although the chance of rain is slim, flash rains do occur during the winter months and it’s best to be prepared with a rain jacket.

Spring – March, April, May

Spring is actually the busiest season for Big Bend. The temperatures are perfect for hiking around the desert and it doesn’t get too cold at night for camping. Normally, spring temperatures are around 70-80, with the nights only getting down to the high 40’s or 50’s. Since this is the desert, spring here isn’t as rainy as around most of the country, however, if it is going to rain, this is the season that it will happen. Spring is also one of the most beautiful times to visit the desert, as March and April are the months that the cacti begin to bloom.

Bring a rain jacket, just in case you are caught in a spring rain storm. Spring hiking is nice because you can start off with a light jacket, but you will usually end up in a t-shirt and shorts. Have a sweatshirt and some warmer pants in case you are camping and it gets a little chilly in the evenings.

Summer – June, July, August

Most people don’t visit Big Bend in the summer because it’s extremely hot. It is even highly advised to not go hiking when it is above 95 degrees. Since it’s pretty much over 95 degrees every day in the summer, there isn’t a whole lot people can do.

Normally, most people find themselves driving through Big Bend in the summer. If you do decide to hop out and go for a hike, make sure you are well prepared with lots of water and sunscreen. Wear a thin tank top, and loose shorts, and have a sun hat for protection.

Fall – September, October, November

As the weather begins to get a little cooler, more people start to come to the park to enjoy some fall adventures. On average, the most rain actually comes to Big Bend in September, so keep this in mind when you are planning your visit. On average, the fall temperatures are around 80-65 during the day, while night temperatures don’t go below mid 40’s.

Since the days are still fairly warm, pack layers that can be removed. Hiking in the fall is very similar to hiking in the spring. Since the mornings may be chillier, you can start your day with a light jacket, then have a t-shirt on underneath. Definitely bring your rain jacket and rain boots just in case!

Dressing for the Activity – (Click to expand)
Hiking: The most popular activity in Big Bend is hiking. Hundreds of people come out to hike the trails in Big Bend, there are over 150 miles of trails altogether throughout the park. Desert hiking isn’t for the faint of heart and it takes some preparation. Always be smart and check the weather before you go, hiking is highly advised against when the weather is over 95 degrees (much of the summer).

Loose breathable clothing like base shirts, hiking pants or shorts, and quality hiking shoes will do you very well on any hike in Big Bend. You will definitely want plenty of water and never forget life-saving tools such as multi-tools, bear spray, whistles, etc. While some of the hikes may be a little shaded, much of the hiking in Big Bend is under the open sky, so with the sun blasting, bring along a sun hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen.

Camping: In Big Bend, there are so many beautiful places to camp and spend the week or maybe just the weekend. It is a great way to have fun, sleep under the open sky, and give you more time to explore the desert in all its glory.

Even in the summer, the desert nights are known for getting a little cold. So, if you are camping you will definitely need layers. Bring warm pants, socks, sweatshirts, and a beanie just in case. I like having comfortable clothes such as sweatpants and slip-on shoes, like moccasins for quick bathroom trips and to hang out around the fire.

River Trips: One of the most fun things to do in Big Bend is one of the many river trips they offer, floating down the Rio Grande River. You can either do half-day trips or multi-day trips, which include sleeping out under the stars in the desert. You can go with guides or by yourself with friends. You must have a permit to bring any sort of kayak on the Ro Grande.

Besides your life jacket, waterproof sandals or shoes are extremely important for these kinds of trips. Comfortable moisture-wicking shorts and a rash guard are all great to have for kayaking trips. Make sure you have sunscreen, a sun hat, and sunglasses on because much of the time you are floating, you will be in direct sunlight. Having your things in a dry bag is also a very good idea.

Bicycling: Big Bend has over 120 miles of paved roads. Biking through Big Bend is an amazing way to see the country at a slow and easy pace. Bicycling is allowed on any paved roads, but do not go on any trails with your bikes.

Biking, especially in the summer, can get very hot. It is best to wear thin, spandex clothing, like spandex shorts and long sleeves (to protect from the sun). Sunglasses will help you a lot, and make sure you have close-toed shoes. Bring lots of water, and even binoculars to stop and see some sights!

What NOT to Bring

  • 1.DON'T Bring Dogs

    Dogs are allowed in the park, however, there are a lot of rules regarding pets. Dogs are not allowed on any trails at all or in any parts of the desert. They must stay in your car or at your campsite (as long as you are camped in the designated spots). It may be easier to leave your pets at home for this trip.

  • 2.DON'T Bring Expensive Jewelry

    I’m always never bringing my fancy jewelry out on hiking trips, especially trips to the desert. You probably don’t want to end up spending your time digging through the sand to find your prized ring, so it’s best to leave it at home.

  • 3.DON'T Bring High Heels

    The desert is a place of mounds of sand, not a lot of paved hiking trails, rocks, cacti, etc. It will be extremely hard to get around with a heel of any sort!

  • 4.DON'T Bring Heavy Luggage

    Once you have your essentials, that’s all you really need. As for longer trips or camping trips, you should pack lightly as well. It can be a pain to haul lots of things through the desert to campsites.

  • 5.DON'T Bring Things For Fires

    Fires are not permitted at all within the park. You may only have a charcoal fire in the designated areas.

What NOT to Wear – (Click to expand)
When taking a trip to Big Bend, you can certainly leave fancy dress clothes at home. There will be no need for dresses, tuxedos, and definitely not high heels. It may rain a little bit, but it never snows here in the desert, so you can also leave the snow gear packed away for this trip.

FAQs about Big Bend National Park

  • 1. Where can I camp in Big Bend National Park?

    Where can I camp in Big Bend national park

    You are allowed to camp within the designated campsites in Big Bend. Those campsites include NPS Campgrounds (Chisos Basin, Rio Grande Village, and Cottonwood campgrounds) and Concession Campgrounds. Backcountry camping is allowed, however, a permit is required for every trip. It’s best to reserve camp spots in advanced as they book up quickly, especially during peak season.

  • 2. How long can you stay at one campsite?

    For all national parks, you can stay 14 days at one campsite.

  • 3. What are the best hiking trails in Big Bend?

    What are the best hiking trails in Big Bend

    There are so many hiking trails and things to see in Big Bend. Here are some of the top 5 best hiking trails within the park.

    • Hot Springs Historic Trail- One of the more popular trails, it’s just under a mile, making it perfect for day trips. It offers incredible views over the Rio Grande.
    • Santa Elena Canyon Trail- Walking through the Rio Grande river, this beautiful hike goes through the Santa Elena Canyon with walls as big as 1,500 high above you. This trail is also shorter, about 1.5 miles in and out, and is the perfect hike if you want to take a dip to cool off at any time.
    • South Rim Trail- Considered the most scenic trail in the park, this is a longer hike, about 12 miles, and makes for a beautiful day hike if you can finish the hike at the peak during sunset. Walking up 2,000 feet of elevation, you’re brought to a beautiful peak to overlook the desert.
    • Chimney’s Trail- If you are interested in getting a glimpse of history, this is the perfect hike for you. A shorter hike, about 4.5 miles round trip, this hike has hardly any elevation as you walk down through the chimney and find beautiful cave art from the Native Americans sprawled across the walls.
    • The Lost Mine Trail- A slightly more difficult hike, with more elevation changes going up and down. It’s almost 5 miles in and out, but many will say if you are visiting Big Bend, this is a trail to not miss out on. It has spectacular views.
  • 4. Does it cost money to get inside the park?

    It costs $30 a vehicle. You can purchase national park passes that allow you to save money and they can be used at any of the national parks.

  • 5. Are dogs allowed?

    Are dogs allowed

    While it may seem like a fun idea to bring your dog, it can prove to be very challenging as they are only allowed in very few parts of the park. Pets are not allowed on any trails in the park and can only be in your vehicle or at your campsite. This is to protect your animals and the wildlife that lives within the park.

  • 6. Can you have fires?

    Absolutely at no time ever can you have campfires. They are strongly prohibited in all parts of the park.

  • 7. Is Big Bend dangerous?

    Is Big Bend dangerous?

    Big Bend is no more dangerous than any other desert. However, being in deserts and hiking in them is a lot different than hiking in the forest. You must be prepared and hike with caution. Be aware of poisonous snakes and spiders, and other animals like mountain lions and coyotes. You should never ever hike when it is above 95 degrees during the summer. With little shade and hot conditions, it can be very easy to get heat exhaustion. Always wear closed-toed shoes when you are hiking in the desert and bring lots and lots of water. More water than you may think you need!