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17 Top National Park Packing List Items for 2022+ What to Wear & NOT to Bring

what to pack for the national parks
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In the United States, there are 64 amazing national parks located all across the country. Each one with its own beauty, its own trails and sights, and each one is unique and exciting. National parks can be visited at any time of year from thrilling hiking treks to simple family day trips and every time it is so fun.

Below we are going to be discussing all things national parks! The essentials to bring, what to wear, what not to bring, and more!

What to Pack for the National Parks- 17 Essentials

  • 1. Packing Cubes

    Tired of shoving all your things in your bag or suitcase, unorganized, and hard to find? Well, packing cubes are the perfect answer to your packing problems. This five-piece set of packing cubes easily fits everything you need for a day trip to a week-long trip! Keep your belongings perfectly organized and fit them right into your suitcase or pack.

  • 2. Hiking Pack with Water Bladder

    When it comes to visiting national parks, you will definitely be doing lots of hiking. This pack is highly recommended to hold all your belongings for a day hiking trip. It’s comfortable, holds a decent amount of things, and the water bladder is so helpful and convenient.

  • 3. Cooling Towel

    Trust me when I tell you that this cooling towel is a must-have, especially for hot hiking trips! It’s so convenient, rolls right up, and fits nicely in a bag or backpack. Simply dip the towel into cool water and drape it around your neck. It will keep you cool for up to an hour!

  • 4. Portable Charger

    We all use our phones, even when we are hiking it’s good to have phones for things like emergencies or taking pictures! Make sure your phone never dies at the worst moment possible when you are out on that hike with this portable phone charger. It will charge your phone for 2 full charges plus it’s so small and fits perfectly in any fanny pack, purse, or backpack.

  • 5. Neck Wallet

    It is always important to bring your identification wherever you go, even on a hike! Though it can be cumbersome to throw such a small valuable thing into a large hiking pack. This neck wallet will hold your most important cards, cash, and even small things like chapstick, all in one convenient place.

  • 6. Hiking Pole

    Hiking poles are way more useful than you may think. Especially for longer hikes or steeper hikes, hiking poles can be your extra support if need be.

  • 7. Travel Umbrella

    Not only does this umbrella protect against the rain, but it also provides shelter from the winds and from the sun! Having this umbrella can help out a lot to provide some quick relief against the elements. Plus, it’s only one foot long and weighs about a pound, so it’s not a burden to carry around at all.

  • 8. Waterproof Phone Case

    Protect your phone wherever you go with this waterproof phone case. Make sure you are being safe by placing your phone in this phone case before you head out, keeping it safe and sound. Not only is this phone case universal, but it is snug, secure, and allows you to use the touch screen while keeping the case on.

  • 9. Quick Dry Towel

    I love having this quick travel towel with me, especially for hiking. Stopping for a quick dip by a river or creek while hiking is enjoyable, but throwing a wet towel in your pack is not! This quick dry towel is perfect because it dries up to 10 times faster than regular towels and rolls up nicely into any bag or pack.

  • 10. Travel Insurance

    Booking an Airbnb or hotel room before taking off to enjoy some national parks? Maybe you decide not to go or someone gets sick last minute. There is no need to worry about losing any money or bothering with any hassle as long as you have travel insurance. We like to use TravelInsurance.com to compare policies from top companies and find the best plan for our family and travel plans.

  • 11. LifeStraw Water Bottle

    Although many national parks have water refill stations, sometimes trusting water can be tricky. I like to always play it safe and fill up my water using the LifeStraw attachment because it filters out 99.9% of harmful bacteria for worry-free water.

  • 12. Hanging Toiletry Bag

    Pack away all your important toiletries in one convenient place! I love this bag because it fits all of my shampoos, deodorant, toothbrush and toothpaste, and even make-up and hair stuff in one easy place. It even hangs up for easy out-of-the-way access.

  • 13. Compass

    A tried and true item for any hiking trip! It’s not always that our phones will work, especially in the back countries or deep woods. A compass is the easiest way to give you peace of mind that you are in fact headed in the right direction.

  • 14. Camera

    Part of the whole experience of visiting any national park is taking pictures that will make sure the memory lives on forever. Don’t forget yours on your next trip to any national park!

  • 15. Floating Wrist Strap

    Lots of national parks are either by the ocean or by lakes or rivers. Whether or not you are going out on the ocean, protect your important items (like phones or cameras) by simply sticking this floating wrist strap on and making sure you don’t lose anything that is irreplaceable.

  • 16. First Aid Kit

    Probably one of the more important items to have in your hiking pack or even just your car, is a first aid kit. From small things like cuts or bruises to life-saving first aid wraps, it is so important to have a first aid kit with you anywhere you go.

  • 17. Head Lamp

    I never go hiking without bringing along a trustworthy light source. Even if you don’t plan on hiking into the evening, you never know what may happen and it is so important to have a headlamp with you just in case.

What to Wear to the National Parks


Visiting national parks usually means you will be doing at least a little bit of walking, maybe even some hiking! It is important to dress comfortably in smart quality clothing. Pay close attention to the weather and pack accordingly. No matter what, quality hiking shoes are extremely important along with sunscreen, bug spray, and a sun hat. Moisture-wicking clothing that is built for hiking is definitely something you will want to consider wearing and bringing with you on a trip to any national park.

Unless you are in California, Arizona, or New Mexico in the summertime, there are usually good chances of rain everywhere else. Pack quality rain gear like comfortable rain boots and a good rain jacket that will also keep you warm.


What Should WOMEN Wear to National Parks? – (Click to expand)

Below is a sample women’s clothing list. (All items link to Amazon.com for your convenience).

Women going to national parks should remember to dress comfortably and in quality active wear. Whatever you plan on doing, there will most likely be at least a little bit of walking in your day and quality hiking shoes are so important to protect your feet.

In the summer you can wear comfortable shorts, quick drying sports bras, and pack a swimsuit just in case you find some water. Winter trips usually involve more clothing such as base layers, warm insulated jackets, wool socks, and a hat.

What Should MEN Wear to National Parks? – (Click to expand)

Below is a sample men’s clothing list. (All items link to Amazon.com for your convenience).

Packing for the Seasons for National Parks

Winter


National Parks are open all year round and unless there are road closures or states otherwise, they are free to be explored even in the winter months! In fact, places like Joshua Tree and Death Valley are commonly visited during the winter months because it’s much too hot in the summer to enjoy them. Lots of times, snowfall will occur in many places, so if you are planning a national park trip during the winter, check the weather and be prepared!

Layers are super important during the winter when you are out hiking or walking around. Make sure you have good wool socks, waterproof hiking boots, an insulated jacket, and possibly even snow pants if you need them. Of course, hats, gloves, and scarves are all things to pack when exploring in the winter.


Spring

As the weather begins to warm up, places like Shenandoah National Park, Grand Canyon National Park, and Acadia National Park are all beautiful to visit. As the grass is green, things are starting to bloom, and it’s not too hot to walk around and enjoy everything.

It may still be chilly in certain parts of the US during the spring. A quality spring jacket would be good to have, a sweatshirt, and waterproof hiking shoes as it may rain. In most places across the US, spring is the rainiest time of the year. You will definitely want rain gear such as a rain jacket and rain pants for spring explorations.

Summer


Summertime is the busiest time of the year for places like Yellowstone, Yosemite, and Rocky Mountain National Park. For good reason, it’s beautiful, it’s the best time of year to go swimming and it’s perfect for camping as the nights aren’t so cold anymore. You may want to avoid desert places like Joshua Tree and Death Valley in the summer.

Since the weather is warm enough for swimming, pack your bathing suit! Even for small hikes, make sure you bring sunscreen and lather up. Bug spray is a must especially if you plan on doing any camping. Moisture-wicking hiking shorts and waterproof hiking sandals are all things you can wear in the summer to any national park.


Fall

As things begin to slow down during the fall, it can be nice for those trying to beat the crowds and get one last camping trip in before snowfall. Again, Yosemite is beautiful during the fall, as are places like Grand Teton National Park and Glacier National Park.

Like I said, things really slow down in the fall as the weather starts to get a little bit brisker. Certainly pack some thin layers, to wear during the day and pack a jacket for the evenings. Hiking shoes, warm socks, and a sweatshirt will be useful during day trips. The rain may begin to pick up in some places as well so you will want your rain gear for visiting some national parks during the fall, just in case.

Dressing for the Activity – (Click to expand)

Hiking
The most common activity for any of the national parks is hiking. With over 21,000 miles of trails in the combined national parks, there is no shortage of places to hike. Each year millions of people enjoy hiking in any number of the national parks, from experienced thru-hikers to day-trippers just looking to stretch their legs.

There are many companies that make clothing specifically for hiking, and for good reason! Quality hiking gear can make a world of a difference even for someone taking a short hike. Obviously, the most important thing is to have good hiking shoes that are trusted and comfortable. Next, moisture-wicking hiking pants and a top will keep you feeling good throughout your hike. In the summer, you definitely don’t want to forget sunscreen, a protective sun hat, and bug spray! For winter hiking, base layers are a must, including hats and even snow shoes if there is snow where you are going.

Swimming
Many national parks include ocean sights, lakefronts, or just smaller rivers or creeks. Unless you are visiting a national park in a desert location, you will probably be doing some swimming on your adventure. From places like Yosemite and Shenandoah national parks that have spectacular waterfalls to places like Everglades and Dry Tortugas national parks that have amazing beach fronts, you can find all kinds of bodies of water involved with national park land.

You’ll definitely need your swimsuit for many national park trips. I like to have comfortable water sandals as well for rocky rivers and such. Reef-safe sunscreen is important when you are swimming to protect water life. And don’t forget a fun beach towel and a sun hat for any sunbathing you may be doing.

Rock Climbing
My husband and I are avid rock climbers and each year we take a big climbing trip to one of the climbing spots within a national park. There are so many amazing climbing spots like Joshua Tree National Park, and Yosemite, and those are only two of so many places to climb.

Rock climbing can be any time of the year, for places like Joshua Tree, most climbers visit during the winter since it gets so hot in the desert during the summer. While places like Yosemite, it is a summertime destinations because it’s so snowy in the winter. Wherever you are going, you want to make sure you pack base layers, thin active shirts, stretchy thin pants, and pant layers that can suit you for all seasons. Comfortable stretchy shorts and sports bras are all things you can bring to go climbing in the national parks. And of course, don’t forget your highest quality climbing shoes and gear.

Sightseeing
Millions of people visit the national parks each year just to see them! Each park has something fantastic and wonderful and they are beautiful to see. Places like the Grand Canyon and Yosemite have spectacular views, while Yellowstone and Everglades National Parks are some of the best for viewing wildlife.

You will definitely want your camera and some binoculars for seeing the beautiful parks! Sunglasses to protect your eyes, and a good sun hat for shade and sun protection. Some good walking shoes are always good to have, plus a comfortable t-shirt.

What NOT to Bring

  • 1.DON’T Bring Fancy Clothes

    When visiting national parks, you are usually there to sightsee, walk around, hike, and camp, none of which include dressing up! You can leave your valuable, fancy dress wear at home, especially those high heels!

  • 2.DON’T Bring Valuable Jewelry

    Along with leaving the fancy clothes, you can also leave any fancy jewelry at home as well. Jewelry is far too valuable and important to risk getting lost while you are camping or hiking, so play it safe and leave it at home.

  • 3.DON’T Bring Glass

    Going to most outdoor events, hauling glass anywhere is such a hassle. It is heavy, cumbersome, and dangerous as it breaks and leaves glass everywhere. Stick to bringing cans or plastic.

  • 4.DON’T Bring Drones

    Drones are prohibited in any of the national parks. This is to preserve nature, and the wildlife and to make sure everyone’s privacy is intact. For certain research, rescue, or fire safety measures, permits may be given out though they are nearly impossible to acquire and usually require a high level of clearance.

  • 5.DON’T Bring Kindles or Laptops

    You will be spending all your time enjoying nature, looking at the sights, hiking, etc. and it would be a waste to sit and read your kindle or look at a laptop.

  • 6.DON’T Bring Perishable Food

    Perishable food takes up space and risks the potential of going bad rather quickly if it isn’t properly chilled. Packing snacks like granola bars, chips, pretzels, and things that don’t need refrigeration is much better for these types of trips.

What NOT to Wear – (Click to expand)

Visiting any national park usually means you are enjoying the outdoors, hiking around, bouldering rocks, and maybe even enjoying the beach or a lake. This all means you can definitely leave fancy expensive jewelry and clothes at home. Forget about bringing high heels or that nice dress coat for this trip!

FAQs about National Parks

  • 1. How many national parks are there?

    In the United States, there are 64 national parks that span across the country. There are actually 423 national park sites that fall into the 64 national parks. These parks cover more than 84 million acres of land and even fall into the Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, and Guam areas. If you plan on visiting a lot of national parks in one year, consider getting an annual parks pass. This let’s you in to all national parks for one annual fee.

    How many national parks are there?
  • 2. Are dogs allowed?

    Some national parks are considered to be more dog friendly than others, however, generally, dogs are allowed everywhere in the national park areas. They must be on a leash on trails.

  • 3. What is the best national park?

    Everyone probably has their own idea of what the best national park is. There really is no saying which one is better than another. The top 5 most visited national parks (2021 numbers) would be:

    • Blue Ridge Parkway
    • Zion National Park
    • Yellowstone National Park
    • Grand Canyon National Park
    • Rocky Mountain National Park
    What is the best national park?
  • 4. Who operates the national parks?

    The national park service is dedicated to caring for and enforcing rules in the national parks. They are a government-owned business.

  • 5. Can you camp in national parks and for how long?

    There are lots of camping in national parks from designated camping spots to backcountry camping. There are rules in most parks that tell you where you can backcountry camp, otherwise stick to the designated campsites. In most national parks you are allowed to stay in one campsite for 14-21 days. They will tell you otherwise.

    Can you camp in national parks and for how long?
  • 6. What national parks have the best hiking?

    Every park has its own unique hiking trails. According to visitors, here are the top 5 parks with the best hiking

    • Yosemite National Park
    • Glacier National Park
    • Yellowstone National Park
    • Rocky Mountain National Park
    • Olympic National Park
  • 7. What national parks have the best climbing?

    As I mentioned above, there is so much good climbing within the national parks. Here are some of the best national parks to go out and rock climb.

    • Yosemite National Park
    • Joshua Tree National Park
    • Pinnacles National Park
    • Zion National Park
    • Sequoia National Park
    What national parks have the best climbing?