Travel The Parks

National Parks Essential Packing List

Packing List for the National Parks-Pinterest

Packing the right equipment for your trip is important. Having an essential packing list is helpful when planning your visit to the national parks. I do not know how many times we have arrived at our destination and remarked I wish I had brought that with us. It is annoying knowing you have the item at home and wasting the money on a new one is difficult. Then you have to think about taking it back in your luggage.

Luggage on a beach with suns rays

Free downloadable packing checklist – click here. I hope the following lists will be helpful and prevent the disappointment we have had because we forgot an important item. Happy Trails!!

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What Should You Consider Before Traveling to the National Parks

There are a few things to consider when preparing for your trip to the National Parks.

  • Will you be going to a warm or cold climate?
  • Passport to Your National Parks– Collector’s Edition journal is a MUST have those that record their travels. My new passion is traveling to all the wonderful places in this book. I find it priceless!
  • Are you traveling by car or by airplane? The airplane will require watching the weight of luggage and TSA travel requirements.
  • One suggestion here; if you are planning on visiting over one national park, it is worthwhile to purchase the Annual Pass ($80). The U.S. Park Pass The America the Beautiful National Park and Federal Recreational Lands Pass is your ticket to more than 2,000 federal recreation sites across the country.
  • I would also suggest packing for the weather and elevation changes you encounter as you travel through the parks.
  • Remember to pack some snacks and have water.

National Park Packing List Essentials – Luggage & Packing Gear


Purchasing travel organizers to compartmentalize similar size items and provide optimum utilization of interior luggage space. Clothes stay neat and tidy in their own small drawers and will not shift in transit. These transfer to the RV or rental car easily as well. I bought these for Yellowstone a few years ago and they are still in excellent shape.

Hydration pack

OlarHike Hydration Backpack Pack: A good backpack with a water bladder for hiking can ensure you stay hydrated on the trail. The backpack has additional storage for phones and other items. Also of note is the ability to freeze water in the bladder prior to going out on a sweltering day. 


A good day pack for hiking and carrying your outdoor gear is a must-have. These day packs are waterproof and very lightweight. This bag has different compartments, it has two side compartments for water bottles. I like that it easily folds to fit into your luggage for the flight home. We also carry a lightweight set of dry bags to keep our equipment dry when fishing. This is easy for me to carry and hubby carries the hydration pack.

Submariner Large Waterproof Phone Pouch – On our recent trip to the Dry Tortugas and the Florida Keys, we found this phone pouch to be an added convenience for snorkeling and diving. It has a solid lanyard that has a secure clip. I read reviews of others that had lost phones when the lanyard broke. We can safely take pictures while in the water. We think this will work well for fishing, too.

fanny pack

Fanny Pack Hiking – If we are only doing a short hike, we find this is a better option for us. This pack also works great in theme parks, tram, or boat tours. The two water bottle pouches kept my LifeStraw secure and housed a rolled-up poncho for quick access when it rains.

National Park Packing List Clothing Essentials

Rain Gear-I would suggest good weather gear if you plan to spend any time outdoors. Because we fish competitively regularly, we both brought our Columbia rain gear. Rain Jackets in Men’s and Women’s and Rain Pants in Men’s and Women’s. Regardless, always bring a rain jacket that is light on its own but can be layered for warmth on chillier days.

Convertible Hiking PantsWomen’s and Men’s are perfect for all-day hikes zip-off legs allow you to go from pants to shorts almost instantly. Breathable Omni-Wick technology hastens moisture from the skin into the fabric where it spreads across the surface quickly, evaporating—keeping you cool and your clothing dry. These are important when the mornings are cool and the afternoons are rather warm. UPF 50 to help block and shield from UVA and UVB sun rays.

Hooded Long-Sleeve shirt- we have a vast collection of these for fishing. The moisture-wicking fabric is breathable, lightweight, and quick-drying. The Columbia Omni-Shade sun-protection technology and fabric that has been engineered to block UVA and UVB rays to help prevent sunburn. They are a wonderful addition to travel to the parks and should be part of any packing list.

Foot Gear & Outdoor Wear – National Park Packing List Essentials

fleece jacket

Hooded Fleece: Men’s and Women’s for the cool mornings and evenings. Wearing layers of the fleece is crucial in cooler climates like Yellowstone or Alaska. This is my 3rd Columbia fleece jacket. I love it. It’s lightweight and comfortable.

Warm hat–For cool days. We purchased the liners that fit into baseball hats since we can easily remove them for warmer weather. Easily converts any ball cap into a warm, windproof hat.

Thermal Gloves we use these on a few of the colder mornings. They also come in handy for fishing in the lakes and rivers.

Waterproof Socks – Bought these to wear in our waders and wade shoes. Love these socks: they allow his feet to breathe but do not let exterior water get inside, keeping his feet toasty and dry. These socks are 98% waterproof. They don’t keep my feet totally dry when I’m standing in water, but they’re good enough to keep my feet mostly dry from the occasional splash or quick dunk. Thick socks work too!

Thermal underwear – lightweight wool thermal underwear is always an excellent addition when travelling early season. Fishing the Madison River in Yellowstone in June, we needed to keep warm under our waders.

Hiking Boots

You really should have good walking or hiking shoes on the trails. Purchasing hiking shoes that are lightweight and quick-drying will keep you prepared for any weather event.

We often overlook a quality collapsible trekking stick on packing lists, but they’re actually extremely handy for hiking the variable terrain in the National Parks.

Camera & Other Devices – National Park Packing List Essentials


Bushnell H2O Waterproof/Fog-proof Roof Prism Binocular: A pair of compact binoculars can be a significant addition to any travel pack and can come in handy in a wide variety of environments and situations. You might want a pair of the best compact binoculars when you are out hiking or exploring the great outdoors. Waterproof/Fog-proof is best.

We found that having the binocular pouch strap made it easier for hiking. The pouch protects your quality binoculars from the weather elements. It keeps them handy and opens for quick access and they are comfortable to wear.. The harness is sold separately and is adjustable for body size.


AKASO Camera-I love this camera, it is waterproof and uses a remote control. When we are fishing in rivers, I wear it on the binocular harness and use the remote to operate the camera. It takes great video. I purchased the activity kit with all the bells and whistles for every adventure you can think of.

Dry Bag – having a dry bag absolutely crucial when snorkeling, kayaking, or fishing in the national parks. We use it to protect our binoculars, cameras, and other devices. The phone pouches we always use when snorkeling, since my iPhone is not waterproof.

Additional National Park Packing List Essentials

Towel-A quick-drying travel towel always comes in handy. This towel does not allow sand to stick to it. They are perfect for the beach or the boiling river in Yellowstone. Since we were flying, we needed towels that didn’t take up a ton of space and also wouldn’t add a lot of weight to our bag. Always a significant addition to any National Park packing list.

Water bottles thermos

In Alaska, the sun never sets. In the summer, you may want to invest in an eye mask. This may be helpful for sleeping.

Thermoswe find we enjoy having that second cup of coffee. A great warm-up when fishing cold rivers and streams. Of all the thermoses on the market, those made of stainless steel are perhaps the best for travel.

Sunscreen – The sun can be really harsh in any of the National Parks. We advise to use SPF-50 sunscreen lotion that is reef safe. One application will last me all day fishing or biking in the blazing Florida sun.

Refillable water bottle with filter–A good rule of thumb is to bring about 3 quarts of water for each adult. Although many visitor centers now have free water refill stations, we enjoy having the life straw for hiking. If we run out, we can always use any stream or lake to refill safely. We also keep a refillable thermos flask water bottle in the car when traveling that keeps that water cold over a long period.

paracord bracelet

Paracord bracelet – It is lightweight easily fits on your wrist. Paracord clips are gaining popularity because of their large range of uses. It comes equipt with the whistle, fire starter, light, and 10 feet of usable para-cord seemed like an impressive addition for hiking in the national parks.

Multi-tool – Having a multi-tool on your trip is helpful for those unexpected situations we all know happen. I cannot tell you how many times we have needed a screwdriver, corkscrew, or a knife. Although they must be placed in checked luggage, you just never know when it will come in handy.

Collapsible Cooler – We purchased one of these a few years ago. It fit on the bottom of our suitcase, taking very little room. The first thing we do to save on meals is to head to the local grocery and purchase items for lunches and breakfast. If we are driving, we take along freeze packs, if we are flying we purchase a good brick of ice.

Travel First Aid Kit This travel pack is extremely small and even has scissors. It will fit in your purse or day pack easily. We easily forget this item when packing for a trip. I must say that we have used our kit for emergencies. I sliced my finger fishing in Colorado. We used the kit to clean and wrap my finger before returning to fishing. Having this kit saved us from having to go to an emergency clinic.

Hiking & Fishing National Park Packing List Essentials

Sunglasses Polarized lenses are important when looking for fish in the river or lake. Very good quality and I like the general styling of these glasses. These will provide good sun protection, they seem to be pretty durable as well.

Bug SpayIn the summer months, bringing spray is insurance just in case. We usually travel in June to avoid the bugs. However, in the Everglades we needed it even in the winter months. In Florida, the mosquitoes never die. We use this because it is EPA-approved picaridin formula is safe, effective, and comes in a bottle that’s better than competitors at spraying evenly and accurately. We also need to be careful using it with fishing line.

Bear Spray



Bear Spray – You can rent bear spray in Yellowstone, but is more expensive than just purchasing it. Remember to carry bear spray in a holster, never in your backpack. It’s illegal to carry bear spray in your luggage. I recommend donating your spray to a ranger in the park office or the local police station once you are done your trip.

Flashlight – We always carry a flashlight, just in case a power failure happens at the cabin/hotel.

Headlamp – I consider this an essential item when traveling. I like we can always have our hands free if we are arriving at our destination late, or if we are camping and have to use the restroom in the dark. We have two different headlamps, one attaches directly to the brim of our hats, the other is referenced here. This model we purchased is rechargeable and waterproof.

Other Medical Essentials

Anti-Nausea Acupressure Wristband -. I was skeptical of their effectiveness before buying, but TRUST ME; they work wonders. These have proven to be extremely good at preventing motion sickness for me. I have used these for years, this is my 2nd set. I feel an ounce of prevention is worth the cost of these. Even on a cruise, I never felt nauseous.

Earplugs – Never know when you will have noisy neighbors or a loud A/C unit that will keep you up all night. These are perfect for creating a relaxing environment while traveling.

Travel umbrella-we used this on a few trips when we were inundated with rain showers. It is always handy to have, just in case the weather is not perfect.

Fishing license: You can order this ahead of time online for most states, but it’s easy to obtain from your fishing guide, or most local tackle stores or department stores (Sportsmans Warehouse etc). 

I am sure that I have missed a few items here. However, these items will definitely enhance the enjoyment of your adventure in the national parks. We hope this helps you to better plan your trip. Protection Status