When I first thought of creating a national parks packing list, I immediately realized that, while there are some things that you need no matter which park you go to, there are also lots of things that change depending on which park you go to, how you get there, where you stay and when you go.   

This is why, rather than attempting to create one universal list, which would ultimately be totally useless, I have listed those things you’ll need no matter what, but have also created separate packing lists for different activities and types of parks/ vacations.   

No time to read about what to pack for national parks now?  Pin It and save it for later: 

Please note that some of the links below may be affiliate links.  At no additional cost to you I earn a small commission if you make a purchase.  Read my Disclosure for more information. If you have any questions or have other resources you love, please comment below.

Read and download the packing lists you need for the parks you visit.  Each packing list has a detailed list, with opportunities to buy any items you don’t have, but also a free downloadable checklist if you just want to make sure you have everything you need quickly and easily. 

Jump to a specific packing list 


National Parks Packing List (all parks) 

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National Parks Packing List Checklist

For Planning Your National Parks Trip  

There are several books you can choose from when deciding which parks to visit and then when you start planning your trip.  You won’t necessarily need all of them, but these are my top picks. 

1. National Geographic Complete National Parks of the United States  
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This is a really great book with an overview of the national parks.  It includes filled with photos, maps, historical, practical information and activities for each park.  

>> BUY THE NATIONAL PARKS BOOK HERE 

2. National Geographic Atlas of the National Parks 
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A close up look at each of the US national parks with photos, information and maps. 

>> GET THE NATIONAL PARKS ATLAS HERE 

3. Lonely Planet USA’s National Parks 
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This is a great guide book with essential practical information about each national park including how ot get there, what to do, where to stay and where to eat.  

>> GET LONELY PLANET’S GUIDE TO US NATIONAL PARKS HERE 

4. US National Park Scratch-Off Map  
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This is a great way to help plan your trip and to keep memories of your trip afterwards.  Scratch off each of the parks you go to. 

>> BUY A NATIONAL PARKS SCRATCH OFF MAP HERE 

5. Guide books 

Once you’ve chosen which parks you’ll go to, in addition to using this website, you can pick up guide books for each park for even more information. 


National Parks Basics 

6. The America the Beautiful Annual Pass 2021 – 2022 
America The Beautiful Parks Pass

If you plan to visit more than a couple of national parks in the coming year, then you should get the America The Beautiful Annual Pass.   

It’s good for a whole year, and gives you entry to over 2,000 sites, including all National Parks. You can also visit sites run by the Fish and Wildlife or Forest Services or the Bureaus of Land Management and Reclamation or Army Corps of Engineers. One vehicle or up to four people are included.   

>> GET THE AMERICA THE BEAUTIFUL ANNUAL PASS HERE 

7. National Park Passport Stamp Book and Journal 
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This is the perfect souvenir of your national parks’ trips.  When you visit each national park, you can get a stamp unique to that park in this book.  There is also space to journal about each park.  It is the perfect way to keep your memories together.  

>> GET A NATIONAL PARK PASSPORT HERE 


Essentials you’ll need on every national park trip 

While I have created packing lists by trip type/ need, there are some things you will need for every national park’s vacation, no matter which park it is. 

For getting out and about  

8. Binoculars 

I consider a good pair of binoculars essential in the national parks.  You will want to see wildlife, birds and natural formations up close, so it is worth investing in a pair of binoculars.   

I think try are so important that I created several detailed guides to buying binoculars, with what to look for as reviews and recommendations. 

Do just want the best binoculars for the money?  >> GET THE VORTEX OPTICS DIAMONDBACK 10X42 ROOF PRISM BINOCULARS HERE 

9. A hiking daypack 
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You need a comfortable pack with adjustable hip and shoulder straps, storage for a water bottle and trekking poles, and a rain cover.  My top pick is the Osprey 24-liter packs for men and women. 

>> GET AN OSPREY HIKING DAY PACK FOR MEN HERE

>> GET AN OSPREY HIKING DAY PACK FOR WOMEN HERE 

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10. Refillable Water Bottle 
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This is essential for every trip to the outdoors.  I like the Hydroflask because it is durable, has a loop to carry it easily, and it comes in multiple sizes and colors. 

>> GET A HYDROFLASK HERE

11. Healthy snacks 

Snacks are essential – for the road and for hiking trails.  See a selection of trail mix and other healthy snacks here. 

12. Headlamp 
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Whether you are returning from a late hike, walking around a campsite, or looking for something in a hidden corner of your, a headlamp is an essential item.   

>> GET A FOXELLI HEADLAMP HERE 

13. Reef-friendly sunscreen 
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If you are snorkeling or diving, you should definitely make sure your sunscreen is reef-friendly, but I think it’s a good idea to wear it anyway.  You never know when you’ll put an arm with sunscreen on it in a lake or river and this way you can be sure your sunscreen won’t cause any harm. 

>> GET ECO-FRIENDLY SUNSCREEN HERE 

14. Lip protection with sunscreen 
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Protect your lips from sunburn and the environment from your sun protection with eco-friendly gloss-less lip balm with sunscreen. 

>> GET SUNSCREEN LIP BALM HERE 

15. Polarized sunglasses 

Protect your eyes with polarized sunglasses.  Check out a range on Amazon here

16. Insect repellent 
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I’m a fan of organic insect repellent without DEET and other chemicals that are bad for the environment and bad for your skin. 

>> GET ORGANIC BUG SPRAY HERE 

17. Bags to pack out trash 

Packing out trash is one of the 7 principles of Leave No Trace.  Simple Ziplock bags and regular kitchen bags are all you need. 

18. First aid kit 
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Keep a small first aid kit in your car, RV or hiking backpack. 

>> GET A FIRST AID KIT HERE 

19. Trail Maps 

I love the National Geographic Trails Illustrated Maps.  They have them for all of the national parks.   

>> FIND THE NAT GEO TRAIL MAP FOR YOUR PARKS HERE 

20. Waterproof hiking boots or shoes  
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Hiking shoes or boots are essential. For details on what to look for when buying hiking boots/ shoes and reviews of the top hiking shoes and boots, read my Guide to the Best Hiking Shoes and Boots

For hiking boots, the best you can find are Salomon Men’s X Ultra 3 Mid GTX Hiking Boots and the Salomon Women’s X Ultra 3 MID GTX W Hiking Boots

For hiking shoes, my top picks are the Salomon X Ultra 3 Gore-Tex Men’s Hiking Shoes and the Salomon Women’s X Ultra 3 GTX Hiking Shoes 

21. Light wool or synthetic socks (spring, summer, fall) 
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The right socks will definitely make you more comfortable.  I like these cushioned merino wool unisex ones. 

>> GET HIKING SOCKS HERE 

22. Trekking poles (optional) 
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Not everyone loves trekking poles, but they can really help steady you and take some pressure of your knees on uneven terrain.  Look for hiking poles that are light, foldable, durable and have shock absorbers built in.  I like the Foxelli ones with cork handles. 

>> GET FOXELLI TREKKING POLES HERE

23. Sun hat 
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Protect yourself from the sun with a sunhat.   

>> GET A UNISEX COLUMBIA SUNHAT HERE 

24. Rain Jacket 
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Be prepared for rainy weather by packing a rain jacket.  They roll up small to fit in your day pack and can be used as a wind breaker too.  

>> GET A WOMEN’S RAIN JACKET HERE 

>> GET A MEN’S RAIN JACKET HERE 

25. Fleece  

You’ll want a fleece to keep you warm and comfy on chilly mornings or evenings even in summer, or during the day in the cooler months. 

>> FIND A FLEECE ON AMAZON HERE 

26. Wicking and quick-drying base layers  

Wicking clothing removes the worst of the moisture from the fabric near your skin, so that you don’t feel so cold and get so wet.  This type of clothing is essential when hiking, as it will make you much more comfortable.  

>> FIND THE BEST UNDERWEAR FOR YOU ON AMAZON HERE

27. Wicking, quick-drying and sun protective shirts, pants and shorts 

Get:


For staying charged and connected 

28. Cell phone 
29. Power Bank 
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If you plan to use your cell phone – for calls, emails, navigation or just as a phone – you will need to make sure it is charged.  Which is easy if you’re staying in a lodge or inn, but is more challenging if you’re camping.  One solution is to take a power bank, which you can use to recharge several times. 

>> GET A POWER BANK FOR YOUR PHONE HERE 

30. Car charger 
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Another option is to use a charger that plugs into the cigarette lighter in your car.  You can use it when you’re driving or have your car in accessory mode when parked at your campsite. 

>> GET A CAR CHARGER HERE 

31. Car Power Inverter 
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A step up is a power inverter.  This changes the 12V power from your car cigarette lighter to 110V power.  it comes with outlets, so that you then plug in your laptop or other regular devices and charge them.  This is great if you are on a longer trip and have your laptop with you. 

>> GET A POWER INVERTER HERE 


Personal Items 

32. Hand lotion 
33. Toilet paper. 

Carry it out in a bag if you are somewhere without proper facilities; do not bury it). 

34. Hand sanitizer 
35. Eco-friendly soap 
36. Eco-friendly shampoo and conditioner 
37. Medications 
38. Toothbrush and toothpaste 

National Park Photography Gear List 

39. Camera 
40. Camera equipment  
41. Memory Cards
42. Memory Card Case
43. Tripod

For winter trips 

The vast majority of people travel to US national parks in the summer, but most of the parks are incredible in winter too.  It just requires a bit of extra prep and, of course, some extra clothing.  If you taking a winter national parks trip, include these items too: 

44. Insulated boots  
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Keep your feet warm with insulated boots.  I have written guides with what to look for as well as reviews and recommendations for: 

>> GET MY TOP PICK FOR BEST WOMEN’S WINTER BOOTS HERE

>> GET MY TOP PICK FOR BEST MEN’S WINTER BOOTS HERE 

45. Heavy wool socks  

>> GET UNISEX SOCKS FOR EXTREME COLD WEATHER HERE 

46. Warm jacket  
47. Warm hat  
48. Warm gloves
49. Fleece neck gaiter or scarf
50. Crampons/ microspikes 
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These are a total game changer if you plan to hike in ice or snow.  They fit over your hiking boots and provide sharp spikes to grab into ice and provide the winter hiking traction you need to walk safely on ice and snow. 

>> GET THE KAHTOOLA MICROSPOKES HERE 

FREE DOWNLOAD
Subscribe to monthly updates with tips for planning, travel inspiration and trip ideas and get instant access to the free PDF of this
National Parks Packing List Checklist

Packing Lists for Different Types of Activities and Trips

Packing List for Tent Camping Trips

Packing List for Day Hikes

Packing List for Winter Hikes


Do you have any other essential items not on this list?  Comment below.    

If you liked this post, please share the love and Pin it to your National Parks and Packing Lists boards!  

WHERE ARE YOU IN YOUR PLANNING PROCESS?

Are you just starting to think about taking a national parks trip? Get Inspiration
Are you starting to plan a trip to a national park? Read my National Parks Guides
Do you want an itinerary to help plan your trip? Check out my Detailed Itineraries
Are you ready to book your trip? Use these Planning and Booking Resources

About the Author 

James Ian Yosemite

James Ian has traveled to 82 countries and all 7 continents.  He has visited all of the main national parks in the United States, as well as many national monuments and state parks.

He has rafted through the Grand Canyon; rappelled down slot canyons near Zion and Arches; hiked among the hoodoos in Bryce and the enormous trees in Sequoia; admired the waterfalls in Yosemite and the colored hot springs in Yellowstone; seen moose in Grand Tetons and seals in the Channel Islands, and much more.

Read more…


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