Yellowstone National Park is a large park with a wide range of activities to enjoy, so it’s essential to come prepared with the right gear and clothing.
When considering what to pack for Yellowstone, you’ll also need to account for the park’s unique weather patterns and terrain. Weather in Yellowstone can vary widely, with sudden changes in temperature, precipitation, and elevation as you explore.
One of the key considerations when preparing for a trip to Yellowstone is the season when you’ll be visiting. Spring and fall can bring unpredictable conditions, with a mix of warm sun, rain, and even snow. Summer typically offers warm days and cool nights, while winter requires a more specialized packing list tailored for cold temperatures and snowy conditions.
With so many factors to consider, it’s essential to do your research and create a thorough packing list for Yellowstone National Park. In this article, I’ve compiled the ultimate packing list for you to ensure that you have a safe, comfortable, and memorable trip.
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There is a free downloadable Yellowstone trip packing list with everything you need for your Yellowstone trip, plus an item-by-item breakdown if each item. And, if you see something on the list that you don’t have, you can get it right here.
Note that this is a specific packing list for Yellowstone vacation items. However, when packing for Yellowstone National Park, you’ll need to consider a few additional things, including
- When you’re going (this packing list focuses mostly on late spring – early fall. For the rest of the year, check out my winter trips packing packing list and my winter hikes packing list.
- Where you’ll be staying. I’ve included a separate section if you’ll be camping. You can also check out my tent camping packing list for an even more detailed camping checklist. If you’re renting a cabin near the park, you’ll want to supplement this list with a cabin packing list
- What you’ll be doing. There’s a section on hiking needs for your Yellowstone trip if you plan to hike. You can also check out my day hikes packing list. And don’t miss my list of the best hikes in Yellowstone.
- How you’re getting there. If Yellowstone is part of a road trip, check my road trip packing list for all you’ll need for the journey there.
The Basics: Things Everyone Needs to Bring to Yellowstone
While some things on your list will vary depending on when you go, there are some things you’ll want to have with you no matter when you go.
1. Binoculars or Spotting Scope
Yellowstone is often called “America’s Serengeti” due to the volume and variety of wildlife. There is no better place in the country to see animals and birds. Tops spots are Lamar Valley and Hayden Valley. So you will definitely want a good pair of binoculars or, even better, a spotting scope, to see them up close.
If you’d like to learn more about what to look for to look for and get some other recommendations, check out my buying guides:
2. Camera (with a Long Lens)
To take great photos of the birds and animals you see, you’ll most likely need a good quality camera that has a strong zoom lens. You need to keep a safe distance from the animals, but with a good lens, you can take great photos of everything you see.
If you’re looking for something more suitable for more active photography, then I love the GoPro HERO 12. It’s designed for travel. It’s water resistant and durable and takes photos, video and even does streaming.
3. Camera Gear
If you’ve invested in a camera and a zoom lens, you’ll want to protect them with a good quality waterproof bag.
4. Sun Protection
The high altitude and fact that you’re most likely going to be outside a chunk of time means that you can get sunburned easily. Be sun safe and always wear sunscreen.
5. Polarized Sunglasses
In addition to a sunhat, you should definitely have a good pair of polarized sunglasses to help protect your eyes from the glare.
6. Bear Spray
Yellowstone is one of the best places in the U.S. to see grizzly bears, as well as black bears. That can be exciting – but perhaps a bit too much excitement if you encounter one while hiking. Be bear aware and always carry bear spray just in case.
7. Bug Spray
Bears aren’t the only thing that can be a downer on a hike. In summer, bugs can drive you crazy! Take some bug spray and apply liberally.
8. Rain/ Wind Jacket
The weather in Yellowstone can change at any time, so I always recommend having a rain jacket with you at all times. I fold it up and put it in the bottom of my day pack so I always have it with me.
NEED A MEN’S JACKET? GET IT HERE
NEED A WOMEN’S RAIN JACKET? GET ONE HERE
9. Fleece Jacket
The weather in Yellowstone can be very unpredictable. I’ve been there when I was in a T-shirt one day and snowed the next day! So, I also recommend always taking a fleece jacket with you.
NEED A MEN’S FLEECE JACKET? GET IT HERE
NEED A WOMEN’S FLEECE JACKET? GET ONE HERE
10. Reusable Water Bottle and Container
If you’re on a hike, you’ll need a water bottle so you stay hydrated on the trail. However, I also recommend having a larger water container for your car so that you always have water handy. The driving distances can be quite long in Yellowstone, and you’ll spend some time in your vehicle, so it’s good to have water with you at all times.
For hiking, I like the HydroFlasks. They’re really durable, keep temperatures well, have an easy-to-carry handle and come in a variety of colors.
11. Phone and Power Bank
One of the things I struggled with most in Yellowstone the first time I went was keeping everything charged. The next time, I used a portable power bank and it was life-changing.
12. USB Outlet Car charger
Since you’ll spend time driving around the park, the other way to keep things charged is to use a USB charger for your car. I also use the GPS on my phone (you’ll want to have unlimited data if you do this) and this is a way to keep my phone charged while using it to navigate.
13. Toilet Paper and Hand Sanitizer
Staying healthy and clean is essential when traveling. Since I never know for sure that there will be soap and paper (especially if I’m camping), I always travel with spare paper and hand sanitizer. This is especially handy when having picnics, which I like to do in Yellowstone.
14. First Aid Kit
Hopefully, you’ll never need this, but accidents and illnesses can happen. Having a basic first aid kit with you is absolutely essential.
15. Roadside Emergency Kit
Whether you’re in your own vehicle or a rental, if you break down, you’ll be very glad you have a kit for roadside emergencies. It should include basics like jumper cables, tow ropes, and a warning triangle.
16. America The Beautiful Pass (Optional)
You can buy an entrance to Yellowstone National Park as you enter, but if you’re going to be visiting more than two parks in a year, then it’s worth getting an America The Beautiful Pass.
The pass is not only valid for national parks – it also works at all sites managed by the Forest Service, Fish and Wildlife Service, Bureau of Land Management, Bureau of Reclamation, and Army Corps of Engineers.
The pass is valid for one year from the month of purchase and includes entrance for a driver and all passengers in a personal vehicle at per-vehicle fee areas or up to 4 adults at sites that charge per person (kids 15 & under get in free).
WANT AN AMERICA THE BEAUTFUL PASS? GET IT HERE
17. Guidebook or Detailed Itinerary
If you buy one of my Yellowstone Itineraries, you won’t need a guidebook, as they have everything you need to have an amazing trip (and I highly recommend them!).
But, if you decide not to get one, then a guidebook will help you plan your trip.
Yellowstone Clothing Packing List
In addition to the basics, there are some clothes for Yellowstone National Park that you should pack.
18. Long Sleeve Shirt
No matter the season, I recommend at least one long-sleeved shirt. Preferably with some UV protection. They can keep you warm if the weather turns cool and are great sun protection on warm summer days.
19. Sweatshirt/ light jacket or fleece
The weather can change at any moment and, given how high above sea level Yellowstone is, even summer nights can turn cool, so I recommend having a fleece or light jacket.
Sweatpants are great for hanging out in the evening, or on a long drive and can double as PJs. They’re great for chilly nights or the weather takes a turn for the cooler.
Always pack at least one pair of shorts, especially in summer.
22. Light cotton shirts
I recommend 2-3 cotton shirts, depending on the length of your trip.
23. Tank tops
Tank tops take up almost no space and are comfortable in cooler months and can go under a longer top when it gets cool.
One of my golden rules of travel is that you can never have too many socks. I learned this the hard way by not packing enough and then ending up with dirty and wet socks and nothing dry and clean to wear. So, pack two more pairs than you think you need. They’re easy to squeeze into tiny empty spaces in your luggage.
Of course, you will want to make sure that you have enough underwear (plus PJs) for your trip.
The type of hat you’ll need will vary with the season. In winter, you’ll need a wooly hat. The rest of the year, a good, wide-brimmed sun hat will help protect you from the sun.
This is optional, but included here so you don’t forget.
28. Bathing suit (Optional)
Swimming is permitted in the Firehole Swim Area and the Boiling River Swimming Area. If you plan on going swimming, you’ll need to take a bathing suit with you. Note that the swimming holes are sometimes closed due to adverse conditions. Check with the NPS before swimming.
29. Quick-Dry Towel (Optional)
If you do go swimming (or camping), a quick drying towel will get you dry, take up almost space, and – well – dry quickly.
Most of the hot springs and geysers are accessed along boardwalks, so chances are you’ll be doing quite a bit of walking. The best shoes for Yellowstone are comfortable ones.
If you’re sticking to the boardwalks or very easy hikes, a regular pair of comfortable shoes will do. For longer or more strenuous hikes in uneven terrain, good quality hiking boots or shoes are essential.
Yellowstone Hiking Packing List
Yellowstone National Park is a great place for hiking. There are dozens of hikes in Yellowstone, from easy strolls along flat boardwalks to more challenging hikes of varying lengths and difficulty levels. If you plan to do any hiking, here are some additional items to pack.
31. Day Pack
An absolutely essential item is a good day pack. It should be comfortable, have padded shoulder straps and preferably a hip strap too, and be big enough for your stuff but not too big so you’re not carrying excess weight.
32. Hiking Boots
You won’t need special hiking boots or shoes if you’re just sticking to the boardwalks, but if you plan to do any longer hikes, then a good, comfortable pair of hiking boots is a must.
I have written a buying guide to the Best Hiking Shoes/ Boots with what to look for + recommendations if you’d like more information.
33. Hiking Socks
Hiking socks are thicker than regular socks and designed to provide some additional padding that help protect your feet. Plus, if you sweat, they will wick moisture so your feet stay dry.
34. Quick-drying Hiking Clothing
You’ll want hiking shirts and pants that are moisture-wicking, so they keep moisture away from your skin as much as possible, and quick drying. Not only is this good when you’re on a hike, but is also practical for when you finish a hike.
35. Maps (Optional)
This isn’t essential, as you can pick some trail maps at a Visitor Center, but cell service is not good in the park, so having a paper map is always a great back up. Plus, I like having a map for planning – and then tracking my journey as I’m going along.
You can also get a National Geographic Topographic Map of Hiking Trail in Yellowstone HERE
36. Trekking Poles (Optional)
I never used to use hiking poles, but now I’ve started, I can’t imagine hiking without them. Again, if you’re sticking to boardwalks, you don’t need these at all. But if you’re headed on uneven trails, especially with some up and down, then your knees will thank you for using trekking poles.
Yellowstone National Park Picnic Gear
Picnics are a great idea for lunches in Yellowstone for a couple of reasons.
First up, distances between the attractions are fairly big, so you may well end up not near a lunch spot at lunch time.
Second, most of the lunch options in Yellowstone are not that great. A picnic gives you more flexibility, better food, and you can enjoy your meal outdoors rather than being stuck in an average-at-best cafeteria.
37. Groceries and Snacks
The first thing you need is food, of course.
You’ll want to make some time to stock up before heading into the park. Often the night before is best if you’re planning to get an early start and have access to a fridge or enough ice.
If you’re staying inside the park, your options will be more limited, but there are still some Grab n’ Go items you can take with you for a mobile lunch.
Even if you decide not to have a picnic, you’ll still want to have some snacks on hand in your vehicle.
38. Collapsible cooler
Having a cooler will give you much more options for a picnic. The problem I always found was that flying with a cooler wasn’t really practical. I now have a soft-sided collapsible cooler than folds in my bag for the flight and then I can use for picnic supplies when I’m traveling. It was life-changing.
Of course, if you’re driving from home, you can pack your regular cooler.
If you’re looking for a top-quality Yeti cooler, check my buying guide to the best Yeti coolers.
39. Plates, Forks, Cutting Board, and Knife
Packing a portable cutlery set, with plates and a cutting board, will make life much easier – and your picnic much more civilized – than if you hack at everything with a plastic knife you picked up a café (as I have done in the past and do not recommend).
40. Reusable Food Containers and Ziploc Bags
You don’t want to take up space with bulky lunch boxes, but do want to keep your food safe and sealed. These sealable, durable bags do the trick and take almost no space at all.
41. Table Cloth (Optional)
This is not essential, but if you’re planning to have picnics in Yellowstone, a tablecloth will help make the picnic more pleasant and also create a space for food to be shared easily.
Yellowstone Camping Packing List
If you’re not camping, you can skip this section, but Yellowstone has several great campgrounds. If you are going to be camping, make sure you have everything on this Yellowstone camping checklist.
A good quality tent that is suitable for at least 3-seasons (4 if you’re camping in winter), is essential.
Be sure to set it up at home before you leave for Yellowstone to check everything is fully functional and that you remember/ know how to erect it, whether you’ve just bought or it’s been in storage since your last camping trip.
If you’d like more information about what to look for when buying a tent, plus reviews and recommendations for different sizes and types, check out my buying guides for:
43. Warm Sleeping Bag and Insulated Sleeping Pad
Even in summer, nights in Yellowstone can get chilly – and in winter, they are well below freezing. You’ll need a well-insulated sleeping pad or inflatable mattress plus a good quality sleeping bag.
If you’re looking for an inflatable mattress, check out my buying guide to The Best Inflatable Mattresses for Camping.
44. Thermal Base Layer Top and Bottoms
If you’re camping in the shoulder or winter seasons, be prepared for cool/ cold weather and make sure you have thermals for chilly nights.
45. Warm Hat and Gloves
Similarly, pack some warm hat and gloves. Nights can get cool in summer, but you could get away with not packing these if you’re just visiting in summer. Other seasons, though, definitely pack them.
46. Headlamp or Flashlight
A camping essential. I’d recommend a headlamp instead of a hand-held flashlight, as it then frees your hands up to do things like prepare food or erect your tent.
47. Stove, Fuel, Pots and Cooking Utensils
Unless you plan to eat all meals at a café or restaurant in Yellowstone, you’ll want equipment so you can cook meals.
48. Dishwashing Basin, Soap and Scrubber
This is easy to forget, but you’ll need something to wash dishes in and with.
49. Camping Chairs
Many campsites have a picnic table, which is handy for eating meals, but if you want to sit anywhere else (like around a campfire) and want some back support, pack some folding chairs.
50. Kitchen Tarp
This is not absolutely essential, but it makes your like much more pleasant if you have a tarp to help keep your food prep area clean and dry.
Yellowstone Packing List: Summer – Early Fall
If you’re visiting Yellowstone in winter, you’ll need plenty of very warm clothing. However, for:
Packing for Yellowstone in June: use this packing list for Yellowstone in June. June can still be cool, so pack for all seasons.
Packing List for Yellowstone in July: If you’re packing for Yellowstone in July, use these suggestions for which clothes to pack for Yellowstone in July. July is a great month for picnics and camping.
Packing List for Yellowstone in August: If you’re packing for Yellowstone in August, use this Yellowstone packing list. August is the warmest month, so pack for warmer weather, though even then, nights can get cool.
Packing List for Yellowstone in September: If you’re packing for Yellowstone in September, you can use this Yellowstone packing list. September is getting cooler and you can in shorts and a T-short one day and ti be snowing the next, so dress for all seasons.
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Have a great time on your Yellowstone trip!
Do you have any other thing to include on your packing list: Yellowstone that’s not here? Join my private Facebook group National Parks Collectors and comment and let me know (you can also pick up extra planning tips, share your photos and stories with other national park lovers and more).
You can make your planning easy and stress free with a detailed itinerary. I have 1-, 2-, 3- and 4-day itineraries for Yellowstone that include all the park highlights, give you choices based on your preferred activity level, and take all the stress out of planning your trip.
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James Ian is a national park, camping and hiking expert.
He has dedicated his life to travel, visiting more than 80 countries, all 7 continents and all of the main national parks in the United States. With over 35 years experience in the travel industry, James has worked on cruise ships, at resorts and hotels, and as a travel planner who’s helped hundreds of people plan successful trips to US national parks.
Based on his experience visiting our national parks multiple times, in-depth research and expertise as a travel planner, James has published detailed itineraries for most of the major national parks in the US. These itineraries, as well as in-depth park guides, comprehensive camping and hiking gear reviews and buying guides, and helpful packing lists and gift guides will help you have your own incredible trip to US national parks without stress and hassle.
As a national park expert, James has contributed to many publications, including Time Business News, Savoteur, Best Trip, and Wired.
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