6 Essentials Every National Park Visitor Should Bring This Summer

After being stuck inside for so long, you are not alone if you and your family are excited to get on the road and spend some time in the great outdoors this summer. A great way to see some of the best sites America has to offer would be to take a trip to the nearest national park. However, in order to ensure that your national park trip goes as smoothly as possible, it is important that you bring the proper supplies with you to keep your party safe and comfortable during your travels.

Whether you plan to visit the geothermal features at Yellowstone National Park or you want to spend some time hiking in Yosemite's backcountry, there are certain essentials that every national park visitor should pack when traveling during the summer. To help you start your packing list, here is a quick overview of what you should bring with you into a national park.

A National Park Pass

Before setting out for your national park trip, you should consider purchasing an America the Beautiful Annual Park Pass. If you will be spending an extended period of time in a national park, and/or if you plan on visiting more than one national park in the next year, this is a great option. An annual park pass costs just $80. It provides you (and everyone in your vehicle) access to over 2,000 federal recreation sites as well as free entrance to all national parks and national wildlife refuges.

This can prove to be a great money saver when compared to standard national park entrance fees. For instance, at Yosemite National Park, a 3-day vehicle pass during the summer costs $35. If you plan on spending a week in the park, an annual pass will pay for itself. The National Park Service also offers free/discounted passes to military personnel, seniors over 62, and 4th-grade students. Researching national park pass options before your trip will help you find the best deal. It can also save you time when you get to the park.

Water (and Lots of It)

Perhaps the most important thing that any national park visitor can bring is water, particularly during the summer. It is likely that you will be doing lots of walking and sightseeing, and it is easy for visitors to get dehydrated. Dehydration is particularly common in national parks as many are at a much higher elevation than visitors are used to. Make sure that you not only pack plenty of water for your trip, but that you actually drink it along the way. You should also consider bringing sports drinks, as these can help replenish salts and electrolytes to your body more efficiently.

Lots of Layers

Even though you will be traveling in the summer, it's critical that you pack plenty of layers for your trip. The fact is that nature is unpredictable. A crazy storm could come through unexpectedly, bringing frigid temperatures with it. Additionally, weather can vary throughout a national park if there are elevation changes. You may start a hike in warm, sunny weather only to discover that, as you start gaining elevation, the temperature drops along the way. When exploring national parks, bring plenty of thin layers that you can easily put on or take off as weather changes throughout the day. Bring a light, waterproof jacket and rain pants handy to ensure that you are prepared for any weather.

Bring a (Properly Packed) Backpack

Another important item to bring with you to any national park is a comfortable daypack. Use it to pack all of your essentials on hikes and/or when roaming the park. This will make it easy to carry all of the supplies you should have on you at all times, such as:

  • Extra Water
  • Waterproof Layers
  • Trail Snacks
  • A Map
  • A Flashlight or Headlamp
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug Spray
  • A Hat
  • A First Aid Kit
  • Bear Spray
  • Trash Bags

Making sure that you have the necessities on you at all times will ensure that you are prepared for anything you encounter during long days exploring the park.

Trash Collection Supplies

Something most park visitors do not think about packing is trash collection supplies. However, this is a must-have item to bring with you when visiting a national park. Consider bringing sealable trash bags in your backpack, as this will allow you to take your trash with you when you leave the park. Whether you will only be visiting a national park for a day, or you plan on backpacking for a few days, bringing trash bags is essential in order to ensure you do not leave any garbage behind.

A person's arms cleaning up a plastic water bottle and other plastic litter from a grassy hiking trail in a national park.
A trash bag is a must-have item to bring with you when visiting a national park.

The fact is that you can't always rely on there being readily available trashcans in the wilderness. Those you find can quickly fill up during the touristy summer months. In order to do everything you can to leave no trace and limit your impact on the park, plan to pack your trash with you when you leave.

A National Park Map

Now that everyone has GPSs on their phones, a map is not something that most people would think to bring on vacation. However, phone service in national parks can be limited. You may not be able to rely on your GPS inside the park. You should then stop in at a visitor's center for a park map when you arrive, or you can print one out at home ahead of time. An added bonus of using a park map is that these often include unique details such as popular trails and monuments that may not be on your phone's GPS.

For people who are not comfortable reading a physical map, there are apps that you can use offline. Avenza is one such example, which is designed for hiking and biking and has maps of many national parks. You can also use your settings in Google Maps to make certain maps available offline. Before visiting any national park, it is important that you are prepared with multiple physical and digital maps.

Making sure that you have all of the essentials with you when visiting a national park this summer will ensure your trip goes as smoothly as possible. Feel free to contact us for more advice on must-have products you should bring with you on a national park trip.

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