What to pack on your national park vacation


Tyler Hamlet/Hest

Since the start of the pandemic, more people have been visiting national parks than ever, per the National Park Service. As winter is slowly turning into spring, you can expect to see popular spots like Blue Ridge Parkway and Great Smoky Mountains National Parks, Golden Gate National Recreation Area and Gateway National Recreation Area fill up quickly.

Getting ready for your next adventure might take a little more planning than other types of trips, especially if you are camping out or going on full-day excursions. You also have to prepare for the unpredictable weather, as with all outdoor trips. Start making a list of items you need to pack if this is your year. Here’s a checklist of things to remember before you embark on your next adventure in a national park.

Leatherman Signal multi-tool



Don’t venture into the great outdoors without a Leatherman multi-tool. It is essential for exploring the great outdoors and outdoor adventures.

Leatherman Signal multi-tool, $130

Garmin Vivoactive 4



Outdoor enthusiasts (and Amazon reviewers) endorse the Garmin Vivoactive 4, a function-heavy gadget that keeps track of blood-oxygen levels and heart rate (even while underwater); controls music; works as a GPS system without a phone; and more. The battery life varies depending upon the function. It can last anywhere from 6 hours with music and up to 8 days when used in smartwatch mode. You can use it with Android and Apple devices. It is available in several color options.

Garmin Vivoactive 4, $319

Tourit 30 can insulated backpack



Lightweight, leak-proof and insulated, this highly rated backpack-slash-cooler keeps provisions cool for up to 16 hours with enough space for 30 cans. You’ll find pockets to hold plates, utensils, and a bottle opener.

Tourit 30 can insulated backpack, $31

Rumpl Puffy wearable blanket



This weatherproof, all-season, wearable blanket (that doubles as a cape) smooshes up into a water-resistant sack, making it easily transportable for your national park adventures. You can choose from a variety of designs, including those inspired by Yosemite and Yellowstone. You can choose from one, two or junior sizes.

Rumpl Puffy wearable blanket, $129

Nomadix National Parks all-purpose towel



These multi-purpose towels from Nomadix, each inspired by a different national park, dry you off when you are sweaty or wet. These towels can be used as blankets for picnics or yoga mats. These towels can also be used as souvenirs after a trip to a national park.

Nomadix National Parks all-purpose towel, $40

City Bonfires S’mores Kit


City Bonfires

Whether you are camping under the stars or simply want to enjoy an evening al fresco at the park before you head back to your hotel, light up your night with a bonfire in a tin. The City Bonfires Kit allows you to make delicious s’mores from wherever you happen to be. You can purchase the Canned Firepit as an individual item or as a complete set.

(Note: Some parks may have fire restrictions. Before you use the park, check with its visitor center.

City Bonfires S’mores Kit, $28

Sawyer Micro Squeeze Water Filter System



Easily filter freshwater, from lakes, streams and creeks, into drinkable water with the help of this compact water filtration system from Sawyer. This compact water filtration system from Sawyer attaches easily to standard drinking bottles or hydration packs. It also includes everything you need to get rid of bacteria.

Sawyer Micro Squeeze Water Filter System, $30

Stanley Adventure Base Camp stainless steel cookset



Roughing it during while on a national park camping trip doesn’t have to involve makeshift cooking. In addition to pots, pans and lids, this 21-piece stainless steel cookset from Stanley also includes everything else needed to prep, cook, serve and clean up, like a cutting board, serving utensils and spatulas.

Stanley Adventure Base Camp stainless steel cookset, $89

Supergoop Play Everyday, SPF 50



Don’t forget to lather up with sunscreen before you hit the trails. Formulated for all skin types, Supergoop Play Everyday offers broad-spectrum SPF 50 coverage and water resistance. This chemical sunscreen is free of oxybenzone and octinoxate. It absorbs quickly into the skin, leaving it feeling smooth.

Supergoop Play Everyday, SPF 50, 5.5-fluid ounce bottle, $32

GearTop SPF 50+ wide brim hat



A wide-brim hat offering SPF 50+ protection keeps the sun out of your eyes and helps prevent sun damage burn on your face. The versatile and easy-to-wear, unisex hat is available in many colors. It also has an under-chin drawstring to prevent it from falling off.

GearTop SPF 50+ wide brim hat, $19

Lingito disposable poncho, 12 pack



Rain or shine, your national park adventures must go on. For rainy weather, keep a couple of disposable plastic ponchos with you.

Lingito disposable poncho, 12 pack, $20

Hest The Foamy Mattress and Pillow



Perfect for an overnight at a national park, this portable and durable memory foam car-camping and travel mattress makes camping anywhere feel more like sleeping at home. You can roll the mattress up and transport it easily on the next day. It will compress into a small, water- and dirt-resistant bag.

Hest The Foamy Mattress, $299

Hest Pillow, $79

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