Post Summary: A complete Yellowstone packing list guide including what to wear, safety equipment, and the best gear for your trip.
Have you been dreaming of your big Yellowstone adventure and all the sights you get to explore? Wondering what to pack for Yellowstone?
With an average elevation of 8000 feet above sea level, Yellowstone is a place where you need to plan for many different possibilities. It’s not unusual to wear a winter hat, a rain jacket, a t-shirt, and a bathing suit all in one day.
To save you from packing overwhelm, we’ve put together a complete guide on what to bring to Yellowstone based on our own travels to the park. We traveled in the summer, so this guide is best suited for May to September.
This Yellowstone packing guide is broken down into three categories: the best clothing, safety devices, and all the necessary gear you need.
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The Only Yellowstone Packing List You’ll Ever Need
Traveling To Yellowstone in the Summer
Before we jump head first into a packing list for Yellowstone, let’s talk about visiting Yellowstone in the summer and what to expect.
As I said earlier, it’s at high elevation, so just because it’s summer doesn’t mean it’s going to be hot all day. Far from it. The mornings and evenings will be chilly, and you’ll need to be prepared with layers so you can peel them off as the day warms up. It’s also a normal occurrence for it to change from beautiful and sunny to windy and rainy in a matter of moments.
You pretty much need to be prepared for everything.
Average Temperatures in Yellowstone
Let’s look at the average temperatures according to Yellowstone’s official site.
May: High of 60 degrees / Low of 34 degrees
June: High of 70 degrees / Low of 41 degrees
July: High of 79 degrees / Low of 46 degrees
August: High of 78 degrees / Low of 45 degrees
September: High of 67 degrees / Low of 37 degrees
These are averages and aren’t set in stone, but it gives you an idea of what to prepare for. We visited in late August and camped in the park for a week. Several nights the temperature went down to 28 degrees! Not a problem if you’re not sleeping outside, but quite chilly if you start the day early.
Psssst: You should definitely start your day early! Crowds are a real thing in Yellowstone. Find some peace in Yellowstone by starting early.
YELLOWSTONE CLOTHING PACKING LIST
Let’s start with what to wear in Yellowstone. First off, leave your nice clothes at home. There’s nothing fancy about Yellowstone, and you won’t be needing them.
You’ll want to develop a good layering strategy when it comes to picking clothes for Yellowstone National Park. In general, we tried to do a moisture-wicking base layer, followed by an insulating layer, and a sweater or jacket on top.
Moisture wicking is a fancy way of saying it won’t get wet with sweat and make you feel like a gross mess all day. Synthetic fabrics and wool are the best moisture-wicking materials.
The best shoes for Yellowstone are going to be hiking shoes, lightweight walking shoes, and water shoes. Let’s go deeper into all of these.
If you plan to do any hiking in Yellowstone (highly recommended!), a good pair of waterproof hiking shoes will make a big difference. My hiking shoes came in handy when we had a few days of rain, and the trails were wet and muddy. I don’t know about you, but I’d rather get my hiking shoes dirty than my everyday walking shoes. We love hiking shoes from Forsake and Danner. They’re both reputable companies that specialize in making high quality, trail-ready boots. I wear the Jag Hiking Boot from Danner. I love that they are durable, comfortable, and stylish enough that I can still feel cute in them.
As with all hiking shoes, you’ll need to break them in before you wear them to Yellowstone.
Lightweight Walking Shoes
Unlike other National Parks, Yellowstone is a park where the main highlights can be viewed from a five-minute walk from the parking lot. Hiking boots would be overkill for these sights, so we suggest having lightweight walking shoes that are breathable and can provide comfort for walking along the short walking trails and boardwalks. As an added perk, we always prefer to do waterproof shoes since rain is always an issue. I love the Women’s Out and About Plus Sneaker from Sorel. If you don’t plan to do a lot of hiking in Yellowstone, these shoes can be a great backup if you plan to do light hiking.
For us, water shoes in Yellowstone are an absolute must! Everywhere you turn in Yellowstone is a beautiful stream, river, or lake to wade in and enjoy. While swimming in the park generally isn’t recommended, there are two spots in the park popular for wading and swimming. You’ll want to protect your feet from the rocky bottoms with a nice pair of water shoes. We are obsessed with our Jefferson Native Shoes and have been wearing them since 2012. They are most popular as a toddler shoe, but both my husband and I rock them out whenever we are within 10 feet of water. We like their cute designs and that you don’t need to change into a water shoe when you get to the water, since they can pass as an everyday shoe. Click here for the Men’s Jefferson, the Women’s Jefferson, and the Kids’ Jefferson shoe.
Since rain is always a possibility in Yellowstone, having a lightweight, packable rain jacket is nice to have around. You can buy a fully waterproof rain jacket or choose to go the more affordable route with a “water-resistant” jacket. My husband likes to buy his rain jackets from North Face and owns 4 different variety of rain jackets. He is admittedly a gear junky who likes all of the things. You can check out men’s North Face rain jackets here and women’s North Face rain jackets here. If you don’t live in a rainy area and just need an affordable rain jacket for the trip, you can get away with a cute, cheap, and functional one like this.
Jacket, Fleece, Vest
You’ll want to bring a jacket, a vest, or at least a warm fleece sweater for when the temperatures are cooler in the morning and evening. If you’re packing for Yellowstone in July and August, you can maybe get away with a fleece jacket, but if you’re visiting in the shoulder months, I strongly suggest bringing a jacket to stay warm. We like this lightweight North Face jacket that keeps you warm but can also easily crush down and be stuffed into a suitcase.
If you’ll be hiking, you’ll want to make sure you have synthetic or wool socks so that your feet don’t sweat or blister. We are huge fans of the company United By Blue and love their line of bison socks. If you’re camping in the park, a nice pair of thick bison socks from United by Blue will make all the difference in the world at night.
If you plan to be up early in the morning to scout out the wildlife or hit the geysers before everyone else does, you’ll want some warm accessories to keep you comfortable. We packed beanies, winter gloves, and scarves and we’re glad we did! It was 32 degrees in the morning, and it made a big difference for us.
While it feels crazy to have a winter hat and a bathing suit on the same packing list, you will need both. The two popular swimming holes, Firehole Swimming Area and the Boiling River are top on the list for fun things to do in Yellowstone. Bring a bathing suit so you can enjoy the water there or wade in any of the other rivers in the park. Lately, I’ve gotten really into buying bathing suits from Amazon and am in love with this one and this one. I like that I can try it on in the comfort of my own home and then return it if it isn’t right for me.
If you have fair skin and burn easily (like my redheaded husband), you might want to buy a swimming shirt to protect your skin. The high elevation will cause you to burn faster. He uses a long sleeve UPF 50+ shirt that can be worn as a regular shirt and a swim shirt.
Sun Hat + Sun Glasses
The last thing you’ll need is a sun hat and/or sunglasses to protect your skin and eyes. Many of the Yellowstone sites are unshaded, so you’ll have direct sunlight beaming down on you. A baseball hat or sun hat will go a long way to keep you comfortable. I always prefer a hat that can be crushed and packed down for ease of travel. Also, since many of the geothermal sights in Yellowstone are about the vivid colors, you might want to get polarized sunglasses so you can still have the full experience of the colorful hot springs.
PACKING FOR YELLOWSTONE: SAFETY DEVICES
Yellowstone National Park is not a trip to Disneyland. It’s wild and unpredictable. Top on the list for things to bring to Yellowstone are safety devices. Since we visited Yellowstone with a child, we were vigilant about being safe while in the park. Here are some necessary safety items in your Yellowstone packing list.
Is it absolutely necessary to carry bear spray? Yes. I know shelling out money for bear spray can feel burdensome, but think of it like insurance. You don’t like paying for it, but you’re pretty damn happy you have it when you need it.
While the likelihood of a bear attack is very slim, having bear spray is a safety measure that should be practiced by anyone visiting the park. Bears are most often seen in the Spring and Fall, so if you’re visiting in those times, it’s vital you get bear spray beforehand and that you know how to use it properly. We use this bear spray and wish we had bought the optional holster. We clipped it on to our pants with a carabiner but found it kind of annoying to hold it that way. If you’ll be doing any backcountry hiking or camping (you’re far more likely to see a bear there), it’s not a bad idea to buy the practice spray to make sure you know how to use it.
Also, if flying to Yellowstone, don’t pack bear spray in your carry-on. It will get taken.
We did see many people on the trails wearing bear bells. Bear bells are worn on your body to potentially warn a bear that you’re around. Opinions on the effectiveness of bear bells vary, so it’s best to not have a bear bell be your sole source of protection.
There are mosquitoes in Yellowstone so you will need to pack bug spray. I got bit a few times so if you’re like me (a mosquito magnet), you’ll definitely want to bring your mosquito repellant. If you don’t like using bug spray, I’ve heard of people using repellant bracelets. I’ve never tried it, but it’s worth a try if you’re looking for an alternative to bug spray.
Sunblock and Moisturizer
Because of the high elevation, sunblock is a must when visiting Yellowstone. It’s reported that for every 1,000 feet of elevation gain, the sun’s UV rays intensify by 8-10 percent. It may not feel like you’re getting burned, but by the end of the day, your skin will regret not having some sort of sun protection.
The high elevation made me feel incredibly dry while I was there. If you have sensitive skin like me, bring a nice moisturizer and chapstick to help with the dryness. I think I reapplied chapstick every hour. I’m obsessed with all of the products from Evan Healy and use her chapstick and Rosehip Face oil along with the Rose Hydrosoul. It saved me while I was there!
Flashlight or Headlamp
Having a flashlight or headlamp is an all-around safety tool that you should always have when hiking or in your car. It’s a national park, so there will be little to no light sources in the park when the sun sets. Make sure the batteries are working and pack some extras just in case.
Knife or Multi-tool
A high-quality knife or multi-tool is always good to have around when going on an adventure vacation. We brought our Smith & Wesson pocket knife as well as our Leatherman Multi-Tool. If you’re not going camping in Yellowstone, you might not need all of it, but a knife is a great tool and safety device when exploring the outdoors. We brought ours hiking, and while we didn’t need it for safety, we did use our knife to cut food and open things.
First Aid Kit
A first aid kit is standard when doing any kind of outdoor travel. You can make your own first-aid kit with bandaids, Tylenol, Aspirin, gauze pads, antibacterial ointment, instant cold packs, gloves, and medical tape. You can also opt to buy a first aid kit that’s put together for you.
While public bathrooms in the park might have soap…they also might not. Bring some hand sanitizer so you can stay clean at the park.
PACKING FOR YELLOWSTONE: THE GEAR
Last on our list for what to take to Yellowstone is all the necessary gear and supplies that will enhance your trip to Yellowstone.
The wildlife viewing in Yellowstone is sublime. Just because the wildlife is abundant, doesn’t mean you’ll be viewing them from right out of your car. Having an excellent pair of binoculars will help you to see wolves, bears, and birds that are just out of your view. Here are a few choices to help you spot some wildlife:
Camera or Go Pro
Yellowstone is a photographer’s dream. The colors of Grand Prismatic, Old Faithful shooting over 100 feet, the glorious starry skies, and numerous bison herds – there’s something beautiful to photograph around every corner. We brought our Canon 90D with Canon 10-18mm wide angle lens, and Canon 18-135mm zoom lens, and our Go Pro Hero 8 Black. Our Canon camera might be overkill for the everday photographer looking to get some nice shots. If you’re looking for a good starter camera, we suggest looking at the Canon Rebel T6 DSLR.
Whether you are hiking in Yellowstone or photographing the geysers, having a daypack is essential in a Yellowstone packing list. You’ll need one for carrying water, snacks, sunblock, and all the layers for the changing weather! For us, we like a backpack that has two side pouches for holding water bottles, a sternum and waist strap, extra padded shoulder pads, and multiple pockets to help organize the bag.
If I don’t plan to carry a lot, the Raven backpack from Fjallraven is my first choice. It’s comfortable, compact, and I love all the variety of color options. If we need more space, because we’ll be carrying camera gear or 500 different types of snacks for our kid, we use the Borealis backpack from North Face.
Reusable Water Bottle and Thermos
A reusable water bottle is vital for a trip to Yellowstone. Besides the environmental benefit of using a reusable bottle rather than plastic water bottles, you’ll save money and time by having a bottle, you can fill up every day. The high elevation will dehydrate you sooner, so drinking water is vital to staying healthy in the park. We love the reusable bottles from Hydroflask. So much, we even got a toddler-sized bottle for our son. It keeps your water ice-cold for 24 hours and keeps drinks hot for up to 12 hours. There are water refilling stations in all the main areas of the park.
While there are restaurants and cafeterias in the park, eating at the park every day can become a big financial drain. Having a small cooler that can live in your car will be a big money saver. You can get a small economical cooler like the Coleman FlipLid or you can go a little more high end with the Arctic Zone Titan Deepfreeze Cooler. Our favorite memories of the park are pulling over by a meadow or stream and having a picnic in the park. Ice is available at any of the grocery stores located at all the main hubs in the park.
Solar Power Charger or Power Bank
No electricity in the park means you’ll want a power bank to charge up your phone. Throw a fully charged power bank in your backpack and know that you have a backup if you’re hiking through the park, and your phone dies. Because there is little to no cell service in the park, your phone might drain its battery faster, trying to look for a connection. The power bank we use can charge up to 7 times, so one good charge can last the entire trip. We also have a power bank that uses solar energy to charge up. If you’ll be camping or backpacking through the park, a solar charger is a better choice since you’ll have no electricity to recharge a conventional power bank. We like this solar charger for its durable and waterproof shell built for travel.
Quick Dry Towels and Blankets
Having some quick-dry towels and/or picnic blankets will come in handy in a myriad of ways. First off, quick-dry towels will be needed if you do any swimming in the park, and they also come in handy when having a picnic where there is nowhere to sit. Even if there is somewhere to sit, we used our blankets to cover the picnic tables since they didn’t seem very clean, and to be honest, covering the picnic table made it feel more pleasant. I’m in love with Turkish towels and use them for everything. They don’t have a plush, towel feel, but they are light, dry quickly, and fold down to a small size. I like these Turkish towels from Demmex for the range of vivid colors they offer.
When we visited the park, we would often see people parked out by a beautiful outlook and sitting in their camping chairs and taking in the view. Those people are the ones who know how to experience Yellowstone. You can get so focused on the sights and hitting up all the geysers and hot springs that you can forget to slow down and revel in the beauty of the park. Since we were camping, we had our camping chairs with us, but even if you’re not camping, we highly suggest buying a few camping chairs so that you can pull over at any point and look for bison, watch the flyfishers, read a book, or listen to the sounds of the trumpeter swans on the river.
For my fellow parents out there, a baby carrier is a great idea in Yellowstone. With small boardwalks that drop over into scalding hot water and unapologetic cliffs at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone, a carrier will give you peace of mind. There are so many carriers to choose from and the right one for you will depend on your baby’s age and temperament. We use the OE Shoulder Carrier since our child loves to be up high and see everything around him. If you need help finding the right carrier for you, you can check out our guide to choosing the best carrier for travel.
Here a few other items to consider for your Yellowstone packing list:
Trash bags: There aren’t always places to throw away items in the park, so it’s nice to have trash bags for carrying your trash.
Kindle: Having a book downloaded for nights in the park is a great source of entertainment. I love my basic Kindle that has a front light for reading at night. Also, if you want a good book recommendation, I loved reading Ranger Confidential while I was at Yellowstone. Written by a former park ranger, it’s about the often harrowing and dangerous life of a park ranger.
National Parks Passport Book: If you’re a national park lover like us, it’s fun to start collecting the official stamps in a national parks passport.
Journal: If you’re a lover of journaling, Yellowstone is the perfect place with its lack of distraction and wifi.
YELLOWSTONE PACKING CHECKLIST
That’s everything you need. Here’s a quick recap and checklist for your Yellowstone packing list.
-Lightweight Walking Shoes
-Jacket, Fleece Sweater, Vest
-Winter hat, Gloves, Scarves
-Wool or Synthetic Socks
-Bathing Suit, Sun Protection Shirt
-Knife or Multitool
-First Aid Kit
-Camera, Go Pro
-Quick Dry Towels
-Solar Charger, Powerbank
-National Parks Passport Book
Happy adventuring through the park! I hope our Yellowstone packing list helps you with your travels. Let us know if you have any questions in the comments below.
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