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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. With winter slowly creeping into spring, expect popular destinations such as Blue Ridge Parkway, Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Golden Gate National Recreation Area, Gateway National Recreation Area, Zion, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon, Gulf Islands National Seashore and Acadia to start filling up fast. 

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. And, like all outdoor trips, you have the added layer of unpredictable weather to deal with, so you need to be prepared for all of it. If you are one of the millions of Americans planning to vacation at a national park this year, start checking items off your packing list now. We've compiled a list of essentials to consider before embarking on your next national park adventure. 

Leatherman Signal multi-tool


Don't venture into the great outdoors without a Leatherman multi-tool. This must-have for outdoor adventure and exploring national parks includes everything from an emergency whistle to a fire-starting ferro rod. 

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. Battery power varies depending on function, lasting anywhere from six hours in GPS mode with music, up to eight days in smartwatch mode. It's compatible with both Apple and Android devices, and available in a few 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. It also offers convenient pockets for utensils and plates and even a convenient bottle opener on the strap. 

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. Order one inspired by the park you are visiting: Yosemite, Yellowstone, Grand Canyon and Joshua Tree are just a few of the available designs. Available in junior, one-person and two-person 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. They're also good to use as a blanket for a picnic or as a yoga mat. And, after your national park trip, these towels double as souvenirs.

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. This City Bonfires kit lets you to make s'mores wherever you are, in the safest way possible. Purchase the canned firepit a la carte or as a set with everything needed to make the camping treat.

(Note: Some parks may have fire restrictions. Ask the park's visitor center before use.)

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. It attaches to the included drinking pouch or standard water bottles and hydration packs, and comes with everything needed to remove bacteria, no batteries or chemicals needed. 

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. Made without oxybenzone or octinoxate, which deteriorates reefs, this chemical sunscreen absorbs into skin without feeling greasy, hydrating it with the addition of glycerin.  

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. This versatile, quick-drying, unisex hat comes in a variety of colors and features an under-chin drawstring so it won't fall off. 

GearTop SPF 50+ wide brim hat, $19

Lingito disposable poncho, 12 pack


Rain or shine, your national park adventures must go on. Throw a few of these individually wrapped, disposable plastic ponchos in your backpack for rainy-weather scenarios. 

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. The next morning, just roll it up for easy transport. The pillow squishes into a tiny water- and dirt-resistant sack.

Hest The Foamy Mattress, $299

Hest Pillow, $79

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