a man enjoying the view in the woods

Packing and proper planning are essential for your overnight National Park trip. More than just a matter of basic comfort, packing well can mean your safety, while packing poorly can be dangerous. Plus, it’s much more enjoyable to experience an overnight backpack trip in our National Parks when you are properly prepared. What specific items you pack can depend a lot on what type of trip you’re taking, but there are some standard categories to consider. Here is our list of the nine essential categories for packing. 

  1. Shelter. Basically, your tent. Check that you have all of the required parts before leaving for your trip, including stakes, covers, etc. Make sure it is large enough for the group you are going with and that it is the right season tent for the trip you are taking. You don’t want a light airy tent for a winter trip and a heavy sealed tent for a summer desert trip.  Lastly, check it for rips and tears that may let the elements in.
  2. Map and navigation tool. We recommend a map and a compass as a backup to your digital devices. You don’t want to get lost on your backpacking overnight and not have a means to navigate back to your tent.
  3. Light. A headlamp or flashlight. It’s no fun trying to prepare food or find where to go to the bathroom if you can’t see anything. If you’re car camping a nice gas lantern really helps brighten the campsite.
  4. First Aid. Don't forget any of your personal medications, roll bandages, antiseptics, tweezers, and sterile gauze.
  5. Fire. Waterproof matches or a lighter.
  6. Sleeping bag. Consider the weather when determining what sleeping bag is right for you.
  7. Shoes, clothes. This could be an entire list in itself! So here, we’ll just remind you to carefully consider which clothes and shoes to bring. You’ll definitely want the ability to layer and have rain gear just in case. And don’t forget some kind of cold weather clothing even if you’re camping in warm weather.
  8. Hydration. This can include water bottles and some kind of water treatment system for additional supplies. We all know having enough water and/or access to water is essential, so always be mindful and bring more than you think.
  9. Food and cooking supplies. What fits into this category depends a lot on what type of overnight national park trip you are taking. Food never tastes better than on a camping trip after a big day outdoors. Have fun and try new recipes, but remember, always pack out what you bring with you. Our general advice: don’t forget a knife!

If you’re planning to stay overnight in a national park, don’t forget to check the requirements carefully for each park. There can be specific guidelines about where and when to camp.

What else is on your packing list? Let us know in the comments below.

Jared Prince