This list of things to take on a trip to Yellowstone National Park includes a Yellowstone packing list, what to wear in Yellowstone in summer, and other Yellowstone packing essentials.
Yellowstone Packing List
You’ve made your hotel or campground reservations, you’ve downloaded one of my Yellowstone itineraries, and you are are ready for your trip to Yellowstone National Park. All that’s left is to pack. But what do you pack for your Yellowstone vacation that includes everything you need, but not so much stuff you can’t close the trunk of your car?
It’s hard to know exactly how to dress for Yellowstone. Even in the summer the weather can be variable within a day and within a week. With many, many Yellowstone trips under our belt, we advise being prepared for anything; you’ll see that in our Yellowstone clothing packing list. Since your time in the park is probably limited – this could be a once in a lifetime trip – you don’t want to miss out because you didn’t pack right.
Check the park website for Yellowstone National Park weather before you leave, but know that it is hard to predict weather in the mountains and forecasts frequently change. Additionally, as you move throughout the park, you’ll be moving up and down in altitude. It can be hot and dry at Mammoth Hot Springs while it’s snowing atop Mount Washburn.
I’ve included both a summer clothing packing list for Yellowstone, plus a second list of other things to pack when planning a trip to Yellowstone in summer. Keep reading for a printable Yellowstone packing list.
What To Wear in Yellowstone in Summer
The key to packing for summer in Yellowstone is layers. Throw on a fleece in the morning or evening, and wear a t-shirt throughout the day. Pants that convert into shorts mean you always have the right clothes for the weather.
|T-shirt||Pack one for each day.|
|Hiking socks||If you don’t think you’ll leave the boardwalk or do much walking, you can probably get away with regular cotton socks. However, if you are going to do any hiking in a Yellowstone summer, you should probably have non-cotton trekking socks. Darn Tough merino wool hiking socks are my pick for comfy feet, but any synthetic sock will do.|
|Hiking pants||We like Columbia's Women's Aruba Convertible Pant (and Columbia’s Men’s and Kid’s versions) because they easily zip off to become shorts. I prefer wearing pants even on warm days to keep sun and bugs off my legs, but the shorts option is nice when it’s really hot or you are wading in rivers.|
|Underwear||You can bring one pair for each day, but we really like ExOfficio underwear because you can wash it, roll it in a towel, hang it to dry, and it’s ready to wear again. Bonus: the antimicrobial treatment makes them less stinky.|
|Swimwear||If you are thinking of soaking in the Boiling River or Yellowstone’s Firehole River Swimming Area you are going to need a swimsuit. Or maybe you want to jump in Lake Yellowstone (Brrrr!).|
|Water shoes||The best footwear for Yellowstone in summer is probably a pair of sturdy athletic sandals. We hike in Chacos, wear them while walking down the Boiling River or while wading in creeks, and use them as comfortable camp shoes. Just remember to sunscreen your feet or you’ll end up with classic Chaco tan lines. They come in women's, men's, and kids' styles.|
|Hiking boots or walking shoes||For what to wear hiking in Yellowstone, you can’t beat a good pair of hiking boots. I like the Oboz Bridger B-Dry hiking boot for extended trips and the Luna low hiking shoe for day hikes. Oboz is located in Bozeman, Montana, so it’s a fitting shoe for a trip in the Greater Yellowstone Area. Oboz makes hiking shoes and boots for women and men.|
|Sun hat||The sun is intense at Yellowstone’s altitude and a hat will keep it off your face and keep your head a little cooler while you visit Yellowstone. Look for something with a broad brim like Columbia’s Bora Bora Booney II sun hat. Looking goofy is a small price to pay for protecting your skin and eyes.|
|Sunglasses||Protect those peepers from the reflection off the hot springs during your Yellowstone vacation with a pair of sunnies. Look for something with polarized lens to break up the glare off water.|
|Midweight layer||For early mornings, late evenings, or high altitudes, it’s nice to have a fleece-type layer to pull over a t-shirt. Patagonia’s Better Sweater is 100% polyester fleece to stay warm even when wet. Plus, it’s dyed with a low-impact process that significantly reduces the use of dyestuffs, energy and water compared to conventional dyeing methods.|
What to Pack For Yellowstone in Summer
No Yellowstone National Park Packing List is complete without the tools to keep you comfy, bear and bug free, and ready for whatever the world’s first national park throws your way. Below is a list of Yellowstone packing essentials that I personally take into the park.
|Food||There are plenty of places to eat in Yellowstone, but if you want to save money and time (plus have a reason to use those cute picnic areas) buy groceries ahead of time. The farther away from the park, the cheaper the food. So, buy in Bozeman or Idaho Falls rather than West Yellowstone or Jackson, if you can. There are general stores in the park for anything you’ve forgotten.|
|Refillable water bottle||Water bottle refill stations can be found throughout the park. By bringing your own bottle, you save money and do something good for the planet. I prefer the metal bottles, like this one fromHealthy Human, because there is no worry of chemical leaching as there is with plastic.|
|Binoculars or spotting scope||While not totally necessary, wildlife watchers are going to want a pair of binocularsor a spotting scope. Not all wildlife is close to the road and to get a good view of wolves, peregrine falcons, and bear, a pair of binoculars can come in handy.|
|Bug spray||Depending on what month you visit and where you are, there are likely to be some mosquitos around. A list of what to pack for Yellowstone in summer should probably include bug spray.|
|Bear spray||Unlike bug spray,Bear spray is directed at the bruin, not yourself. Read up on what to do if you see a bear and how to use bear spray before you head off into the wilds of Yellowstone. This can't be shipped to every state and definitely not outside the U.S., but you can pick it up in any sporting good store around Yellowstone or in the park's general stores.|
|Sunscreen||Almost everything on the list of things to do in Yellowstone is outside. That means you’ll want a good sunscreen. My favorite is My Chelle, because it works well and is easy on people and the planet.|
|Cooler and picnic basket||If you are going to be doing any picnicking in Yellowstone, you’ll need a cooler to preserve your food. We keep cold items cold in a Yeti cooler and other items in a collapsible basket which doubles for holding car snacks.|
|Camp chair||This goes on the list of what to bring camping, but may not be necessary for most park visitors. That said, it’s really nice to have a camp chair when you are watching wildlife, chilling by the Madison River, or can’t find a seat in the bleachers at Old Faithful.|
|Camera lenses/ Phone battery||Of all the things to take on a trip to Yellowstone, a camera is the one that lets you take Yellowstone home with you. I am going to have a whole post on camera equipment, but I mostly use my cell phone with clip on wide angle and macro adaptors. A rechargeable external battery means my phone won’t die just as a grizzly bear rambles across the road in front of my car.|
|Quick dry travel towel||This is a great extra to have if you are going to soak in the Boiling River or get into any water in Yellowstone. Quick dry towels dry really fast (hence the name) and take up barely any space to pack.|
|Multi-tool||You never know when you will need to open a can, pull out a splinter, or spread peanut butter. We always have a Leatherman multi-tool handy for any repairs or food preparation that arises.|
|First Aid kit||Chances are that a skinned knee or bee sting will happen when you are away from the visitor centers. Be prepared for little injuries and illnesses with a first aid kit. You can make your own by raiding your medicine cabinet or buy one that is pre-made.|
|Headlamp||It’s nice to have your headlamp if you are on a night hike or walking to the bathrooms at the Roosevelt Cabins. We even use ours to see into the recesses of a stuffed duffel bag. I like headlamps better than flashlights because you still have both hands free when you use them.|
|Plastic bags||These are just nice to have for many reasons. You can clean up your picnic site, pack out your toilet paper (you can’t leave anything in the park!), or organize your snacks. We also keep a roll of toilet paper in the car for bathroom or nose-blowing emergencies.|
|Yellowstone National Park map||As you enter the park you will be handed a Yellowstone map. It’s great for driving, but not very detailed. You definitely wouldn’t use it for hiking. Buy a Yellowstone map here or at any visitor center or general store in the park.|
|Day pack / backpack||With all these things I said to pack for Yellowstone, you are going to need something to carry them in. I like Osprey’s day packs because they are super sturdy, have pockets in all the right places, and have a lifetime guarantee.|
|Child backpack carrier||Not everyone needs this on their list of things to bring to Yellowstone, but if you have a little one that can’t/won’t walk very far, a child carrier is a lifesaver. You can get away with a stroller on a lot of the boardwalks, but a backpack is so much more convenient and saves you from saying “excuse me” every other minute or needing to carry it up and down stairs. We used a Kelty backpack carrier with both our kids and loved it.|
You can download my Yellowstone Packing list here:
What else would you add to a Yellowstone National Park Packing List?