If you’re planning a trip to Utah, you’re likely headed there for the outdoors; Utah is known for its distinctive terrain — high peaks and deep valleys, mountain and desert. With such varied landscapes, it can be hard to narrow down exactly what to pack!
Before running off to immerse yourself in the raw, natural beauty of Utah’s national parks, check out our packing guide for a few pointers first.
Packing Guide for a Trip to Utah’s National Parks
Water shoes might seem like a thing of the 90’s with Tevas and Chacos recently trending, and while your favorite outdoor sandals might serve you well in certain activities, I’d highly suggest getting a pair of actual, durable water shoes to bring along too. Rafting the winding Colorado and Green rivers are huge draws to the state’s gorgeous national parks, and you’re going to want quick-drying, appropriate footwear.
Water shoes don’t have to be obnoxiously ambiguous either; I love these incognito water shoes that can stand in as walking shoes, or these cute pair resembling ballet flats. My go-tos are Vibrams, though any standard pair will do!
Sunscreen is critical in Utah. For face, I find that Cetaphil’s 30 SPF face moisturizer is best in hot climates, as it doesn’t clog pores and is super light-weight in comparison to other facial sunscreens.
For your body, you’ll likely want at least 60 SPF protection — it resists 98% of UV rays, which you’ll be exposed to plenty of in the desert terrain. The tried-and-true Banana Boat 100 SPF is a safe bet and easy to reapply consistently.
You’ll also need to pack a UV-protected hat & sunglasses; I recommend cheap ones that you don’t mind getting scratched in your backpack, but still have 100% UV protection!
Your standard canteen or 22 oz CamelBak won’t cut it in Utah — you need some to have a serious amount of water on hand for hiking.
The 85 oz CamelBak is a great alternative to lugging around a large, bulky water jug, though it’ll do the job just as well. There are also affordable replicas on the market that hold the same amount of water in addition to extra storage space. Staying hydrated is key when exploring the great outdoors, and Utah’s rugged national parks are exemplary of the reason why!
Packing layers might be a given, but don’t forget long-sleeved ones! The different elevations of the parks require more or less layers, especially when it gets cold at night. A fleece jacket and quick-dry long sleeve shirts are a must.
Also consider a rain shell, even in summer months. You’ll need something that repels water, for those spontaneous showers that happen all too often!
Plastic Grocery Bags
Plastic bags might sound like a curious item to pack, but they prove to be useful and convenient when camping. Red dirt and dust is plentiful in every national park, and plastic bags can protect everything from food items to wet clothing and water shoes. I also use them to separate dirty clothes from clean ones, and for their more obvious purpose of a trash bag.
Eco-Friendly Hygiene Products
Camping in national parks requires careful consideration of the bathroom and hygiene products you bring, not only for yourself but for the site you’re visiting as well.
Both men and women should use soap/shampoo, toilet paper, toothpaste and body wipes (your new best friend if showers are inadequate or nonexistent) that are environmentally-friendly and compostable. Note I don’t say “biodegradable,” as products labelled biodegradable often take much longer to break down and can contaminate the soil or water it comes in contact with.
Additional Items to Pack
- Be sure to pack a swimsuit, microfiber camping towel, and dry bags for scattered hot springs and various rivers you’ll come across on your travels in and around Utah’s parks!
- Bugs (e.g. mosquitos) aren’t a big concern for this region and shouldn’t warrant bug spray, though ticks are common; bring tweezers to remove ticks if they happen to latch on, and keep an eye out for a circular ring around the bite that could indicate Lyme disease.
- A mini first-aid kit, and extra pairs of SmartWool socks — should yours get wet or sweaty — can help combat blisters. Keep them in your backpack!
- Small snacks should be eaten throughout the day and in between meals to help offset the large amount of water you’ll drink. Keep your blood sugar up with easily digestible foods like protein bars (these Larabars — made from 100% real ingredients — are my go-to bars for hiking trips), fresh or dried fruits, crackers, and nuts.