Whether you’ve got your heart set on a top-down trek through The Narrows, a canyoneering adventure in Capitol Reef or some cross-country skiing in Bryce Canyon, there are a few essentials you should always have along, regardless of which of the state’s national parks you’re hoping to explore.

Keep reading for the ultimate list of year-round packing essentials for Utah’s Mighty 5.

Hiking Boots

Even if you plan to spend some time cross-country skiing or you’ll be swapping them out for climbing shoes, you should always have a good pair of hiking boots along if you’re visiting one of the Mighty 5.

While tennis shoes might be okay for some moderate hiking where you’re from, all of Utah’s national parks demand real hiking boots. From steep climbs to rocky surfaces, you need boots that can help you keep your grip and comfortable cover any terrain.

Besides a gripping sole, you might want to opt for boots that are waterproof or at least water-resistant. This will help you avoid cold feet and blisters when conditions get wet. When you’re shopping for boots, you want a fit that’s comfortable and snug, but that leaves space at the front of your toes. On a rugged or long hike, your feet may swell. If your boots fit perfectly, this swelling will leave your toes pinched and uncomfortable.

Don’t forget to break in your boots ahead of your visit. From sweaty socks to swelling feet, you’ll have enough reasons to be getting blisters without adding in stiff, uncomfortable boots.

Protection from the Sun

Even in the middle of winter or on an overcast day, you can still get sunburnt. In fact, if you’ll be out in the snow, the reflection of the sun’s rays off the bright white snow means even more threat of sunburns.

Protect your exposed skin with UV protective clothing, ski goggles, winter or ball hats, and the right SPF sunscreen for your skin. 

More Water Than You Think You’ll Use

The average healthy, active adult needs to drink about 1 liter of water for every two hours of hiking on a moderate trail on a warm, but not hot, day. But this is just a baseline. If you’ll be hiking in the desert in the middle of the summer, you may need to drink quite a bit more.

During the winter, you may not think you’ll use as much water. However, because your body works harder to warm up the air that you’re breathing, your body may dehydrate much faster than you think. As a rule, you should always pack more water than you expect to use. That way if you get sidetracked or wind up thirstier than you expected, you’ll be prepared.

High-Protein Snacks

To keep your energy up while you’re on the trails or scaling cliff faces, you should always pack a few high-protein snacks. Beef jerky, trail mix with plenty of nuts, peanut butter, and protein bars all make great trail snacks because they keep well and can be noshed on while you walk.

Wicking Clothing

Too many hikers opt for comfy t-shirts and leggings or jeans when they hit the trails. In reality, cotton is one of the worst fabrics you would wear for outdoor activities, no matter the time of year.

Cotton holds moisture against your skin. Once there, it sits, taking a long time to evaporate. If you’re sweating on a hot summer day, cotton won’t offer any relief, leaving you to overheat. In the winter, that sweat will then leave you chilled as the wind blows through your clothing. The same results will happen if you get caught in a rainstorm or you take a wet hike like The Narrows.

Leave the cotton at home, and instead opt for wicking synthetic fabrics. This is especially important for your base layers that are worn against your skin.

A Flashlight

Unless you’re experienced and prepared, it’s best to plan to be off the trail before dark. However, delays happen. That’s why you should always have a flashlight along, just in case.

First Aid Kit

Utah’s national parks see plenty of crowds during the summer months. This means you won’t be alone on most trails. Unless you choose to tackle one of the longer hikes that few visitors take on. But if you get hurt on even a shorter trail, it can take time for emergency crews to get to you. Or if you suffer only a minor cut or scrape, you won’t want to put an end to your day to go back into town and seek help.

Packing a first aid kit and learning how to treat minor, common injuries can help you keep yourself and anyone else in your group safe and keep little bumps and scrapes from bringing your hike to an end prematurely.

Your Camera

This may not be a necessity. However, you’ll want to have a camera along to capture the memories and stunning views you’ll get to enjoy. This is true no matter which Utah national park you choose to visit

Packing for Your Mighty 5 Adventure

This list is just a starting point. But these essentials are a must for any visit to one of Utah’s Mighty 5. Looking for other advice to help you prepare? Check out this list of the top tips for beginner hikers.