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Apparel and Layers: Being Prepared for the Outdoors

Hiking Apparel and Equipment Getting ready for your National Parks Road Trip? Maybe you have prepared your route, made all your reservations for your lodging or campgrounds. Have you packed your bags with the appropriate outdoor gear?

It's always difficult to plan out exactly what you are going to wear on a trip that involves the great outdoors. This is not the same as a city trip and you have to remember that are other factors to consider. Are you going to do any hiking? How long will those hikes be? What time of year are you planning on visiting these beautiful parks? What kind of park are you going to visit? You might think these questions are over-thinking your trip but the last think you want is to be stuck out on a 5 mile hike with either too much gear or not enough.

How long will you Hike?

If you are hiking, the first question is, do you have hiking boots or hiking shoes? For even short hikes it is wise to have a comfortable pair of hiking shoes with you. Although a hike might be short, you are likely to be taking several short hikes while visiting one or multiple parks. Short hikes are not always on paved or built walkways. They are often on gravel, dirt or rocky areas. All of which can put strain on your feet. Those short hikes will add up over time and your feet will wish you had planned ahead with a nice pair of hiking shoes.

If you are planning a longer more moderate to strenuous hiking trail, it is a good idea to get either a pair of hiking boots or a good pair of hiking shoes. Some people these days are even opting for a good trail running shoe! Depending on how strenuous or rocky the hike will be, keeping your ankles protected with a boot, rather than a shoe, is a good idea. It will help with the extra stability and keep both your feet and your ankles safe.


When walking on longer hikes, you and your feet get tired. Vibram soles can help avoid unnecessary accidents by keeping you more sure footed.

You don't want to remember your trip by how much your feet got sore, you can avoid this and have a wonderful trip with a great pair of hiking shoes or hiking boots that will last for years. Your feet will thank you for the small investment. There are a lot of choices for hiking boots or hiking shoes from a choice of great brands. Take some time ahead of your trip to try on some boots or shoes. See what works best for you and try to break them in before your trip!

Time of Year


We know we are stating the obvious here but summer is a hot time of the year. Naturally you would think to pack shorts and t-shirts, suntan lotion, a hat and think you are ready to go. For many it is better to still cover up by wearing very lightweight pants and shirts. Try picking white clothing to help reflect the sun. It will help you keep cooler longer. If you do wear shorts and t-shirts, don't forget your sunblock! A sun hat or a brimmed hat will really help keep your head cool and your scalp protected from sunburn. Even though it is summer, many parks will still start out quite cold in the mornings. Rocky Mountain National Park or Glacier National Park for example would be two great places to consider layered clothing. Have a light jacket or long sleeved pullover to remove later when the temperatures rise.

Water is a must during any hike. Water is suitable for hikes approximately one hour or less. If you will be out for a longer hike, a carbohydrate-electrolyte drink might be more beneficial to compensate for the extra exercise. If you will be out on longer full day hikes or multi-day hikes, make sure to have a water filter with you. Don't drink any water without treating it!


I hear time and again from people that since Death Valley is a desert, they don't have to worry about dressing warmly in the winter. My experience of Death Valley in the winter; I climbed out of my tent to frozen milk and orange juice and I am embarrassed to report I didn't have enough sunblock to keep me covered in the afternoon from the sun. This was years ago and it is a mistake I will never repeat. Death Valley is obviously a unique case. For winter in Rocky Mountain, plan to have a fleece and/or down jacket, gloves, a warm beanie, neck warmer or scarf. Rocky Mountain is also a very windy park so a windproof jacket would help a lot! You might even want to consider fleece or insulated pants.

Fall and Spring

These two seasons are often the trickiest for visitors. This is when layering is most important. The temperatures are changing more extremely and getting caught when it is suddenly too cold or too hot can really put a damper on any trip. A backpack or daypack is very useful during this time of year so you can unload the layers or have them as a spare when it suddenly gets colder. Lumbar packs typically don't have the room or you will need to strap your gear on the outside. However, a jacket that might just fall off your lumbar pack is a costly and unnecessary loss.


These are ideas to help you pack for your trip. Everyone is different and these suggestions should be used to help you decide if you do have the right outdoor gear for your particular trip. You might want to search through our store to get more ideas of what you might be missing.


Layers are a good idea for any time of the year. Mornings can start cold at any park and heat up as the day progresses. Lightweight layers that you can remove and put in your backpack will provide for a more comfortable climate change throughout the day.

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