Perfect Packing List For Camping In The National Parks On A Road Trip

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This isn’t going to be the ultimate packing list with literally everything you should bring on a national park road trip where you’ll be doing a lot of camping. 

It’s geared more towards the gear (hah) that you’ll want to have with you.  I will include some clothing, but I’m leaving the basics (shirts, pants, shorts, underwear) up to you.

cactus on desert discovery trail saguaro national park

Some things are included in this because they’re awesome and perfect for this and you might not already know about them and I just love them so much (shampoo bar!) I want to share them with you.

A few things I’ll be assuming in this packing list:

  • You are going camping in the summer
  • You will be camping in the US
  • You have a car, either your own or you are renting one
  • You will be going to restaurants for most meals, not cooking at your campsite
  • You will be doing basic camping, not overnight backpacking trails

National Park Goodies



Patagonia Re-Tool Sweatshirt or Better Sweater – I cannot get over how much I love these.  I went from 0-4 in like, a month.  They are warm, cute, soft, and perfect for cool evenings around a campfire.  Buy the Re-tool here!  Check out the Better Sweater here.

Hiking shoes – I prefer Chacos, (I apologize for how gross mine are in the picture, I just wear them every day) which are good for day hikes and around camp. 

If you need more ankle support, hiking boots might be a better option.  I love my Forsake Patch hiking boots a lot and would highly recommend them.  Buy Chacos here.  Find the Forsake Patch here.

Yoga pants/leggings – These are for in the evening when it gets cooler, or sweatpants.  Some kind of warm(ish) pants.  Yes, even for the desert.  It can get cool at night.  I loooove my Fabletics black leggings.  I prefer getting mine from Poshmark because I hate the Fabletics VIP system with a passion.  You can use the code REDAROUNDWORLD for $10 off your first purchase, too!

Hiking socks – Think Darn Tough.  They have tons of different super comfy styles and lengths (knee high or ankle) for all kinds of outdoor activities. 

Plus, they actually kept my feet warm, which I was impressed by.  I also really like Smartwool and Farm to Feet socks.  Buy them here!

Rain jacket – Just in case.  depending on where you’re going, you’ll definitely want this.  I believe I have an older version of this jacket, but I would buy it again, for sure.  Buy my favorite rain jacket here.

Hat – No matter where you go, you’ll want a hat.  Whether it’s a baseball hat or a sun hat is up to you, but I’d recommend something that will stay on your head in the wind (ie. with a chin strap or adjustable tightness.)  Check out this baseball hat.


Hiking Gear

Hiking daypack – I LOVE the REI Ruckpack 18 because it’s super light and the perfect size for hiking.  I can have an extra jacket in it, plus snacks, a hat, and sometimes my camera, but I usually have that out. 

I also love my Kavu backpack. (I have the green wildlife print).  It doesn’t have a water bottle pocket though, so I use it for GeocachingBuy the REI Ruckpack here.  Check out the Kavu backpacks here.

HydroFlask – I have the 40-ounce water bottle and I go pretty much everywhere with it.  They have tons of sizes and style to choose from.  They are pricey, but keep beverages ice cold for hours, even in a hot car, with the ice still in it!  Buy the best water bottle ever here.

Trail snacks – I can’t be the only one who gets hungry while I’m hiking, right?  Some of my favorite snacks are Sahale nuts, EPIC venison bars, and Moon Cheese.

Light jacket – Just in case it gets a little chilly on a trail or if it’s shady.  A rain jacket might work.

Hiking poles – This is optional.  If you have bad knees or will be on rocky or steep trails, it might be good to have just in case.  The only time I wish I had one sometimes was in the Narrows in Zion.  I still saw people with them fall over though, so proceed with caution.  Check out these hiking poles.

Personal Locator Beacon – This could be great to have for any hiker, but if you plan on doing a lot of hiking alone in less populated areas, a PLB would be a great addition to your hiking daypack. 

If you were to get hurt, this can help save your life.  We recently got the Garmin inReach Mini, and so far really like it! Anyone with your tracking link can follow you and you can send messages from your phone with it or preloaded ones.

Headlamp – This is great for reading in the car at night, as well as getting around a campsite and to bathrooms in the dark.  Find my headlamp here.


Camping Gear

Tent – Obviously if you plan on camping in (or around) the parks, you need a tent.  If you’re a casual camper, just a basic tent is sufficient.  We have the REI Passage 2 and I love it.  It’s great for one or two people.  Find my awesome tent here.

Sleeping bag – Gotta sleep in something.  If you don’t have a sleeping bag and don’t want to buy one, a bunch of blankets works well enough, but it’s a huge pain if you’re switching sties a lot.  Buy my sleeping bag here.

Pillows – I think you get this.  I just use my regular pillow since we are usually car camping, never backpacking.

Sleeping pad/air mattress – This is optional, but if you’re camping for two weeks, this will definitely help.  I have the REI Camp Bed 3.5, but it isn’t available anymore.  Check out similar ones here.

Blanket – This is more for in the car in case you want to sleep on long drives.  But it can be an extra layer if you get cold at night.  It’s also great for those warmer nights when a sleeping bag is too much. 

A camp blanket is a great sleeping bag alternative if you plan on camping a lot.  Otherwise, any blanket from home will work.  Buy an awesome camp quilt here.

Camp chairs – These are great for just hanging around the campsite or fire in your spare time.  We just have cheap ones right now, so I don’t have a good one to recommend, but there are tons to choose from on REI.  Eventually, I’ll upgrade, but I’m not sure to what quite yet.  Browse camp chairs here.

Photo by Clarisse Meyer on Unsplash
Photo by Clarisse Meyer on Unsplash


Shampoo bar – I love the Lush ones.  If they still have Jumping Juniper, I like that.  Honey I washed my hair is my other favorite, just make sure you let it dry before putting it back in the tin.  Buy LUSH Shampoo Bars here.

Sunscreen – Because sunburn is literally the worst.  If you’re going to be swimming, I would go for a reef safe sunscreen.  If not, I love my Neutrogena sunscreen.  Buy reef safe sunscreen here.  Buy Neutrogena sunscreen here.

Bug spray – Because mosquito bites are literally the second worst.  Buy bug spray here.

Lotion – Because lotion is always good.  I don’t have a go-to lotion, I always switch things up.



LuminAID – You can either get just a lantern or a lantern/USB charger.  I received the charger version, which is great because then you don’t need to carry a portable charger. 

This thing is seriously cool.  It’s super bright and you don’t need another cord to charge it (but that is possible) since it’s solar powered!  You can change the brightness, too. 

Just strap it onto your backpack while you’re hiking to charge it up!  It’s perfect for just hanging around the campsite, in your tent, or walking in the dark.  T

hey are inflatable, so you just blow it up and the only thing I don’t like is that the little air valve sticks out, so it doesn’t sit flat on a table.  Other than that, I love it and am always looking for an excuse to use it.  Plus, it was on Shark Tank!  Buy a LuminAID here.

Kindle – Why?  Because you might want to read in the car.  Or in your tent at night.  I love my Paperwhite and it goes everywhere with me.  Buy a Kindle Paperwhite here.

Portable charger – If you’re camping for a while, you’ll really need a portable charger.  Just charging your phone in the car isn’t usually enough.  Check out this portable charger.

Car charger – Just a simple phone charger to use in the car while you’re on the road.  You can also use a portable charger instead.

Camera – Well, yeah.  If you want a beginner DSLR, I love my Canon Rebel.  If you’re looking to upgrade something you already have for your big trip, I would go with the Fuji X-T2.  This is my full-time camera now and I love it.  If none of that sounds good, a GoPro might be better.  It’s smaller, lighter, and can do video and pictures.  Buy a Fuji X-T2 here.


Other stuff

Paper maps – Just in case you don’t have service or your GPS doesn’t work, it’s always good to have paper maps.  If you’re a AAA member, you can get US maps there for free.

AAA – This is another optional thing.  It’s roadside assistance in case you break down, which can be helpful.  It starts at $57 per year and you can get free maps at an office if you’re a member.

Guidebook – If you plan on going to a lot of national parks, the National Geographic Guide to the National Parks is a must-have.  I still check mine even if I’ve been to a park eight times.  Buy the NatGeo Guide to National Parks here.

America The Beautiful Pass – This is the national park pass.  It’s $80 and can be bought at national park entrances.  If you’re going to more than three parks, it will be totally worth it and it’s good for a year at all national park sites!  I always get one.  Buy the park pass here.

Well, now that you know what to bring, get planning!  Find out some of my favorite hikes and national parks here.  If you have any questions or want more recommendations, feel free to reach out!  Hopefully, this packing list for camping helps you plan for your trip a little better.


What are your camping/hiking/road trip must-haves?  Do you use any of these things?  Is there anything you think I should add?

20 thoughts on “Perfect Packing List For Camping In The National Parks On A Road Trip

  1. Great list! I always seem to forget my kindle and remember in the evening! Will have to use this list before my next trip ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Thank you! I feel like my Kindle is what I would be most sad to not have with me haha

  2. When I finally visit the States, I want to go on a road trip and camp to visit national parks! So this list is just perfect! Thank you for sharing ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. I’m glad it will help! That’ll be a super fun trip, whenever it happens!

  3. Your photos are epic! They make me want to go back on my promise to scale back on the camping this year. I haven’t ever gotten a personal locator though… that might be a good investment. Thanks for the tips!

    1. Thank you! I’m sure there’s no such thing as camping too much haha. I haven’t gotten the locator yet, but it’s on my list, especially for my boyfriend since he hikes alone without service a lot!

    1. Thank you! That’s exciting you at least got to see a few. Even living here there are so many more I need to see!

  4. Great comprehensive list. I hope to get back to the US someday as there are some amazing parks to explore! Have fun on your adventures ๐Ÿ™‚

  5. Great tips! I’ve had one of those Patagonia fleeces on my wishlist forever and I think it’s going to be a fall gift to myself this year.

    1. Thank you! I love them so much! And you can also find them on Poshmark for pretty cheap sometimes. I’ve gotten a few for like $35 on there!

  6. Thanks for the “heads-up” on the LuminAID White lanterns. They are great for star gazing with the red light option. I bought 4 of them and they light up the deck on my yurt platform beautifully.

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