If there’s one park in the US National Park system that displays how beautiful the western states can be, it’s Zion National Park. And it’s well-loved: the national park is the most visited in Utah and one of the most popular in the entire park system.
While Zion is famous for bucket-list hikes sights like the view from the top of Angels Landing and the tight, sheer walls of the water-filled Narrows, there’s plenty more to see. The road from the main entrance of Zion is roughly seven miles long, with lots of trailheads along the way. And the park’s two other entrances have plenty of amazing places to visit, especially if you’re looking to avoid crowds and step away from the park’s busy areas.
But if you’ve never been there, knowing what to pack for Zion National Park can be difficult, especially since the weather can be a little unpredictable. With high plateaus and deserts that can alternate between sweltering hot and snowy, slot canyons where whipping wind can almost knock you over, and lush valleys with no shortage of moisture, it’s tricky to know what you’ll need to stay comfortable. And while you can buy some gear in the nearby town of Springdale, it’s generally a little pricey, so it’s best to buy what you need to pack for Zion National Park in advance before you go.
The list below skips most of the basics you already know and have, like a baseball cap, sun-blocking shirts, and sunscreen. So here’s the gear you’ll need to pack for a Zion National Park trip that you may not have thought of, but will definitely come in handy.
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Gear everyone visiting Zion will need
Whether you’re hiking, sightseeing, or only stopping for an hour or two to take a few photos, you’ll still find items like a breathable backpack, a large waterbottle, and a wide sun hat to be incredibly useful.
Reduce hiking sweat with: A ventilated day pack ($109)
Anyone visiting Zion National Park will need to bring a comfortable backpack. But given Zion’s desert-like summer temperatures and huge sections of the park without much shade, it’s important to have a breathable backpack — a.k.a., a pack that allows for air circulation around the straps and back so you don’t get hot and sweaty after wearing it for five minutes.
Lots of good brands make lots of good breathable backpacks, but a great pick for most people will be the Osprey Hikelite 26 Pack. It has a mesh back panel to eliminate most sweating, hip straps, side pockets for easy access to a water bottle or phone, and is compatible with hydration bladders. It also comes with a rain cover and has built-in external loops to carry hiking poles — two features very handy for day hiking in Zion. It also comes in multiple colors, in case you don’t want to be matchy-matchy with your fellow hikers.
Bonus: Osprey has a great guarantee and repair program, so you can repair your pack if anything wears out, rather than tossing it in the trash.
Carry enough water for long hikes with: A huge water bottle ($14+)
Lots of brands make large, durable water bottles, including HydroFlask, Otterbox, Yeti, Camelbak, and more. But for the best combination of weight and size, just get a standard Nalgene Wide-mouth Bottle. They’re under $20, durable enough to fall off cliffs or get left in the woods for a few years, and easy to clean. You won’t find one serious outdoor person who doesn’t have at least one Nalgene in their cabinet. They come in lots of different color combos, though most people slap stickers all over theirs, anyway.
The basic Nalgene is BPA-free, made from recycled landfill plastic, and has a lifetime guarantee. Plus, it’s big enough to put ice cubes in. Depending on what color you want, they start around $14, and fit perfectly in the side pockets of the backpack recommended above.
Protect your skin from the sun with: A wide-brim SPF hat ($55+)
Whether you prefer a fedora, a cowboy hat, a panama hat, or a park-ranger style hat (called a campaigner), you’ll want a hat that offers sun protection all the way around your head, and for your neck, too. That means a baseball camp won’t cut it.
Consider picking up one of the stylish and just a touch western-inspired wide-brim hats from Wallaroo. They have a UPF-50 rating to protect your skin and scalp from getting burned, plus a chin strap and an internal drawstring to ensure they’ll stay put in wind and gusts. And the brand donates part of its profits to to skin cancer research organizations. They’re advertised as having women‘s and men‘s versions, but they’re hats — they’re basically all unisex. Wear whichever one you like.
Packing tip: big hats are actually easy to pack: just fill the center with socks and underwear to keep the shape; the brim itself will probably sit flat on the rest of your items. Or you could just wear it, of course — big hats are helpful on planes when you need to block out the light and try to get a little sleep.
Keep your feet comfy with: a breathable walking shoe ($130)
If you’re just walking and doing light hikes around Zion, a full hiking shoe will probably be overkill, especially if you don’t hike frequently. Honestly, most sneakers or gym shoes you already have will be comfortable enough for light activity in the park. However, you do want to ensure whatever shoe you wear has great air flow, both to keep your feet dry, and to dry out overnight if you get caught in heavy rain during monsoon season (July to September).
Once you have a pair of Astral shoes, you’ll probably start noticing that they’re popular on the feet of hikers everywhere. They brand was originality created for rafting, introducing a shoe with the protection and comfort of a sneaker but the quick-drying properties of a sandal. The TR1 Mesh Hiker is comfortable out of the box, dries in a matter of an hour or two, and has enough support for walking and day hikes, without being heavy or overly padded. It’s an ideal shoe for any activity where you’re on your feet all day and want to find the balance between comfort, weight, and cost.
Stay warm in the shade with: A moisture-wicking long-sleeve tee ($75)
It doesn’t really matter if it’s hot or cold when you visit Zion — if you’re walking around the park, taking the mandatory shuttle, moving in and out of stores and restaurants, and moving between the park’s different landscapes, you’re going to sweat. Unfortunately, in addition to make your clothes stinky, sweat also makes you cold the second the temperature drops and you find yourself wearing wet clothing. So even if you’re planning a fairly non-active trip, you’ll still want a high-quality moisture-wicking shirt.
Like backpacks, there are plenty of great options on the market. But an especially great shirt is the Paka Everyday Base Layer for men and women, made with temperature-regulating sustainable alpaca fibers. Both have a very simple and classics design, so they’re flattering on all body types and match just about everything. You can wear it basically every day of your Zion National Park trip and not worry about it getting too smelly or dirty, even if you sweat into it a bit more than normal. I always carry a long sleeve, even in summer, since the exertion of hiking combined with wind at high elevations can make you a bit chilly.
At around $75, they may seem a bit pricey for a thin shirt, but given how useful they’ll be, you’ll likely find it worth it. Paka also has a great backstory and is the definition of a sustainable, planet-first company, so it’s a great brand to support if you’re trying to avoid “fast fashion.”
Here’s Matador’s in-depth review of mens and women’s Paka apparel.
Helpful hiking gear for Zion National Park
If you’re planning on hiking around Zion — that is, packing on several miles at a time on dirt, rock, and sandy trails, there are a few extra items that will come in handy, mostly for reducing muscle fatigue and minimizing hiking annoyances like blisters.
Navigate slippery trails with: a super-grippy hiking shoe ($89+)
If you’re planning on extended hikes, as opposed to just some gentle flat walking, you’ll likely want a slightly more robust hiking shoe. One of the most important criteria will be finding a hiking shoe that’s extra grippy, since many of Zion’s trails are across sandstone, which can get very slippery when wet. Good grip is also essential for the narrow and steep cliffs and ledges of some of Zion’s famous trails, like Angel’s Landing.
If you’re going to buy a new shoe, it’s an added bonus if you can buy one made with recycled materials — which makes the FreeHiker from Adidas’ Terrex line a great pick. It comes in high- and low-top styles for men and women and is described (accurately) as having the “lightweight feel of a trail runner with the stability of a hiking boot.” All styles have a cushioning outsole and a waterproof membrane in case you get caught in one of the aforementioned monsoons. They come in a subtle all-black or sportier color combos. And the price is right, between $100 and $200, depending on the style.
Spare your knees and joints with: collapsible hiking poles ($29.99)
Hiking poles are useful for two main point. They provide an extra contact points with the ground, creating a little more stability. And they also help take some of the weight off your knees, hips, and back when moving up or down hills. So if you plan on doing multiple days of hiking in a row, or just know your knees tend to hurt a bit after hiking, you may want to pick up a pair.
For quality poles that won’t break the bank, get the lightweight hiking poles from Cascade Mountain Tech. They come with multiple tips, have comfortable wrist straps, and are made with a strong aluminum that doesn’t seem to bend or break. This writer has used them on multiple multi-day hikes, and aside from losing the occasional basket tip in deep snow, they’ve worked quite well. It’s also nice that they’re collapsible, so you can store them in a side pocket of your hiking backpack when not in use.
Prepare for blisters and bug bites with: A compact first aid-kit ($32)
If you’re just doing day hikes within the main areas of the park, you don’t need to carry a massive first-aid kit. If you run into any major injuries, you’ll likely have other hikers, park rangers, and rescue personnel within close reach. However, you should still carry some basics you can use for minor injuries in a small first aid kit. Get one that includes antibacterial cream, bandaids, and butterfly bandages for cuts; antihistamines and anti-itch wipes for bee stings or bug bites; and other basics like tweezers, blister treatment supplies, and gauze.
The Adventure Medical Kit is probably the best small kit you can buy. It’s inexpensive, comes in a watertight container, and weighs less than four ounces. Carrying it is a no-brainer and can make the difference between finishing your hike or having to turn around because your blister is bleeding through your socks.
Keep your feet dry and comfortable with: Quick-drying hiking socks: ($16+)
While hiking in Zion, you can count on two things: hot temperatures in the summer, and lots of dirt, dust, and sand that’ll make you have to wash your socks after every hike. So I’d recommend buy one or two decent pairs that’ll dry quickly and help prevent blisters and rubbing, rather than a bunch of cheap pairs that won’t last you very long.
I’ve had great luck with the Icebreaker Merino Wool hiking socks. They’re cool in the summer, warm in the winter (thanks, wool), and don’t seem to get very stinky, even if you wear them for three hikes in a row (and yes, I’ve turned socks inside out in a pinch). They’re also a few bucks cheaper than your average high-end hiking sock, usually available on sale around $20. Remember that men’s and women’s socks aren’t very different, so there’s no reason you can’t buy whatever color you like, regardless of which gender it’s marketed to.
What to pack for a Zion National Park camping trip
If you were lucky enough to snag a campsite reservation at Zion, you’ll want to take advantage of the occasion with the right gear. Items like a stargazing tent, a big water reservoir, and earplugs can make your trip extra-enjoyable.
Stargaze at night with: A tent with a mesh stargazing roof ($119)
If you’re camping in Zion, you’ll be in fairly well-developed campgrounds, so you don’t need to worry too much about what tent you use — it’s not like you’re going to be miles away from help if you break a tent stake.
But Utah has some of the best stargazing in the world, and it’d be a shame to sleep under the stars but have the views be blocked by a plastic sheet. That’s why it’s good to bring a tent with a mesh top, so you can see the night sky in all its glory. A good, relatively budget-friendly pick is the Clostnature Lightweight Backpacking Tent, available in two-, three-, and four-person sizes. It’s freestanding (so you don’t need to stake anything into the dirt) and has a huge mesh top so you can see the stars while you stay cozy in your sleeping bag. Of course, it also comes with a huge waterproof rain fly to cover the mesh, useful on cooler night (or if it rains, obviously).
If you plan on doing a lot of backpacking trips, you’ll want to look at higher end brands like MSR or Sierra Designs, since this tent is a little heavy to carry in a backpack. But for once-in-a-while park campers, or anyone who mostly camps near their car, this Amazon fan favorite is a great pick.
Stay hydrated with: A hanging water filter ($45)
Single-person filters like those from Sawyer are great when for day hikers who only needs to refill once or twice. But if you’re camping and need water for drinking, cooking, brushing your teeth, making coffee, and more, it’s going to be pretty annoying to go back and forth to your water source one bottle at a time. So pick up a larger-size filter, like the highly-rated Membrane Solutions Gravity Water Filter. It holds and filters six liters at a time, so you can remove both weird bacteria and weird tastes from your water before you drink it.
You’ll find a handful of similar options on Amazon, but rather than sorting through them, just know that the Membrane Solutions bag has a bunch of features that make it a good pick: it comes with a strap to hang it from trees (or whatever) at camp, comes with a storage bag to keep it clean in your garage or closet, and has a hose clip to prevent dripping and leaks. It’s great for any camping trip, but especially in the dry, arid climate of Zion National Park, where you want to be drinking even more water than normal.
Sleep through the night with: Noise-cancelling ear plugs ($11)
If you’re wondering what to pack for Zion National Park camping trips to help you sleep through the night, the answer will only set you back about $11: noise-cancelling earplugs. Zion is one of the most popular parks in the entire National Park Service, and frontcountry campsites are close together. And unless you like waking up to the sounds of children, snorers, early-morning hikers, and car doors slamming shut, you’re going to want a pair of earplugs.
You don’t need anything super fancy, but those cheap-o foam ones like you’d get on an airplane may not get the job done. Fortunately, the BUENSUENO Silicone Reusable Earplugs are pretty cheap. They sit flat against the side of your head (ideal for side sleepers), come with a carrying case so you won’t loose them in your camping gear, and are washable are reusable, rather than single-use.
These are a pretty generic Amazon product, so check the listing to make sure you’re only buying one pair. Sometimes retailers will list one- and two-packs on the same buying page, which can double the price.
Create extra light at your camp with: A solar-powered lantern ($24)
Whether you’re cooking at camp, need some extra light inside your tent, or just need a little extra light at the campground, this handy solar-powered lantern will come in handy. It’s cheap, collapses totally flat to take up minimal space in your bag, and comes in either white or a version with color-changing modes. You can charge it just using solar power or give it a boost with a USB charger. It’s also waterproof, so it’s no big deal if you leave it out overnight and an unexpected shower comes through.
What to pack for Zion National Park winter trips
If you’re wondering what to pack for a Zion National Park winter trip, keep two things in mind: it’s possible for temperatures to drop near freezing, and the sun sets by about 5 PM. So you’ll want to bring a few extra items designed for cold-weather recreation (and potentially a bit of mud and frost).
Be prepared for a range of temps with: a cold-weather mid-layer ($40)
Though the Paka shirts listed above are also moisture-wicking, on a winter trip, you’ll want one with a slight wider range. The Eddie Bauer Activator Grid Fleece is shockingly affordable and will keep you warm in temps from the mid-30s Fahrenheit to the mid-60s, which is about what you can expect during winter in Zion.
It may sound like any warm shirt would be fine for those temperatures, but you need a shirt that can handle changing temperatures: you’re likely to sweat when you’re walking around in the sun, even during winter. But as soon as you step into the shadows or the temperatures drop, you’re going to get very cold if your shirt isn’t able to quickly wick away that sweat (or doesn’t have a thick enough fabric to keep your skin warm in the first place).
The Eddie Bauer Grid Fleece is soft, has useful thumb holes, comes in sizes from XS to XXL, and comes in a variety of colors for men and women.
Keep your shoes dry on muddy trails with: A pair of gaiters ($49)
If you’re hiking in Zion in the winter, there’s a good chance you’re going to encounter some mud. So it’s a good idea to equip yourself with a pair of gaiters: shoe coverings that attach to your shoe or boot and protect your shoe, sock, and ankle from excess mud and moisture. Not only does it help keep your shoes and socks clean, it also helps keep them dry, which makes putting on your shoes the next day much more pleasant.
Kahtoola makes a handful of great gaiters, but if you’re wondering which to pack for Zion National Park, go with the INSTAGaiter. They’re easy to wash, stay secure during long hikes, and pack into a tiny tote bag to keep mud off the rest of your belongings.
Light your path after sunset with: a long-lasting headlamp ($34.95)
If you’re wondering what to pack for Zion National Park during months when the sun sets by 5 PM, one item will be obvious: a headlamp. A headlamp is a hands-free way to explore after dark or find your way around camp when you’re not quite sure where the bathrooms are. But even if you’re not camping, you’ll still want a headlamp if you’re planning on doing any stargazing — and Zion’s stargazing is undeniable good.
You can buy headlamps that are a bit cheaper, but the Black Diamond Cosmo 350 has a few features worth springing for: it has a red-light setting (much easier on your eyes at night), as well as multiple brightness settings so you don’t blind people when you look at them after dark. It’s also super light and comfortable to wear for extended periods, and has an indicator to show you how much battery is left, so it doesn’t die when you’re walking home from an astrophotography session.
Keep your hands warm with: a midweight hiking glove ($34)
A guaranteed way to be uncomfortable in winter is to have cold hands. And while packing for a Zion National Park winter trip doesn’t end to include a heavy-duty ski glove, you do want something with a bit of insulation to keep your hands warm while walking and hiking (and ensure you have enough dexterity to hold your s’mores stick). Winter temperatures in Zion can feel chilly even when it’s not technically below freezing, especially if there’s any wind. So a pair of gloves is a smart thing to carry in your backpack every day.
A budget-friendly option you can use all winter long are the Trail Mix gloves from Outdoor Research. They’re touchscreen-compatible and have mid-weight insulation so you can wear them while hiking or snowshoeing without overheating. And since they’re not overly bulky, you’ll still be able to take photos and operate backpack buckles with ease. They also have UPF 30 protection, which could come in handy on Zion’s cold-but-sunny winter days. Remember that gloves are one of those products that don’t really need separate styles for men and women, so buy whatever color you like — just make sure you order the right size.
Buy Now: $34+ (mens)
Buy Now: $34+ (womens)