National Park Packing List—What to Wear in the Spring
Our content has been independently selected and contains affiliate links. If you make a purchase using the links, we may receive a commission.
If there's a title for The Worst Place to Underpack or Pack the Wrong Thing, it's a national park. A national park is a place where you can't always pop in a store to grab a new pair of hiking boots or another fleece layer if you're cold. The majority of the time, what you bring with you is what you'll have with you for the entirety of your day (or whole trip).
If you're hiking or camping, you can't pack too much—the lighter the pack, the more enjoyable the adventure. On the other hand, packing too little leaves you vulnerable to whatever elements come your way, including varying temperatures, rainy weather, and unexpected snowfall. And if you've made it to one of the world's most beautiful national parks—think Yellowstone, Zion, or the Everglades—you don't want to spend more time being anxious about your outfit choice than you do taking in the sights.
Visiting a national park in the spring, specifically, can making packing even harder. Spring is notoriously temperamental. March, April, and even May can bring a range of weather, so it's best to create a layerable, thorough national park packing list that will keep you comfortable, no matter the circumstance.
What to Wear to a National Park - Spring Packing List
While you'll require a more detailed list if you're going camping or adventuring out for a few days, these are the national park essentials that will ensure you get the most out of a day in one of America's gorgeous natural wonders.
Hiking Boots + Socks
What you have on your feet at a national park is priority number one. You can find more of our favorite hiking boots here (and thick socks to wear with them), but see a few sturdy, affordable pairs you can rely on below.
Ladies, leave your t-shirt and wire bras at home. A low-to-medium impact sports bra (like our go-to styles from Outdoor Voices and Girlfriend Collective) will provide the support you need without constricting your breathing.
Light T-Shirt or Long-Sleeve Shirt
Like putting on makeup, the key to dressing for a trip to a national park is to start light. You can add more coverage as needed. For warmer climates, a tank or t-shirt is perfect. For more mountainous destinations, a long-sleeve is just the right thing.
Fleece or Down Vest
We will sing praises of the vest (or gilet, for our UK-based travelers) for all outdoor adventures. A fleece or down vest keeps your upper body toasty, not sweaty—and the best styles have pockets for easy access to Chapstick and your phone.
Water-Resistant Windbreaker or Anorak
Protection from wind and rain is crucial if you're spending time in a national park. If the weather's nice, a windbreak rolls up nicely and can be tucked away in your backpack.
Hear us out: If they're your style, wax Barbour jackets are actually amazing for a national park visit. They're warm (some have extra layers you can add to the interior), have plenty of pockets, and can handle a little bit of moisture. P.S.: You can get Barbour jackets for 40% off at Tuckernuck with code TNUCK40.
We're also recommending a few other activewear-style coats (for colder spring days) below.
Leggings or Durable Hiking Pants
The entire dilemma: leggings or real pants? For a national park, either works—as long as you're comfortable and able to trek several miles at a time.
Fanny Pack, Shoulder Bag, or Backpack
You're going to want to be hands-free at a national park. You'll need a quality bag that can hold a few snacks, maybe a lunch, a water bottle, and extra sunscreen.
Baseball hat or sun hat, your pick. Just as long as you have some protection from the sun.
No need to squint in the sunshine. Your eyes (and your future self when all your trail selfies come out looking cool, calm, and collected) will thank you.
Sunscreen + Chapstick
Last but not least, you absolutely cannot forget sunscreen and Chapstick on a national park visit. The UV rays are sure to be out in full force—no matter where you go—and many of the parks are known for their dryness, which leads to chapped lips. No thanks.