What to Pack

Packing Lists.

I’m known for my packing lists.  I’m also known for my overpacking.  I’m not sure why – but I do know that from time to time, I have been known to take far more than what I need on trips.  I think it may be because I’m trying to accommodate every possibility when we’re away.  But – it makes your bags a lot heavier than they need to be – and lugging that stuff through the airport is just not a fun way to start (or end!) a vacation.  So, over the past few years, I’ve been trying to pare down what I pack and what I get while I’m away.


Know the weather forecast and general climate conditions for when you’re heading to Montana and Wyoming.  It’s a very volatile climate – and it isn’t uncommon to experience multiple seasons in a single day. Or even at a single time.  Heck, it was 55 degrees and sleeting one day on our trip.  Layers are important.  It’s chilly in the morning, warms up to a comfortable afternoon, and then cools down again in the evening.  It doesn’t get ‘hot’ to NC standards – and when it is warm – it was never truly humid (either in the spring season, or the summers when we were in Glacier before).  Comfortable walking shoes are a must – for when you’re exploring the different hiking trails and the geyser basins.  An uncomfortable pair of shoes can truly ruin your day – making you not want to walk and see the things you really can’t see anywhere else on the planet.   Make sure to pack at hat too – because when you’re out and about – the sun can be bright – and you don’t realize it. (There’s not a lot of haze in the sky – so it seems to be stronger than it normally is)

Toiletries and Supplies

When we travel to VRBOs we tend to buy our toiletries and stuff when we get to our destination and do our first grocery shopping.  That saves on weight and bag space, and ensures that we have what we want to use when we get there.  However, there are always times when you may run into needing something other than what you’ve packed.  Because West Yellowstone is a smaller town, there aren’t major big box drug stores around.  There are two small grocery markets available, but since we didn’t shop there, I don’t really know what their selection was.  I’m guessing they have the basics, but if you need something specific – I would recommend making sure you pack it along with you.

The lodges and hotels in the Park have gift shops and general stores that sell the common items that people may need while they travel, but they are generally at a hefty markup and in much smaller packaging that makes it not truly worth the investment (although they’re good for an emergency).

Depending on the season you head out in – pack sunscreen. (Not your average daily sunscreen, but the stuff you put on so you don’t get burnt). The sun is more intense in Yellowstone – mostly because of the elevation and clear skies – and you don’t want to turn red and get uncomfortable while you’re out and about.  (Yes, I did mostly car touring, and wished I had sunscreen, my right arm has a tan, my left arm doesn’t!).

Definitely make sure that you take along any medications that you need, along with your prescriptions for them (always a good tip for when you’re traveling). Like I said, there isn’t a lot around in West Yellowstone (or Mammoth/Gardiner that I saw) so, once you leave a big town (where you landed most likely) you’ll be out of range of a Target or WalMart run, and not around a big box drug store either.

Camera Gear

YES.  If you’re wondering if you’ll need it – take it. If you think you’ll just enjoy the landscapes and such and remember it – without photos – or you don’t think there will be things to take photos of – take your camera anyway.  I wasn’t going to take my camera with me, and just rely on my phone to document our trip – but I am so dang glad I talked myself into taking it along with me.  Because Yellowstone is so big and spread out – the zoom on a camera phone just doesn’t do justice to the pictures you may want to take.

Hiking Gear

While we’re not huge hikers (and definitely not technical hikers) we do have some things that we take along to make sure we are able to do what we need to do.  We have hiking poles that we got from REI a few years ago that I use for balance – (Charles uses them too).  They come in handy  Charles also has a monopod that he uses as part of his camera gear that also works for a hiking pole.

Water Bottles

Yes.  Yes Yes.  You are at elevation, and the air is dryer than it is in most other places – which means you run the risk of getting dehydrated and everything that comes along with that. (For me, it’s nasty headaches). Take a water bottle with you – or re-use one that you have – but make sure you’re drinking frequently.  We got into the habit of drinking water every time we got back into the car after getting out to look at something.  It helped us to stay hydrated and thankfully, we avoided nasty headaches on this trip 🙂

Busy Stuff

When we travel, I always take what I call a ‘busy bag’. In my bag is whatever yarn project I’m currently working on, my Kindle, my journal, and a coloring book and pencils.  Keeps me busy on the plane, and gives me something to do in the house/apartment/room in the evenings. (I don’t always use it, but it’s good to have when I want it).  It’s helpful to remember that when you leave the house/hotel and head into the park – you will not have phone service or internet access.  For some people, that’s a scary thing – but for me, it was wonderful to not feel like I had to check in on Social Media or work all the time.  (Charles and I both just put our phones in airplane mode when we were leaving in the morning and didn’t even check them until the evening).

Travel is a personal thing – the stuff I want to take with me so I feel comfortable is not always going to be the stuff that you take with you to feel comfortable. Assess where you’re going, what you plan on doing, and who’s going along with you and plan accordingly.  Vacations are supposed to be relaxing, so stressing out about something that you may have forgotten is definitely not a good thing and can put a crimp in an otherwise awesome day.

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