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What to Pack for the Grand Canyon

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If you’re wondering what to pack for the Grand Canyon, you’ve come to the right place. Here are all my tips on what to wear, essentials to bring, fun extras, and more – it’s the ultimate Grand Canyon packing list!

view from Desert View Watchtower in Grand Canyon
View of the Grand Canyon from Desert View Watchtower

As we were planning our bucket list trip to the Grand Canyon, I spent an inordinate amount of time deciding what we needed to pack. We took our family trip to the canyon during Spring Break in March. Which means it was a shoulder season – it could be cold winter weather or pleasant springtime weather.

And as a Floridian, we have very little cold weather gear. Ok, we didn’t have any cold weather gear. So I had a lot of planning to do.

I’m glad I spent as much time as I did hemming and hawing over the packing list, because we ultimately ended up with a very snowy trip and needed every last item!

And far it be from me to let all that research go to waste, so I’ve compiled it all into this comprehensive Grand Canyon packing list for you! I’ve done my best to cover all the essentials – whether you’re planning for a cold or warm weather trip.

us at Moran Point in Grand Canyon
Me and my son – outfitted for our March trip to the Grand Canyon.

Clothing – What to Wear in the Grand Canyon

Weather in the Grand Canyon can be temperamental – often varying by as much as 30 degrees in a single day. In the summer, you’ll find scorching hot days, but it’s still very common to have downright cold evenings. And in the winter, temperatures can range from comfortable and temperate to frigid.

Temperatures below the canyon rim are most extreme – meaning it will be colder in cold weather and hotter in hot weather. That’s important to keep in mind if you plan to do a lot of below the rim hiking.

It’s best to pack with layers in mind so you can adjust throughout the day, or as you hike deeper into the canyon and the weather changes. But in general, there are some basics you should be sure to take along on your Grand Canyon adventure!

For Warm Weather

boy at Grand Canyon South Rim
My son on a Spring Break trip to the Grand Canyon. He’s wearing lightweight athletic pants and this zip up fleece.

For warm weather exploring and casual hiking, you’ll primarily want comfortable shorts and either t-shirts or athletic style tops. I find that tops with moisture wicking, quick drying fabrics are always most comfortable for hiking.

These Under Armour tank tops are my personal favorites, and what I wear to work out in the Florida heat! Here are a few more options for both men and women that are perfect for a warm canyon trip:

If you plan to do early morning or late evening hiking when the weather is chillier, you may want to opt for a pair of full length hiking pants as well. Here are a few good options below – I personally took these Baleaf hiking pants along on my trip and found them to be pretty perfect.

I find them comfortable to wear as athleisure pants even in Florida summers, but they were warm enough for snowy hikes with a pair of leggings underneath. Very versatile, and inexpensive too!

womens north face hiking pants
Women’s North Face
Aphrodite Pants
mens hiking pants
Men’s Libin
Lightweight Joggers
womens baleaf hiking pants
Women’s BALEAF
Hiking Pants
Recommended Hiking Pants for Grand Canyon

Another great option for warmer weather is zip-off hiking pants. They let you start with long pants in the chilly morning hours and zip off the legs so they become shorts in the hot afternoons. These are super popular with the hiking crowd.

womens zip off hiking pants
Little Donkey Andy
Convertible Pants
Women | Men
womens onvertible pants
Columbia
Convertible Pants
Women | Men
boys convertible pants columbia
Kids’ Columbia
Convertible Pants
Boys | Girls
Best Convertible Hiking Pants

You’ll likely want a light jacket, fleece, or hoodie for the early and late hours of the day. And it’s not a bad idea to bring along a rain-proof jacket (or at least a poncho) for summer rainstorms as well.

mens rain jacket columbia
Columbia Watertight II
Rain Jacket
Men | Boys
womens rainjacket from columbia
Columbia Arcadia II
Rain Jacket175
Women | Girls
frog togg ponchos
Frog Togg Ponchos
(Unisex)
Recommended Waterproof Jackets

For Cold Weather

family at the Grand Canyon
My family in March at the Grand Canyon. We are all wearing a fleece plus puffer jackets for the cold weather.
(See below for brand recommendations.)

For cold weather hiking and exploring, you’ll want to pack full length hiking pants and long sleeve t-shirts or athletic tops. Again, I would choose tops made from quick dry type fabrics that won’t trap the sweat (and stink) of hiking. And for winter, you’ll want to choose a heavier weight pant, or plan to layer leggings underneath your lighter ones.

I stuck with these lightweight hiking pants (mentioned above for summer) for most of our time on our snowy Spring Break Grand Canyon trip, but wore these fleece lined leggings underneath them for extra warmth. That was perfect for me!

kids soft shell hiking pants
Kids’ Soft Shell
Winter Pants
womens winter hiking pants
Women’s Fleece Lined
Hiking Pants
mens winter hiking pants
Men’s Fleece Lined
Hiking Pants
Best Hiking Pants for Winter

You’ll also want to consider having a pair of waterproof hiking pants if you plan to spend a lot of time in the snow. I purchased these Columbia hard shell pants for my son, and was glad I did because he spent about 75% of the trip rolling around in snow piles. He wore the waterproof pants with long underwear layered beneath them and reports that they were toasty warm and dry.

columbia womens hard shell pants
Columbia Waterproof
Hard Shell Pants
Women | Men
kids columbia hard shell pants
Kids’ Columbia
Cypress Brook II
Waterproof Pants
kids mountain warehouse hard shell pants
Kids’ Mountain Warehouse
Waterproof Fleece-
Lined Pants
Best Waterproof Pants

You’ll need a few outer garments for layering, depending on the exact weather forecast for your trip. I found that having a zip-up fleece jacket and a light puffer coat was the perfect combination for me on our very snowy trip.

I personally brought along this Columbia zip up fleece, and this inexpensive puffer coat. I sometimes wore one or the other, and sometimes layered them when it was really ice cold! The fleece was excellent quality and the puffer was better than I expected for the price, although it would not have been sufficient on its own.

For my son, I went with a similar kid-sized Columbia fleece and this Under Armour puffer coat. I was really impressed with the quality of both of these items – and he used them separately and in combination throughout the trip.

Here are some great options for a fleece layer below. I actually have both the Columbia and Amazon Essentials fleeces for me and my son. The Columbia ones are a bit thicker and feel higher quality. But I have to say, the Amazon ones are also pretty darn good for the price – especially for kids that will outgrow them quickly!

womens zip up columbia fleece
Columbia Benton Springs
Zip Up Fleece
Women | Girls
mens zip up columbia fleece
Columbia Steens Mountain
Zip Up Fleece
Men | Boys
fleece jacket
Amazon Essentials
Polar Fleece
Women | Men
Boys | Girls
Best Fleece Jackets for Grand Canyon

And here are some suitable options for a puffer or winter jacket. As I mentioned, I personally wore the Amazon Essentials puffer below, layered with a fleece. And my son wore the Under Armour puffer. My husband wore his North Face jacket, because he’s fancy like that. ;)

wantdo womens jacket
Wantdo Winter Jacket
Women | Men
Boys | Girls
mens north face jacket
North Face
Aconcagua Jacket
Men | Women
boys under armour jacket
Boys’ Under Armour
Pronto Puffer Jacket
womens little donkey andy jacket
Little Donkey Andy
Puffer Jacket
Women | Men
womens puffer jacket
Amazon Essentials
Lightweight Puffer
Women | Men
Girls | Boys
girls under armour jacket
Girls’ Under Armour
Prime Puffer Jacket
Best Puffer Jackets and Winter Coats for Grand Canyon

For maximum warmth, consider a pair of long underwear as well. My son and I basically lived in ours during our winter canyon visit. Wool will be the warmest and longest lasting, but even synthetic ones will get the job done well enough.

I personally have these Rocky thermal underwear, which are cotton-polyester blend, and found them to be really warm and comfortable. I plan to grab a second pair for our upcoming trip to Iceland!

womens long underwear
Rocky Thermal Underwear
Men | Women
Boys | Girls
mens long underwear
Thermajohn & Thermajane
Long John Sets
Men | Women
Boys | Girls
kids meriwool base layer
Meriwool Wool Base Layer
Women: Top | Bottom
Men: Top | Bottom
Kids: Top | Bottom

And don’t forget to pack along a warm pair of gloves and a hat. I always bring a couple of each for when I inevitably lose a pair during the trip. Just for fun, I got my son this beanie with a light built in. It was pretty cool for night time exploring!

For myself, I brought along this buff headwrap, which I found to be more comfortable than a hat and kept my ears warm.

mother and son hiking Bright Angel Trail
Me and my son at Grand Canyon. There is the light up beanie hat and the Buff! I’m also wearing the Columbia fleece mentioned here and he is wearing the Under Armour puffer jacket.

For All Seasons

Regardless of when you go, be sure to pack along an outfit or two for evening exploring. While there is nothing fancy about the restaurants in Grand Canyon Village, you’ll at least want a clean pair of jeans and a few casual tops or sweaters for dinner so you don’t have to go in your hiking clothes.

If you’re staying inside Grand Canyon National Park, you’ll find that the few restaurants are very casual. The only fancier restaurant is the dining room at El Tovar Hotel – but even there you will find most guests in jean rather than dressy attire.

Footwear for the Grand Canyon

For hiking below the rim in the Grand Canyon (check out our recommended hikes here), I strongly recommend a comfortable pair of hiking boots. It’s worth the investment to be sure you have plenty of support and good traction on the steep trails.

And if you plan on spending time down at the Colorado River or are hiking during snowy season, you want them to be waterproof as well.

I actually tested out several different brands and styles of hiking boots for my family before our trip. This was also my first time trying out the Amazon Try Before You Buy program, which is pretty cool.

You can order up to 6 items at a time, try them on, send back what you don’t like, and just pay for what you keep. Way better than getting charged up front for everything and waiting for a refund!

We did several orders and tried at least a dozen pairs of boots between the three of us, and everyone picked their favorite one to keep. This is what we each picked:

womens keen hiking boots
Women’s Keen Targhee 3
Hiking Boots
mens keen hiking boots
Men’s Keen Targhee 3
Hiking Boots
kids merrell hiking boots
Kids’ Merrell Moab 2
Hiking Boots
Best Hiking Boots for Grand Canyon

And yes, I posed the boots in my backyard for those pictures. Don’t judge me.

Everyone was pretty happy with their choices. I was glad to have a sturdy boot with plenty of support on the very icy trails, and my feet stayed warm and dry in the Keen Targhee boots. My son also reported that his Merrell Moab boots were comfy and kept his feet dry. (And that’s saying a lot, because I could not get him out of the snow piles.)

If you can’t justify investing in a pair of proper hiking boots because you won’t hike often, you can likely get by with a pair of hiking shoes (without ankle coverage) or decent trail runners in the summer months, when there is no ice or snow on the ground. A few good options for warmer weather:

merrell hiking shoe
Merrell Moab 2/Vent
Hiking Sneaker
Men | Women | Kids
targhee hiking shoe
Keen Targhee 3/Vent
Trail Hiking Shoe
Men | Women | Kids
salomon trail runner
Salomon xa V8
Trail Runners
Men | Women | Kids
Best Summer Hiking Shoes for Grand Canyon

My son actually has the Salomon trail runners as everyday shoes and they have held up really well to playing in our very wet Florida summers. (He is very rough on shoes.)

Note that these low height “vent” versions of the Merrell Moabs and Keen Targhees are made to be breathable, so don’t expect the waterproofing of the ankle-high hiking boot version.

As for hiking socks, avoid cotton socks which are going to leave your feet irritated and stinky at the end of a long hiking day. Go for moisture wicking athletic socks in the hot summer months or warm wool hiking socks for winter.

And be sure to get socks that are tall enough to cover your ankles if you’re wearing boots! These are the exact Merino wool socks I purchased for three of us, and they worked out well:

womens wool hiking socks
Women’s 70% Merino Wool
Hiking Socks
mens wool hiking socks
Men’s 80% Merino Wool
Hiking Socks
kids wool hiking socks
Kids’ 70% Merino Wool
Hiking Socks

Best Wool Hiking Socks for Grand Canyon

Crampons or Traction Devices

boots with crampons
My son’s booths with his crampons attached.

I’m giving this its own section because it’s so incredibly important. If you’re visiting the Grand Canyon during snowy season and plan to do any hiking, you need to bring along crampons for your hiking boots. Full stop. Don’t even consider not buying them.

I purchased these exact crampons for the whole family. I had to order them in a few different sizes to find the right fit. For your reference, I ended up needing a size large (for size 10 women’s boots), my husband needed an extra-large (for size 12 men’s boots), and my son needed a size medium (for size 5 boys’ boots).

If you are not familiar – crampons are basically small spikes attached to a chain that loop onto your hiking boots, giving you extra traction on steep, slippery slopes.

hiking Bright Angel Trail in the snow
My husband and son with their crampons, hiking a snowy Bright Angel Trail.

It’s important to remember that the Grand Canyon is not Disney World. You won’t find guard rails on the trails – just a sheer drop off into oblivion. The hikes can be enjoyed safely, even by families with kids, but you do need to prepare properly.

We encountered many unprepared hikers on our winter trip and saw way too many close calls. We even witnessed one father sliding down a steep iced-over trail with his infant baby strapped to his back in a carrier. He was very luck that they didn’t end up going over the edge. Safety first – just get the crampons. They’re cheap and they will keep you safe.

Speech over.

All the Essentials

Refillable Water Bottle – Don’t be that person leaving single use plastic bottles all over one of the natural wonders of the world. ;) The park is outfitted with many water refill stations and sales of bottled water in the park are limited, so pack along a refillable water bottle to stay hydrated! This Nomader collapsible bottle is my favorite for travel. If you plan on serious full day hikes, you may want to opt for a hydration pack that you can load up for the trail.

walking on Shoshone Point Trail
My husband hiking Shoshone Point Trail – with the Venture Pal daypack.

Daypack – You’ll need some type of comfortable and light backpack for carrying your hiking supplies – at a minimum that will be water and snacks. I like to use this really lightweight travel backpack, which has plenty of space for our family of three and folds up really small for the suitcase. (And bonus- it’s pretty cheap too!)

Insulated Lunch Bag – If you plan on taking picnic supplies on the trails, consider throwing a small insulated bag in your backpack. Any lunch bag that you already will work fine, or grab one of these cheap thermal bags. I like this because it takes no space at all in the suitcase, and is easy to just squish into any bag that I’m carrying. I used ours to carry a few cold snacks (like cheese sticks and yogurt pouches) on the hiking trails.

Flashlight and/or Headlamp – Grand Canyon is a designated dark zone, meaning you won’t find a lot of artificial lights on in the park after dark. So you will absolutely need to have a small flashlight to navigate in the evenings. If you plan on doing any hiking before or after sunrise, a headlamp is also a great option. And if you have kids, these beanie hats with a built in light are super fun!

family hike on Bright Angel Trail
My son sporting his light up hat on Bright Angel Trail. Yes, in the daytime. :-D

Portable Charger – You will be spending most of your days at the Grand Canyon out exploring. And you really don’t want your phone dying while you’re on a hike, leaving you with no way to call for help if you run into trouble. So I always carry a power bank on me for this reason. (Bonus points if it’s solar charging.) Plus, your phone will always have juice for pictures!

Park Maps – You can grab a free map of the park from the Visitor’s Center when you arrive. But if you are the type that wants your own fancy maps to peruse before the trip (I’m the type), consider grabbing the National Geographic map pack ahead of time.

Binoculars – While not required, binoculars are a fun thing to have along on canyon hikes. It’s fun to take a closer look at the various rock layers you’ll spot all around the canyon. And you might get a chance to spot a condor! We have a couple different pairs, and I like these the best.

son using binoculars in Alaska
My son using the binoculars on another trip!

Camera and Batteries – I am one of those old fashioned people that still carries a real camera. Actually, anyone that’s really into photography does. This is exactly the kind of trip where it’s worth toting around that fancy DSLR or Mirrorless camera. I personally use a Nikon D750 for all of my travel photography.

Turkish TowelThese Turkish towels come along with me on all kinds of trips. They’re actually our everyday pool towels and I love them because they are incredibly thin so they don’t take up any space in luggage or a daypack, are still super absorbent, and dry really fast. I liked having one in my bag for drying off from the wet snow or using as an impromptu picnic blanket on our snack breaks. They would also be perfect if you’re planning to head all the way down to the Colorado river.

turkish towel
My trusty turkish towels!

Poncho or Travel Umbrella – For the summer months when rain storms are frequent, it’s a good idea to have a small travel sized umbrella or emergency poncho in your bag. It doesn’t take much space, and you’ll be glad it’s there if you need it.

Sunscreen and Bug Spray – Regardless of the season, bring both along! The sun is crazy bright all year long, and you’ll be shocked at how sunburned you can get even when there’s snow on the ground. I’m a big fan of Sun Bum sunscreens and really like these insect repellant wipes for travel.

Lip Balm – My lips are basically always in need of lip balm – summer, winter, doesn’t matter. I recommend getting something with sun protection built in as well. These Sun Bum lip balms have SPF 30!

Electrolyte Tabs – This might be an overkill item, but if you are someone that gets dehydrated easily, it’s a good idea to bring along some electrolyte tabs that you can toss into your water bottle. It will help keep you feeling refreshed through a long day of hiking. I personally think the nuun electrolytes are pretty yummy!

First Aid Kit – Lots of Grand Canyon packing guides recommend a first aid kit. I personally don’t think you need to worry too much about a first aid kit, unless you plan on doing overnight hikes or venturing off the beaten trail. But I do always throw a tube of Neosporin and some Ibuprofen in my hiking bag to handle my most likely emergencies – scraped knees on kids and headaches for Mom.

Small Plastic Bags – I know I dissed the single use plastics above, and I stand by that. BUT if you are spending a lot of time on the trail, you’ll be snacking and picnicking, and will need a way to carry your trash back out to the trailheads for disposal. So throw a few plastic grocery bags in with your gear – this is the perfect way to reuse them.

Whistle – It’s always recommended to bring a whistle along on any kind of hike. Why? So that if you get lost or are injured in some tragic accident, you can blow the whistle to attract help and scare off predators. It it overkill? Probably. But a cheap whistle costs hardly anything and takes no space in your bag, so why not? If you have kids – they probably have a free whistle somewhere in their room already. :-D

Snacks – You are going to want to pack plenty of snacks for both your hotel room and your hiking excursions. As you can read about in our full Grand Canyon trip report, getting a proper meal during peak tourist season can be one heck of a challenge. We brought along some packaged items like jerky, nuts, and granola bars. And also picked up some fresh fruit (bananas and apples), yogurts, and cheese sticks along the way- which we kept in the hotel fridge.

Activities for Kids – If you’re travelling with little ones, you might want to think about bringing along a few Grand Canyon themed activities for them. While hiking is sure to keep them busy, there will be downtime while you travel to the canyon, wait for meals, or when you just want to relax and enjoy the view for a bit. I got this Grand Canyon activity book for my seven year old and it was a hit- or you can browse more options here.

Books – Like actual hard copies of books that you hold in your hand. The Grand Canyon is the perfect spot to enjoy some time relaxing. And I know if you are traveling as a family, that is often hard to do. But you will likely find yourself with plenty of free time in the evening, not much going on in the park, and less than ideal data reception. So bring a book or two! (Browse the current best sellers here.)

father and son at Grandview Point in Grand Canyon
My family at the 1 1/2 Mile Rest House on Bright Angel Trail!

Special Considerations

There are a few specific activities that require a little more forethought, so be sure to plan ahead if you’re going to be doing any of these famous Grand Canyon excursions:

Colorado River/ Rafting – If you’re planning to take a rafting trip or hike all the way down to the river (for advanced hikers only), be sure to bring along a bathing suit (duh), towel, and water shoes. Flip flops or sandals will stick in the mud and fall off – you need actual water shoes like these.

Mule Ride – You’ll likely be required to wear long pants and closed toed shoes for any mule riding trip. Be sure to check with the tour company for any other specific requirements they might have.

Camping or Overnight Camping – Camping requires a whole host of additional planning and supplies. I recommend getting started with Travel and Leisure’s Guide to camping in the Grand Canyon.

More Grand Canyon Trip Planning Resources

Here are a few more resources to help you plan the perfect trip to the Grand Canyon.

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