Our complete packing list for the Grand Canyon: all you need to pack to be comfortable, weather ready and appropriate in all seasons.
If you are looking at this Grand Canyon packing lists, it means that your trip to this magical place is around the corner and let me tell you: I am so envious you are going!
The Grand Canyon is one of my favorite places in the world. We first visited during our road trip in the South West of the United States and the place simply stopped me in my tracks.
While I expected it to be beautiful, I never thought it would be so breathtakingly so. It is truly a special place.
When we first visited, I spent a good bit of time researching what to pack for the Grand Canyon (we went to the South Rim). Did we need any special gear? Could we wear more or less the same stuff we had in Las Vegas or would the weather and terrain be much more demanding?
And did we need hiking boots if we only wanted to see the rim, or can you wear your normal clothes at the Grand Canyon if you don’t intend to do proper hiking or going rafting?
I found some answers online before going but as always, it is only once we actually spent time in the Grand Canyon that I fully appreciated what a packing list for the Grand canyon should contain.
And this is it. I hope you find this list of what to pack for a Grand Canyon vacation useful
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Grand Canyon packing list: be ready for the weather
What to pack for the Grand Canyon varies depending on two main factors: time of the year of your visit and activities planned.
When it comes to weather, the main thing you need to remember is that it varies immensely depending not just on the season but on the time of the day and where in the canyon you are (top/ bottom; in the sun/ in the shade).
Dressing in layers is paramount in all season and this becomes especially true in spring, fall and winter when a moment of warm sun quickly turns into seriously cold temperatures in the shade or when the sun goes down.
In this packing list for the Grand Canyon, I try define as much as possible what you need in each season but do also consider your own needs and add and extra layer or an extra sun protection item should you know you are sensitive to cold or you burn easily.
What to wear at the Grand Canyon: do you need special gear?
What to wear at the Grand canyon depends on what you intend to do while there.
If you want to see the Canyon from its most famous viewpoints, take a stroll along the main rim, see the museums and enjoy the historical hotels, then you do not need special gear.
In that case, all you need is a pair of shoes that will not kill you if standing long hours or walking and a sun hat to protect your head at the hottest hours of the day.
If staying the night in a historical property, I also recommend you bring a nicer outfit, to make the most of the nice surroundings.
If you intend on hiking or going river rafting then yes, you absolutely need technical gear.
In that case, I highly recommend you consult the rangers or the provider of the specific tour you will be taking to make sure you have all you need to stay safe.
Packing list for Grand Canyon: essentials
Summer is the most popular time to visit the Grand canyon so this is where my list starts.
You will find additional items needed in other season farther down in this post.
RELATED: if visiting with kids, have a look at this guide with Grand Canyon family activities so you can tweak this list accordingly
Grand Canyon clothing essentials
Long trousers – Long pants can well be the one item of clothing you wear at the most at the Grand Canyon. If you pack nothing else, make sure you have a pair of these!
Those that work best are lightweight, made of breathable material that will help you keep cool while protecting you from the sun (I LOVE my Columbia hiking trousers, they are perfect for any outdoor pursuit)
Shorts – You will not wear shorts all year round at the Grand Canyon but they are a useful item of clothing in warm/hot weather. The most versatile ones are sport shorts with a good number of pockets or you can choose some that convert in long pants for ultimate versatility.
Vests, Short sleeve and long sleeve tops – weather in the Grand Canyon is changeable and being able to add or take away layers will go a long way to make you feel comfortable.
I recommend you bring a selection of vests, short sleeve tops and at least one long sleeve top for the evening or when the rain sets in (it can bring a pretty significant drop in temperature)
Hat – I like large brim hats that protect head and eyes against the sun but any type of hat work. Make it a lightweight, breathable one for summer and a woolen one for winter
Rain jacket – I never really thought about the Grand Canyon as a place of rain until I saw its vegetation and then got drenched in a summer thunder storm! In all season, bring a water resistant outer layer (and find refuge when the rain starts)
Swimsuit – for all water based activities and if you are staying in a hotel with a pool. Opt for a sport one that will stay put when active for both comfort and safety
Socks, underwear and nightwear – essentials anywhere and always so easily forgotten
Light hoodie or cardigan – summer nights in the Canyon are mostly pleasant but a cardigan for the evening comes in handy. Several evening activities happen in the canyon (ranger talks, stargazing etc) so you want to make sure you can take part.
One nicer outfit for a night in the hotel – If you are staying in El Tovar or any nice or historical property in the Grand Canyon, you may want to pack a nicer outfit for your evening meal.
Tent, sleeping bag and camping essentials as your plans require.You can learn about camping options at the Canyon on their official website
Shoes to pack for the Grand Canyon
Hiking shoes / walking shoes – if you are planning on doing any hiking, make sure you have suitable hiking shoes with support for your ankle, strong sole and tested on rough terrain
Sneakers / runner / trainers – these are a must at the grand canyon and, unless you intend to hike, may be the only shoes you need during your visit.
Teva style sandals – for summer visits and for activities in water, make sure you have water ready sandals such as Teva or similar brand.
They will help you keep your feet safe in water and are also good for short walks and strolls on easy terrain (like along the rim)
Water shoes for any water based activities – depending on your plans, sandals may be enough or you may want proper water shoes / booties. I find them exceptionally good for kids, and my favorite brands are here
One pair of nice shoes for meals in historical hotels – shoes occupy a lot of luggage space and you may not want to pack a pair just for one night out.
However, if you are a lady, I have found a solution: foldable ballet flats! They occupy next to no space and some look really pretty.
I adore outdoor accessories but for this packing list, I have tried not to go too overboard. these are some essentials to add to your Grand Canyon packing list
- Sunglasses retention device
- Sport bandana (for your neck, tying back you hair etc)
- Flashlight (for small stretches you can use the one in your phone)
- Water bottle (one of our favorite eco friendly products for all travels!)
- Small day pack
- Reusable cup
- E-reader (I adore my kindle paperwhite)
- Travel adapter and converter if coming from overseas
- Extra battery pack for phone/Camera etc
Toiletries and medications
No matter when you go or how tame the activities planned are, I always recommend you have with you a good first aid kit as well as your usual toiletries.
- First aid kit (this is a good one, ready made one with many basics or you can read what we have in ours here)
- Shower gel /shampoo/ conditioner (try solid one as an environmentally friendly option. The Grand Canyon is a place that will motivate you even more to be environmentally conscious)
- Sun screen
- Brush/ comb/ hair ties
- Shaving essentials
- Feminine hygiene products
- Any medication you regularly take plus paracetamol, insect repellent, after bite cream, motion sickness bands, hydrating salts etc
What to pack for the Grand Canyon packing list for winter and bad weather
To the items listed above, in bad weather of if visiting the Grand canyon in winter you also want to pack:
- Good quality rain wear top and bottom
- Thermal underwear with moisture wicking properties (these are the types we use)
- Lightweight pile sweatshirt
- Outdoor jacket
- Wool hat and gloves
Optional items for comfort and fun
- Small instrument such as harmonica
- Swiss knife
- Waterproof guidebook of the river for water excursions
- Portable telescope
- Travel journal and pen
- Any special item you may need for specific activities such as biking (bike first aid, kit, bike shoes, shorts etc)
Summary: packing list Grand Canyon overview by season
So, at a glance, what should you pack for the Grand Canyon?
The Grand Canyon in Summer
Summer (June -July – August) is the most popular time of the year for a visit to the Grand Canyon and, crowds aside, a pleasant time weather wise.
Temperatures are typically around 80ºF at the top of the South Rim and a bit over 100 ºF at the bottom. At this time, you need light clothing with the option of an extra layer for evening and rain showers.
Grand Canyon in spring and fall
Spring and fall in the canyon see variable temperatures both at different times during the day (day / night) and depending where you are in the canyon (top rim or at its bottom /in the sun or in the shade).
At this time you need to be ready wit layers and extra protection such as wool hats, gloves and clothes able to keep your core warm.
Grand Canyon in winter
Winter in the canyon is a seasons of changeable weather a little bit like for the mid seasons, you need to be prepared fro clothes that will protect you when you are in the sun but also keep you warm when the temperatures drop. In winter, make sure you have a proper hats and gloves and thermal underwear to keep you cozy at all times as well as proper winter hiking shoes.
I hope you found this list useful and it helped you decide what to pack when visiting the Grand canyon
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