Confession time: we travel all the time and are pretty lazy about packing. We’ve got our system down and rarely buy special gear or equipment for our adventures. But packing for Glacier National Park demanded a bit more attention, and we’re glad we put in the time and energy.
Why is packing for Glacier National Park different than your typical family vacation, even to another NPS site?
Yup, Glacier National Park is pretty remote. So it’s not as easy to run out to the big box store to pick up something you forgot. In addition, the remote location and short tourist season means everything is much more expensive. (And this is coming from people who live near NYC…we know expensive!). Lastly, the lack of cell service and WiFi will make being prepared even more important.
We paid extra attention to our gear when prepping for our trip to Glacier National Park. It paid off, so we want to pass along the packing tips that worked for us.
This is part of a longer series on Glacier National Park. You can read or listen to our tips for planning a trip to Glacier National Park here. You can also listen to all our Glacier National Park episodes in your favorite podcast app like Apple Podcasts, Google Podcasts, Spotify, and Stitcher.
Packing for Glacier National Park: 11 Tips from The RV Atlas
Print Out Reservations and Confirmations
We are so used to being connected, but it’s important to understand that cell service in Glacier is not a guarantee. Do not rely on your email for reservation information storage. Print all airline, lodging, and car rental confirmations and have them in a folder.
Buy a PrePaid Phone Card
Say what? Yes, we are actually recommending that you bring a prepaid phone card to Glacier National Park. Once you are in the park, there is ZERO cell service or WiFi. However, all the lodges have those old fashioned pay phones. We learned the hard way that a phone card would have been handy when we wanted to call about horseback riding from the Lake McDonald Lodge. We had no cell service and no phone card, so we had to just take our chances and show up at the stables without reservations.
Bring all the Binoculars
First, we’ll pat ourselves on the back for packing our Cabela’s Intensity HD Binoculars. Then we’ll admit we failed in only bringing one pair. Binoculars were clutch for us to truly appreciate all of the amazing wildlife viewing in Glacier National Park. Unfortunately, our three kids would fight over them the entire time we were watching the moose, bear, or mountain goats from a safe distance. No matter how many pairs you pack, do NOT go to Glacier without binoculars.
Download AllTrails: Hike, Bike, and Run App, Pro Version
We absolutely love the AllTrails app and use it even when hiking locally near our home. It gives access to great trail maps, conditions, and reviews. The Pro version allows you to download maps to your phone for access when there is no data signal. This was such an amazing feature to have in Glacier National Park, where no signal is more common than anything else. (Check out other great RVing apps here)
Layers and Layers of Clothing
More than most places, visitors to Glacier National Park will experience extreme ranges in temperature. When we were there in August, temperatures ranged from 47 degrees to 80 degrees in a single day. The temperatures would fluctuate dramatically on a single hike, so it was important for us to always have layered clothing that could be easily adjusted. On most days we started with t-shirts, long-sleeved shirts, and fleeces and took them off and put them back on throughout the day. Also have rain gear at the ready at all times, regardless of what’s in the forecast, which we found very unreliable.
Quality Hiking Gear
We aren’t gear junkies by any means, and our kids mostly hike in sneakers and gym shorts. However, Glacier is a serious hiking park and your gear should be appropriate for more rugged conditions. Breathable, synthetic fabrics will help keep you comfortable through those temperature fluctuations. Quality hiking shoes are absolutely necessary for the rocky terrain. Think thick socks and comfortable backpacks with plenty of room for rain gear and water. We have links to some of our favorite hiking gear in this article.
Snacks and Energy Bars
Again, Glacier National Park is a bit different than a lot of other national parks. There really isn’t a snack stand around every corner. We brought a few dozen Clif Bars and other snacks so we would have quick calories at any time of the day. We were really grateful to have the stash.
Bear Spray is an absolutely must when hiking in Glacier National Park. In fact, the rangers recommend having it on you at all times. We highly recommend that you acquire your bear spray before arriving in Glacier to save some money. We flew in, so bringing our own wasn’t an option. In this case, renting from the kiosk at the airport is a great way to save some dough. You could also order it on Amazon and have it shipped directly to your campground or lodge. Buying at the campgrounds or NPS stores is the most expensive route.
We did buy these in the KOA camp store, and they weren’t expensive at all. At first we thought it would be annoying to be jingling the entire time we were hiking. That wasn’t the case at all. We truly appreciated the noise and got used to the bells quickly. Here are the ones we bought.
The Best Guide Books
Don’t Get Eaten: The Dangers of Animals that Charge or Attack by Dave Smith. It’s reassuring to be prepared.
Healthy souvenir budget
We have NEVER seen such great souvenirs and completely blew our budget as we shopped our way through Glacier National Park. Plan ahead because the t-shirts, mugs, Klean Kanteen water bottles, and Pendleton blankets and hats are off the hook. Also, we bribed our kids to finish hikes, and Wes basically has a complete Glacier wildlife stuffed animal collection now.
Even if you are a seasoned NPS explorer, packing for Glacier National Park deserved a bit of special attention. Double check the packing list before you go, and get ready for an adventure of a lifetime.
See you at the campground,
Stephanie + Jeremy