Reader Participation Day: What "Must Have" Article Do You Pack for a National Park Visit?

Are binoculars a must-have item for your national park trips?

It never fails. Before heading out to a national park, my wife and I always remind each other to grab the birding guide. And we always forget it. Which raises a question: What item do you always make sure is in your duffel for your national park trips?

Is it a bird book? Plant identification guide? Pair of binoculars? Hiking sticks?

What indispensable item do you make sure to pack for your treks to national parks?


Of course that would be my digital camera with a 12 zoom (for all of the animal shots!), brand new memory cards, and extra batteries!! Even if it's the same park we've been to a few times before, I can't help taking tons of pictures. And one of these days I'll have them all scrapbooked!

Remember those binoculars we found? Always have them...

I never forget my Nat'l Parks Passport books. These books record our visits to 120+ NP units. We'll be visiting Theodore Roosevelt NP as well as other North Dakota sites next week.

I always try to bring a tree or wildflower guidebook. But like Kurt & his wife, I only sometimes remember it. So...I started to leave an extra one in my truck, although it may not always apply to the region I'm in at the time, it does often enough to make having it worth while. Now I have a tattered one I take with, and a less tattered one I refer to at home.

A compass !!

My best walking shoes with a good pair of sox.

Binoculars and bird book for sure. We are like you, however, and seem to remember everything but.
If you forget, or decide not to take, your camera, you are absolutely guaranteed to see some once in a lifetime sight!

My National Park Pass.

Ditto on the Nat Park Passport book, worn and tattered tho it may be.

To me, the ONE essential is a camera, followed by, for most parks, binoculars. If you have forgotten anything else, for the most part, you can get it at the park. As for my passport book, if I have forgotten it, I just put the stamps on a plain sheet of paper and glue them in later.

Definitely my camera with wide angle and telephoto lenses!

In descending order of importance, or increasing order of times I've forgotten them:

0: Water bottles; frozen big gatorade bottles (half strength or just water) if its summer (the funny angles on the bottles prevent them from bursting when the water expands). OK, I'm often in Colorado Plateau and desert parks, but even mammoth Cave & Blue Ridge parkway.

1: GPS & map: not a fancy mapping GPS, but the best map and possibly DOQQ (aerial photograph rectified to a map) with UTM grid.

2: Binoculars. A very good ornithologist (& neurobehaviorist) recommended eagle optics. There may be better binoculars, but these are way brighter in low light than anything else I've owned.

3: Camera

10: Plant guides. The full Jepson manual is too big & heavy; so far I've purchased 3 copies of the Jepson Desert manual because I've needed it but left my copy at home and the visitor's center had a copy. The other floras almost never leave the shelf: I'm not a good enough botanist to take Weakley or Radford into GRSM and know where to begin with a plant, and don't need the dead weight, even in the car.

I'll be visiting the great parks of the southwest in a few weeks. I'll be sure to take my 10" Dobsonian telescope and tripod-mounted 10 X 50mm binoculars for night sky viewing, along with a green laser pointer to show anyone I meet just where in the sky they would be looking when observing through the eyepiece of the telescope.

For daytime viewing, a digital camera and tripod will be packed along with backpack, hiking poles, and boots.

I'm getting the urge for one last venture up Angel's Landing for a picture of the eastern wall and southern end of the mouth of Zion Canyon by late afternoon sun. I'll do Canyon Overlook for sunrise.

Owen Hoffman
Oak Ridge, TN 37830

Biodegradable toilet tissue if you are going hiking. I've used everything from snow to dirty socks!!

1. Map and compass. Invest in the best map u can find.
2. Water bottle frozen the night before. Make that two, to wash down your munchies.
3. Good pair of binoculars. Best if lightweight.
4. Bird guide and/or plant guide.
5. Camera.
6. Mini first aid kit, because ya never know.
7. Good sense.
8. Happy trails!

P.S. My captcha for today: "2 1/2 luminous". You betcha!

Depending on the park, running shoes or hiking boots and a good rain jacket.

Never leave home without the camera. I don't think it matters much if its a digital or on film, the pictures I've brought home never fail to bring back the beauty of our national parks (or our country for that matter).

Camera, binoculars, GPS. Not the latest and greatest of any of the three, but good enough to 1) Take documentary photos, 2) Identify birds 100 feet away or trees across a canyon, 3) Mark where I am so I can geotag the photos later.

As someone else mentioned, you can pick up most other items in the feeder town, if not the park itself. My wife and I have built a nature-travel checklist though, and rarely forget anything anymore. There are even items as obscure as "moss identification key" and "cash of local currency to tip guides/bribe locals".

Full water bottles, camera, gps, first aid kit, and even on short hikes, my very small backpacker stove... You never know...

In the Great Northwet, where snowbanks can last until Labor Day and damp vegetation often crowds the trail,
gaitors are a great comfort even on sunny days. Also, a light folding umbrella can make stops and
photography more enjoyable in the rain forest and may keep you drier than that expensive leak-tex.