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How to Pack for Day Hikes and Backpacking

Snowclad Olympic Mountains as seen from Hurricane Ridge with low cloud cover

What to Pack for Outdoor Adventures in Olympic National Park

Should I bring raingear during your Olympic National Park vacation?

Yes, pack for day hikes in Olympic National Park where weather could change rapidly and include fog or rain. Pack raingear - rainjacket, rainpants, water-resistant hiking boots, and pack cover and be thankful if you do not need it.

This list is useful for day trips or overnights to rocky shores, beaches, lowland forests, montane forests, or subalpine ecosystems. In particular, we discuss appropriate clothing material (not cotton) and clothing layer considerations for the wet Olympic National Park Rainforest.

What should you NOT bring when hiking in ONP?


Pets are not allowed on Olympic National Park trails. This includes the walking trails around the Lake Crescent and Sol Duc Lodges  - both to protect wildlife and to protect you and your pets from the wildlife.  


Firearms and other unnecessary heavy items should not be included when you pack for your Olympic National Park hike.

What should you bring when hiking in ONP?

Pack your hiking shoes, extra socks, and hiking poles

Sturdy shoes which are comfortable for walking, with good tread and insoles are essential to pack for hiking in Olympic National Park. Also, you should always bring extra socks and these should ideally be a good wool blend. If you are hiking in the Olympic mountains, you should ideally use hiking (trekking) poles. Hiking poles can help with balance and have been shown to decrease soreness in the days following a hike if used properly.

Winters in Olympic National Park can be relatively mild given the close proximity to the Pacific Ocean and Salish Sea. However, you may still encounter snow and ice on hiking trails in the Olympic mountains at all times of the year, especially on south-facing slopes. Traction devices on your shoes - similar to tire chains for your car, can really help you get a grip.  They don't have to be fancy and you can pick them up in Port Angeles at Brown's Outdoor.

Cell phone & Personal Locator Beacon

Cellular service will likely be spotty during Olympic National Park hiking adventures, especially in the river valleys. To conserve your battery for an extended trip, it is best to turn off your phone entirely or put your phone in airplane mode and turn off both data and wifi. Also, consider bringing a battery pack with multiple charges and a small solar charger if you are using your cell phone for multiple days and using it for its camera, gps navigation, and so forth. Consider a Personal Locator Beacon (like a SPOT device), especially if you are hiking alone.


With charged batteries and a dry bag.

Layers of Clothing

Bring at least two layers of pants, tshirt, long-sleeve shirt, puffy, and rainjacket that you can wear at the same time. Never forget gloves, a baseball cap, and a warm hat (that can be worn over the baseball cap), especially for longer day hikes and backpacking adventures.  Gaiters can help to keep your feet warm, even if your socks and shoes are wet from hiking during or after rainfall and are great for muddy day hikes like what will be experienced all year round when hiking to Shi Shi Beach in Olympic National Park.

Pack non-cotton fabric

One practical reason to wear clothing while on Olympic National Park day hikes is to provide insulation. Dry cotton clothing does this, but wet cotton clothing provides no insulation (some people say it is worse than being naked). On your Olympic National Park day hike, you need to stay warm even when your clothes are wet. Cotton makes you cold when it is wet, does not dry under humid weather conditions, and increases your discomfort and vulnerability to hypothermia while hiking in Olympic National Park.

So ideally the layers of clothing that you bring on day hikes in Olympic National Park should NOT be made of cotton. Wool, silk, and synthetic fabrics (like nylon) keep you warm even when wet. These fabrics also dry faster than cotton so consider packing them for Olympic National Park hiking, especially for longer day hikes and backpacking adventures. If you are only planning on short day hikes during July and August, cotton can be great so you don't need to necessarily strike it from your packing list.

Pack raingear and warm clothing  - ALWAYS!

Weather conditions can change rapidly, especially in the mountains during Olympic National Park backpacking trips, so bring a rain jacket and puffy regardless of the time of year. If you have rain pants, bring those too - more importantly do not pack only cotton pants like jeans. Water-resistant ski pants can sometimes work in lieu of rain pants while hiking in Olympic National Park for short day hikes with little elevation gain (otherwise ski pants and even rain pants are too hot for hiking).

Pack hats and sunglasses

It is often windy in the mountains so a baseball cap with a tight fit or a sun hat with a neck strap is helpful. Sunglasses are also nice for sunny days especially when hiking in Olympic National Park over snow.

Medications to bring

Essential Olympic National Park hiking gear includes any medications that you have to take that day, so that you have it with you just in case an emergency arises. If you have asthma, bring your inhaler. Everyone should consider carrying a small first aid kit with antihistamine (like diphenhydramine), ibuprofen (brand name "Advil"), and any other over-the-counter medications you consider useful for emergencies on Olympic National Park day hikes. 

Bring medications for any life-threatening conditions. For example, people with known anaphylaxis reactions should carry diphenhydramine (brand name "Benadryl") and epinephrine (brand name "EpiPen"). Know how to properly use any first aid supplies, especially medications, that you carry on day hikes in Olympic National Park. It might be tempting to leave medications in your car for a day hike, but if you are hiking in Olympic National Park more than a mile, are alone, or are off-trail - don't leave medications in your car.

Ten essentials

Consider hiking in Olympic National Park with the ten essentials, which include water, food, navigation (map and compass or phone with backup battery), headlamp, knife, and lighter/matches. The other Olympic National Park hiking essentials have already been discussed. Fresh water encountered during Olympic National Park day hikes can carry giardia (an intestinal parasite also called "Beaver Fever") so do not drink from streams or lakes without using a water treatment method.