It can be a bit daunting to put together a full packing list of everything that you could possibly need for a trip to Denali National Park and Preserve. The weather can vary greatly at any time of year, and items that are considered necessities are largely dependent on where in the park you find yourself. Essential items at Wonder Lake will likely be very different than the gear that you’ll need for backcountry camping or hiking Polychrome Mountain. However, when putting together your personal gear guide for Denali, make sure that you have considered the critical, yet often overlooked items on the list below so you don’t find yourself wishing you had made one more stop before you entered the park.
10 pieces of essential gear for Denali National Park and Preserve:
- Weatherproof clothing in layers: You can never guess what the Denali weather will have in store for you, even in the summer months. You will want to pack layers of warm jackets, sweaters or sweatshirts, waterproof and breathable jacket and pants, sweat-wicking shirts, and other garments that are ready for the hot or cold weather. Take an inventory of the clothing that you are packing and make sure that you are ready for hot days, moderate climates, wind, rain, and even snow. One of the biggest keys here is staying dry, so make sure that you have a reliable shell that you can layer underneath such as the Black Diamond Liquid Point Shell Jacket.
- Mosquito net and repellent: This becomes especially important if you are going to spend any time at Wonder Lake or Teklanika River, where mosquitos are prevalent in the warmer months. Insect repellent will help, but if you want to keep the swarms of bugs away from your face, a mosquito net—like the Coghlan’s Mosquito Head Net—will be your best friend.
- Bear spray: Hopefully, you will be like the majority of visitors to Denali National Park and Preserve and return home with an unopened can of bear spray. Even if you never have to use it, there is a certain peace of mind that comes with having bear deterrent available, should you find yourself in an encounter with a grizzly or black bear.
- Sleeping eye mask: If you are visiting Denali in the summer months, you will be getting your shut-eye in what feels like broad daylight. Even though the sun may go down slightly, it will be far brighter than what you are likely accustomed to, so a sleeping eye mask will be key to a good night of rest. You can buy a simple one at any general retailer, or you can choose to go with the Cadillac of sleeping eye masks and spring for a Sleep Master Sleep Mask. Bonus tip: while many people prefer the ambient sounds of nature, you may want to block out the noise of your surroundings with simple in-ear plugs.
- First aid kit: You know the Boy Scout motto. This is another item that you hope will come back unused, but at a minimum, you will want to have a small assortment of bandages, cloth, gauze, pain relievers, scissors, instant cold compress, and some of the other standard first aid items. If you want to save the time and brainpower, an off-the-shelf kit from Adventure Medical Kits is a great place to start.
- Binoculars: Calling this essential may be a stretch, but there are two great reasons to have a set of binoculars in your pack when setting off into Denali National Park and Preserve. You will undoubtedly see wildlife while you are in the park and many times, they will be at a distance. Your experience will be greatly enhanced by getting a closer look at Denali’s big five mammals and all of the raptors, ground animals, and scenic views that Denali has to offer. The other reason for bringing binoculars is for safety. If you are hiking, you will want to have visibility ahead and behind you to watch for bears, wolves, moose, and other animals. This will give you an added level of awareness of your surroundings, which can be the difference between a fulfilling hike or a treacherous one.
- Sleeping pad: This is one of the most commonly forgotten items for new backpackers and campers, yet is another absolute essential for a good night’s sleep. You can find a simple solution at any sporting goods or big box store . You might even want to spring for a Thermarest NeoAir, which is one of the most comfortable, yet packable pads on the market.
- Compass or GPS device: Depending on your activities, a compass can be a lifesaver. Bringing along a GPS device like the DeLorme InReach Explorer not only gives you the comfort of knowing your position but allows you to send text messages or post to social media sites with your location to let your friends and family know you are safe and happy.
- Water filter or purifying tablets: Most of the campsites offer potable water, but if you plan on hiking at all, a water filter or purifying tablets will save you the challenge of carrying all of your hydration and allowing you to delight in the refreshment of fresh, cold, mountain water. A Lifestraw or MSR MiniWorks water filter will be more than enough to keep you hydrated regardless of what adventure you decide to take on.
- Waterproof hiking shoes or boots: Even if you are blessed with perfect weather during your time in Denali, you will still want a comfortable, waterproof hiking shoe or boot. Most hikes in the park will include river or stream crossings and may take you to snow-covered areas. For warmer camping seasons in Denali, the Merrell Capra Venture Mid GORE-TEX® SURROUND® Boot is a very versatile option that will keep you dry while also allowing your feet to breathe, keeping them cool. If you're headed to DNP in a cooler season, consider the Vasque Breeze 3.0 Mid boot.
Grab your pack and get started! Those are the key items that you will need to make sure your trip to Denali is comfortable, practical, and memorable. You can consult our full Denali Gear Guide for an exhaustive list, but be sure not to overlook these key items that many Denali rookies tend to forget. Enjoy the park!