The INSIDER Summary:
- Binoculars will help you spot wildlife from afar.
- GPS doesn’t work everywhere in the parks, so bring a paper map.
- People have actually tried to hike in high heels. Leave them at home.
America’s national parks celebrated their 100th birthday last year, but their rugged beauty and fascinating history never get old.
To get the most out of your next trip to one of these landmarks, and to stay safe if you’re planning to rough it in the wilderness, we asked Ash Nudd, a former park ranger who worked in three different parks, as well as a National Park Service spokesperson to share some must-have items.
Here are seven items you shouldn’t visit a national park without.
Sometimes animals wander close to the road or along trails, but they’re often in the distance. Binoculars will help you spot wildlife from afar — and appreciate the beautiful scenery.
Some parks don’t allow people to carry bear spray, so make sure to check your park’s guidelines. In the parks where Nudd has worked, it’s an essential that she always carried.
You can get sunburned regardless of the season if you spend enough time outside on a bright day. Experts recommend using a sunscreen with an SPF between 15 and 50.
A paper map
GPS and cell phones won’t work in a lot of places within the parks. Make sure you can still find your way around when you’re off the grid by navigating the old-fashioned way.
Hiking boots or shoes
According to the NPS, park rangers sometimes see visitors wearing high-heeled shoes while hiking trails or on boardwalks.
“It’s probably best to plan on leaving your heels at home and wearing hiking boots or shoes,” the spokesperson told INSIDER in an email.
A rain jacket
At high elevations, weather can change in an instant. Nudd recommends a compact rain jacket that you can stuff in your day pack and take out when you need it.
“That’s something [people] don’t really think of because you can start your hike and it can be completely sunny, but by the end or once you get in higher elevations the weather can change really fast,” said Nudd.
A book to collect stamps
Ranger stations give out stamps unique to each park as a memento. There’s even a National Park Travelers Club that holds conventions for stamp-collecting enthusiasts. Get in on the fun by bringing a small notebook to keep them in.
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