National park rangers reveal the 7 things they never leave the house without

woman hike backpacking

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.


binoculars nature

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.

Bear spray

park ranger bear spray

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

map navigation nature hiking

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

hiking boots 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

rain jacket hike

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

national park ranger stamp

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.

SEE ALSO: A former park ranger reveals the worst mistakes tourists make

DON’T MISS: A former park ranger reveals secrets they don’t tell tourists

FOLLOW US: INSIDER is on Facebook

Join the conversation about this story »

NOW WATCH: People hike through mountains to get a traditional tattoo from this 99-year-old woman



Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s