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Posted on 7/7/2022

Backpack Essentials for a Hiking Trip in the Smoky Mountains


Planning to hike in Great Smoky Mountains National Park? Use this list when you pack. We’re focusing here on gear for day hikes, not overnight hikes.


THE RIGHT BACKPACK

You want a backpack that’s lightweight, fits well and has ample room without being needlessly large. Look for a pack with exterior pockets for water bottles, a waist strap for additional support and an easy-to-access interior.


LAYERS OF WICKING CLOTHING

The National Park Service says to “leave cotton at home.” NPS recommends clothes made of wicking fabrics that pull moisture away from your body and dry quickly. Temperatures can vary by up to 20 degrees between the base and summit of a mountain, so bring layers you can put on as needed.


HIKING BOOTS

Buy boots in advance and break them in. Carry extra socks in case your feet get drenched by a misstep into a stream.


WATER AND FOOD

Carry more water than you think you’ll need. Never drink from park waters like streams, which can contain parasites. Bring non-perishable snacks like trail mix or snack bars, and toss in extras, in case your hike takes longer than you anticipate.


FIRST AID KIT

Tote the basics for cleaning and bandaging scrapes. Include a compression bandage to wrap an ankle or wrist if there’s a sprain.


MAP AND COMPASS

Bring a paper map and a compass. Do not depend on your phone for maps and GPS! Service can be spotty in the mountains. If you’re hiking off-trail, get a topographic map, compass and handheld GPS.


SUNSCREEN AND BUG REPELLENT

Carry spray or stick sunscreen so you don’t have to apply messy lotions. Bring bug repellent that’s effective against ticks.


BEAR SPRAY

With about 1,500 black bears in the park, there are two bears for every square mile of land. While most bears avoid humans, if you encounter a bear up close, you’ll need to know what to do. Carry bear repellent spray. The park service provides bear safety rules, including a video on using bear spray correctly.


RAIN JACKET

The Smokies have the highest rainfall in the Southeast, so be ready for showers with a rain jacket. Jackets that roll up tightly to fit into a backpack are ideal. Ponchos can work but tend to snag on trees and shrubs.


After your hike, return to a comfortable vacation cabin and sleep soundly! Reserve a rental cabin now.

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