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Packing for Summertime in Jackson Hole

What do you need to bring for your summer sojourn in the Tetons? We're here to help out with our packing guide for Jackson Hole.
What to Pack Suitcase

You're liable to get more seasons in a Jackson Hole day than a Florida year. In the Northern Rocky Mountains, our Jackson Hole weather moves fast and unpredictably and can fluctuate between all kinds of extremes over the course of a single afternoon. Though western Wyoming's climate can be challenging to the uninitiated, a little know-how and the right gear will go a long way toward keeping you toasty and safe during your adventures in Jackson Hole. With that in mind, we've assembled some summer packing advice that will keep you warm, well-equipped and confident.

The Layering Lowdown

Walk into an outdoor store anywhere and a friendly bearded guy wearing a flannel shirt will start talking space-age fibers, wicking widgets and expensive socks before you can figure out where the bug spray is.  That's not to say the smorgasbord of performance fabrics available these days is to be overlooked.  Quite the opposite: Layering is the name of the game in Jackson Hole, and it starts from the inside out.  

Performance Fabrics: A Primer

In mountaineering circles, cotton is known as "the fabric of death." Sure it sounds dramatic, but it only takes one watery misadventure after sundown to illustrate just how quickly a clammy T-shirt can go from "nuisance" to to "potential source of hypothermic danger."  

It's no joke, and one of the reasons that synthetic materials like Polypro and capilene are the 21st century's answer to highly variable weather conditions.  These fabrics wick moisture away from your body, dry quickly and retain their insulating properties while wet.  

Though warmer than their synthetic cousins, Merino wool and silk are the all-natural options for outdoor performance clothing. Merino wool retains more heat than polypro or capilene, but also holds more moisture.   Silk is an even warmer option than Merino, but seriously lacks any ability to move moisture away from your body.  

All of these fabrics come in T-shirts, long johns, pull-overs: Saunter into any outdoor shop in Jackson Hole and ask your friendly salesperson for a primer.  

The Basics

It's appropriate enough that "base layer" sounds much more serious than "underwear," considering your choice of skivvies can make or break a day in the mountains.

If you're planning a long day in the outdoors, we recommend wearing a first layer of one of the aforementioned performance fabrics.  In the summer, sport a polypro or capilene T-shirt and undergarments.  They're light enough to be comfortable at most every temperature, but durable enough to keep you warm and dry when the sun dips behind the clouds.  

Summertime Essentials: Gear

You don't need to break the bank on all the gear you need for Jackson Hole.  In fact, you probably have most of it lying around your garage.  

Flashlight

Camping without a flashlight is like golfing without tees.  You can do it, but you could spend a lot of time stumbling around in the woods.  Buy a durable, LED flashlight or a  headlamp for easy, hands free use.  Even if you're not camping, it's never a bad idea to keep a flashlight handy in case the sun sets on your trip.

First-Aid Kit 

Don't think you need to be a paramedic to carry around a simple first aid kid.  From band-aids, to aspirin, to moleskin patches for blisters and hand sanitizer, a tiny first aid kit can do serious good when it comes to safety in the wilderness.  Of course, any serious injuries sustained in the woods should be reported and dealt with professionally.  Traveler Tip: Wet wipes can be a lifesaver for grubby hands in the outdoors.

Plastic Bags

This one is easy.  Simple sandwich bags will keep your cell phone, wallet and fire-starting kit dry when the rest of your gear is wet, without breaking the bank.  

Water Bottles

Dehydration is the number one cause of medical emergencies in Grand Teton National Park, yet is one of the easiest to avoid. A good rule of thumb is that for every 4-5 miles you add to your hike, you need to replenish with an extra liter of water.

Though secure screw top bottles (like Nalgenes) and hydration bladders (like Camelbaks) are preferable, any old water bottle will do—even that empty Gatorade bottle that's been rattling around in the back of the car.

Backpack

No need to splash out for an Everest-grade backpack for your trip to Jackson Hole, but you'll definitely need something to lug all of your essentials around.  Any old knapsack will do fine for day hikes, but it needs to be spacious and sturdy enough to carry rain gear, flashlights, extra sunscreen, etc... without causing discomfort to your shoulders.  

When it comes to backpacking or wilderness camping, a larger pack that has space for tent poles, sleeping bags, and a ground pad will come in handy. 

Lotions, Balms, and Bug Repellent

Insect repellent, sunscreen, lip balm, hand lotion and toilet paper all have a place in your pack.  Jackson Hole's high-desert air stays dry and can result in chapped lips and cracked skin.  The refreshing cool air and breezes can be deceptive: in the mountains, you're slightly more exposed to the sun's UV rays.  

Everyone knows that few things ruin vacations quicker than a scorching (literally) case of sunburn.  Though it's not swampy in Jackson Hole, the abundance of waterways spawn biting, scratching insects all summer and it's never a bad idea to carry some bug spray lest you come under attack from thirsty mosquitoes. If you prefer all-natural bug sprays and sunscreens, look no further than the Jackson Whole Grocer, which carries a great selection of organic and travel-sized goods.

  • Hoback Sports

    Hoback Sports Established in 1974, Hoback Sports is your one-stop specialty bike, ski, and snowboard shop. Whether your passion is deep powder, steep single track, or logging miles on the pavement, Hoback Sports will get you set up with the perfect equipment and outdoor apparel to suit your needs. In addition to a knowledgeable staff with local insight, we offer the biggest brand names in the business and are one of the valley’s leading service and repair shops.
    307-733-5335 | 520 W Broadway, Jackson

Summertime Essentials: Clothing

Now that you have your base-layer ready, it's time to consider what else you will need for your adventures in Jackson Hole.  

Socks

Like long underwear, socks are hard to get excited about.  That being said, high-quality socks are critically important for a successful sojourn in the Tetons.  Look for performance socks that wick water off your feet and are anti-microbial.  Smartwool (or one of the many similar, non-brand name fabrics) will keep your feet dry in your boots and pad your skin against possible blisters.

Though performance socks can be expensive, they are more than worth the price—hiking on a pair of sore, soaked feet is even less fun than it sounds.  

Fleece

There's a reason that the Argonauts went after the Golden Fleece and not the Golden Flannel.  Because fleece continues to insulate while wet, the material is brilliant for use in rugged conditions.  Bring a fleece jacket or vest that's packable enough to keep in your knapsack on long hikes, and a fleece cap to keep your noggin warm after dark.  

Trail Shoes or Boots

You need a sturdy pair of hiking boots for your trip to Jackson Hole.  Bring boots that are made from a breathable but waterproof fabric (like Gore-Tex) so that your feet stay dry and cool.  More importantly, be sure of your boots' fit: they need to be the right size and have the correct arch support for your foot type. If your boots are wonky, expect blisters and foot-cramps. Lighter trail-running shoes can also work if you're doing a milder hike or run—check the soles to see how grippy they are. 

Traveler Tip: Always carry moleskin patches in your first aid kit and apply them liberally to 'hot spots' where you feel blisters developing.  Try out different lacing techniques, and always, always break in a pair of new boots with some casual strolls before you wear them in the Tetons.

Light-weight, Long Sleeves 

This is another local tip you don't want to overlook: Bring a long sleeve shirt that's light enough to stay cool, but has enough coverage to keep the bugs and sun away from your skin should they become a problem.  For this same reason, you may want to invest in a pair of lightweight, zip-off hiking pants.  

Baseball Cap, Head Bands, and Sunglasses

Sure, sunglasses, headbands and sweet trucker hats perform crucial functions like keeping perspiration out of your eyes and the sun off your face, but let's be honest here: they also make you look 20% cooler when you get off the trail. What can we say? It's science.  No one at the post-hike bar is going to question your commitment to the outdoors when you're wearing a sweaty bandana.  

Rainwear

We can't overemphasize the importance of staying dry.  Bring a lightweight rain jacket and pair of rain pants that fit easily in your pack, and be ready to put them to use if one of Jackson Hole's famously dramatic (and quick!) thunderstorms comes rolling through.    

Waterproof Sandals and Swimsuit

If you're planning to get on the water during your Jackson Hole visit (and we strongly suggest that you do!), a pair of waterproof sandals such as Chaco or Tevas are perfect for wading and letting your feet drift into the "surf," while ensuring that your shoes stay on your feet. Plus, they protect the soles of your feet from riverbed rocks. 

  • JD High Country Outfitters

    JD High Country Outfitters JD High Country Outfitters is the evolution of the two leading fly shops, guiding operations and purveyors of outdoor gear in Jackson, WY: High Country Flies and the Jack Dennis Outdoor Shop. These two outfitters had been supplying customers with quality outdoor apparel, guiding services, footwear, skiing, firearms and camping equipment for over forty years. In the nineties, with the addition of Pepi Stiegler Sports, winter operations were expanded. Born of a life in the Tetons, we have the knowledge and equipment to provide authentic experiences that enhance outdoor pursuits and lifestyles. JD High Country Outfitters is the premier destination in Jackson Hole for guided fishing excursions or to gear up for your next adventure.
    307-733-3270 | 50 East Broadway, Jackson

What Else to Bring...

  • Jackson is a pretty casual place to be, and even five-star dining can be done in sandals. Nevertheless, if you plan to partake in one of the area's many cultural offerings, a nice sundress or tucked in shirt can be nice, too. Just note that if you arrive in full rodeo regalia, locals will immediately sniff you out as a non-local. 
  • Binoculars for bird and wildlife watching
  • Your camera! (Duh)
  • A sense of adventure

Forgot Something?

Don't sweat it. Jackson Hole is chock full of outdoor retailers carrying all the latest and greatest, not too mention a few high fashion shops to pick out something contemporary and just-for-fun. The other nice thing about the these local retailers are their staffs. They live this stuff every day, and are always happy to discuss your trip with you, make suggestions, and even share a few insider tips. We guide you to some other great hiking gear on our Dress Like a Hiker page, too!

Photo used under Flickr Creative Commons License 2.0 from elitatt.