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What To Pack For a Hike In the Tetons

Essential items you'll need to have to be prepared for your backcountry experience. Latham Jenkins, Jackson Hole Traveler publisher and valley resident for more than 20 years, offers his advice.
Jackson Hole & Grand Teton Hiking Packing list

Grand Teton is a hiker’s park and for that matter, all of Jackson Hole is as well.  As with any outdoor adventure, you need to be prepared to ensure your safety and comfort while hiking in the backcountry. Our weather can be severe, you might be out longer than expected or if someone gets hurt, knowing what to do is important in being a responsible party while enjoying hiking on our many trails.  Always be willing to turn around and adjust your plan or goal. Learn more at backcountryzero.com

1. Jackson Hole Weather

Every local starts with a weather check in the morning and the best source is from our local weatherman, Jim Woodmency, not your smartphone weather app. On mountainweather.com, you can see what the valley temperatures are compared to the ridgetop, check the wind speed and most importantly, what the chances are for thunderstorms and lightning activity.  If there is a higher chance for thunderstorm activity bookmark this radar link to watch the storm activity as you cannot see the approaching weather coming over the Tetons.

2. Day Pack

You’ll need a pack to carry your goods.  I like one with a built in hydration system and just large enough to carry the day’s supplies. Keep in mind the guy with the pack gets to carry everyone else’s stuff, so plan accordingly if you have kids or lazy friends.

3. Dress in Layers

Whether hiking in the Tetons or just moving through your day, you will need multiple layers.  It’s not unusual to go from a light down jacket in the morning to putting on sunscreen by 9 a.m., to returning to your jacket once the sunlight is gone. Make sure to pack a shell to protect from rain and wind and an insulating layer to keep you warm. Our local company, Stio makes the Azura Insulated Jacket and Second Light Hooded Jacket, tried and true items for any pack.

4. Hydration

Both our higher elevation and dry climate demand you hydrate. I put a Cambelback reservoir in my pack as it’s easy to drink through the nozzle, as well as carry a Nalgene in my pack in case I need to make more water from a nearby stream or lake.  I always keep a bottle of the Potable Aqua in my pack—in 30 minutes I have another liter of potable water in my Nalgene and enough tabs to keep me or the group well hydrated for an extended period; fail safe and reliable.

5. Fuel the Body

Don’t forget your lunch and trail snacks.  Try something local like Kate’s Tram Bar and pick up a boxed lunch from Creekside Market or the Jackson Whole Grocer.

6. Trail map

Don’t leave home without one.  Gauge your progress and know your capabilities so as not to get overextended.  Two good options are, Grand Teton National Park Hiking Map and National Geographic Trails Illustrated Map for Grand Teton.

7. Bear spray

It’s one thing to have it and another to know how to use it. Don’t hike without it and every member of your party needs it.  Practice deploying it in quick order and when in an area of heavy brush coverage don’t hesitate to carry it in your hand ready for use should you spook a bear.  Since you cannot fly home with it, just rent it from Teton Backcountry Rentals: $8 a day.

8. Emergency whistle

Your best friend while trying to call for help, especially when it is dark. Try SOL's Slim Rescue Howler.

9. First-Aid kit

Often overlooked, but a quick stumble while hiking can lead to skin lacerations and broken bones miles from the car.  Pick up one of the wilderness kits in any of our local mountaineering shops.  I like the Ultralight Adventure Medical Kits.

10. Bandana

We dress in so much clothing that is non-cotton these days, you’ll appreciate having one of these old trail friends.  Wet it and keep it around your neck to cool off, dry your camera after your water bottle spills on it or make a sling—or worse—a tourniquet in an extreme emergency.

11. Multi-tool

My favorite is the Leatherman Skeletool or the Wave. It’s a vital piece of equipment for gear repair, making a shelter, first-aid and a multitude of other uses.

12. Moleskin / blister pack

Blisters and hiking go together, especially when you are wearing new hiking boots or shoes.  Don’t be the tough guy and wait until that hot spot on your foot is a full-blown blister—apply it as soon as your feel discomfort. Keep in mind by waiting you will be the weak link in the group if you try and tough it out too long. I like the BlisterMedic pack.

13. Duct tape

I prefer Gorilla tape and it has repaired my ripped clothes, gear and covered a blister, to name a few applications.

14. Headlamp

You don’t start your day planning on coming home late, but after 20-plus years hiking in the Tetons, I can assure you someday something will go wrong and you will be in the backcountry longer than you thought.  Also great for signaling at dusk or night your location.

15. Emergency response / Use of your smartphone

Tell someone else your plan so they can launch the search party if you are late in returning. Always open up Google Maps and put in a map marker for the trailhead.  It works even without cell service and you can see if you become lost which way home. Cell service is intermittent in the Tetons and I would not count on it.  In an emergency, always try and call 911 first—if your signal strength cannot hold a call, send a text message to 911.  Learn how to drop a pin on Google Maps to share your location in case you need to report an accident.

16. Fire starter

More relevant for spring and fall hiking, but it never hurts to be able to make heat at a moment's notice. Additionally a fire is a great way to signal with light and smoke to those coming to help. Carry waterproof matches, a lighter and fire starter.

17. Paracord

You just never know what you need to tie up! Replace a broken boot lace, lash down something on your pack, splint a broken leg: Just don’t leave home without some.

18. Sun protection

We are closer to the sun at our elevation so bring a hat, sunglasses, sunscreen and lip balm. It almost goes without saying it, but what’s checklist without it!

High Country Outfitters - Jackson Hole
307-733-3270|Map||
The valley's most extensive and knowledgeable fishing resource offers full and half-day guided fishing excursions, wading trips and casting lessons. Stop in for fishing reports, licenses, information about local waters and all the gear you need for any angli...

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Stio Retail Store, Jackson Hole
307-201-1890|Map|
Designed and tested in the heart of the Tetons in Jackson Hole, Stio apparel is made for the epic and everyday. Visit our new store in Teton Village or the flagship location on the Town Square.
ALWAYS pack these essentials: food, water, first aid, warm clothes, light, fire, phone and bear spray. •Be sure to check the weather forecast before you go. •Tell someone where you’re going and when you’ll be back. •Have a communication plan with your group ...
Teton Mountaineering - Jackson Hole
307-733-3595|Map|
Browse climbing, camping, hiking, and other premium-quality skiing apparel and equipment at Teton Mountaineering, the local spot for insider mountaineering expertise since 1971. Located just two blocks from the Town Square.

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Teton Village Sports
307-732-4080|Map||
Teton Village Sports is the oldest specialty retailer and ski shop in Jackson Hole. We offer hard and soft goods from top brands, ski and bike rentals, repairs and professional boot fitting, paddle boards, plus full-service guided fishing trips with Grand Fi...
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307-200-8876|Map||
4-season Give'r gloves. Outside magazine's Best Gloves of 2017, these are the world's most comfortable, versatile and durable pair of waterproof, all-leather, insulated gloves; customizable with hand-branded initials. Made for the Give'r in us all.
Creekside Market & Deli
307-733-7926|Map||
GRAB 'N' GO. Headed to Grand Teton, Yellowstone or the airport? Pick up bagged lunches from Creekside Market & Deli on the way. Include deli sandwiches, chips, drinks, cookies and locally made energy bars. Large-group catering and phone-in orders also availa...

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