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.
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
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!