What To Pack For Banff • Your Banff Packing List

If you’re wondering what to put on your Banff packing list you’ve come to the right spot. We love living and exploring in the Canadian Rockies. Every day brings something new and exciting to explore, however, the Canadian Rockies are serious mountains and coming unprepared for them could lead to you having an uncomfortable (or worse) time.

We’ve put together our favorite packing list items for the Canadian Rockies. This list is meant to be good in any season, for many different levels of activities. Whether it’s hiking or just wandering around exploring the town of Banff and it’s surroundings here is what to pack for Banff.


A Word About the Mountains


The town of Banff and Canmore are nestled in the middle of the Canadian Rockies. This means that whether or not you on top of a mountain or down in town the weather can change in a moment’s notice.

Even in the summer, it can get quite cold here and the secret to being comfortable is wearing layers. Your best chance of getting ideal summer weather is visiting Banff in July and August. You can see the best time to visit Banff here.

Since the Canadian Rockies vary in the season you’ll want to consider what time of year you are visiting. If you are traveling in the winter (mid-November – mid-May) you should take note of our special winter packing list information at the bottom.


Banff Packing List: The Clothing


  • Hiking Pants
  • Hiking Shorts
  • Hiking Shirts
  • Rain/Shell Jacket
  • Mid-Layer
  • Down Vest
  • Down Jacket
  • Thermals
  • Wool Hiking Socks
  • Hiking Leggings*
  • Sports Bra*
  • Underwear

Hiking Pants

Hiking Pants Banff Packing List

Both Natasha and I have Fjallraven’s well known Keb trousers. Fjallraven’s Keb trousers are an outdoor staple for Norwegians and have treated us well on our adventures. They are heavyweight and not excellent for quick dry properties but deliver a serious ruggedness that can handle sharp rocks, crampons, or a branch.

We’ve been asked numerous times on Instagram and in person what brand my pants are, and I feel confident recommending them to anyone. They are my favorite pair of pants.

Through their weight and zippered vents they manage temperature extremely well. On the early mornings they’re cozy, but start moving uphill and you can unzip the side vents on the calves and thighs for plenty of air.

If you think it’s going to be a cold day you can easily pair these with thermals for winter adventures. They’re just a kickass pair of pants that also happen to be the most comfortable hiking pants I’ve ever worn.

These pants are pretty specific, but if you’re looking for a more standard pair of hiking pants check out the Outdoor Research Ferossi Pant, prAna Stretch Zion, or the Colombia Silver Ridge.


Hiking Shorts

Hiking Shorts Banff Packing List

Hiking shorts are great in the summer as when summer finally arrives for the two months that we get. It’s great for low elevation hikes or hanging out around town. However, if you’re going to tackle more challenging hikes or scrambles you may need to leave them at home.

I have the Fjallraven High Coast Trail Shorts and they are just as comfortable as the Kebs! Pack a pair of shorts for the summer, but any other time of year you’ll never pull them out as it remains cool year round.


Hiking Shirts

Hiking Shirts Banff Packing List

I have six Outdoor Research Echo shirts and rotate them on all my hikes. They are lightweight and moisture-wicking. Seriously, you don’t want to be stuck with a cotton shirt while hiking. Cotton traps all your sweat and then when you get cold it becomes a problem.

Outdoor Research shirts provide full coverage with their long sleeve collections, but you won’t get hot under the sun. These shirts are built with UPF sun protection, AirVent™ moisture management, and ActiveFresh™ odor control technology. I’d suggest two for your trip to Banff and the Canadian Rockies


Rain/Shell Jacket

Shell Jacket Rundle Banff Packing List

I don’t travel without a shell jacket and I don’t hike without a shell jacket. They are so easy and light to pack up there is no reason to not have one in your day bag. You should always be prepared for a chance of rain when you are hiking. Getting wet and rained on while on a mountain sucks, and it can also be extremely dangerous in cold temperatures. Seriously, a rain or shell jacket should be on every packing list if you plan on going hiking around Banff.

My hiking jacket has come in handy so many times. Many places where it wasn’t supposed to rain and completely unexpected. The Arc’teryx Alpha AR is waterproof, windproof, breathable, and made with Goretex Pro. It’s not just good for traveling and rainstorms but is a protective shell against all levels of weather. I can even wear it in the winter as a waterproof shell over my down jacket.


Mid-Layer


Mid Layer Smutwood Banff Packing List

A mid-layer is essential on any Banff packing list. Mid-layers are a tremendous way to provide insulation in a lightweight manner. These range a lot by activity and the season and can include everything from down jackets, synthetic, fleeces, flannels, softshell jackets, and even hoodies.

We prefer a mid-layer with a hood, but it’s not necessary. Natasha and I both use a lightweight technical hoody from Outdoor Research like the Ascendant or Refuge hoodies. They are comfortable, water-resistant, wind-resistant, lightweight, quick-drying, and breathable.


Down Vest

Peyto Lake Banff Packing List Vest

If warmth is more important to you than weight, you may want to think about the Feathered Friends Helios Vest. This hardcore down vest features 4.8 ounces of 850-fill down, Lycra armholes, and hem, as well as an insulated draft tube behind the zipper. This means that frigid air has no chance of making it through this beast of a vest.

While it may not be best for climates with a light chill, it is perfect for the extreme cold when you still want the mobility of a vest over a jacket. It is slightly heavier than most down vests, weighing in at approximately 11 ounces, but when arctic weather hits, you will be more than pleased with your investment, and willing to carry the few extra ounces! 


Down Jacket

Banff-Hikes-Moraine-Lake-Cameron-Rockpile

We almost always have a down jacket with us on every single outing in Banff. They are essential to backpacking and wilderness travel. It’s a just in case jacket that I usually end up wearing when I reach the summit, and it gets cold and windy.

If you need a warm jacket it’s not possible to do better in terms of weight vs warmth than Feathered Friends EOS Down Jacket. This down jacket features 2.8 ounces of 900-fill down with a down hood and an insulated draft tube behind the zipper.

When it comes down to packability it comes with a nylon stuff sack that is about the size of a large water bottle. The stuff sack is great for packing attaching the bag to the outside of a hiking backpack, harness, or just slip it in your luggage.


Thermals

Banff Packing List Thermals

We’ve tried a few different brands, but recently settled on Kora as our favorite pair of thermals. It may be best for us as we need something technical when we snowboard or climb mountains to wick away moisture from our bodies.

Kora makes high-performance technical clothing out of quality Yak Wool from the Himalayas — warning they are high priced. However, their technical abilities have far outpassed traditional wool or synthetic materials we’ve used. Bring thermals for any trip where you’ll be outside a lot.


Wool Hiking Socks

Banff Packing List Natasha Lake Minnewanka Wool Socks

We’ve learned to love our feet with a good pair of merino wool hiking socks. You will want to keep your feet nice and dry while you walk around. Most importantly wool socks stay fresh for several days as they have natural antimicrobial properties.

We travel with a couple pairs of the Darn Tough Merino socks and our feet have never felt cold or wet. As a bonus, they’re produced in Vermont! Smartwool also makes hiking specific socks that are perfect for long days in the mountains. Consider good socks a necessity for a trip to the Canadian Rockies and top of your Banff Packing List.


Hiking Leggings*

Banff Packing List Natasha Hiking Leggings Moraine Lake

Natasha doesn’t feel like wearing heavy-duty hiking pants every day She will wear hiking leggings. Leggings are great for any backpacking packing list as they are lightweight and pack up super small. They are comfortable to hike in as they are stretchy and breathable.

Of course, this isn’t on everyone’s packing list, but there are plenty of women who wouldn’t dream of coming without at least a pair. There are also men that wear leggings too, I’m not one of them.


Sports Bras*

Banff Packing List Sports Bra

This should really go without saying, but any woman should be hiking in a sports bra. Of course, it’s completely up to you, but you’ll want something that is light, nonconstricting, moisture-wicking, and will hold your breasts in when you’re hiking.

My favorite new sports bras are from Yogavated! They are so incredibly comfortable and supportive, perfect for days out.


Underwear

Underwear Hike Banff Packing List

Underwear isn’t the most exciting thing to talk about in terms of packing for your trip to the Canadian Rockies. However, they’re an important part of your wardrobe and a poor pair of underwear can ruin a hike, especially a multiday trek. We don’t just use this for hiking around Banff, but also for traveling in general since I don’t always have access to a washer.

Women have specific hygiene needs in the backcountry. To prevent bacterial infections it’s important to avoid wearing cotton underwear. Smartwool makes its Siren series of wool underwear that are amazing for their moisture management and antimicrobial properties. You have the option of thong and bikini which really depends on the type of pants or shorts you’re wearing. I own both, but the bikini obviously offers a bit more protection.

In terms of Men’s underwear, Cameron loves Saxx underwear. If you’re unfamiliar with Saxx the underwear has a small pouch for your business. After, extended use I can say it’s a phenomenal feature that works perfectly. There is no need for adjustments when putting them on and off. The result is exceptional comfort that does an effective job of pulling away moisture and heat.


Shoes for the Canadian Rockies


  • Hiking Boots
  • Hiking Shoes/ Trail Runners
  • Hiking Sandals

Hiking Boots

Hiking Boots Banff Packing List

Boots are super important if you have plans to do any hiking or plan you visit in the shoulder months — think about snow, mud, and rain. When hiking in Banff loose rocks are a real threat hiking on the trails and it’s a good idea to wear decent hiking boots or shoes. There has been a long debate on whether you need a high top or low cut shoes to protect your ankles. Truthfully we own both types and like to wear high tops in the Rockies, but it all depends on your fitness and ideal hike.

Low elevation and easy hikes in Banff are on well-maintained trails so a good pair of hiking shoes or tennis shoes are more than adequate. You should also be cognizant of your own body health. Do you have previous injuries or are you prone to rolling your ankle?

The next step is determining what kind of boots you need. Lightweight boots are great for elevation gain, while heavier boots with tough soles and support can be great for long days on a trail. We live in the here have several types and rotate dependent on the hike. If you’re worried about style just go with a nice leather hiking boot and you’ll look totally appropriate in town.


Hiking Shoes

Hiking Shoes Cirque Peak Banff Packing List

If we’re on a short hike trip we prefer to wear trail runners or a nice hike in a valley. Trail runners are great for those days when I want to move a little faster and run down the mountain. They are much lighter than hiking boots but don’t provide the ankle support and protection that boot does.

As I stated earlier low elevation and easy hikes in Banff are on well-maintained trails so a good pair of hiking shoes or tennis shoes are more than adequate. We mix it up, but if you plan to take any big mountain hikes/scrambles PLEASE wear hiking specific shoes or boots. Too often people get themselves in trouble here with the wrong footwear on a trail where a slip could equal serious injury or death.


Hiking Sandals

Hiking Sandals Banff Packing List

Hiking sandals can be so incredibly nice for freeing your feet in the summer months here. Whether it’s an easy hike or you’re just walking around camp it’s great to walk around in a pair of Teva’s or Chacos. We love them for long hikes where we may have to cross a stream or river.

They’re also great if you want to go for a canoe, kayak, or SUP on one of the great lakes in Banff. Good hiking sandals are on every one of the summer Canadian packing lists.


The Essentials for a Canadian Rockies Trip


  • Daypack
  • Water Bladder
  • Baseball Cap
  • Sunglasses
  • Buff Headwear

DayPack

Daypack Mount Niblock Banff Packing List

If you’re not going on an overnight backpacking adventure a daypack should be more than enough to hold your belongings. No matter what you do in Banff you will want a daypack to hold your belongings. My daypack usually consists of a shell jacket, down jacket, hiking poles, bear spray, snacks, water, gloves, chapstick, a buff, camera, first aid kit, navigation, and an emergency blanket.

My latest pack is a revamped Gregory Alpinisto Backpack that is designed for alpine ascents, climbing, and backcountry ski. It’s packed with a lot of features for alpinism like ski carry, ice ax attachment, and snow shedding back panel.

While not everyone needs an alpine pack the key to take away here is to opt for the right size pack. I love a versatile size around the 30L mark. 30L gives enough room for gear heavy days, but it’s light enough for light short treks or walking around town. If you don’t have plans for big hikes any nice backpack will do the job.


Water Bladder

Natasha Wasootch Ridge Banff Packing List

While I like having a water bottle on my hikes I like having a water bladder even more. A bladder keeps me drinking regularly since I never have to stop hiking and take out my bottle. It’s always readily available when you need it. A bladder is always always always on my hiking gear list.

You should consume at least two liters a water a day while hiking in the Canadian Rockies, often this means you either carry two bottles of water. The better option for carrying that much water on your treks is to carry a water bladder. A water bladder additionally allows you to carry extra water if needed.

Most hiking backpacks and even daypacks designed for hiking have a sleeve for carrying your extra water.


Hat

Hat Cameron Grizzly Peak Banff Packing List

This isn’t anything special, but I always carry a hat in my bag. It’s great for reducing sun exposure when you’re hiking. It’s super important when you’re on trails that have little to no tree cover like the desert or the alpine. I love to use “trucker hats” as the mesh panels keep my head cool.

If you’re older than a sunhat with better protection will do the trick. Either way you’ll spend a lot of time outside here so be prepared for sun exposure.


Sunglasses

Sunglasses Mount

Make sure to protect your eyes from the sun since you’ll likely spend a lot of time hiking in the sun at elevation. There are a lot of options for sunglasses and everyone should own at least a pair. It’s best to make sure they do have UV protection for the health of your eyes. Sunglasses are particularly important if you plan to visit any glaciers or high alpine passes as sun reflection from the snow is damaging to your eyes.

We made our first investment in quality polarized sunglasses with a pair of SMITH Optics Lowdown 2. I love more technical sunglasses for hiking like the Smith Guide’s Choice sunglasses. A wide side frame protects your eyes from the side and the lens provides an exceptional field of view. They have Polarized glasses that are great at enhancing vision in bright environments and removing glare from windshields and the water. Perfect for a wide range of activities such as fishing, kayaking, running errands in town, travel, or the beach.

 Truthfully, not everyone needs to invest $150 in a pair of sunglasses; however, we love ours and will never buy cheap ones again. Polarized glasses are great at enhancing vision in bright environments and removing glare from windshields and the water.


Buff Headwear

Buff Banff Packing List Windtower Hike

On multiday treks, I love to carry a buff headwear. We have a collection of Buff headbands and bring them everywhere. They’re great for a multitude of reasons such as sun/wind protection, a scarf, headband, or an ear warmer.

We always have one in our suitcase or backpack no matter the destination and consider it one top travel and hiking accessories. I imagine most people have one or two of these by now, but if you don’t it’s time to invest in at least one good one.


Banff Packing List: If Your Camping


  • Hiking Backpack With Raincover
  • Tent
  • Sleeping PAd
  • Compressible Pillow
  • Down Quilt/Sleeping Bag
  • Water Purification
  • Camp Stove
  • Camp Cook Set
  • Coffee Maker
  • Biodegradable Soap

Hiking Backpack with Raincover

Hiking Backpack Banff Packing List

If you’re doing any multi-day hikes you will need a good hiking backpack. A proper hiking backpack supports the weight of your load and should hold everything you need for a trip in the great outdoors. A good hiking backpack should be comfortable, have a nice design, proper material, and be the correct volume and weight for your trip. We break down all the best hiking backpacks here.

Our new favorite hiking backpack is made by Gregory. The Gregory Baltoro Gregory backpack is a workhorse designed to be used and abused. The Baltoro/Deva is designed to carry a heavy load without breaking your back on the trail. It has a superior suspension system with plush padding and a great organization. If you’ll be on extended thru-hike trips and don’t mind sacrificing a pound or two, this is your ideal hiking backpack.


MSR Hubba Hubba Tent

Icefields-Campground-MSR-Tent-Mountaineering

You’ll need a tent if you’re camping in the Banff backcountry. Since you’re backpacking you will need something ultralight. Our go to is our MSR Hubba Hubba 2 backpacking person ten.

The Hubba Hubba is a top seller for MSR. It’s ultralight and has a super fast setup system. This tent is waterproof and ultra durable for any mountain adventure. It’s a great size for two people and there is even extra space to move around.


NeoAir Uber Lite

Sleeping Pad Banff Packing List

You’ll want a sleeping pad under you while you sleep. Not only is it more comfortable, but it provides insolation that you’ll need to stay warm. The ground gets very cold in the wilderness, even if it’s summer. Without a sleeping pad under you, your body will take in all that cold.

We travel with the new NeoAir Uber Lite. It’s good for backpacking since it only weighs 8oz and you can blow it up in under two minutes.


Compressible Pillow

Compressible Pillow Banff Packing List

A pillow is a backpacking essential for a night of good sleep in the mountains. Therm-A-Rest makes durable pillows from upcycled foam. These pillows are soft and expand large enough for a comfortable rest.


Therm-A-Rest Sleeping Bag

Down Quilt Banff Packing List

Don’t go into the backcountry without a sleeping bag. Even in the summer, it gets cold at night and you’ll need a proper sleeping bag to provide you with the warmth you need. We personally have the new Vesper 20F/-6C Quilt. This is an awesome comfortable sleeping bag featuring 900-fill Nikwax Hydrophobic Down. It’s ultra-light and good for overnight backpacking trips.


Water Purifier

Water Purifier Banff Packing List

It’s not always safe to drink water from rivers and streams. We previously used the Lifestraw Go for all those times during our travels when the water is questionable.

However, over time we became annoyed with the water bottle as the filter aged and clogged. Plus the Lifestraw leaks when it is on its side. We now switched to the Grayl Ultralight Purifier. It’s a simple design that is effective and does not leak making it a hiking essential.

Most importantly it is a purifier, not a filter. The Grayl water bottle system purifies water vs. filters which removes viruses and virtually removes all threat of waterborne illnesses. The only drawback is it costs double the Lifestraw Go.


MSR PocketRocket Deluxe

Camp Stove Banff Packing List

This is the latest burner from MSR who have been designing these burners for ages, and the Deluxe is their best one yet. It’s not the lightest burner on the market, but at only three ounces, it’s pretty close.

It’s a significant update to the old RocketPocket 2 with new recessed burner holes, regulator, a piezoelectric lighter, and pot supports. The result is a burner that is easier to light, burns consistently, and handles wind very well that feels nothing like its predecessor.

In use the burner is exceptional, and it’s easy to deliver a consistent temperature whether boiling water or simmering to cook food on a pan. Most impressive it the sheer amount of heat the burner throws our boiling water faster than any other cooker we’ve used. It also comes with a small stuff sack that fits well inside your cook kit. Other than the typical drawbacks to canister burners, the PocketRocket Deluxe didn’t always light on the first ignition click (nit-picking here) and could stand to be a little more fuel-efficient. Altogether, it’s likely the best backpacking stove, and I love it to use it when we’re hiking in the mountains as it handles wind surprisingly well.


Camp Cook Set

Camp Cook Set Banff Packing List

Look for lightweight plates, utensils, and cups so you can enjoy your nights in the backcountry. Don’t pack more than you think you’ll need though – this stuff gets heavy.


Coffee Maker

Coffee Filter Banff Packing List

The idea of going a day without coffee is sacrilege. There are a number of options for making coffee while backpacking so it’s tough to choose the best one. Our personal favorite is a small drip coffee maker from GSI, called the Ultralight.

It’s easy to clean, makes the perfect coffee, and doesn’t even weigh a full ounce. A lot of people rave about the Aeropress, but we’re not fans of all the parts and the fact it’s a lot heavier than drip coffee options — we’d say it’s better for car camping.


Bear Spray

Bear in Banff Banff Packing List

The traditional way of hanging food over a tree in a nylon sack is not always effective. Many people have lost food in this method which can be a serious drag on multiday trips. The alternative is to use a bear canister which is an airtight container meant to remove any scent of food.

We have one bear canister and have used it on shorter treks around the Canadian Rockies, especially with the high population of bears in the area. There is a downside due to the weight, bulkiness, and inefficiency of stuffing food in a hard container.


Biodegradable Soap

Soap Smutwood Banff Packing List

To abide by Leave No Trace principles you should always wash yourself and dishes with biodegradable soap at least 200 feet away from a water source. Then pour wastewater into a cat hole 6 to 8 inches deep. A few drops of this goas a long way.


Banff Packing List: Accessories


  • Camp Towel
  • Gaiters
  • Z-Seat
  • Headlamp
  • Hiking Poles
  • Hiking Belt
  • Gloves
  • Toboggan

Camp Towel

Camp Towel Banff Packing List

A towel should be on everyone’s backpacking checklist who plans to spend the night outside in Banff National Park. Not only are they good for rinsing off at night, but also for those times you want take a dip in an alpine lake!


Gaiters

Gaiters Banff Packing List

If you’re going into the backcountry or hiking during the spring or fall you should definitely plan on packing gaiters. Gaiters protect your legs from getting snow in them. There is definitely snow year-round in some parts of the world. Make sure to do your research to determine if they’ll be snow where you’re at.

We both have gaiters from Outdoor Research and love them. OR makes all sorts of great backpacking gear.


Z-Seat

Z-Seat Banff Packing List

It’s a good idea to bring a small mat to sit on during breaks if you’re in the mountains. The stone and ground can often be much colder than the air so it conducts heat and will make you cold.

A pad can serve a lot of purposes to like backrest, pillow, cooking surface, or a place to change your clothes. We bring the Z Seat on many of our backpacking trips and appreciate the comfort when we want to just relax and enjoy the view. They are light though so make sure they don’t blow away. It’s best to keep them inside your pack, instead of the outside on a windy day.


Headlamp

Headlamp Banff Packing List

You shouldn’t hike without a headlamp, even on a dayhike. We rarely do sunrise hikes, but a headlamp is always in our bag just in case we get caught on the mountain after dark. They are small and light so there is no reason not to have one in your pack. This is another hiking accessory that could save your life.

We have several headlamps, but one of our new favorites is the Biolite 200. It took several recommendations online before settling on this one because of its affordable price and durability. It delivers 200 lumens, costs $40, and will likely last a decade or longer sweet deal if you like to spend time outdoors. Most importantly it’s rechargeable so no more of those pesky batteries in the trash — eco-friendly product win!


Hiking Poles

Hiking Poles Banff Packing List

If you have plans to take part in a long day or multi-day hikes around Banff or Kananaskis Country a pair of hiking poles is a great way to save your knees and prevent injuries. If you’re on a full day of hiking in the mountains you’ll gain and descend a lot of elevation. So, it’s easy for your legs to get tired and a pair of hiking poles will pay off. Although I don’t always need hiking poles, they are always in my pack. I almost ALWAYS end up using at least once while I’m descending a mountain.

Black Diamond is a company dedicated to mountain sports and has worked hard to craft wonderful products. I personally use the Black Diamond FLZ Hiking Poles, but there are some other great poles out there produced by companies like REI and MSR. “Z” poles are fantastic as they’re lightweight and can be stashed inside a backpack should you not need them.


Hiking Belt

Belt Banff Packing List

Unless I am hiking in leggings I need a belt to secure my pants. The newest one I just got is a Jelt Belt. Jelt is a women-owned social enterprise that produces belts made from 100% recycled plastic bottles with an innovative patented flat buckle that won’t show a bump under tops or tees.

Both Cameron and I have a few of these bad boys and they are SO much better than regularly clunky belts.


Hiking Gloves

Hiking Gloves Banff Packing List

I have a pair of Outdoor Research Splitter work gloves in my hiking pack at all times. They are great for when you are scrambling or bushwacking and I always end up using them at some point on my hike. I never want to come back with bloody hands and they protect against that.


Toboggan

Toboggan Banff Packing List

It gets cold at night in the mountains. A warm hat can make or break your comfort. No one likes a cold head and ears so stick one in your backpack just in case. They are light backpacking must-haves.


Banff Hiking Food


Hiking Snacks

Hiking Snacks Banff Packing List

Snacks are an essential part of your backpacking checklist. Pack some high calorie snacks for your hike on the trail. Popular options are dried fruit, energy gels, bars, or balls, jerky, nuts, or even a Snickers. Hiking at elevation can burn a lot of calories so it’s important to maintain your glucose levels.

It’s advised to eat as much as 200-300 calories per hour of exercise. If it’s a long day on the mountain you can always bring a packed lunch with a sandwich and high calorie like dried fruits. (I’m pretty much a kid and still love a peanut butter and jelly sandwich).


Hiking Food

Hiking Food Banff Packing List

If you’re on a long multiday hike where you are carrying everything on your back with you will need to bring lightweight food with you.

Mountain House makes high-quality, freeze-dried meals that actually taste good. You just add water and you’ll have a quick hot mail for the trail.

They also come in great in a backpacking emergency situation, making them hiking must-have. A few bags of this could save your life!


Emergency Supplies and Safety


  • Helmets
  • Emergency Blanket
  • Bear Spray
  • Compass
  • Garmin Inreach GPS
  • First Aid Kit
  • Fire Starter
  • Flame
  • Sunscreen
  • Knife/Multitool
  • Bug Spray

Helmets

Banff Packing List Helmets

A helmet should always be used if you are rock climbing, bouldering, or scrambling up places where there are lots of people or high probability of rockfall.

Seriously, it doesn’t take a big rock to fall on you in the mountains – best case scenario it will hurt, or worst case scenario – death.

You also never know when a cheeky mountain goat will kick some loose rocks down below, so a helmet is always a good call. Both of our helmets are from Black Diamond.


Emergency Blanket

Banff Packing List Emergency Blanket

This is where preparation for spending a night out in the wilderness comes into effect. If you’re on a short loop around town it’s probably not necessary, but any significant hike in a national park or wilderness area presents the risk of spending the night outside.

When temperatures drop at night it presents the very dangerous threat of hypothermia or frostbite. An emergency backpacking blanket is a light and small item to keep in your pack.


Bear Spray

Banff Packing List Cameron Big Beehive

If you’re visiting Banff in the summer and plan to venture anywhere outside of the main shopping area of town you need to have bear spray. Bear spray is your last defense before a bear attack. We wear ours on our hips so it can be accessed quickly.

Remember bear spray is useless if it’s inside your backpack. If you follow proper bear precaution you hopefully will never have to use bear spray. Travel in groups, make lots of noise, and don’t store any food in your tent!


Compass

Compas Banff Packing List

Never a bad idea to have a compass on any backpacking trip. A great idea for your backcountry Banff packing list.


Garmin Inreach GPS

Garmin Banff Packing List

We spend a lot of time in the Banff backcountry which means we are disconnected and far from a cell phone signal. This brings a lot of risk in case of an emergency. The Garmin Inreach allows for us to have a GPS for navigation which keeps us safely on the trail.

Then should the worst ever happen we have an emergency button through Inreach that notifies search and rescue should we ping the satellite. It’s a lifesaving device, that also does nifty features like send short messages and even allow for friends and family to track your whereabouts when you’re on the trail.


First Aid Kit

First Aid Kit Banff Packing List

A first aid kit should ALWAYS be in your backpacking checklist. It is important backpacking essential and could save your life in an emergency. We go on every hike with an emergency first aid kit in our bag.

Here is what we recommend you pack in a basic first aid kit for day or multiday hiking trips.

  • Ibuprofen — NSAID. Treats pain, fever, swelling.
  • Tylenol — Pain reliever that does not thin blood in case of a concussion or open wound.
  • Benedryl — Bites, stings, allergies, and sleep aid.
  • Pepto Bismol — Antimicrobial that helps treat stomach issues.
  • Imodium — This is is used to prevent dehydration in the event of diarrhea, but should be avoided as it does cause constipation. Not necessary on a day trip.
  • Antifungal Cream — Not necessary on a day trip, but it’s good for your hiking first aid kit to prevent rashes. Of course, this is best minimized with proper clothing and moisture management.
  • Bandaids/Gauze — Great for cuts, blisters, or scrapes.
  • Medical Tape — This is great for compression to reduce swelling, building a splint, or stabilizing a rolled ankle.
  • Antibiotic Ointment — Use the disposable packets as it helps save weight with only one or two in your bag.

Fire Starter

Fire Starter Banff Packing List

Having a fire starter can help you in an emergency, it’s worth having a few on you in the backcountry.


Flame

Flame Banff Packing List

It’s a good idea to carry with your supplies to start a fire should you need one. We like to carry a disposable butane lighter, but it’s also possible to carry sturdy waterproof matches in a container. It’s also a good idea if you’re in wet conditions to carry some kindling that can be used to start.


Sunscreen

Sunscreen Banff Packing List

Nothing sucks more than getting burned outside and not having any relief from the sun. Stop the burn before it happens and put on sunscreen.


Knife / Multi-tool

Banff Packing List Mountain Views

A knife or multi-tool is really helpful for just about anything, and could really get you out a pickle in the wilderness if need be.

We can’t hike into the mountains with a box of tools, but a Leatherman makes for a good substitute. Ever since I developed the habit of carrying one in the film industry it has stuck. I’ve tried out a few brands but always come back to the Leatherman brand name. Just remember to always take it out of your hiking backpack when flying as it won’t make it past security.

After using about a half dozen different versions of the Leatherman I still love one of their cheapest models. The Wingman has all of the basic necessities and spring-loaded pliers that feel great in the hand.


Bug Spray

Bug Spray Banff Packing List

During peak summer the mosquitos are out to play and can really ruin a fun night around the campfire. It may be worth putting a small bottle on your hiking packing list.


Banff Packing List Extras


GoPro

Banff Packing List GoPro Photo

We have a GoPro with us at all times in the wilderness. They are great for grabbing that quick photo or video clip in the mountains. The new GoPro Hero 7 has a stabilizer and we use it all the time on the peaks to grab stable footage. I love that it’s light and the battery lasts for a few days! We just got the latest GoPro Max and can’t wait to get some awesome photos this summer.


Camera

Banff Packing List Natasha Big Beehive

If you want to take stellar photographs on your Banff trip you’re going to have to get past the phone camera.

We have the Fuji X-T3 and love it! This beautiful and reasonably priced camera is both weather-resistant and mirrorless. It is easily the best ASP-C camera on the market and gives a serious run at many of the full-frame cameras. After all, is a full-frame camera really a necessity? In my opinion, not at all! We love photography, posting to Instagram, and posting on this website so we always have a camera on us on any hike.


Peak Designs Clip

Banff Packing List Smutwood Hike

You can see this clip on the photo to the left. It hooks onto your hiking backpack and provides instant access to your camera. This is has been one of our favorite additions to our camera equipment and hiking outfit. The Peak Design capture clip allows for a camera to be clipped on to your backpack strap or belt.It has to be one of the best accessories we’ve ever used for carrying our camera.

The clip feels secure and robust with a straight forward design that makes switching straps easy. We’ve brought it on several hikes around the Canadian Rockies now and it has changed the way in which we photograph hikes. The access it provides to your camera is so much better than a camera strap that allows a camera to swing and banging into everything.

It’s super handy and a must for anyone who want to carry their camera on hikes, but not have to fumble around in their bag every time they want to take a photo.


Phone

Phone Banff Packing List

Of course, you don’t need some fancy camera on your backpacking checklist. Most people take their photos and videos with their phone and it works just fine! We just recently got the One Plus and the photos it produces are just WOW.


Journal and Pen

Banff Hikes C-Level-Cirque

Write your thoughts down at night before you go to sleep. Keeping a trail journey is a fun part of being in the wilderness.


Compact Binoculars

Banff Packing List Bino

If you want binoculars to spot birds or wildlife grab a pair of compact ones! We break down the best compact binoculars here.

Bushnell makes great budget binoculars and has long been making great binoculars and for all price ranges. The Bushnell 10×42 H20 Waterproof Binoculars have amazing HD clarity and quality optics for less than $100. Like all Bushnell products they are durable and have an O ring that is sealed for fog free viewing.

The nonslip rubber provides a firm grip and the center focus knob is large enough to give you easy and seamless adjustments. It’s the perfect pair of binoculars for those who are unsure if they want to invest in a pricier pair of binoculars.


Health and Hygiene


Banff Packing List

If you’re doing any multi day hikes or backpacking while visiting Banff you should take care of yourself! These are the backpacking travel essentials I always have on me.


What You Don’t Need to Bring to Banff

Cascade-Gardens-Banff

Club Dresses: There are no clubs in Banff or Canmore. There is no need for a short clubbing dress. The best thing you’ll find here is a brewery or distillery where you would instantly feel out of place in a short dress.

Heels: There’s absolutely no scenario in the Canadian Rockies where you will need heels. Oh yea, and don’t go hiking in them – that’s a bad idea.

Dress Clothes in General: Both men and women don’t need to worry about getting super fancy here unless you absolutely want to. If you’re going to a nice event a sweater and black pants work just fine.

Bottled Water: The one thing that drives me nuts every summer are the grocery stores that sell cases of bottled water and the visitors that think they need to buy them. Not only is this a waste of plastic, but you don’t need to. worry about the tap water here. It’s SO good and completely fine. Please don’t buy bottled water here.


How to Use this Canadian Rockies Packing List?


Obviously, you don’t need everything on this Banff packing list all in one go. These backpacking essentials are to give you ideas and recommendations for your personal Banff trip. We use all of these products on a regular basis whilt living in the Canadian Rockies, but not all at one time.

What works for a day hike will be different from a three-day camping trip. What is good for climbing mountains is different than what you need for walking around Banff.

To use this backpacking gear list effectively you need to consider your needs and go from there!


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