A General Overview.
We are going to Yosemite this summer! It’s been 4 years since I’ve been so I pulled out my old packing lists to get started planning.
I live across the country from Yosemite and have to fly in, rent a car, and tent camp in the park. I usually fly into San Francisco, but this time we are flying into Las Vegas, driving across the desert, and entering the park via Tioga Road and Tuolumne Meadows. I hope this series of planning posts will be helpful for all of you who have to get to Yosemite by plane and rental car– it takes a lot of planning, down to the last pair of socks, to be able to pack luggage for tent camping!
Some helpful tips to get started:
It’s EASY to get food in Yosemite, so you don’t need to worry about trying to take any on the plane. You can stop at one of the grocery stores in the park to stock up on food for your campsite, or get grab and go sandwiches for your day hike, or decide to frequent the cafeteria, food court, pizza deck, grills, or restaurants– or a combination of all, depending on your budget and how tired you are when dinner time rolls around.
You can even buy your supplies at home and mail them to yourself to General Delivery at either the Valley or Tuolumne post office. Mark packages with “hold for hiker until [date].” Packages not so marked will be held for 14 days. Packages containing food should be marked so that postal employees will store it properly. Please do not send perishables. To address a general delivery package, include the name of the recipient, c/o General Delivery, Yosemite, CA 95389 (for Yosemite Valley) or Tuolumne Meadows, CA 95389 (for Tuolumne Meadows).
Finally, you can stop in any town on your drive from the airport to the park and stock up on what you’ll need– just be sure to plan your meals ahead of time!
Yosemite is VERY dry in the summer. I’ve written before about staying hydrated and bringing a few essentials for comfort like saline nose spray (NOT sold in the Tuolumne Meadows store and I don’t remember seeing it anywhere in the Valley either), lip balm, and unscented hand lotion. Drink more water than you think you need and bring a sun hat! I always hike with at least one 40 oz. Klean Kanteen water bottle per person, and more depending on the hike.
- The right clothing and shoes will make all the difference in the world when you are hiking and sightseeing for several days, but keep it simple. Yosemite is not a fashion show– I’ve seen people decked out in colorful skinny jeans, sparkly shirt, and wedge sandals hiking the Mist Trail. Please don’t do that! You’d look ridiculous and would be extremely uncomfortable. I have finally moved away from cotton clothing for hiking, and now wear lightweight wool or other quick dry t-shirts and shorts (even undies and socks). Having fair skin, I opt for a very lightweight long sleeve hiking shirt in a quick dry fabric instead of sunscreen. For me, sweat and sunscreen are a miserable combination– but choose what’s best for you (and try to keep your sunscreen unscented).
- Footwear. Please wear real shoes– not flip flops or any type of dressy shoe. And believe me, I’ve seen plenty of that on the trail. At the very minimum you need Tevas or Chacos with a back strap, but unless you have young, strong feet and ankles I suggest a trail runner, cross trainer, low hiking shoe, or light hiking boot. You need good tread– no slick bottom shoes– and good support. For day hikes, even for several days in a row, and even for short backpacking trips with less than 40 pounds, any of the previously mentioned shoes would be perfectly fine. Because of injuries to my feet I have to wear a light boot, and I love my Keens. Whatever you choose, be SURE they are well broken in to avoid blisters and sore feet, and that they are wide enough to allow for socks and wiggle room for your toes. Remember, comfort is key.
- Tent. Unless you decide to stay in one of the lodging options, you’ll have to tent camp. Camping is my preferred way to stay in Yosemite! Again, you don’t need anything too fancy, but you do need something that will pack into your suitcase and not weigh a ton. Don’t get a 3 room tent for 2 people! Read my older post HERE about choosing the right tent for your needs. We have 2 tents now. A Big Agnes Big House 4 and an REI Half Dome 2 Plus.
- The right sleeping pad is also essential for comfort and a good night’s sleep after a day on the trail. In the past I have used a Ridge Rest pad, and although they are great for many people, those aren’t comfortable enough for me now. I have also used an inflatable air mattress, but those are only good for warm weather camping– I almost froze camping in Tuolumne Meadows one July when the temperature dropped into the low 30’s. I love my REI camp bed. It’s durable, pack-able, warm enough for cold nights, and relatively inexpensive. Just try some out and see what works best for you.
- Sleeping bags can be complex. Down? Synthetic? Temperature ratings? My sleeping bag is one I’ve had for about 20 years– it’s a rectangular down bag with a 20 degree rating and it works for most of my camping needs. My husband has a 20 degree down bag by Kelty (that’s no longer made) and it’s been great for the past 4 years. I don’t think you have to spend a fortune to get a good sleeping bag, just get one that packs down small and doesn’t weigh much.
- Finally, I broke down the last time I was in Yosemite and bought a small camping pillow. A bundle of clothes stuffed under my head just doesn’t work for me anymore!
- A hiking pole. When I was 20-something I never used a hiking pole, but now that I’m 40-something I definitely appreciate one. Mine is a Walmart special and I’ve been hiking with it for 4 years, including a 30 mile backpacking trip in Yosemite and countless treks in Western North Carolina. It is lightweight and collapsible.
- A day pack. For any hike, you need a first aid kit, snacks, water, trail map, bear whistle, camera, etc. I’ve seen people carrying plastic grocery bags filled with 2 liter sodas and snacks on the trail. Guess what? That’s not a great idea. Take a small backpack for all the essentials. You don’t need anything fancy– even a school book bag will do the job– but my husband has an Osprey Stratos and I am envious!
More posts will follow as I plan my trip and I will cover packing lists, itineraries, and more details about first aid, comfort, gear, and more!