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Yellowstone in winter is such an incredible experience. But with some of the harshest weather conditions in the United States, what the heck do you pack for winter in Yellowstone? I’ll answer that question in this blog post so you can be as prepared as possible. Let’s get started!
What to Pack for Yellowstone in Winter
1) Base Layer Clothing
When it comes to clothing for winter, I’m always thinking of layers.
When in doubt, pack extra layers.
I always like my first layer to be moisture-wicking. This is especially important if you’re planning to do some winter hiking or movement outdoors.
Moisture-wicking clothing such as wool, nylon, and polyester are going to pull moisture from your skin and help it evaporate faster. This will help you stay dry.
Base layers vary in warmth. You can get ultra-warm heavyweight base layers or lightweight versions. What I choose on a particular day depends on the weather.
Great Base Layer Options
For bottoms, again, I want to choose clothing that’s going to be moisture-wicking and provide some warmth.
My favorite plants are fleece-lined pants from Athleta. They’re so comfortable and provide a little insulation from the cold air.
2) Mid Layers and Outerwear
Next, we start to layer over the baselayer.
If I’m not planning to hike in the snow and I’m just driving through the park looking at the scenery and animals, then I can sometimes get away with just wearing a base layer and a down jacket.
If I’m going to hike, stand outside for long periods of time, or do any physical activity, then I will layer my upper body with a fleece and/or a synthetic insulated jacket, followed by a waterproof outer jacket to provide wind and snow protection.
I also pack snow pants for wind and snow protection on my legs if needed. See the photo above.
Again, you want to give yourself options in case things are colder (or warmer) than you expect.
3) Accessories and Shoes
This category includes:
- warm moisture-wicking socks
- neck gaiter or scarf
- polarized sunglasses to break up the glare from snow
For winter boots, I have two options.
Sorel Caribou Boots
If I’m just driving through the park and standing around in the cold to look at animals, then I love my Sorel Caribou Insulted boots. These boots are a little bulkier than my hiking boots, but they’re also a lot warmer.
4) Emergency Vehicle Supplies
I think this is by far the most overlooked category when it comes to packing for a winter trip to Yellowstone.
As I talked about in my must-know tips for visiting Yellowstone in the winter, you have to be prepared to help yourself in the event of an emergency.
There’s very limited cell service within the park, so if you’re driving yourself through the park (no guided tour) then you must take some time prior to your trip to properly prepare your vehicle for winter travel.
While the road from Gardiner, MT to the northeast entrance at Silver Gate does get plowed in the winter, the roads are still snowy, icy, and slippery. They also go through mountainous terrain with steep drop-offs.
What I always have in my vehicle:
- battery-powered jumper cable kit
- well-stocked first-aid kit
- jumper cables (for backup)
- a warm blanket or sleeping bag
- extra clothes
- extra food
- extra water
- pressure tire dial gauge
- tire changing supplies
- a working spare tire
- shovel or digging device
- a bike tire pump (for adding air to a tire in a pinch)
- flashlight or headlamp with extra batteries
- chains for tires (if needed depending on vehicle and tires)
The things I check prior to a trip:
- tire pressure
- make sure I have a working spare tire
- the oil to make sure it’s not low
- windshield wipers and windshield wiper fluid (super important for winter travel!)
- I always check under my vehicle for any leaks that I can’t identify
- listen for any abnormal sounds
5) Additional Gear Per Activity
If you booked a guided snowmobile tour into the park, your guide company might provide you with a packing list. When you’re on a snowmobile riding on the snow, that wind chill is going to make things feel WAY colder.
Your guide service will likely provide you with additional clothing protection for your snowmobile trip as well, but this is a good thing to ask when you’re booking a tour.
Depending on the activity, there might be additional items that you need to pack or wear, such as a helmet.
Snowshoeing or Cross Country Skiing
Of course, if you’re going to do one of these activities, make sure you pack all the appropriate gear such as your snowshoes or skis, hiking gear, and appropriate clothing.
Always tell someone where you’re going and when you’re expected to be back.
The following are additional items I pack:
- Yellowstone map – While the park does provide you with a brochure map, it’s always a good idea to have a topographical map and compass for your trip, especially if you’re going to venture out on the trails! The brochure maps are not really meant for navigation.
- Lots of snacks – Pack lots of snacks and drinks for your day in the park. I love homemade trail mix and Chomps!
- Water Bottle – Gotta stay hydrated!
- An insulated thermos – I highly recommend having a thermos full of hot coffee, tea, or hot cocoa! It’s so nice to have something hot to sip on in the cold.
- National park pass – If you have a yearly national parks pass, don’t forget to pack it!
- Microspikes – Great for getting some extra traction on icy walks or hikes. I like to always carry these in my backpack just in case.
- Multitool – I always like to have a knife on hand, but a multitool is great for quick gear repairs or other unexpected moments.
- Binoculars – If you’re going to spend the time and money to travel to Yellowstone in winter, I highly recommend that you at least have binoculars to look at the landscape and animals in the distance.
- Camera gear – Lastly, if you want to take photos and video on your trip, don’t forget your camera gear!
Have questions about planning a winter trip to Yellowstone?
I’ve got you covered! Below you’ll find a video with my top travel tips for Yellowstone in winter.
I also go over the Yellowstone map and show you what is open and what is closed in the winter months so you can plan the perfect trip!
Check out the video below: