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What To Bring To Zion Narrows Backpacking


by Carrissa Erickson



Welcome to the breathtaking Zion Narrows, a world-renowned hiking destination that offers a truly unforgettable experience for outdoor enthusiasts. Nestled within Zion National Park in Utah, the Narrows is a stunning slot canyon where the Virgin River flows through narrow walls, creating a unique and awe-inspiring landscape. Whether you are a seasoned backpacker or a first-time adventurer, exploring the Zion Narrows is a must-do for those seeking an immersive and challenging hiking experience.


Before embarking on your adventure, it’s crucial to be well-prepared. This article will guide you on what to bring to the Zion Narrows for a successful backpacking trip. From essential gear to optional items, we’ll cover everything you need to make the most of your journey.


When venturing into the Zion Narrows, you’ll find yourself walking through knee-deep water, navigating uneven terrain, and marveling at towering sandstone walls that tower above you. It’s essential to pack the right gear to ensure your safety, comfort, and enjoyment throughout the trip.


So, grab your gear and let’s dive into the essentials of what to bring to the Zion Narrows backpacking adventure.


Essential Gear

When preparing for a backpacking adventure in the Zion Narrows, certain items are absolutely essential to ensure a safe and enjoyable experience. Here are the must-have gear items to pack:

  1. Backpack: Choose a backpack with a capacity of at least 30-40 liters to comfortably carry your gear and supplies.
  2. Hiking Shoes: Invest in a sturdy and waterproof pair of hiking shoes or boots with good ankle support to navigate the rocky and uneven terrain of the narrows.
  3. Trekking Poles: Trekking poles provide stability and support while hiking through the river and navigating slippery rocks.
  4. Waterproof Dry Bag: Ensure that your important gear and electronics stay dry by packing them in a waterproof dry bag.
  5. Water Shoes or Sandals: Pack a pair of water shoes or sandals for wading through the water, as well as for campsite use.
  6. Water Filtration System: Since drinking water sources are limited in the narrows, bring a reliable water filtration system to purify water from the river.
  7. Headlamp or Flashlight: Essential for navigating the narrows in low-light conditions or during early morning or evening hikes.
  8. Trekking or Dry Fit Clothing: Wear moisture-wicking and quick-drying clothing to keep you comfortable throughout the hike.
  9. Swimwear: A swimsuit or quick-drying shorts will come in handy if you want to take a refreshing dip in the crystal-clear pools along the route.
  10. Sun Protection: Don’t forget to bring a hat, sunglasses, and sunscreen to protect yourself from the intense desert sun.

These essential gear items will help ensure that you are comfortable, safe, and prepared during your backpacking journey through the Zion Narrows. Remember to check the weather conditions and pack accordingly to be ready for any changes in temperature or precipitation. Now that we have the essentials covered, let’s move on to clothing and footwear recommendations for the Zion Narrows.


Clothing and Footwear

Choosing the right clothing and footwear for your Zion Narrows backpacking adventure is crucial to ensure comfort and protection in varying weather conditions. Here are some recommendations to consider:


Hiking Shoes: Opt for a pair of sturdy and waterproof hiking shoes or boots with excellent grip and ankle support. The terrain in the narrows can be slippery and uneven, so it’s important to have footwear that can handle these conditions.


Water Shoes or Sandals: Packing a pair of water shoes or sandals is essential for wading through the river. Look for options that offer good traction and are made of quick-drying materials.


Trekking or Dry Fit Clothing: Choose moisture-wicking and quick-drying clothing to keep you comfortable throughout the hike. Lightweight hiking pants or shorts and breathable shirts are highly recommended. Avoid wearing cotton as it retains moisture and can make you feel cold and uncomfortable.


Layered Clothing: As temperatures can fluctuate throughout the day, especially in spring and fall, layering is key. Bring a lightweight, waterproof jacket or windbreaker, as well as a warm layer such as a fleece or down jacket for cooler mornings and evenings.


Swimwear: If you plan on taking a dip in the beautiful pools along the route, pack a swimsuit or quick-drying shorts.


Sun Protection: The Zion Narrows can be exposed to the sun, so protection is essential. Bring a hat, sunglasses, and a high SPF sunscreen to shield yourself from harmful UV rays.


Extra Socks: Keeping your feet dry is crucial, so pack extra pairs of moisture-wicking socks. Consider bringing liners to prevent blisters.


Gaiters: Gaiters can be useful for preventing sand, rocks, and debris from entering your shoes or boots.


Bug Repellent: Depending on the time of year, mosquitoes and other insects may be present. Pack insect repellent to protect yourself from bites.


Remember to consider the season and weather conditions when choosing your clothing and footwear. It’s always a good idea to check the weather forecast before your trip and make any necessary adjustments to your gear. Now that we have covered clothing and footwear, let’s move on to the backpacking equipment you’ll need for the Zion Narrows.


Backpacking Equipment

Having the right backpacking equipment is essential for a successful adventure in the Zion Narrows. Here are the key items you’ll need:


Backpack: Choose a backpack with a capacity of at least 30-40 liters to comfortably carry your gear and supplies. Look for a pack that is durable, lightweight, and has a waterproof cover or is made of water-resistant material.


Tent or Shelter: While camping in the Zion Narrows is not allowed, it is important to have a lightweight and compact tent or bivy sack if you plan to stay overnight in designated campsites or backcountry areas nearby.


Sleeping Bag and Pad: Pack a sleeping bag that suits the weather conditions, with a temperature rating that aligns with the expected nighttime temperatures. Additionally, bring a sleeping pad for insulation and added comfort.


Cooking Equipment: If you plan to cook your meals, bring a lightweight backpacking stove, fuel canister, and cookware. Opt for compact and lightweight options to minimize the weight and space taken up in your pack.


Water Reservoirs or Bottles: Ensure you have enough water reservoirs or bottles to carry an adequate water supply throughout the hike. Consider bringing a hydration bladder for easy access to water while on the move.


Food Storage: Use lightweight, airtight containers or resealable bags to store your food and protect it from water damage and animals.


Utensils: Pack lightweight utensils such as a spork, knife, and a collapsible bowl or plate for eating your meals.


Camping Lights: Carry a lightweight and compact camping light or headlamp for illuminating your campsite or hiking in low light conditions.


Multi-tool: A multi-tool can come in handy for various tasks such as opening bottles, cutting ropes, or fixing gear.


Packing Cubes or Dry Bags: Organize your gear and keep it dry by using packing cubes or dry bags to separate and protect different items within your backpack.


Fire Starting Kit: Bring a fire starting kit, including waterproof matches or a lighter, in case you need to build a fire for warmth or cooking (check for fire restrictions in the area).


Remember to invest in high-quality, lightweight gear that will withstand the rugged conditions of the Zion Narrows while minimizing the weight and bulk in your backpack. Next, we’ll discuss the important aspects of food and water for your backpacking trip.


Food and Water

Proper nutrition and hydration are vital during your backpacking adventure in the Zion Narrows. Here are some tips for planning your food and water supply:


Water: Given the limited water sources in the narrows, it’s crucial to have a reliable method of purifying water. Carry a water filtration system, such as a portable water filter or purifying tablets, to ensure you have safe drinking water throughout your trip. Keep track of the distance between water sources and plan accordingly.


Hydration: It’s important to drink plenty of water to stay hydrated, especially in the desert environment. Aim to drink at least 2-3 liters of water per day, and more if you are exerting yourself or hiking in high temperatures.


Food: Choose lightweight, nutritious, and easy-to-pack foods that provide sustained energy. Opt for dehydrated meals, energy bars, trail mix, jerky, and dried fruits which have a longer shelf life and won’t weigh you down. Consider any dietary restrictions or preferences when planning your meals.


Cooking: If you plan to cook your meals, choose meals that require minimal preparation and cooking time. Pre-packaged dehydrated meals or one-pot meals are convenient options. Don’t forget to bring a lightweight stove, fuel canister, and cookware for meal preparation.


Snacks: Pack a variety of quick and easy snacks to keep you fueled during your hikes. Granola bars, nuts, energy gels, and fresh fruits that don’t require refrigeration are excellent choices.


Food Waste: Minimize your impact on the environment by properly disposing of food waste. Pack out any wrappers, peels, or leftover food to leave the Narrows clean and unspoiled.


Meal Planning: Plan your meals ahead of time and portion them into resealable bags or containers. This not only saves space but also ensures you have enough food for each day of your trip.


Remember to pack extra food and water in case of unexpected delays or emergencies. Staying properly hydrated and nourished will enhance your stamina, endurance, and overall enjoyment of the Zion Narrows backpacking experience. Next, we’ll delve into the crucial aspects of navigation and safety.


Navigation and Safety

When embarking on a backpacking trip through the Zion Narrows, it is essential to prioritize navigation and safety to ensure a smooth and secure journey. Here are some important considerations:


Map and Compass: Carry a detailed map and compass of the Zion National Park area, including the Narrows. Familiarize yourself with the route, landmarks, and potential hazards before setting out. GPS devices or smartphone apps with offline maps can also be helpful, but should not be relied upon as the sole navigational tool.


Narrows Permit: Obtain the necessary permits required to access and hike in the Zion Narrows. Permits for overnight camping may be limited, so plan and apply well in advance to secure your permit.


Weather Monitoring: Stay informed about the weather conditions, as flash floods can occur in the Narrows, especially during the rainy season (July to September). Check for weather updates from the National Park Service before your trip and during your hike.


River Crossing Safety: Be cautious when crossing the river. Look for calm and shallow areas, avoid swift currents, and use hiking poles for stability. Water levels can rise quickly, so be prepared to turn back if conditions become hazardous.


Hiking in Groups: Whenever possible, hike in groups of two or more for added safety. If someone gets injured or encounters difficulties, having a fellow hiker can provide assistance and support.


Leave No Trace: Respect the environment and follow the principles of Leave No Trace. Pack out all trash, dispose of waste properly, and refrain from damaging or disturbing the natural surroundings.


Emergency Contacts: Inform someone about your hiking plans, including your expected route and return time. Carry a fully charged cell phone, but be aware that there may be limited or no reception in the Narrows. Identify emergency exits and familiarize yourself with evacuation routes.


Basic Wilderness Skills: Learn basic wilderness first aid skills and how to deal with common injuries such as blisters, sprains, or minor cuts. Carry a fully stocked first aid kit and know how to use its contents.


Signage and Markers: Pay attention to signs, trail markers, and cairns along the route to ensure you stay on the designated paths. These markers can help you navigate through the Narrows’ sometimes bewildering terrain.


Wildlife Awareness: Observe wildlife from a safe distance and never attempt to feed or approach them. Be aware of potential encounters with rattlesnakes or other desert-dwelling creatures and know how to respond calmly and appropriately.


Prioritizing navigation and safety measures is essential for an enjoyable and secure journey through the Zion Narrows. By preparedness, staying informed, and practicing caution, you can fully immerse yourself in the beauty of this unique and awe-inspiring natural wonder. Next, let’s explore the importance of a well-stocked first aid kit for any unexpected medical situations.


First Aid Kit

When venturing into the Zion Narrows, having a well-stocked first aid kit is crucial to handle any minor injuries or medical situations that may arise. Here are some essential items to include in your backpacking first aid kit:


Bandages and Dressings: Pack a variety of adhesive bandages, gauze pads, and medical tape to dress and cover cuts, blisters, and scrapes.


Tweezers and Scissors: These tools are useful for removing splinters, thorns, or other foreign objects. Scissors can also be used for cutting tape, bandages, or clothing.


Antiseptic Wipes and Ointment: Clean wounds with antiseptic wipes and apply an antibiotic ointment to prevent infection.


Pain Relievers: Include over-the-counter pain medications such as ibuprofen or acetaminophen to alleviate headaches, muscle aches, and pain.


Blister Treatment: Pack moleskin or blister cushions to protect and alleviate discomfort caused by blisters. Don’t forget to include adhesive tape to secure them in place.


Anti-Inflammatory Medication: Include anti-inflammatory medications like aspirin or ibuprofen to reduce pain and swelling from sprains or strains.


Allergy Medication: If you have known allergies or are prone to allergic reactions, carry antihistamines or any prescribed allergy medication.


Tweezers and Scissors: These tools are useful for removing splinters, thorns, or other foreign objects. Scissors can also be used for cutting tape, bandages, or clothing.


Emergency Blanket: Include a lightweight emergency blanket to provide warmth and insulation in case of unexpected cold temperatures or exposure.


Personal Medications: If you take prescription medication, ensure you have an adequate supply for the duration of your trip.


Medical Information: Include a copy of any important medical information, such as allergies, current medications, and emergency contact details.


Note: It is important to familiarize yourself with the contents of your first aid kit and how to use them effectively. Consider taking a basic first aid and CPR course before your trip to enhance your knowledge and confidence in handling emergencies.


Having a well-prepared first aid kit can provide peace of mind when exploring the Zion Narrows. Remember to regularly check the expiration dates of medications and replace any used or expired items. Additionally, know your own limitations and seek medical assistance if a situation exceeds your skill level. With these measures in place, you’ll be better equipped to handle any minor medical issues that may occur during your adventure. Next, we’ll discuss some optional gear that you may consider depending on your preferences and needs.


Optional Gear

While the essential gear we’ve discussed so far is crucial for a safe and comfortable backpacking trip through the Zion Narrows, there are also some optional items you may consider bringing based on your preferences and needs. Here are a few optional gear items to enhance your experience:


Camera or Phone with Waterproof Case: Capture the stunning beauty of the Narrows by bringing a camera or smartphone with a waterproof case. Preserve those unforgettable moments and share them with others.


Hiking Gloves: Hiking gloves can offer protection against rough surfaces, provide better grip, and help prevent blisters while gripping slippery rocks.


Trekking Gaiters: Gaiters can protect your lower legs from sand, debris, and water. They provide an extra layer of defense against the elements.


Portable Camp Chair: If you plan on staying in designated campsites, a lightweight and compact camp chair can provide a comfortable place to relax and enjoy the surroundings.


Waterproof Phone Case or Dry Bag: Keep your phone protected from water by using a waterproof case or storing it in a dry bag. This is especially important when wading through the river.


Portable Power Bank: If you rely heavily on your phone or other electronic devices, a portable power bank can keep your devices charged throughout your trip.


Trekking Towel: A quick-drying and lightweight towel can be handy for drying off after river crossings or taking a dip in the scenic pools.


Bug Net or Bug Repellent Clothing: Depending on the time of year and the prevalence of insects, consider bringing a bug net or clothing treated with insect repellent to protect yourself from pesky bugs.


Binoculars: If you enjoy bird watching or wildlife observation, a pair of lightweight binoculars can enhance your experience and allow you to appreciate the incredible diversity of the area.


Portable Camp Stove: If you prefer to cook your meals from scratch, a lightweight backpacking stove can provide you with the flexibility to prepare a wider variety of dishes.


Extra Clothing: If you anticipate changing weather conditions or want additional comfort, consider packing an extra set of clothes, including an extra pair of socks and a warm layer.


Remember, the optional gear items are subjective and depend on your personal preferences, interests, and specific trip requirements. Consider the weight and space limitations of your backpack when deciding which optional items to bring. Prioritize the items that will enhance your comfort, safety, and enjoyment throughout the journey.


Now that we’ve covered the essential and optional gear, you are well-equipped to embark on your backpacking adventure through the Zion Narrows. Remember to thoroughly plan your trip, pack accordingly, and always prioritize safety and environmental stewardship. Enjoy exploring the natural wonders of the Zion Narrows!



Embarking on a backpacking trip through the Zion Narrows is an unforgettable adventure that allows you to immerse yourself in stunning natural beauty. By packing the essential gear, appropriate clothing, and staying well-prepared, you will ensure a safe and enjoyable journey.


Investing in quality hiking shoes, trekking poles, and a sturdy backpack will provide the foundation for a comfortable hike through the river and rocky terrain. Don’t forget to pack appropriate clothing, including quick-drying and moisture-wicking materials, to keep you comfortable throughout the hike while protecting yourself from the elements.


Having the necessary backpacking equipment, such as a reliable water filtration system and a well-stocked first aid kit, is crucial to sustain yourself and handle any potential emergencies. Prioritize navigation and safety by carrying a map, obtaining necessary permits, and being aware of weather conditions and potential hazards.


While optional gear can enhance your experience, remember to prioritize weight and space limitations. Consider bringing a camera or waterproof phone case to capture breathtaking moments, and optional items such as gloves, gaiters, or a portable camp chair for added comfort and convenience.


Before embarking on your journey, be sure to familiarize yourself with Leave No Trace principles and practice responsible outdoor ethics. Respect the environment, wildlife, and fellow hikers by leaving the Narrows as you found it.


Ultimately, the Zion Narrows offers a truly remarkable and rewarding backpacking experience. By being well-prepared and equipped, you can fully immerse yourself in the beauty of the narrows, create lasting memories, and embrace the sense of adventure that comes with exploring this remarkable natural wonder.