Canadian Rockies: Packing List for All Seasons
What should you pack when traveling to the Canadian Rockies and plan on visiting world-known destinations such as Banff, Jasper or Lake Louise? Here's our tried and tested the ultimate packing list for the Canadian Rockies for summer or winter vacation.
Unpredictable. That's the word which comes to our mind every time someone asks us about the weather in the Canadian Rockies.
We lived in Calgary, a city only an hour drive from the mountains for a year, and when we were already looking forward to summer, a snowstorm came. When we were freezing in the winter, suddenly, out of nowhere, warm winds blew from god knows where and we were sweating in our super-warm coats.
Layers. As it is hard to answer what the weather is going to be like during your visit when packing for your ultimate trip to the Canadian Rockies, unfortunately, you must pack a bit of everything.
Sure, summers are undoubtedly warmer than winter times, but it can be cold in the mountains any time of the year, and we must admit, that we found our down jackets handy, even in July. Do not worry, that you will overpack we believe you will use everything on the following packing list at least once.
We've decided to create this packing list for every season you can experience in the Canadian Rockies because spring, summer, autumn, and winter tend to blend into one another. Also, this list can be used by every type of travelers.
No matter if you are an avid hiker with a tent on your back, or if you travel from one place to another by rental car and get off the car for a minimum amount of time or if you plan on spending weeks in the mountains in your campervan, we've got you covered.
HOW TO GET AROUND THE CANADIAN ROCKIES
The way of transport around the Rockies will not only define how your trip will look like, but it will also help you to solve the problem with packing as well.
The most popular way how to travel the Canadian Rockies is by far, a rental car - you can rent a standard car and sleep in hotels, or you can opt for traveling in a van and stay overnight in campgrounds. Do not forget that especially in the season, from June to October you should make your reservation for both car and accommodation well in advance. Not only the road trip in the mountains gives you freedom, but it is also much easier to pack because you can store much more stuff in the car's trunk. Sure, the car is not inflatable, but it gives you more space than a backpack.
Generally, getting around the Rockies by bus is possible, but not many travelers do it this way because public transport is not regular in this part of Canada, and it can happen you won't be able to get to every destination on your itinerary.
Another option for those without own transport and plenty of time is hitchhiking.
WEATHER IN THE CANADIAN ROCKIES
Weather alias when is the best time to visit the Canadian Rockies is the hard question. If you plan on visiting the Rockies for skiing, the answer is quite straightforward - ski resorts should have enough snow between December and April, maybe even in May.
If your main intention why to visit the Rockies is to hike in the mountains and have a smooth road trip around the must-visit attractions near Banff, Lake Louise, and Jasper, your best bet is to visit Canada between late spring until mid-autumn.
Temperatures from May to October are milder, snow melts (you can still experience snow causing hiking path and road closures even during summer, so plan a backup itinerary), you can see plenty of wildlife, and overall, this is your best chance to enjoy the Canadian Rockies in its best. Early summer can be a bit rainy with hails, so be ready for this possibility as well.
You always have to make a compromise between the supposed-to-be-best-season and the number of people you want to share this incredible place with during your travels as this number is exponentially increasing closer to summer time.
We have a feeling that the Canadian Rockies are on the top of its visitors capacity especially during summer months, in July and August.
BACKPACKS & SUITCASES
No matter if you will spend most of your time in a car or if you want to explore every hiking trail possible, you need to pack your stuff somehow.
Rucksack for Him & for Her | You do not need to be backpacking in the Rockies to carry large backpack. Rucksacks are our favorite gear when traveling, and we prefer them over suitcases, even when they are safely stored in the car. Rucksacks are also necessary when you have on your itinerary some multi-day hikes such as Mount Assiniboine or Lake O'Hara.
Suitcase | If you know you will be staying in hotels when traveling in the Rockies, we can recommend you this suitcase.
Backpack for Him & for Her | For short one-day hikes, we recommend you to bring along medium-sized daypacks where you can store essential things like water, snack and extra layers. The backpack should have a good back support and waist strap.
Ultralight Packable Daypack | In case hiking is not your thing, and you will only from time to time get out of the car to admire crystal clear lakes and stunning vistas along the way, we think this light foldable backpack is the right thing for you.
Packing Cubes | Whenever we travel, we always find packing cubes useful. Not only it will keep your backpack organized, but it protects your clothes as well a bit.
Waterproof Drybags | To keep our valuables and electronic safe, we always pack three or four drybags. It doesn't weight anything, and it can save you a couple of thousands of dollars.
In this section, we will outline all clothes we think is essential to pack for the Canadian Rockies for all travelers who plan to spend their time in the mountains actively.
Thermo Underwear for Him & for Her | We don't want to freak you out, but it can get very cold at night. Thermo underwear is a great solution for how to feel comfortable. This item is optional, but those who are camping or sleeping in a van should for sure pack thermo underwear.
Hiking Socks | High-quality socks reduce impact, sliding into shoes, prevent blisters and irritation. Although it seems irrelevant, pack extra socks as it is important to start every day in dry socks. Also, we used one pair of warm socks for sleeping.
Long-Sleeved T-Shirt for Him & for Her | We used the long-sleeved t-shirts to prevent sunburnt, or when it was colder as an additional layer. Take an extra long-sleeved t-shirt for sleeping or for cold afternoons in a campground.
Fleece Jacket for Him & for Her | It is essential to pack at least one fleece jacket to stay warm when you stop hiking and take a break for a while. Fleece jacket is also useful when driving along Icefields Parkway and you stop every five minutes to go out from the car to take a milionth picture.
Down Jacket for Him & for Her | A down jacket will help you keep warm during the cold evenings in the camp or early in the morning when you arrive to the shore of Lake Louise to admire the incredible scenery. I think we did not see a single traveler without a good-quality jacket in the Rockies.
Waterproof Jacket for Him & for Her | One of the most essential gear for outdoor adventures is a waterproof jacket. It protects you from rain and snow showers as the weather in the mountains is unpredictable.
Hiking Pants for Him & for Her | Hiking pants should be comfortable, breathable and durable because you will spend most of your time wearing them. I usually prefer wearing leggings no matter where we travel but found hiking pants handy here because of cold and strong winds.
Bandana | Bandana is a great little thing which won't take any space in your backpack, and you can use it as a sun protection.
Scarf | You can use it as a head scarf, neck warmer, face warmer. You might not need it in the summer, but pack scarf when traveling from late autumn to early spring.
Winter Gloves | We recommend you to bring winter gloves in case of a snowstorm and extremely cold weather, especially when you travel in the Canadian Rockies between November and March.
Footwear should correspond with the season when you plan on traveling to the Rockies, but generally, you should have one light shoes for dry conditions and walking around towns, one hiking waterproof boots you can use for trekking or when it rains, and one pair of shoes for warmer weather and to give your feet relief.
Packing gear is always our least favorite, but we often find it useful when we expect it the least.
Mummy Liner | We never travel anywhere without cocoon because we use it as an additional layer for sleeping bag or as a protection when we stay overnight in a shabby hostel.
Hiking Poles | Nepal was the first country where we used hiking poles, and as we had a great experience from that time we always pack them. Hiking poles will help your knees when hiking downhill or uphill and are great for establishing walking pace and rhythm.
Headlamp | You do not need headlamp when staying in hotels and lodges, but you will appreciate it in campgrounds for sure.
Bear Spray | You are in a Bear Country, make sure you carry a bear spray. You can buy it in outdoor shops around Canadian Rockies, only don't be surprised to pay double the price.
Rain Poncho | Rain poncho is great when the rain is too heavy, you can also use it as an emergency shelter. We even prefer plastic rain poncho over a waterproof jacket when it rains a lot because we can cover backpacks as well.
Travel Towel | Light and fast drying towel is another must-have thing no matter where you go.
Water Bottle | Tap water in Canada is drinkable, plus you can drink water from the streams, so there is no need to buy single-use plastic bottles.
First Aid Kit | First Aid Kit is a must-have, pack all medications you use on a daily basis, plus pills against diarrhea and headache.
Duct Tape | When your backpack or boots break down, it can be hard to find a replacement when you need the most. Duct Tape might do the magic.
Pocket Knife | Because you never know when you gonna need it.
Sleeping at campgrounds is a popular way how to enjoy the mountains and it is also way how to reconnect with nature. When you plan on camping, consider packing the following items.
Tent | Weather conditions in Canada can be harsh, so make sure to pack a windproof and waterproof tent. Pack a light tent in case you will be hiking multi-day treks.
Sleeping Mat | The cold at night usually comes from the ground - air mattress should protect you the best, plus it is small and light.
Cooking Set | To save money, consider cooking own meal instead of going to restaurants every day.
Stove & Gas Cans | Pack only a stove. You can find gas cans even in small not specialized stores.
Stove Screen | When there is no shelter around, cooking is more comfortable with stove screen.
Dried Food | We tried dehydrated food for the first time here in Canada and liked it. It is a bit more expensive, but it is light, and the food is ready quickly.
Canadian Rockies: The Best 3 Weeks Itinerary
Columbia Icefields Parkway - A Guide to the Perfect Road Trip
Cory and Edith Pass Loop: The Toughest Hike in Banff National Park
Mount Assiniboine: Hiking to the Matterhorn of the Canadian Rockies
Bourgeau Lake and Harvey Pass: A Great Day Hike in the Canadian Rockies
Lake O'Hara Guide: Hiking in Yoho National Park
5 Most Beautiful Lakes in the Canadian Rockies
How to Stay Safe in Bear Country
When packing toiletries, always think twice what you really need.
We found quite useful lately when traveling only for two or three weeks to purchase small travel bottles to save space.
Sunscreen | We used SPF 50+ every day on every part of our bodies exposed to the sun as it can be extremely strong even when it is cloudy.
Lip Balm with Sunscreen | A common mistake when hiking is to use only sunscreen but forget to protect your lips. Lip Balm also helps to protect your lips against the wind.
Glasses | Contact Lenses | Multi-Purpose Solution
Electronics is an integral part of our lives, so you should pack everything you find necessary. This is what we brought with us.
iPhone | We are big fans of Apple products because they simply work. Whether you carry your mobile phone only as an alarm clock or to check the time, or if you use it as the main photo gear, we recommend you to use phone cover.
Phone Cover | When you use you phone as a camera, take a phone cover because you will take it out of your pocket too often.
iPad | iPad or small laptop are great to have so you can watch movies later at night or transfer photos from your camera.
Kindle | For us, having a portable library is a luxury we don't want to give up when traveling.
Camera | Camera and lenses were probably the heaviest things we packed with us to Canada, but they were well worth it.
Tripod | To get even better sunrise, sunset, or night photos, pack a small portable tripod.
Charger | Do not forget cables and chargers to keep your electronics working.
Spare Batteries | We always carry three extra batteries, just in case.
SD Cards | When not carrying backup solution, like a laptop, bring extra memory cards. Trust us nature around is so beautiful that you will need them.
Power Bank | In case you won't be able to charge your stuff in a hostel, bring a power bank or solar power bank.
Photo Cleaning Kit | It can rain or snow so take care of your equipment.
Travel Adapter | We solved the problem of different electrical plugs and sockets by buying a multi-plug adapter, so we don't have to think about charging our stuff no matter where we go.
GPS Watch | Smartwatch has been very trendy lately, and you can find it useful for outdoor activities.
WHERE TO STAY IN THE CANADIAN ROCKIES
There's a wide range of accommodation options in the Canadian Rockies, but during times of peak demand (especially July to October and then winter months in ski resorts), you must book your room well in advance.
Towns, where it is the most difficult to find accommodation are Lake Louise, Banff, and Jasper, but be ready that during peak season prices are skyrocketing.
For those traveling on a budget, the cheapest option is to stay in campgrounds (in a tent, car, or RV). There is no shortage of campgrounds in the Canadian Rockies, but they also tend to fill quickly when the booking site opens, and nowadays we would not travel to the Rockies without a booking.
Calgary | Are you tired after a long flight and don't want to drive? Stay at the Wingate by Wyndham Calgary Airport.
Banff | Banff Park Lodge is an environmentally friendly hotel located in the town center surrounded by stunning scenery.
Lake Louise | Stunning views of Lake Louise and Victoria Glacier from Fairmont Chateau Lake Louise will blow you away.
Jasper | Are you looking for a hotel with an excellent location, cozy rooms, sauna, and steam room? Stay in Jasper Inn & Suites.
Golden | Soak in the Golden's history tied to the Canadian Pacific Railway and the logging industry. We recommend you to stay in Best Western Mountainview Inn.
HOW TO GET TO THE CANADIAN ROCKIES
Two closest international airports are in Calgary (don't miss a visit to Calgary Tower) and Edmonton.
If you have more time, you can fly to Vancouver and make your way to the Canadian Rockies via Garibaldi Lake Provincial Park featuring amazing Garibaldi and Panorama Ridge hike, Wells Gray Provincial Park, the land of waterfalls, and Mount Robson Provincial Park.
When looking for flight tickets you can search Skyscanner to find the best price.
TRAVEL INSURANCE - SIMPLE & FLEXIBLE
We never leave our home without travel insurance which is designed to help cover your expenses if something goes wrong on your trip. World Nomads Travel Insurance has been designed by travelers for travelers, to cover your trip essentials.
Travel smarter and safer!
Some of the links on this post are affiliate links. If you choose to purchase using these links, we receive a small commission at no extra cost to you.