Perfect Moab Packing List: Arches and Canyonlands National Parks Printable Packing List

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Moab is one of our all time favorite places to travel with our family.  It’s got a massive amount of adventure activities RIGHT THERE for the whole family, and it also makes us feel right at home (after 4 years of living in the Saudi Arabian desert).  

Since Moab is in the middle of the desert, you really need to plan your trip carefully so that the heat doesn’t get the best of you.  A lot of that has to do with the clothing that you wear. Since we’re basically experts on what to wear in the desert (thank you Saudi Arabia), we wanted to share exactly what we pack and wear when we travel to Moab, Arches, and Canyonlands. We’ll first start with what you need to pack any time of year when you’re visiting Utah National Parks, and then we’ll share specifics to take for each season.

We’ve put together a list of the best activities to do around Moab, and there are plenty that are great for each season if you need ideas on what to do.

What to Pack for Moab, Arches, and Canyonlands year round

Although the clothing that you wear in Moab will vary greatly by season, the gear that you pack really doesn’t.  Since Moab is a hot spot of adventure travel, you’re going to be out EXPLORING the whole time that you’re here. What that means is that you’ll need good gear so that all your time outside is comfortable and pleasant.

family in canyonlands national park mesa arch

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A good quality backpack

On a trip to Arches and Canyonlands, a good backpack is so important, since you’ll be wearing it almost constantly.  Our top recommendations are backpacks like this from Osprey, we specifically like this women’s backpack and also the men’s version. This has been my go-to pack for the last 7 years, and I absolutely love it.  It’s a perfect backpack for hiking in Moab since the mesh panel separates the backpack from your back, keeping you significantly cooler. I also love the hydration system that it comes with, since it holds 2.5 L of water and the bite valve sticks to a magnet on your chest strap (so you don’t have to bother with the annoyance of clipping and unclipping it).  These backpacks aren’t cheap, but they’re backed by Osprey’s Lifetime Warranty so you know it’s money well spent.  

For kids, I recommend just having them hike with a hydration pack with a small pocket. We really like this hydration pack, and this one as well.

A hat with good coverage

While a hat might not be considered incredibly stylish, it’s a whole lot more stylish than a horrible sunburn, or worse skin cancer.  When the sun isn’t as intense, we all tend to prefer trucker hats like these ones. They keep the sun off of our faces, and our heads cool.  When the sun in more intense in late spring and summer, a wide brim hat like this one or a safari style hat are a great idea. They’re lightweight and breathable, yet offer great sum protection.

kids in sunday afternoon hats

For the kids, we’ve tried dozens of hats over the years and keep coming back to Sunday Afternoon Hats.  There wide brim hats have great coverage and are easy to pack, and their other hats have awesome enough designs that even my 13-year-old doesn’t complain about wearing one.

Hiking socks

When you’re anywhere around Moab, you can pretty much guarantee that you’ll be getting sand in your shoes throughout the day, and if you’re not careful, that can lead to blisters.  I recommend getting a couple pairs of hiking socks before you go to help avoid the irritation and to keep as much sand as possible from getting in your socks. Trust me, regular athletic socks really don’t cut it for the sand in Moab. Here are some great hiking socks for men, hiking socks for women, and of course, hiking socks for kids here and more socks here. While these are more money, this pair has a lifetime warranty so if you want something that lasts, get some of these socks.

Good hiking shoes

Whatever your Moab itinerary has on it, I’m pretty sure that you’ll find yourself doing a fair amount of hiking.  

hiking shoes for moab

For adults, we prefer to wear trail running shoes instead of hiking shoes, since they tend to be more flexible and comfortable.  Here are some of our top recommendations for trail running shoes for hikers.

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If you’re planning on spending time in the water in Moab doing things like rafting the Colorado River or hiking and swimming in Mill Creek, you’ll want some Chaco sandals.  I’ve been wearing Chacos for over 20 years, and they’re still my go-to favorite. I also wear these hiking a lot since they offer good footbed support and have a rugged sole.  

For kids, we’ve writtent two separate articles that break down all the best choices for you to check out:  Best Hiking Shoes for Kids, and also the Best Outdoor Sandals for Kids.

Cooler

A cooler is an absolute necessity in the deserts of Canyonlands and Arches.  We’ve broken down our favorite things about some of the best affordable high-quality coolers here.  For most of our trips, we take this cooler since it’s lightweight, durable, keeps food ultra cold, and is the perfect size for a day out with the family.  

Lightweight compact towel

Even though you are in the middle of the desert in Moab, there are plenty of things to do that involve water, and even hikes where you have mandatory stream crossings (like the popular Mill Creek).  We always through a couple of these towels in our backpack and they’re a lifesaver when we just need to dry off a bit, or when it’s just so hot that one of the kids has to jump into the nearest stream NOW!  They weigh almost nothing, and are one of our favorite items to always have on hand (ours have been to over 30 countries with us, and on almost every trip since our gap year).

Camera

The beauty of Arches, Canyonlands and the entire Moab area is something that you’ll want to capture so that you never forget it.  I shoot most of my photos on this affordable DSLR Camera, and love how easy it is to use. Of course in the desert, make sure to use special caution not to get sand in the camera of the lens as that can cause damage, but I’ve never had many problems by just being aware of that.  

Taken with my DSLR

For video, nothing quite captures footage quite like a GoPro.  We recommend you either get this one or this version, since they both have video stabilization, which instantly makes your videos look more professional.  The GoPro can also take photos remotely from their app, which lets me see what we look like before taking the photo (priceless for family photos!) One of my favorite features of shooting on a GoPro is that you can just download the footage to your phone, put it in their Quik app, and get a nice little video that puts together all your footage in just a few minutes.  

Sunscreen

We spend a massive amount of time outside, and this sunscreen has been our go-to for years.  I love that it’s got a high SPF rating (we all burn really easily), and that it doesn’t sting the kids eyes.  We always slather everyone up before an adventure, but then keep one of these sunscreen sticks in each of our backpacks to touch up throughout the day.

I burn very easily on my face and neck (and have had several spots of skin cancer removed there), so I prefer to wear this extra high SPF sunscreen that’s also really gentle on my skin.  

Bug Spray

In the spring, summer, and fall, there are certain areas around Moab where the bugs can get pretty annoying once the sun goes down.  This is our favorite bug spray since it’s all-natural, smells good, and works incredibly well.

Water bottle

A good water bottle only really needs to do one thing – not leak.  I’ve tried more water bottles that I can even remember, and the absolute best out there are Nalgene bottles.  I’ve never had one of their bottles leak or break, and I’ve been using them since I was just a kid (over 30 years ago).  While it’s tempting to get a fancy bottle, I really recommend just sticking with a regular Nalgene so you never have to worry about water spilling and ruining something else in your bag.

While I wouldn’t hike with this, we also keep this giant insulated bottle in our car for filling up water bottles with cold water throughout the day (because no one likes boiling hot water).  This bottle will keep our drinks ice cold for an entire day without needing to be in a cooler.  

What to pack for Arches and Canyonlands in the winter

If you’re planning a trip to the Moab area in the winter, come prepared for cold temperatures.  The desert gets pretty cold in the winter and high temperatures are often in the 30’s and 40’s and it even snows on occasion.  

family in canyonlands national park mesa arch
All bundled up for Canyonlands in the winter

The trick to staying warm in Moab in the winter is to dress in LAYERS.  Below I’ll show you (including exact product recommendations) what to pack for Arches in the winter, what to pack for Canyonlands in the winter, and what to pack for Moab in the winter.

For women, I love this combination of base layers, durable hiking pants, a warm shirt, a warm hat, and a down jacket.

For men, my husband wears something similar to these pants, a half-zip shirt, and a down coat.

For our kids, they always wear base layers, a warm shirt (with a t-shirt underneath) and a synthetic puffy coat (down is hard to maintain with kids).  

What to pack for Arches and Canyonlands in the Spring and Fall

If you’re planning a trip to Arches and Canyonlands in the Spring, expect warm temperatures, and cool nights.  The high temperatures often range from the 70’s to low 90’s and can get down into the 40’s at night, so you’ll need a variety of clothing for all the different temperatures (especially if you’re planning on camping or going hiking in the early morning).  

arches in the spring
Morning hike in Arches in the Spring – dressing in layers is so important, especially with cooler mornings and evenings

Here is what you need to pack for Arches in the spring and fall, Canyonlands in the spring and fall, and Moab in the spring and fall.

Here’s what we pack for Arches and Canyonlands for our family:

  • Athletic wicking t-shirts to keep you dry from sweat- Recommended: Women, Men, Boys, Girls
  • Hiking shorts – Recommended: Women, Men, Boys, Girls
  • Lightweight hiking pants – Recommended: Women, Men, Boys, Girls
  • Long-sleeve zip-up shirt
  • Fleece Jacket
  • Outdoor Sandals
  • Trail running shoes
  • Hiking Socks
  • Hat
  • Swimming Suit

What to pack for Arches and Canyonlands in the Summer

If you’re planning a trip to Arches, Canyonlands, and Moab in the summer, be prepared for the HEAT!  Here is exactly what you need to pack for your trip to Arches in the summer, Canyonlands in the summer, and Moab in the summer. The Utah desert can get crazy hot during the summer, but there are still plenty of things that you can do to stay comfortable and enjoy all the adventure activities around.  
Here’s what we pack for everyone

  • COTTON T-shirts (they will stay moist from your sweat, which actually helps cool you down)
  • Hiking Shorts
  • Fleece Jacket
  • Outdoor Sandals
  • Trail Running Shoes
  • Hiking Socks
  • Hat
  • Swimming Suit

How to manage the heat in Moab during the Summer

During the summer in Moab, you’ll need to be very conscious of the temperatures. There isn’t much shade around and the temperatures usually climb above 100 degrees.

If you want to go hiking or biking during the summer in Moab, make sure to head out early and try and be done before 10:30am. You can also hit the trail again when things start cooling down around 5pm.

In the summer the best activities to do in Moab during the middle of the day are rafting the Colorado River, swimming at Mill Creek, and spending the day at Ken’s Lake.

What to wear hiking in Arches, Canyonlands, and Moab

Choosing the right clothes to wear hiking in Arches and Canyonlands is really important because the extreme temperatures of the desert could leave you roasting hot, or freezing depending on the time of year.

little girl hiking canyonlands

In our seasonal suggestions for what to pack, I gave lots of specific suggestions for clothing that’s exactly like what we would wear hiking in Canyonlands. The real key to hiking comfort in the Moab desert is to dress in layers. Morning and evening temperatures often vary by at least 40 degrees. Also, take note of where you’ll be hiking. Temperatures in shady canyons can be up to 20 degrees cooler than out in the sunshine.

What to pack for kids in Arches, Canyonlands, and Moab

As you can see from above, our kids wear essentially the same clothing that we do.  We believe that it’s important to invest in good quality clothing for our kids, since it keeps them comfortable and helps them to stay out on adventures longer.  

boy jumping on red rocks

When you head to Moab with your kids, make sure to take a few things to help them EXPLORE.  There are lizards to be caught (not allowed in the National Parks though), critters to examine, and lots of rocks to add to their rock collection.  To help keep the kids engaged, we always through a few desert specific things for the kids into our car. Here are some of our favorites:

Kids Binoculars

A bug/lizard catching net (these telescoping ones are great for putting in your backpack and suitcase)

A bug collecting jar

A small backpack to put all the rocks they collect inside (this one doubles as a hydration pack).  

Sand buckets and shovels (these are collapsible for easy transport)

What to pack for a baby or toddler in Arches and Canyonlands

If you’re heading to Arches and Canyonlands with a baby, there are a few things that you’ll want to add to your list to help make your trip more comfortable.  

Hiking Arches National Park with our 1-year-old

The first is this baby carrier.  It’s absolutely the best for hot weather since the mesh inside helps to keep both the baby and parent cooler (as most baby carriers are REALLY HOT).  I had an older version of this when we lived in the Middle East with 2 of my babies, and it truly is the BEST. I recommend this exact carrier to all new moms and I actually prefer it over our big framed backpack carrier.

A sturdy picnic blanket where you can lay them down.  Don’t get a flimsy parachute blanket since baby will usually have it in a mess within a couple minutes of moving around.  This blanket is a good option.

If you’ve got a baby that really wants to move, but can’t walk yet, consider getting a play station like this or this one.  It’s a great way to keep them out of the sand and rocks, AND it folds up super compact so you don’t have to stress about bringing it with you.  

Soft baby shoes are also essential.  The ground in Moab seems to either be super hot or super cold, so make sure to protect your little one’s feet (even if they aren’t walking much).  We’ve loved soft baby shoes like these for our infants and fleible sole shoes like these for our beginning walkers since they help our babies really feel what’s underfoot, and it seems to help them learn to walk on uneven terrain better.

Don’t forget to bring a baby-friendly sippy cup or water bottle as well.  We’ve tried dozens with out 5 kids, and this cheap one was always the best and almost never leaks! Even if your baby is just barely starting to drink water, you need to make sure they stay hydrated, so offer water or milk to them often.  If you’re a nursing mom, staying extra hydrated in the desert is essential. Most recommendations suggest drinking 1 Gallon of water per day in the desert heat, so if you’re nursing, plan on about 1.5 gallons (5-6 L)

When is the best time of year to visit Moab, Arches, and Canyonlands?


The best time of year to visit Moab is in the Spring and in the Fall.  In winter it can get pretty cold, with temperatures below freezing each day.  In the summer, the temperatures can get up to 105-110 degrees, and there isn’t a lot of shade.  Obviously the crowds are higher in the spring and fall, so if weather doesn’t bother you, you’ll get smaller crowds by visiting Moab in the Winter or Summer. 

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