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Essentials To Pack For Olympic National Park

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After visiting nearly 20 National Parks in the United States, I felt like we were prepared for whatever we would encounter on our west coast road trip.  Even though we followed all the advice that we regularly share with our followers about how to pack and dress for family adventures, we still found ourselves unprepared on our family trip to Olympic National Park.  After a few emergency pieces of gear were purchased when we arrived, we quickly learned that what to pack for Olympic National Park is very different than what to pack for most national parks.  

Despite having camped in Glacier in the snow, Joshua Tree during a heat wave, and Yellowstone during a terrific windstorm, we still found ourselves unprepared when we visited Olympic.  Below we’re sharing the exact gear that you need to pack for Olympic National Park so that you stay warm, dry, and comfortable on your adventures.

Weather in Olympic National Park

Hurricane Ridge Olympic National Park
The weather can change rapidly in Olympic National Park. An hour after this photo, we were in a snowy blizzard.

Olympic National Park receives more rainfall than any other national park in the United States.  The park is hugely diverse, encompassing temperate rainforest, alpine mountains, and coastal areas.  The Hoh Rainforest section of Olympic National Park receives more than 12 feet of rain annually, and it rains more days than it doesn’t, so plan on getting wet on your trip.  Additionally, the weather is often colder to accompany that rain.  During our visit in June, we didn’t see temperatures above 50 degrees and the lows were in the 30’s – this is normal weather for Olympic National Park in early summer. In July and August, the temperatures can get into the 70’s, but it still cools down a lot at night.

What To Wear In Olympic National Park

Waterproof Shoes

A good pair of waterproof shoes for hiking in Olympic National Park is an absolute must have item.  With the amount of rain in Olympic Park, you’ll likely get rained on at least once daily, and when it starts to rain, the trails can turn into giant puddles or have so much water running down the trail that there is a stream running straight down the trail.  

hiking through water in olympic national park

For kids, we’ve written up our favorite kids hiking shoes with lots of great options, though these kids trail running shoes are our all time favorite waterproof hiking shoes for kids.  They’re ultra durable, have great traction and are flexible enough that the kids can use them to run and even play sports at home.

For adult hiking shoes, we recommend these waterproof hiking shoes for women and these waterproof shoes for men.  They’re both super durable and will last for years and years so it’s a purchase that will last you a long time.  

Best Rain Gear for Olympic National Park

Getting good rain gear for visiting Olympic National Park will be one of the best investments that you will make.  Coming from the deserts of Utah, our family is used to short bursts of rain, and all of us have great little rain jackets that pack up small.  Sadly, we found that most of our packable rain gear didn’t stand up to the test of hour after hour of rain while hiking in Olympic.  We chose lightweight gear for this long extended trip, but should have brought some of our more durable waterproof gear for the whole family.

The gear that did hold up best was our kids Shred Dog Hardshell jackets. These are the outer jackets that our kids use for skiing, but they also work awesome in hard rain.

Use code BTK25 for 25% off any Shred Dog order.

Kids shred dog hardshell jackets in rain
kids Shred Dog hardshell jackets in the rain

We headed to the store and luckily found some of our favorite waterproofing spray as a quick fix, but some pieces of our gear still struggled with all the rain! 

For kids rain gear, it’s hard to beat Reima kids rain gear.  It’s some of the best quality and will last for years and years.  For older kids, they will likely be okay with just a good kids rain jacket from Reima, but younger kids (8 and under at least) need a full rainsuit or a combination of a rain jacket and rain pants for Olympic. 

kids waterproof rain jackets

For adults, we love these rain jackets available in both mens and womens styles.  They’re incredibly waterproof and also has good coverage to help keep cover your backside as well.  This rain jacket is great because it has pit zips for ventilation, is wind proof, and also has a very generous hood so it keeps your head and your face dry while still allowing you great visibility. Packing rain gear for Olympic National Park is really easy since it folds up small, and will make your trip so much more comfortable (do not plan on just using a plastic poncho – you will be miserable).

Wool Socks For Hiking Olympic National Park

At some point your feet are going to get wet while you’re here and when that happens, you’ll be beyond thankful that you have wool socks on.  Do yourself a favor and put wool hiking socks near the top of your packing list for Olympic National Park. Wool socks do a great job of insulating even when wet and also have some antimicrobial properties so you can get by wearing them for several days before they get too stinky.  These are our favorite hiking socks for toddlers, kids, and adults.  I’ve personally been using these as my go-to hiking socks for over 10 years and they’re still in great condition, so grab a couple of pairs for your Olympic Hiking Trip.

Merino Wool Base Layers

When most people think of Merino Wool base layers, the first thing that comes to mind are snow sports like skiing and snowboarding.  The truth is that merino wool is the most amazing material and we wear it year round. Merino wool base layers are one of the most important things to pack for Olympic National Park.  Not only does the material insulate well but it also wicks away moisture to regulate your temperature and is incredibly breathable.  When we’re camping we bring along base layers in place of pajamas, use them as our first layering piece, and always wear them in the rain to help keep us warm even if we get wet.  

Bring The Kids Iksplor-7

We’ve tested out all the best kids baselayers and these are our favorite merino wool base layers for kids.  (Save 20% off your order with code bringthekids)

For adults, you simply cannot beat these amazing base layers.  For women, I like this top and these base layer bottoms, for men these are the base layer tops and bottoms that my husband uses and loves.  If you take care of your merino wool base layers, they will easily last 5 years or more with regular use and proper care. 

Quick Dry Hiking Pants

Even if it’s not raining while you’re out hiking, it’s very likely that the plants along the edge of the trail you’re hiking in Olympic will be wet, so make sure to pack a pair or two.  We noticed that all of our pants were wet directly after hiking from the calf down, simply from brushing up against wet plants.  This means that you’ll want to wear wick drying hiking pants, and absolutely do not hike in jeans in Olympic.
Best hiking pants for girls
Best hiking pants for boys
Best mens hiking pants
Best womens hiking pants

Quick Dry hiking pants

A Backpack With A Rain Cover

Whenever we go hiking, we always take a day pack of some sort.  It holds our basic first aid kit, snacks or lunch, water bottles, a camera, and some TP and a small trowel in case someone needs to use the “restroom”.  In Oympic with it’s wet weather, you’ll want to make sure that you have a backpack with a rain cover to fit over the outside. 

A backpack rain cover will help keep everything in your backpack dry so you don’t have to worry about any electronics or your food items getting wet.  We love both this backpack (my go-to pack for over 8 years) and this backpack that have included rain covers.  If you have a backpack that you already love, consider getting this backpack cover and always keeping it in one of the interior pockets in case of rain.  

Bug Spray for Olympic

Lots of wet areas means lots of places for bugs to live, especially mosquitoes. This is our all time favorite bug spray.  It’s incredibly effective, and best of all, is all natural and won’t leave you feeling and smelling like a deep woods hunter. The bugs in Olympic National Park can get pretty bad, so packing a high quality bug spray is a MUST.

Quick Dry Compact Towels

Perhaps one of the most often overlooked, yet brilliant items to pack on your trip to Olympic National Park is a quick drying towel.  We take these on every trip and keep one stashed in the bottom of my hiking backpack for times we need to hurry and dry off (which seemed to be quite often in Olympic.  They’re super lightweight, and fold up really small (about the size of a water bottle), and best of all they dry really fast.  We like these for hikes into beaches as well as hikes through the forest or to lakes (perfect for when we decide to go for a spontaneous swim).

Swimming Suit

Don’t forget that there are huge portions of beaches at Olympic National Park, and you won’t want to miss them.  While the water here is quite chilly (especially on cooler days), we still loved the opportunity to come and check out the tide pools, and play in the sand.  Having a swimming suit on hand allowed us to have a fresh set of clothes to play at the beach without getting our hiking clothes covered in sand, so take one along even if you don’t plan on swimming.  We also thoroughly enjoyed swimming at Sol Duc Hot Springs Resort, so you’ll want to make sure you have a swimming suite for visiting there.

Lightweight Jacket

While you hopefully won’t need your full winter coat (though we did get snowed on at Hurricane Ridge), you will want a jacket that does a good job at insulating AND is lightweight.  All of our kids practically lived in these puffy coats during this trip, and this is my favorite adults lightweight jacket.  We love all of these jackets because they kept us warm, but weren’t too bulky to stash in a backpack when the sun came out.  

Planning A Trip To Olympic National Park

Planning a trip to Olympic National Park is not small endeavor. We’ve taken the guessowrk out of it for you by putting together a series of articles to help make planning a family trip to Olympic even easier. Check out these other helpful articles:

Best Hikes With Kids in Olympic National Park
The Ultimate 2 Day Olympic Itinerary
11 Incredible Adventures For Kids In Olympic

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