While hiking the Wonderland Trail, you must be prepared for a wide range of weather conditions due to the extreme 23,000 feet of elevation change. During the regular hiking season, you can experience temperatures between 30 and 80 degrees. It’s almost a guarantee that you’ll encounter rain. For early or late or early season hikes, snow is common as well. This Wonderland Trail packing list outlines exactly what gear you’ll need to safely complete your hike while staying warm and dry.
Everyone’s Wonderland Trail packing list will look a bit different based on personal preference for weight and comfort as well as budget and weather. In this guide, I list each piece of gear that you’ll need to pack.
Next to each item, I discuss your options in terms of weight, durability, utility, and cost to help you decide exactly what to pack. I’ll also share a few tips to reduce your pack weight. The lighter you pack, the better for this hike.
‘Big 4’ Gear for Hiking The Wonderland Trail
- Sleeping bag or quilt- The warmth rating you need depends on the time of year that you plan to hike. Early or late in the season, you’ll want a bag with a warmth rating of 20-30 °F (-7 to -1 °C). For midseason hikes, you could get away with a 40°F bag. I think a 20°F bag is ideal for this hike. If you’re looking to save weight, I recommend you go with an ultralight quilt. For more help deciding, check out my sleeping bag vs quilt pros and cons list and my synthetic vs down sleeping bag guide. I used my Kelty Cosmic 20 Sleeping Bag.
- Tent or camping shelter- For this hike, a tent is probably the best shelter option due to the high chance that you encounter rain. A freestanding or non-freestanding tent works fine. You could also use a hammock and tarp. Whatever shelter you choose, make sure it can keep you dry during a heavy rainstorm. I used my Big Agnes Fly Creek HV UL 1 tent. Read my full review here.
- Sleeping pad- Any pad will work fine for this trip really. The weather is warm enough that you don’t really have to worry too much about r-value. To help you decide, check out my guides to foam vs inflatable sleeping pads and 3/4 length vs full length sleeping pads.
- Hiking backpack- 40-60 liters is ideal for this hike. The size of your pack depends on the type of gear that you have. If you use compact, ultralight gear, you can get away with a smaller frameless backpack. Most Wonderland Trail thru-hikers that I met used 60 liter packs. I used my trusty old Osprey Talon 44. Read my full review here. If you need to buy a pack, I recommend you buy it last so you know that all of your gear will comfortably fit.
- Footwear- Either hiking boots or trail runners will work fine. This is a personal preference. Many hikers choose trail runners because they are lighter. This improves efficiency. They also tend to breathe better and dry out quicker because they contain less material. Having said this, I wore hiking shoes. You could also wear hiking sandals if you prefer.
- 2-4 pairs of hiking socks- Choose socks that are made out of a quick-drying material like synthetic fabric or merino wool. Avoid cotton socks.
- 1-2 hiking shirts- Short or long sleeves based on personal preference and the weather. I like long sleeves for protection from the sun. I packed one short sleeve shirt and one long-sleeved shirt for my hike. Whichever you choose, make sure they are quick drying. I like merino wool shirts. Synthetic fabrics also work well. Avoid cotton.
- Shorts or hiking pants- This is a personal preference. You only need one pair of pants. You could also pack both if you don’t care about weight. I chose shorts. Whichever you choose, choose pants that are quick drying. Synthetic fabrics work well.
- 2-4 pair of underwear- Choose underwear that are made out of a quick-drying material. Synthetic materials work well. You could also choose merino wool. Avoid cotton underwear.
- Thermal base layer- For extra warmth while sleeping and hiking during cold mornings and evenings. Choose a base layer that is made from a quick-drying material that wicks sweat. Synthetics or merino wool work well. Avoid cotton.
- Jacket- For warmth while hiking or around camp in the morning and evening. Fleece, wool, or down work well. I recommend fleece for the Wonderland Trail because you’ll probably encounter rain. Fleece dries quickly. If you’re hiking very late or early in the season, you may also want to pack a down jacket to wear around camp.
- Hat- Either a warm knit hat or a sun hat or both. I packed both. As a bald guy, I need a knit hat to keep my head warm at night.
- Gloves (optional)- This is one item that I wished I had. My hands got pretty numb while breaking down camp in the morning. All season quick-drying gloves would be ideal.
- Rain jacket or poncho- Chances are, you’ll end up hiking in the rain at some point. Maybe for days on end if you get unlucky I did. To help you decide, check out my rain jacket vs poncho pros and cons list. I used a rain jacket for this hike.
- Rain pants or skirt- Something to keep your lower body dry. I wore rain pants. If you choose a poncho, you could do without these but your lower legs will still get wet.
- Backpack rain cover- To keep your pack dry. If you choose a rain poncho, you could do without the pack cover because the poncho covers your pack as well as your body.
- Backpack liner- For additional rain protection for your gear. I used a big trash bag. You can also buy purpose-built pack liners.
- Trekking poles- Because this trail contains such a significant elevation change, it can be hard on your knees. There are also some treacherous sections where you may want some extra support and help with balance. Particularly during river crossings. I recommend you use two trekking poles. You can choose from aluminum or carbon fiber.
- Gaiters (optional)- Some parts of the trail are pretty narrow. You’ll be walking through a lot of brush. Gaiters can also help to keep your legs dry if it rains. If you’re undecided if you want to pack gaiters or not, check out my gaiters guide here. I bought these Unigear leg gaiters before my hike. For the price, the build quality is surprisingly high. Check out my full review here.
- Camp shoes or sandals (optional)- It’s nice to be able to give your feet a break by getting out of your hiking boots once in a while. This allows your feet to dry out. Camp shoes are also nice if you have to get up in the night to go to the bathroom. They’re easier to put on than your boots. You can even hike easier sections in them if you get hiking sandals. Many hikers pack a pair of Crocs or Chacos to wear around camp. You could also pack a cheap pair of flip flops. This is one piece of gear that I didn’t pack but wish I had.
- Water filter- Even though the water you’ll be drinking looks crystal clear flowing from a mountain stream, you’ll still want to filter it to remove Guardia or any bacteria or contaminants that it may contain. I used the Sawyer mini. You can read my full review of the filter here.
- Water filter bag or bottle- Something to collect dirty water with before you filter it. This container must be compatible with your water filter. I used a Smart Water bottle to filter water into my water bladder. You could also use a purpose-built water filter bag.
- Water bladder or bottle- You should have the capacity to carry at least 2 liters of water for a Wonderland Trail hike.
- Camp stove- If you want to eat hot food during your hike, you’ll need to pack a camp stove. The most popular variety is probably the canister stove. They are lightweight, efficient, and easy to use. I used an alcohol stove that I made myself out of a tuna can. This option is ultralight and inexpensive but alcohol takes a long time to boil water. Particularly at altitude. You can’t use wood burning stoves on the Wonderland Trail.
- Fuel- Make sure you carry enough to last you the duration of your hike. You can also cache fuel by dropping it off at one of the food cache locations along the trail. Remember, you can’t ship fuel in your food cache. I carried 500 ml of denatured alcohol. I only cooked once per day for dinner bud I had enough.
- Eating utensils- A spork and knife works well. You can also just carry some plastic disposable utensils or even a set of regular silverware from home.
- Matches or a lighter- To light your stove. Be sure to carry backups just in case. Waterproof matches are a good item to carry. I carried a small box of wooden matches in a small ziplock bag and a Bic lighter for backup.
- Cup or bowl to eat and drink from (optional)- I usually just eat from my camp pot. Some hikers prefer to have a separate vessel for eating and drinking.
- Camp pot- Choose the smallest camp pot that you can comfortably use. To me, 750 ml is the ideal size for a single person. I like titanium camp pots because they are incredibly lightweight and durable.
- Toothbrush and toothpaste- Always take care of your teeth. Some ultralight hikers saw off their toothbrush handle to cut a couple of grams from their pack. I find this excessive. In fact, I carry an electric toothbrush.
- First aid kit- So you can patch yourself up in case you sustain a minor injury like a cut, scrape, or burn. Make sure your first aid kit is waterproof or pack it in a Ziploc bag.
- Sunblock- Protect your skin.
- Antibiotic ointment- To apply to cuts, scrapes, or blisters to prevent infection and speed up the healing process. Neosporin or Bacitracin work well.
- Insect repellent- Whether or not you need this depends on the time of year that you hike. For early and midseason, you’ll need insect repellent. For late-season hiking, you can get away without it. I carried a bottle but never used it.
- Biodegradable soap- I like multi-use soap. You can use it for washing dishes, clothes, and yourself. Remember, you shouldn’t use soap in the water sources on the Wonderland Trail. When you need to wash something, collect some water in your cookpot or water bottle and clean whatever you need to clean. When you’re done, try to disperse the soapy water away from a water source or campsite.
- Tape or moleskin- To tape blisters or hot spots on your feet. It’s also a good idea to pre-tape any problem areas so you can prevent blisters before they begin to form.
- Nail clippers- To keep your toenails trimmed short. Also useful for cutting blister tape.
- Toilet paper (optional)- All of the camps have a bathroom. Most don’t have any toilet paper. You’ll want to pack your own. You could also just use your hand and water if you’re comfortable with that method.
- Wet wipes (optional)- These are a great refresher if the water is too cold for bathing. You can also use them in place of toilet paper. I hiked in mid-September and it was way too cold to go for a swim. These were a lifesaver.
- Hand sanitizer (optional)- The wilderness camp bathrooms don’t have handwashing facilities. Hand sanitizer is a decent alternative. Alternatively, you can use your camp soap to wash your hands.
- Phone- You can use your phone for navigation, taking photos, and entertainment.
- Camera- You’ll want something to take photos with. Your phone works fine for this. I carried a cheap point and shoot in addition to my phone.
- Chargers and cables- There are a couple of places where you could potentially stop and charge your electronics. Most of them are in Longmire. If you ask nicely, I bet the rangers at any of the wilderness information centers would let you plug in your phone for a bit.
- Headlamp or flashlight- There is no light pollution on the Wonderland Trail so it gets incredibly dark at night. You’ll need some kind of lights source if you end up hiking or setting up camp at night. I prefer headlamps because you can operate them hands free. You can choose a rechargeable or replaceable battery model.
- External battery- To charge your phone, camera, and headlamp. There are very few places where you can charge your devices on the trail. A battery with 5,000-10,000 milliamp hours should be fine if you use your devices sparingly.
- Extra batteries- If your camera or headlamp takes AA batteries, you may wish to pack a spare set.
Additional Wonderland Trail Gear to Pack
- Drybag (15-20 liter)- You’ll need this to hang your food on the bear hangs in the wilderness camps. You don’t need rope. Each hang includes a pole to help you raise your bag to the hook. A couple of the camps have bear boxes next to each site. I carried a 20 liter dry bag but probably could have gotten away with 10-15 liters. The size you need depends on whether or not you’re caching food.
- Knife or multi-tool- For general use and cooking. A Swiss Army knife or Leatherman tool works well. Any cheap folding knife will do.
- Duct tape- To repair gear if anything breaks. Duct tape works well for patching rips and tears in camping gear or clothes. I recommend you wrap a little bit around a pen or your water filter to make it easier to store.
- Map- Even though the Wonderland Trail is very well marked, you’ll want a map to consult just in case you make a wrong turn. It will also help you plan your hike. The free park map that is available at any of the wilderness information centers works just fine. If you want a better map, I recommend the Mount Rainier National Park map from National Geographic. It’s waterproof, durable, and accurate. It includes the locations of all of the camps as well as an elevation profile.
Optional Wonderland Trail Hiking Gear
- Rope or string- This has a number of uses. I used it to hang some clothes to dry after a storm. Paracord works well.
- Camp pillow- This is a luxury item but it can really help you get a better night of sleep. I usually pack some clothes in one of my stuff sacks and use that for a pillow. For more info on camp pillows, check out my guide.
- Bear spray- Probably not necessary in Mount Rainier National Park. During my hike, I did see a mamma black bear and its cub walk through camp one night while I was preparing dinner. For more info on bears, check out my guide: Bear Safety Tips: How to Avoid Bears While Hiking.
- Sunglasses- Protect your eyes from harmful UV rays. For more info, check out my guide: Tips for Travel with Glasses and Contacts.
- Tent footprint- This helps to protect the floor of your tent from abrasion. Check out my guide: Do I Need a Tent Footprint? for more info.
- Sit pad- It’s nice to have a soft place to sit down that won’t get your butt wet. You could also use your sleeping pad for this if you use a foam pad.
- Stuff sacks- These are nice for organizing and compressing clothing and soft gear. You can fit a lot more gear in your pack if it’s well organized.
- Mosquito head net- This comes in handy during heavy bug season in late spring and early summer. I usually wear mine around camp and while cooking. A head net weighs less than an ounce and takes up very little space in your pack.
- Crampons- You don’t need these but may find them useful for early or late season hikes when there is snow or ice on the trail.
- Ice ax- You may find this useful for early or late season hikes through snowy or icy areas.
- GPS- The Wonderland Trail is well marked and easy to navigate. A GPS is nice for a backup form of navigation. It’s also nice for calculating distances or keeping track of your hiking stats. I had my phone with me with a map of Mount Rainier downloaded but never needed it.
- A book or eReader- for entertainment during downtime.
- Pen and paper- Some hikers like to journal or write down statistics about their hike.
- Binoculars- For viewing wildlife and scenery.
- Two-way radios or walkie talkies- If you’re hiking with a group that hikes at different paces, you may find it useful to carry these to keep in contact over long distances.
- Bandana- These offer multiple uses. Keep the sun off of your head, cover your face to keep dust and debris away, or even use it to wash with.
- Personal locator beacon (PLB) or emergency satellite device- Let someone know where you are in the event of an emergency. These devices allow you to send two-way communication over the satellite network.
Packing Food for a Wonderland Trail Hike
The food that you pack depends on your body’s needs and your personal taste. Start by considering the number of days that you plan to hike. From there, think about what you’d like to eat for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and snacks.
After buying all of your food, set it out and organize it by day. This will help you visualize what you’ll be eating. You want to make sure you have enough food for each day of your hike. Remember, you’ll need to eat more calories than you usually do because you’ll be burning so much energy hiking all day.
If you run out, you can’t easily restock along the trail. The only place you can get food is at a small shop and a restaurant in Longmire. Options there are limited and prices are very high.
A few of my favorite hiking foods include:
- Granola bars
- Instant mashed potatoes
- Instant rice
- Tunafish packets
- Dehydrated fruits
- Chocolate/ candy bars
- Dehydrated meals
- Beef jerky
- Trail mix
- Peanut butter
- Powdered milk
- Tea/ coffee/ hot chocolate packets
A few food packing tips
- Choose dehydrated foods- These help you avoid carrying unnecessary water weight. It’s easy to find water to re-hydrate foods. Most wilderness camps are located near a water source.
- Cache food and fuel to cut weight from your pack- There are four places along the trail where you can ship or drop off a food cache. These include Longmire Wilderness Information Center, Sunrise Visitors Center, White River Campground, and Mowich Lake Patrol Cabin. If you wanted, you could get by with just carrying 2-4 days of food at a time depending on your hiking speed.
- Pack some fresh foods for the first couple of days- Eat them before they spoil. For example, you could pack fresh fruit and veggies, cheese, sliced meats, etc. After the first couple of days, most of your meals will consist of packaged and processed foods.
The exact gear that you need to pack for a Wonderland Trail hike depends on the time of year that you plan to hike and the weather conditions. The weather can vary greatly at Mount Rainier. Even from day to day.
Before setting off on your hike, you’ll want to check the weather forecast so you know what to expect. Check the low temperatures at all of the wilderness information centers as well as the chance of precipitation. Sunrise is a good place to check the weather because it is one of the higher elevation parts of the trail.
It is also a good idea to call one of the wilderness information centers in the park to speak with a ranger before your hike. They can tell you about trail conditions and expected weather so you can be prepared. The rangers know the trail well. They can tell you if a bridge washed out due to heavy rain or if there is snow on the trail.
If you’re expecting particularly cold weather, you may need to pack a down jacket or a thicker base layer shirt. If you’re expecting a lot of rain, you might want to pack rain pants or a skirt to keep your lower half dry. For snowy weather, you might want to pack crampons.
How does your Wonderland Trail packing list look? Share your list and tips in the comments below!
More from Where The Road Forks
- How to Plan a Wonderland Trail Hike
- How to Get Wonderland Trail Walk-Up Permits
- Wonderland Trail Wilderness Camps List
- Hammock Vs. Tent: My Pros and Cons List
Zachary Friedman is an accomplished travel writer and professional blogger. Since 2011, he has traveled to 66 countries and 6 continents. He founded ‘Where The Road Forks’ in 2017 to provide readers with information and insights based on his travel and outdoor recreation experience and expertise. Zachary is also an avid cyclist and hiker. Living as a digital nomad, Zachary balances his professional life with his passions for hiking, camping, cycling, and worldwide exploration. For a deeper dive into his journey and background, visit the About page. For inquiries and collaborations, please reach out through the Contact page. You can also follow him on Facebook.