10 Things to Pack for a Great Smoky Mountains Vacation

smokey mountains

Ah, the Great Smoky Mountains! A haven for outdoor enthusiasts, this sprawling natural wonderland spans the border between North Carolina and Tennessee. With its lush forests, mist-covered peaks, and fascinating wildlife, it’s no wonder that this national park is a top destination for millions of visitors each year. Whether you’re planning to hike the Laurel Falls Trail, go camping under the stars, or simply enjoy the scenic drives, there’s something for everyone.

From hiking and backpacking to fishing and birdwatching, the options are endless. For the adrenaline junkies, there’s whitewater rafting and zip-lining. If you’re more into a relaxed vibe, how about a picnic by a waterfall or a leisurely horseback ride? And let’s not forget the winter sports—yes, you can even go skiing or snowboarding if you time your visit right.

In this article, we will talk about the top 10 things you absolutely must pack for your Great Smoky Mountains vacation!

Weather-Appropriate Clothing

First things first, let’s talk about what you’re going to wear. The weather in the Smoky Mountains can be quite unpredictable. One minute, it’s sunny, and the next, you could be caught in a downpour. So, it’s essential to check the weather forecast before you start packing.

Layering is your best friend here. A moisture-wicking base layer can keep you dry and an insulating layer like fleece or down jacket can keep you warm. Don’t forget a waterproof and windproof outer layer. This way, you can add or remove layers depending on the Smoky Mountains activities you decide to indulge in.

Additionally, rain gear is non-negotiable. Businesses like Smoky Mountain Outdoors believe that getting wet is part of the fun! Therefore, they continue offering rafting services even in the rain. Even if the forecast looks clear, it might be a good idea to pack a lightweight rain jacket and perhaps some rain pants. As for footwear, hiking boots are a must if you plan to explore the trails. But also consider packing some comfortable sandals or water shoes for those lazy days by the river.

Navigation Tools

Getting lost is not on anyone’s vacation itinerary, right? That’s why you need reliable navigation tools. Traditional paper maps, like topographic or trail maps, are always a good idea. They don’t require a battery and are immune to technical glitches.

However, technology can be a lifesaver—literally. A GPS device or a compass can help you find your way if you venture off the beaten path. There are also several mobile apps designed for outdoor navigation, but remember, your phone’s battery won’t last forever, so make sure to have a backup plan.

Food and Water Supplies

You’re going to need fuel for all the mountain activities. Packing enough food and water is crucial. For food, think non-perishable items like trail mix, energy bars, and canned goods. If you have access to a cooler, fresh fruits and veggies are a great addition.

Staying hydrated is equally important. Always carry enough water for the day’s activities, and consider packing a water filter or purification tablets as a backup. You’ll find plenty of streams and rivers in the Smokies, but you’ll want to make sure that water is safe to drink.

First Aid Kit

Accidents happen, especially when you’re out exploring nature. A well-stocked first aid kit is a must-have. Make sure it includes basics like bandages, antiseptics, and pain relievers. If you’re planning more adventurous activities, consider adding specialized items like a snakebite kit or blister care products.

Shelter and Sleeping Gear

Whether you’re camping or just planning a long day hike, having adequate shelter is essential. A good-quality tent that’s appropriate for the season can make or break your outdoor experience. Don’t skip on a sleeping bag and pad either; your back will thank you.

Insect Repellent and Sun Protection

You know what can quickly ruin a perfect day outdoors? Mosquito bites and sunburn. You don’t want to be swatting away bugs when you’re trying to enjoy a beautiful sunset or nursing a sunburn when you should be exploring.

Next, insect repellent is a must. Whether you go for a spray, lotion, or even those nifty wristbands, make sure it’s effective against a broad range of insects. And don’t forget about ticks; they’re not just annoying but can also carry diseases.

As for sun protection, pack a good sunscreen with at least SPF 30. A wide-brimmed hat can also go a long way in keeping the sun off your face and neck. Oh, and lastly, bring a pair of sunglasses to protect your eyes from harmful UV rays.

Multi-tool or Knife

A multi-tool or a good knife is invaluable when you’re out in the wilderness. From cutting a piece of string to fixing a loose screw on your camera tripod, you’ll be surprised how often it comes in handy.

There are plenty of multi-tools out there with various gadgets like scissors, screwdrivers, and even bottle-openers. Just think about what activities you’ll be doing and choose one that fits your needs.


Ever tried setting up a tent in the dark? Or stumbled back to your campsite after watching the stars? Yeah, not fun. That’s why you need to think about lighting.

Headlamps are a great hands-free option, especially if you’re hiking or cooking. Flashlights are also good to have, and they’re perfect for those midnight bathroom trips. If you’re camping, a lantern can create a nice ambiance around the campsite. Just make sure you pack some extra batteries or even a solar charger to be on the safe side.

Emergency Communication Devices

Let’s face it: Your smartphone might not have the best reception in remote areas, and the last thing you want is to be cut off from the world in case of an emergency. So, what’s the solution?

Satellite phones are an excellent option for staying connected, but they can be pricey. Emergency beacons are another choice; they can send out a distress signal to rescue services if needed. If you want to go old-school, a whistle and a signal mirror can also be effective in attracting attention. Just make sure you know how to use them.

Entertainment and Comfort Items

Alright, you’ve got all the essentials covered, but what about downtime? Believe it or not, you won’t be hiking or fishing every single minute. So, bring along something to keep you entertained during those quiet moments.

A good book or a deck of cards can provide good entertainment. And for those little comforts that make a big difference, consider packing a travel pillow or a lightweight, portable chair.


There you have it, the top 10 things you must pack for your Great Smoky Mountains vacation. Being well-prepared not only ensures your safety but also enhances your overall experience. After all, vacations are meant to be enjoyed, not endured. Now that you’re armed with this checklist, all that’s left is to soak in the natural beauty and thrilling activities the Smokies have to offer. So, book your next vacation to The Great Smoky Mountains and have fun!

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