A Comprehensive Great Smoky Mountains Backpacking List

Are you are planning to visit the wondrous Great Smoky Mountains, then you’ve made the right decision. I’m Eddie, and I’ve been to this park numerous times and still have the burning desire to go there again and again. I want to share some insights on packing list when going hiking or trekking to the Great Smoky Mountains.

This incredibly beautiful national park is placed right on the border between two states – Tennessee and North Carolina. To visit the park, you need a National Parks pass (just like with all other Federal Parks). The regular price for the annual pass is $80, but for seniors, the annual pass costs $20, and for people with permanent disabilities and children up to 4th grade the entrance is free. 

If you wonder what to bring to the Great Smoky Mountains, read this comprehensive guide. The article below is divided into two parts so that you can prepare yourself for hiking and trekking in the warm and cold season.

Great Smoky Mountains Packing List for the Spring and Summer

No universal and definitive packing list would suit the Great Smoky Mountains. In fact, there can be no such thing due to the continuous passing of seasons and the constantly changing weather. So, let’s start with the essentials for trekking and hiking in the spring and summer. Additionally, I have divided all of the items into five groups, so it would be easier for you to check whether you have packed the mentioned items. 

Great Smoky Mountains Hiking Gear

  • Sturdy and waterproof hiking shoes
  • Sweat-resistant, light socks
  • Walking stick or trekking poles

Both hiking and trekking are activities that go hard on your feet. It doesn’t matter whether you are a veteran of hiking or only starting out, protecting your feet is of the essence. This is exactly the reason why you should never cheap out on footwear. If you opt for regular shoes, you can do severe damage. 

During hiking and trekking, if wearing not suitable or low-quality shoe, there is a real possibility of spraining or twisting your ankle. Thus, I recommend choosing some sturdy shoes that will protect you from rocks, plants, and challenging tracks.

Also, don’t forget to buy high-quality wool socks. During the trip, your feet will get sweaty, and cheap socks will instantly get new holes. Close contact of the boot with your skin may chafe it, which can lead to all kinds of medical conditions. So, don’t skim on the socks! I can’t stress enough the importance of a good shoes/socks combo. 

Lastly, I recommend carrying a walking stick or trekking poles. If you’re only a beginner who is confused, why would anyone completely healthy need a walking aide, let me explain. You’re carrying a lot of weight when you’re hiking (and especially when you’re trekking). This weight goes exactly into your back and knees. 

Hiking staff such as a trekking pole will help to relieve that stress by distributing the weight a bit. Additionally, these poles are especially useful on sloping grounds, because they serve as anchor points and reduce the possibility of you falling.

Clothing for Hiking and Trekking

  • Insulated, warm jacket
  • Waterproof rain jacket
  • Sun hat with a brim or bill or bandana
  • Sweat-wicking underwear
  • Sports bra (women)
  • Tank top (women)
  • Comfortable, soft sleeping clothes
  • Light T-shirts
  • Synthetic or cotton long sleeves
  • Synthetic jacket or pullover sweatshirt
  • Synthetic athletic bottoms
  • Shorts and pants
  • Neoprene socks

The clothing part of the list is very season- and activity-dependent. The weather prognosis combined with the season will dictate what you pack regarding more usual clothes. The activities in which you’ll participate will define what extra clothes you need to take with. 

For example, if you’re going to visit the Great Smoky Mountains during summer, then you’ll need clothes that allow air to pass through rather than warm clothes. However, everything is situational, and the weather is king here.

Regardless of the forecasted weather, always take at least one warm-keeping and one water-resistant jacket. Both are vital, as, no matter the season, nights are still cool (and sometimes cold) in the mountains. Also, rain can brew up seemingly from nowhere at the most unexpected times, so don’t gamble being sick and take a rain jacket. 

Some sun-protecting headwear is also another critical part of your wardrobe. You need to protect yourself from having a sunstroke, so headwear is not optional. 

Such items sweat-wicking underwear, a sports bra and a tank top for women, light T-shirts, synthetic sweatshirts, long sleeves, shorts, and pants should be regulars on any of your trips. Comfortable clothes for sleeping are, of course, optional only if you are going trekking. 

Synthetic athletic bottoms and neoprene socks will definitely be of use if you’re aiming to do some rafting. Water shoes and a swimsuit are needed if you decide to swim in one the wonderful swimming-safe spots.

Gadgets

  • Navigator for hiking
  • Smartphone
  • Portable charger and cables
  • Watch
  • Compass
  • Binoculars
  • Wireless earbuds or headphones
  • Camera

These items are pretty self-explanatory. A navigator, a smartphone, and a powerbank with cables are sure to accompany you on your journey. I am sure you don’t want to get lost and not have any technical backup. Even if you’re highly experienced in hiking and trekking, take a watch and a compass, which are great backups in case the electronic devices decide to fail on you.

Binoculars and a camera are absolutely optional. However, I recommend you take them with you to capture all the amazing sights that you will encounter.

Adventure Essentials

  • 18L to 22L water-resistant backpack
  • Sunglasses
  • Waterproof bag for electronics
  • Signaling safety whistle
  • Hammock
  • Food
  • Medication
  • Water in bottles or hydration backpack
  • Flashlight or headlamp
  • Insect repellent
  • Bear-repelling spray
  • Bags to pack out trash

This sub-list encompasses all of the items that are so easy to forget to pack. An appropriately sized backpack should be able to fit all of your items. If your current bag not big enough, do not overstuff it as it may rip off during your trip. It is better to buy once a bigger water-resistant backpack that will be useful for a lot more hiking and trekking trips that are yet to come. 

Travel-Friendly Toiletries

  • Sunblock
  • Face cleanser
  • Hand lotion
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Toilet paper
  • Towel 
  • Toothbrush and toothpaste
  • Shampoo
  • Deodorant
  • Contact solution and lens case

Everything from sunblock till deodorant has to be present in your backpack, as these items will keep you clean and comfortable all throughout the hiking or trekking outing. If you are wearing contact lenses, consider wearing glasses instead as something can get in your eye when wearing lenses in the park. However, take them with you in case you break your glasses.

Great Smoky Mountains Packing List for the Winter 

The main differences between the list for the spring and summer and this winter one are in the hiking gear and clothing. Gadgets, essentials, and toiletries will be absolutely the same as in the spring/summer list. The winter packing list for Great Smoky Mountains goes with these upgrades:

Hiking Gear for the Great Smoky Mountains in the Winter

  • Insulated hiking shoes
  • Heavy, warm socks
  • Walking stick instead of trekking poles

Heat preservation is critical in the winter. Thus, your shoes not only have to keep you safe from injury but also protect from overcooling. Keeping your toes warm is tricky, which is exactly why you also need thick, heavy wool socks to aid the insulated boots. The cold in combination with winds will take all of your heat ruthlessly, so, again, be mindful when buying these items.

Additionally, I would give preference towards one walking staff rather than two trekking poles. There can be moments during winter hiking or trekking where you find yourself surrounded by a lot of snow. Thus, one big lever-stick would be much more useful in such a situation.

What to Wear to Great Smoky Mountains in the Winter

The main difference will be in the clothes:

  • Wicking and quick-drying base cloth layers
  • Fleece or insulated jacket
  • Wool, heavy-weight, insulated, waterproof jacket
  • Insulated hat
  • Insulated winter gloves
  • Fleece neck gaiter or buff

As you may have noticed, I am less specific now regarding the clothes in this sub-list. The reason for this is simple as during the winter the clothes’ warmth takes the highest priority. So, it doesn’t matter what kind of clothes you will pick, as long as they are warm. One thing to keep in mind is the excessive discharge of sweat during winter outings, so you have to choose clothes that are also sweat-wicking.

Final Words on the Great Smoky Mountains Packing Lists

I have guided you through all of the essential items that you should take with when going to the Great Smoke Mountains. Hopefully, after reading the article, you know what to pack for the Great Smoky Mountains in any season you are going there. No matter of the time of the year, planning a trip there should not be an intimidating task for you.

Have you ever been to the Great Smoky Mountains or just planning your first trip there? Did I miss out some vital hiking/trekking items? Maybe you have some tips of your own? Please share your thoughts and ideas down below in the comments section.

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