Now that you have your Banff itinerary ready, it’s time to get packing.
We’re answering one of the most asked questions from visitors. What should I pack for Banff?
With so many outdoor activities in Banff National Park, the task might seem daunting if you’ve never visited Banff before. No need to worry or look any further, this comprehensive packing list is all you need, including tips from locals.
Follow our Banff packing list for year-round travel tips so you can enjoy a stress-free trip!
Banff travel guides for easy trip planning
Living an hour from Banff, we’re visiting very often all year round. We’ve been through hot 32C summers, unexpected storms in the mountains, windy autumn weather, never-ending chilly springs, long white winters, and we even went cross country skiing in -20C. Needless to say, we’ve become experts on Banff essentials, so you’re in the right place.
Let’s get right into it.
Weather conditions in Banff
First things first, the weather conditions in Banff can change quickly. Even though you’re most likely visiting in summer, you can experience a snowstorm – just ask the hundreds of travellers who got stuck on a snowy highway in June 2019.
Knowing what to expect is the first step of packing for any destination.
To give you a better idea, let’s take a quick look at average year-round temperatures:
Bear in mind that these are average temperatures. It varies significantly from day to day. While you can have 30C in summer, you might as well have -30C in winter.
Summer in Banff (June – August) is hot, dry, and short. Expect to have around 25C during the day and around 10C at night and early morning.
Spring and autumn (May, September, October) are chilly but stunning when the landscapes are changing colours. Temperatures are around 15C during the day and 0-5C at night.
As you might have expected, the longest season is winter; it lasts from October/November until April. You can still hike early in the season but expect snow higher in the mountains.
If you’re not sure about the seasons and would like to know more, read our post about the best time to visit Banff.
The ultimate Banff packing list for summer, spring & autumn
You’re going to spend a whole day outdoors and have around 16 hours a day of sunlight. What a treat!
If you already own any hiking clothes, they are most likely made of technical material with features to stand different conditions.
Since Banff sits at 1,383 meters (4,537 ft) above sea level, the sun is stronger, and the weather more unpredictable the higher you go.
*In the spirit of full disclosure: Some links in this post are affiliate links, which means that if you purchase through them, we receive a small commission at no extra costs to you. We appreciate your support!
These are our favourite essentials for summer in Banff and the Canadian Rockies.
Clothing to pack for Banff
- Outer layer: Rain jacket
Because of unexpected (snow) storms in the mountains, you need to have a jacket with you at all times. Make sure it’s waterproof made of thin fabric, so it packs into a small sack, and it’s not taking a lot of space in the backpack.
My jacket packs really small and bright orange colour goes nicely with any landscape (always a nice bonus feature).
- Mid-layer: Fleece or down jacket
As insulation in chilly weather or during an early morning start to your hike, pack a long-sleeve shirt if the weather forecast looks promising. To be on the safe side, we always pack a fleece or a down jacket.
A down jacket is an excellent option because it offers more warmth than fleece, it’s lighter, and packs into a little pouch.
For hiking in Banff, I highly suggest investing in a Merino t-shirt. I wear mine all year long. Even though it’s made of Merino wool, it doesn’t increase your body temperature in summer but also provides a sense of warmth in colder conditions.
Best features of all – Merino t-shirts are quick-drying and odourless so that you can wear them few days before washing.
Michal is usually sweating much more in summer, and he likes to wear a sweat-wicking cooling quick-drying t-shirt. For protection against the scorching summer sun, I like to wear this long sleeve shirt with UV protection and vents on sides.
- Pants and shorts
When you have enough layers for your upper body, your lower body shouldn’t get cold even if wearing shorts. During the summer in Banff, you can always wear shorts, especially when going on a long hike. If the weather forecast looks questionable, either put on hiking pants or leggings.
In June, I recommend wearing long pants or if wearing shorts, wear high socks due to tick season.
As mentioned above, pack higher cut socks to protect you from bush scratches and ticks. Look for quick-drying antibacterial fabric. In this case, Merino socks win once again since they’re light and odourless (and I believe everyone will appreciate this feature after a long day adventuring in the mountains).
Footwear for hiking in Banff
- Trail shoes/hiking boots
This is where most people get stuck. Unsure how the trails in Banff look, it’s hard to choose what shoes to pack.
I suggest packing trail (running) shoes instead of high hiking boots. They provide enough support with toe protection, sturdy soles and good grip, and are generally lighter and more comfortable to wear in summer.
Most trails in Banff are well-trodden dirt with occasional roots or rocks. If you’re visiting hiking trails around Moraine Lake, Lake Louise or planning hiking in Jasper National Park, trail shoes are sufficient. Only if you’re considering scrambles, you should pack hiking boots.
For a closer look on the trail conditions, check out these popular and scenic Banff hikes:
For casual walks in the mountain towns or lookout points along the scenic Icefields Parkway, I would consider wearing hiking sandals.
Other essentials to pack for Banff
A hiking backpack is an essential item in your packing list. Make sure you have comfortable support for your back, a backpack in the 20-35 litres range is an ideal size for day trips. It should also have a hip belt so you can lighten the pressure of the backpack from your shoulders, and a rain cover.
- Water bottle with filter
Awesome news – you don’t have to carry a lot of water for most of your hikes. Do your research beforehand, of course, but many hikes pass a lake or another water source. If you’re carrying a water bottle with a filter, you can fill up as you go.
Our absolute favourites are LifeStraw bottles; we use them for any activity in the Canadian Rockies – hiking, biking, trail running or stand up paddleboarding. It filters all the nasty microorganisms, and we’ve used them for years all over the world (and never got sick!).
- Sun protection
Sun hat, sunscreen, and lip balm are an absolute must. Since you’re high in the mountains, the sun is much stronger, and you need to think about protecting your body.
Visiting in summer comes with mosquitoes. Whether you’re hiking or camping, these bloodsuckers will find you. Use a biodegradable repellent – because they’re made without DEET, they don’t have that annoying smell or stickiness.
My secret weapon is my DIY repellent tested in Canadian backcountry and smelling incredible – combine 200 ml Witch hazel, 5 drops of Lemon essential oil, 5 drops of Eucalyptus essential oil and pour it into a glass spray bottle. Shake well before each use and spray on your skin or clothes a few times a day. You’re welcome 🙂
- Hiking poles
If your knees are sensitive or you’re not feeling quite fit, hiking poles can be of huge help while hiking up or down a mountain.
The choice of electronics is up to you. Some visitors only use their phones for taking pictures, and some are bringing their cameras, lenses and tripods to get that perfect long exposure shot of northern lights or a sunrise. Whatever you bring, don’t forget to pack an external battery pack.
Because many readers admire our pictures, I’m going to share our photography gear:
– Lightweight mirrorless Sony Alpha a6000 camera with kit lens for most photos (a favourite of many professional photographers)
– Wide-angle lens for landscape shots
– Zoom lens to capture Canadian wildlife
– GoPro camera if we’re packing ultra-light for our runs, biking trips, or stand up paddleboarding. Having a built-in stabilization even if I’m bouncing with the camera is priceless.
Lakes in the Canadian Rockies are icy cold as they are glacial fed, so in case you’d like to go for a swim, I recommend warmer Johnson Lake in Banff or Edith Lake in Jasper. Other alpine lakes are fantastic for a quick dip to test your endurance, but not so much for a swim.
Jumping into Moraine Lake or Lake Louise is a thrilling experience if you’re brave. Peyto Lake would be amazing, too, but you need to hike down to the shore and it’s just not worth it.
There are several hot springs in the Canadian Rockies if you’d like a relaxing soak.
- Travel insurance
I don’t think this needs an explanation, but I include it, so you don’t forget travel insurance. Accidents can happen, and it’s better to be safe than sorry.
We use and recommend World Nomads insurance, check this link to get a custom quote right away.
- Bear spray
This Banff packing list wouldn’t be complete with a bear spray, an essential item while hiking in the Canadian Rockies. While you should always make noise while hiking so the bears can hear you, it’s highly recommended carrying a bear spray within arm’s reach (as you can see below – secured in front of the backpack) and learn how to use it.
If you’re flying in, you can’t bring a bear spray with you (but you can when you’re crossing the border on land). You can purchase a bear spray in any outdoor store in Banff or rent it from your hotel. Bear in mind that renting for multiple days might exceed the cost of purchasing your own.
- Baby gear
If you’re a travelling family, there’s no need to pack a lot of equipment, you can rent it for reasonable prices here:
If you’re looking for an adventurous trip and have freedom over your day while staying in campgrounds, book a Smile Campervan from us – a budget, family & pet-friendly option.
Are you planning to go hiking in the Rockies? Click below to see our suggested hiking packing lists:
Complete Banff winter packing list
Banff is a wonderful destination in winter as well. There are many outdoor activities you can do in Banff – dog sledding, ice skating on frozen lakes, cross country skiing to glaciers, skiing, visiting Ice Festival or hike through the winter wonderland in Johnston Canyon.
All you need to do is come prepared with the right winter gear. I recommend packing below items when you’re visiting Banff from October to April. If you need to buy any gear and outdoor stores in Banff are out of your budget, try Canadian Tire in Canmore.
Clothing to pack for Banff in winter
The secret here is – layers and Merino wool. Layers provide extra protection when you can either wear the clothing or put it in a backpack during activities where you might sweat. First, you wear a base layer, then a sweater or fleece and top it off with winter jacket.
Clothing from Merino wool provides excellent temperature regulation, a nice cozy feeling for the skin and the massive advantage of being odourless.
Even though winter clothing is usually made from waterproof materials, it’s not necessary for Banff. The air is very dry, and snow is like powder, so instead of melting on your clothes, you can just brush it off.
Here are essential items for your Banff packing list in winter:
- An insulated outer layer: Winter jacket
Pack a jacket that has a comfort level of -20C. If you’re visiting unusually cold places like Johnston Canyon, you will appreciate it immensely.
- Mid-layer: Sweater, fleece or down jacket
All options are great as long as they keep you warm. With wearing so many layers in winter, I find that wearing a down jacket is keeping me warm but doesn’t make me feel bulky.
As mentioned above, a long-sleeve shirt and bottoms made of Merino wool are the best choice. You will sweat a lot even in winter,but you won’t get stinky with Merino wool.
For hiking, cross country skiing or ice skating in winter, I usually wear a base layer and hiking pants on top. However, if it’s around -15C or lower, the base layer with thick snow pants is a much more suitable choice.
During winter activities, I find that wearing one layer of sweat-wicking thick winter socks provides enough warmth.
- Hat, neck warmer and gloves
Footwear for winter in Banff
Make sure you’re buying a waterproof and insulated pair. I wear my hiking boots in summer for multi-day backpacking trips and also in winter on hikes, the only difference is the thickness of my socks.
While winter hiking boots might feel heavy and tight, you want to pack a different pair of winter shoes for just walking around town.
Other essentials to pack for Banff in winter
You need a backpack for carrying extra layers, thermos, food, and other essential items.
I like the creative designs from Hydroflask, which are insulated and can be used in summer or winter.
Heat packets are always nice to have, trust me as someone who went cross country skiing in -20C. You can find single-use or reusable warming packs in outdoor stores. I always have a couple of these in my backpack, and they saved my freezing feet and hands several times.
- Sunscreen, sunglasses and lip balm
All of these are an absolute must in winter as well. The sun in Banff is even stronger than in summer since it’s reflecting from the snow. Always make sure you’re wearing sunscreen and sunglasses, and using your lip balm.
Everyone packs a moisturizer no matter the season, but Banff’s dry and cold air can have a very damaging effect on your skin. Pack a heavier moisturizer than you usually wear.
Very helpful for balance when hiking in snow or breaking the trail.
They’ll protect you against getting your feet wet, and you might need them until spring (May).
Some hiking trails, such as Johnston Canyon, are covered with ice in winter. You can rent microspikes for your shoes in outdoor stores in Banff or buy your own (which is more cost-effective).
Together with your camera, pack extra batteries as they don’t tend to last very long in cold temperatures.
You can either rent a retro bathing suit directly in Banff’s hot springs or bring your own.
Are you prepared for your amazing trip to Banff? Let us know in the comments below if you have any questions.
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