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. No need to worry or look any further; this comprehensive Banff packing list is all you need, including tips from locals.

By the time you finish reading our packing list for Banff, you’ll be prepared for everything the Canadian Rockies throw at you, even if it’s falling snow mid-summer.

This blog post consists of:

  • Detailed packing list for summer, spring & autumn
  • Detailed winter packing list
  • Summary of packing lists (to print)
  • Travel guides for Banff & Canadian Rockies

Follow our Banff packing list for year-round travel tips so you can enjoy a stress-free trip!

Banff Packing List - ice skating on Johnson Lake

Things to know when packing for Banff

What makes us experts? We lived in Banff, now just an hour away, and visit often all year round. We’ve been through hot 32C (90F) summers, unexpected storms in the mountains, windy autumn weather, never-ending chilly springs, and long white winters, and we even went cross-country skiing in -20C (-4F). Needless to say, we’ve become experts on Banff essentials, so you’re in the right place.

Here are a few essential tips when packing for Banff:

  • In summer, you will spend a whole day outdoors and have around 16 hours of sunlight. What a treat!
  • Since Banff sits at 1,383 meters (4,537 ft) above sea level, the sun is stronger, and the weather is more unpredictable the higher you go.
  • Banff is not humid, so your clothes dry fast, but having quick-drying items makes every trip easier.
  • Due to the ever-changing mountain conditions, having a warm mid-layer with a waterproof & windproof jacket is essential year-round. You can have a hot summer day and snow the next.
  • If you visit from May to July, prepare for mosquitoes and ticks – repellent will be your best friend.
  • There are a lot of gorgeous glacial lakes and water activities, so a GoPro or waterproof camera with a floating stick comes in very handy.

Our recommended travel insurance

Guatemala - insurance
Better be safe than sorry! We always buy travel and medical insurance and recommend affordable option HeyMondo.

The photo on the left was taken during our trip around the world, just moments before we got robbed in Guatemala! And were so glad we were covered.

HeyMondo offers 24-hour medical chat and free emergency assistance through their app. Click the button below and get 5% discount. 

Explore the Rockies adventurously and affordably!

If you like adventurous trips, book a Smile Campervan from us and you don’t need to worry about any camping equipment or setting up a tent. You can comfortably sleep, cook and eat in the campervan.

Year-round weather conditions in Banff

The weather conditions in Banff can change quickly. Even though you’re most likely visiting in summer, you can experience a snowstorm – ask the hundreds of travellers who got stuck on a snowy highway in June or woke up to a few inches of snow in Jasper’s campground this summer.

Knowing what to expect is the first step in packing for any destination.

To give you a better idea, let’s take a quick look at average year-round temperatures:

Banff average year-round temperatures - Farenheit
Banff average year-round temperatures - Celsius
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 (July – August) is hot, dry, and short. Expect around 25C during the day and around 10C at night and early morning.

Spring and autumn (May, June, September, October) are chilly but stunning when the landscapes change 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 unsure about the seasons and want to know more, read our post about the best time to visit Banff.

Banff Packing List - Lake Louise

The ultimate Banff packing list for summer, spring & autumn

These are our favourite essentials for summer, spring and autumn in Banff and the Canadian Rockies:

Clothing to pack for Banff

Rain jacket (outer layer)

If you ever wondered what to pack for Banff in June, July, August, and September, my #1 recommendation would be a windproof rain jacket. It can save you when you least expect it due to fast-changing mountain conditions.

A lightweight rain jacket is a must when you’re packing for Banff. Because of unexpected (snow) storms in the mountains, you must always have a jacket with you. Make sure it’s waterproof and made of thin fabric so it packs into a small sack and does not take up a lot of space in the backpack.

I chose a bright orange because it’s nice and goes nicely with any Rockies landscape, and the colour pops in every photo.

Torrentshell 3L Jacket

  • 3-layer waterproof/breathable membrane
  • Pit zips
  • Self-stuffing pocket
Banff packing list - Vermilion Lakes

Fleece or down sweater (mid-layer)

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 safe, we always pack a fleece or a down jacket.

A down sweater is an excellent option because it offers more warmth than fleece; it’s lighter and packs into a little pouch.

Down sweater

  • 800-fill-power goose down
  • Water repellent
  • Self-stuffing pocket

Merino shirt

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 but provides warmth in colder conditions. The best features of all – Merino t-shirts are quick-drying and odourless, so you can wear them for a few days before washing.

Another option is to wear a sweat-wicking, cooling, quick-drying t-shirt. For protection against the scorching summer sun, I like to wear this long-sleeved shirt with UPF 50 sun protection.

Icebreaker Merino Shirt

  • Temperature regulating
  • Odor resistant
  • Sweat wicking with UPF 20 sun protection
Banff Packing List - Galatea Lakes Hike in Kananaskis

Pants and shorts

When you have enough layers for your upper body, your lower body shouldn’t get cold, even if you’re wearing shorts. You can always wear shorts during the summer in Banff, especially during a long hike. If the weather forecast looks questionable, wear hiking pants or leggings.

These leggings with pockets that I can wear year-round are my favourite. In May and June, I recommend wearing long pants, or if wearing shorts, wear high socks due to the tick season.

Pants or leggings?

  • Pants give your legs more freedom
  • Pants can be dressed down or up without needing another pair
  • Leggings usually have more pockets
Banff Packing List - Aylmer Lookout above Lake Minnewanka, Banff National Park

Socks

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 again since they’re light and odourless (I believe everyone will appreciate this feature after a long day of adventuring in the mountains).

Darn Tough Merino Socks

  • Shrink treated wool
  • Moisture wicking
  • Warranty for life

Footwear for hiking in Banff

Trail (running) shoes

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.

I swear by the excellent grip of these trail shoes that held up through all the hikes and treks on our 2-year long trip around the world. Their waterproof feature came in handy countless times!

Adidas Terrex Hiking Shoe – Women’s

  • Goretex waterproof
  • Non-slip grip in all conditions
  • Comfortable for trail running & hiking

Adidas Terrex Hiking Shoe – Men’s

  • Non-slip grip in all conditions
  • Durable for hundreds of miles
  • Comfortable for long hikes
Banff Packing List - Mt. Saint Piran Hike above Lake Louise, Banff National Park

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

Backpack

A hiking backpack is an essential item on 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 to lighten the pressure of the backpack from your shoulders and a rain cover. 

Hiking 24L Backpack – Women’s

  • Ventilated back
  • Hipbelt with pockets
  • Option to wear with hydro reservoir

Hiking 30L Backpack – Men’s

  • Ventilated back
  • Hipbelt with pockets
  • Option to wear with hydro reservoir

Reusable water bottle

Tap water in Calgary, Canmore, Banff, Lake Louise, Jasper, etc., is safe to drink (unless there’s a rare water advisory). Even campgrounds provide drinking water. It’s time to fight plastic pollution, saving you lots of dollars you can use for activities.

Moreover, most accommodations provide refillable stations with filtered water as well. Grab a refillable Hydroflask with insulation that keeps your water hot or cold. For hiking water bottles, read the next item on the list.

Hydroflask water bottle

  • TempShield™ vacuum insulation
  • Stainless steel, BPA-free
  • Lifetime warranty

Water bottle with filter

Awesome news – you don’t have to carry much water for most of your hikes. Do your research beforehand, but many hikes pass a lake or another water source. If you carry a water bottle with a filter, you can fill it up as you go. This is the #1 essential item on your Banff summer packing list.

Our absolute favourites are LifeStraw bottles; we use them for all activities in the Canadian Rockies – hiking, biking, trail running or stand-up paddleboarding. It filters all the nasty microorganisms; we’ve used them for years all over the world and never got sick.

LifeStraw Water Filter Bottle

  • Membrane microfilter lasts up to 1,000 gallons (4,000 L)
  • Protects against bacteria, parasites, microplastics, chlorine, silt, sand and cloudiness
  • Light BPA-free material
Banff Packing List - drinking with Lifestraw bottle from Glacier Lake, Banff National Park

Sun protection – sunscreen & hat

To get the best protection against UV rays, we recommend natural mineral sunscreens, such as Thinksport or Attitude, with an SPF of at least 30. We love using Thinksport for the whole family and year-round. Since you’re at a high altitude, sunburn can happen quickly. And don’t forget your sunglasses as well.

Thinksport SPF 50+ Mineral Sunscreen

  • Water and sweat-resistant, blocks UVA & UVB rays
  • Rubs on clear with little to no whitening
  • No benzene, parabens, oxybenzone, avobenzone, or harmful chemicals

Repellent/Bug spray

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. Repellent is a must-have item when packing for Banff in May, June and July.

A great repellent for kids that we also use for our son are these mosquito patches.

My secret weapon is my DIY repellent, tested in the 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 🙂

Lemon Eucalyptus Insect Repellent

  • DEET free
  • Repels mosquitoes and ticks
  • Pleasant smell

Hiking poles

If your knees are sensitive or you’re not feeling quite fit, hiking poles can greatly help you hiking up or down a mountain.

Electronics

The choice of electronics is up to you. Some visitors only use their phones to take pictures, and some bring 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 portable charger.

External Portable Charger

  • 40000mAh power bank for mobile phones, and other electronic devices
  • Dual USB ports
  • Fully recharged in 6-8 hours
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 pack ultra-light for our runs, biking trips, or stand-up paddleboarding. A built-in stabilization, even if I’m bouncing with the camera, is priceless.

Swimsuit

Lakes in the Canadian Rockies are icy cold as they are glacial-fed, so if you’d like to swim, I recommend 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.

There are several hot springs in the Canadian Rockies if you’d like a relaxing soak.

Bear spray

Essential item while hiking in the Canadian Rockies. While you should always make noise while hiking so the bears can hear you, carrying a bear spray and learning how to use it is highly recommended.

Banff Packing List - Healy Pass Hike in Banff National Park

If you’re flying in, you can’t bring a bear spray with you (but you can when 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:

TIP
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.

What to pack for Banff in June, July, August & September

This is the most asked question since most travellers visit Banff in summer or shoulder season.

Apart from the highly recommended travel items mentioned above, here’s your complete Banff Packing Checklist so you can start planning your epic trip to the Canadian Rockies.

 

Clothing:

  • Rain jacket (outer layer)
  • Fleece or down sweater (mid-layer)
  • Merino shirts
  • Pants and shorts
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Swimsuit
  • Casual outfit for dinner

Footwear:

  • Trail (running) shoes
  • Hiking sandals

Toiletries:

  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm
  • Repellent/Bug spray
  • Prescription medication
  • Toothbrush & toothpaste
  • Travel-sized versions of shampoo, soap, lotion & deodorant

Electronics:

  • Phone + charger
  • Camera + spare batteries
  • Headphones
  • External portable charger
  • Travel adapter (US & Canada have the same power sockets)

Other essentials:

  • Backpack
  • Packing cubes
  • Travel insurance
  • Reusable water bottle or water bottle with filter
  • Sun protection – hat & sunglasses
  • Hiking poles
  • Bear spray (need to buy or rent in Banff if flying in)
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.

Things to do in Jasper National Park - 5 Explore ice caves along Icefields Parkway

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 a 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 the snow is like powder, so you can brush it off instead of the snow melting on your clothes.

Banff Packing List - Banff in winter from Sulphur Mountain

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.

 

Columbia winter jacket

  • Omni-Heat™ thermal technology helps regulate your temperature
  • Water-resistant from rain and snow
  • Adjustable cuffs

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 keeps me warm but doesn’t make me feel bulky.

Down sweater

  • 800-fill-power goose down
  • Water repellent
  • Self-stuffing pocket

Baselayers

As mentioned above, a long-sleeve shirt and bottoms made of Merino wool are the best choice. Even in winter, you will sweat a lot, but you won’t get stinky with Merino wool.

 

Merino Baselayers

  • Temperature regulating
  • Odor resistant
  • Sweat wicking

Snow pants/hiking pants

I usually wear a base layer and hiking pants on top for cross-country skiing or ice skating in winter. However, if it’s around -15C or lower, the base layer with thick snow pants is much more suitable.

Socks

During winter activities, I find that wearing one layer of sweat-wicking thick winter socks provides enough warmth.

Hat, neck warmer and gloves

I usually wear a double-layered hat and thin-liner gloves for activities like cross-country skiing or very warm mittens for hikes and walks.

 

Winter hat

  • #1 essential winter item
  • Fleece lining protects against wind
 

Banff Packing List - Banff in winter from Sulphur Mountain

Footwear for winter in Banff

Winter hiking boots

Make sure you’re buying a waterproof and insulated pair. I wear my hiking boots in summer for multi-day backpacking trips and in winter on hikes; the only difference is the thickness of my socks.

 

Winter hiking boots

  • Insulated
  • Waterproof & breathable
  • Non-slip grip
 

Snow boots

While winter hiking boots might feel heavy and tight, you want to pack a different pair of winter shoes for walking around town.

Other essentials to pack for Banff in winter

Backpack

You need a backpack for carrying extra layers, thermos, food, and other essential items.

Hiking 24L Backpack – Women’s

  • Ventilated back
  • Hipbelt with pockets
  • Option to wear with hydro reservoir

Hiking 30L Backpack – Men’s

  • Ventilated back
  • Hipbelt with pockets
  • Option to wear with hydro reservoir

Thermos

I like the creative designs from Hydroflask, which are insulated and can be used in summer or winter.

Hand & toe warmers

Try the sustainable hand & toe warmers made of beaver fur. We personally tested their hand & toe warmers, and let me tell you, they provide incredible warmth, they’re reusable and last for years, and handmade by Indigenous Artisans in the Northwest Territories.

Check out our full review or take a look at Aurora Heat and use code TRAVELWITHTHESMILE to save 10% off your entire order!

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.

Moisturizer

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.

Hiking poles

Very helpful for balance when hiking in snow or breaking the trail.

Gaiters

They’ll protect you against getting your feet wet, and you might need them until spring (May).

Microspikes

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).

Thermos

Hand warmers

Gaiters

Microspikes

 
 

Electronics

Together with your camera, pack extra batteries as they don’t tend to last very long in cold temperatures.

Swimsuit

You can either rent a retro bathing suit directly in Banff’s hot springs or bring your own.

Banff Packing Checklist for winter

Clothing:

  • Winter jacket
  • Sweater, fleece or down jacket
  • Merino baselayers
  • Snow pants/hiking pants
  • Socks
  • Underwear
  • Swimsuit
  • Casual outfit for dinner
  • Hat, neck warmer and gloves
  • Gaiters

Footwear for winter in Banff:

  • Winter hiking boots
  • Snow boots
  • Microspikes

Toiletries:

  • Sunscreen
  • Lip balm
  • Moisturizer
  • Prescription medication
  • Toothbrush & toothpaste
  • Travel-sized versions of shampoo, soap, lotion & deodorant

Electronics:

  • Phone + charger
  • Camera + spare batteries
  • Headphones
  • External portable charger
  • Travel adapter (US & Canada have the same power sockets)

Other essentials to pack for Banff in winter

  • Backpack
  • Packing cubes
  • Thermos
  • Hand & toe warmers
  • Hiking poles
  • Electronics

Are you prepared for your amazing trip to Banff? Let us know in the comments below if you have any questions about our packing list for Banff.

 

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About Maya Steiningerova

Heyo, I’m Maya! An adventure athlete currently living near the Canadian Rockies with my partner in crime Michal. I love running in the mountains, jumping in the ice cold lakes, mountain biking and trying not so common activities, such as mountaineering. By showing that an ordinary person can live an extraordinary life, my hope is to inspire you to live an adventurous life and provide you with tips and tools for your own adventure.

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