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What You Should Pack for a Hike to a Waterfall

Ready to hike out to a beautiful waterfall? Here are few things you might want to take with you for the best trip.

By Jason Barnette | Travel writer and photographer with 15+ years of road tripping experience

This post may contain affiliate links. Read my Affiliate Disclosure here.

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My feet, socks, and shoes were sopping wet. Even my shorts were drenched up to halfway between my knees and waist. That’s what happens when hiking to a waterfall unprepared. Fortunately, I learned quickly and made a packing list for hiking to waterfalls.

Not everything on this list is essential. You could hike to a scenic overlook or observation deck at the waterfall’s base, snap a few photos, and then return to the car. But if you’re anything like me, you’ll want to get your feet wet, spend some time lounging near the roaring falls, and make a half-day trip out of the experience.

If you’re anything like me, this packing list is for you. For everyone else, pick and choose what you might need. Either way, you’ll have what you need when hiking to a waterfall.

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Osprey Daylite Plus Daypack

Pack everything on this list and have room for more gear with this lightweight, comfortable backpack.

Comfortably hiking to a waterfall and enjoying the experience requires some gear – but not that much gear. With 20 liters storage capacity, the Osprey Daylite Plus Daypack is all you need. The recycled nylon construction is durable and stands up well to the rigors of outdoor recreation.

The bag features two exterior expandable water bottle pockets, a main compartment, and a front zip pocket. Compression straps keep everything in place as you hike the trails. The mesh-covered foam back panel provides cushioning and ventilation while strapped to your body.

READ MORE: 20 Best Waterfalls in Ohio You Need to Visit


Sea to Summit Dry Sack

Keep the contents of your bag dry in the wettest of conditions with this dry sack.

Hiking to waterfalls almost always includes hiking over water. Sometimes it’s as simple as crossing the streams on sturdy bridges. But other times, it means wading in shallow creeks or mountain springs. The last thing you want is soggy backpack contents.

The Sea to Summit Dry Sacks are lightweight, durable nylon sacks guaranteed to keep the contents dry. The seams are double-stitched, reinforced, and taped to ensure the best results. Toss your gear into the bag, roll down the top, and secure it with a buckle for best results.

READ MORE: 5 Ways to View Linville Falls (and Dugger’s Creek Falls) on the Blue Ridge Parkway


Merrell Moab Hiking Shoe

Available in men’s and women’s sizes, these are the perfect day hiking shoes with comfortable insoles and grip for tricky trails.

The Merrell Moab Hiking Shoe is a pleasantly comfortable hiking shoe perfect for short day hikes or long-distance backpacking. The 1-inch thick rubber heels provide plenty of cushioning on rugged trails. The top of the shoe is built with pigskin leather and breathable mesh, providing support and ventilation to keep your feet dry.

Pick up a pair of Moab’s in men’s sizes or women’s.

READ MORE: Bald River Falls and Baby Falls on the Cherohala Skyway in Tennessee


Crocs Swiftwater Mesh Deck Sandal

Keep your footing while wading at the base of a waterfall with these shoes from Crocs – and they’ll dry out in less than hour.

Part of the fun of hiking to a waterfall is getting into the water, especially shallow pools beneath the roaring falls. The Crocs Swiftwater Mesh Deck Sandal is not only a great shoe for the water – the durable rubber sole, breathable mesh top, and Velcro strap makes it a great shoe for short hikes on the trail.

Although I wouldn’t recommend it, I’ve seen many day hikers wear only a pair of Swiftwaters between the car and the waterfall. The shoes dry in about thirty minutes and hold up well after continuous use. Although the shoes are labeled as “men’s” shoes, they are unisex and work well for men and women.

READ MORE: Easily View Looking Glass Falls in Brevard, North Carolina


Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles

Keep your footing on rough trails with these trekking poles with comfortable cork grips that reduces sweaty palms.

Did you know a good pair of trekking poles can provide considerable knee and lower back support? The Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles are the pinnacle of the market. The carbon fiber shaft design creates a super lightweight support while still providing plenty of support.

The interesting part about these trekking poles is the cork handle. Cork provides a more comfortable grip for long hikes, keeping your hands dry and preventing chafing. The strap is more comfortable than those on cheaper trekking poles, providing plenty of room for your wrist’s movements with cutting off circulation.

READ MORE: Hiking to Anna Ruby Falls in Helen, GA – Everything You Need to Know


Adventure Medical Kits First Aid Kit

Be ready for scraps and cuts with this waterproof first aid kit that easily packs into a small bag.

Every day hikers should have some form of first aid kit in their backpacks. Since this is about hiking to waterfalls, how about a waterproof first aid kit? Adventure Medical Kits make watertight bags for their kits that are perfect for rugged outdoor adventures.

The Adventure Medical Kit .5 is the smallest of their lineup. The kit contains butterfly bandages, gauze bandages, tape, antiseptic wipe, Ibuprofen, Aspirin, moleskin, and tweezers. And there is just enough room inside the bag to add some items.

READ MORE: How to Find the 12 Beautiful Waterfalls on the Blue Ridge Parkway


Sea to Summit Drylite Towel

Dry off after wading at the waterfall with this lightweight towel.

You might want to bring a towel if you plan to dip in the shivering mountain water after visiting a waterfall. The Sea to Summit Drylite Towel is an excellent option – it’s lightweight and dries fast.

The microfiber polyester material is super soft and feels comfortable to use. The towel has a mesh storage bag and a loop to hang it from a backpack. The towels range from 16″x32″ to 33″x67″.

READ MORE: How to See Whitewater Falls in North Carolina and South Carolina


Hydro Flask Wide Mouth Bottle

Stay hydrated with this stainless-steel, insulated water bottle that will keep the contents chilled for hours.

Never leave home without a reusable water bottle. And once you buy a Hydro Flask, you’ll never need another. Their pro-grade stainless-steel, insulated lineup of water bottles are durable, comes in different sizes, and includes various features.

My favorite is the Hydro Flask Wide Mouth Bottle with Flex Cap. When properly secured, The cap is leakproof, and the attached carrying strap is comfortable for long distances. The cap quickly unscrews, allowing you to thirstily gulp the water through the wide mouth that’s about 75% the width of the bottle.

READ MORE: Road Trip on the Scenic North Carolina Waterfall Byway


ENO TravelNest Hammock

Enjoy the soothing sounds of the crashing waterfall while comfortable swinging between the trees with this lightweight and packable hammock.

One of the best ways to enjoy a waterfall is while softly swinging in a comfortable hammock. When it comes to backpacking hammocks, ENO has the best. The ENO SingleNest Hammock weighs 16 ounces and takes up about as much room as a water bottle when packed.

The SingleNest has a remarkable 400-pound capacity, so you and a significant other can cuddle near the waterfall. With the additional ENO Atlas Hammock Straps, you can easily hang a hammock from trees as far as 14′ apart.

READ MORE: 7 Waterfalls Near Highlands, NC


Helinox Zero Ultralight Chair

Take a chair into the woods to enjoy some time in nature with this lightweight, packable camp chair.

If you’re not keen on lounging in a hammock, what about a lightweight and ultraportable camp chair? The Helinox Zero Ultralight Chair weighs just 1.1 pounds and packs to 14″x4″x4″. When you’re ready to sit, the chair easily unfolds and provides a mid-backed seat comfortable for people up to six feet tall and 265 pounds.

READ MORE: An Easy to Hike to the Gorgeous Hemlock Falls at Moccassin Creek State Park


SeaLife Underwater Smartphone Housing

Keep your smartphone dry while capturing photos and videos beneath the waterfall.

Get creative with your mobile photography when your smartphone is safely secured inside the SeaLife Underwater Smartphone Housing. This innovative hard-shell case keeps your phone dry, allowing you to capture photos and videos from anywhere.

Powered by AAA batteries, the case connects to an app via Bluetooth and allows you to fine-tune your camera settings while the phone is secured inside the case. The case is adjustable, fitting most modern smartphones. An anti-fog device keeps you shooting for hours underwater, and sensors will alert you if the smallest amounts of water leak inside the case.

READ MORE: Enjoy Two Waterfalls at Helton Creek Falls in Blairsville, Georgia


GoPro HERO11 Black

Capture stunning slow-motion video in 5.3K resolution with GoPro’s latest addition to their Hero Black series.

Twenty years after GoPro created the action camera industry, the GoPro HERO11 Black is wowing once again. The latest iteration of their popular action camera features 5.3K video resolution, 27MP still photos, a front-facing LCD status screen, and a rear touchscreen.

With an integrated mount and sealed case that’s waterproof up to 33′, the GoPro HERO11 Black is a great action camera straight out of the box. Record video and capture photos of waterfalls from any angle – including beneath the falls as they crash around you. After recording the footage, you can upload it to your smartphone using Bluetooth and instantly share it to social media – if you have a cellular signal.

READ MORE: 5 Ways to View Linville Falls (and Dugger’s Creek Falls) on the Blue Ridge Parkway


Spot Gen 4 Satellite GPS Messenger

With this pocket-sized satellite messenger, you’re only a click away from emergency help if something happens on the trail.

Even in today’s 5G world, cellular service is not guaranteed on the trails. That’s why every hiker should carry the pocket-sized SPOT Gen 4 Satellite GPS Messenger.

The small, lightweight device features a satellite connection that only requires line of sight – it works almost anywhere in the United States. If you become lost or disabled while hiking, pressing the SOS button will immediately alert the nearest rescue officials and provide them with your GPS location.

But it’s more than just a state-of-the-art flare. You can allow friends and family to track your progress on the trail through the SPOT website. It’s a great way to let others know your whereabouts on the trail – and a backup in case you don’t come home.

Note: The SPOT device requires a service plan at an additional cost.


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