Southern Utah is one of the most unique areas of the western US (and lucky for me, not too far from where I live). It’s packed with adventures for outdoor lovers and boasts some epic views. Slot canyons, arches, hoodoos, waterfalls – just to name a few. It’s definitely on my list of great places to visit, but the arid desert climate means intense, dry heat and bright sun. So, it requires some preparation to make sure you’ve got everything you need to feel comfortable and stay safe in Southern Utah.
With the right gear, clothing, sun protection, and hydration, you’ll be well prepared for an amazing desert adventure. In this blog post, I share my complete Southern Utah packing list with my top suggestions for all of this and more. Then, when you’re done reading this, be sure to check out all of our Utah travel blogs to help plan your trip.
Here’s my Southern Utah packing list, complete with hiking apparel and gear for your next southwest adventure!
Things to Keep in Mind Packing for Southern Utah
Before I get into my apparel suggestions, I’ll share a few important things to be aware of as you pack for your trip. First things first, Southern Utah is very, very dusty. And, the red desert dust gets on everything, everywhere. So, it’s best to rule out packing white clothing items, unless you’re okay with them turning a nice rusty-orange color pretty much instantly.
Aside from the dust (that you’ll come to know real quickly), desert evenings can get chilly. Deserts are known for being extreme, and it’s not uncommon to have really high temperatures and really low temperatures on the same day. So, it’s a good idea to pack extra layers to throw on after the sun goes down. This is especially true in the colder months, when weather can be surprisingly wintery.
Other than the temps and dust, it’s smart to be prepared with ample sun protection, especially if you’re visiting in summer. Utah has the highest rate of skin cancer in the US with more than 300 sunny days a year. And, you’re most likely going to spend all of your days out having fun in the sun. Rather than missing out on the beautiful places to visit in Utah, my advice is to pack plenty of sunscreen and wear clothing that reduces your exposure to the sun. Plus, the intense heat and sun can be really draining, depending on the time of year. So with this in mind, you’ll preserve more energy to keep on keepin’ on.
For more info on weather, see this blog post on the best times to visit Southern Utah.
What to Wear Hiking in Southern Utah
Short Sleeved Hiking Shirt: Outdoor Research Echo Short-Sleeve Shirt
The Outdoor Research Echo T-Shirt is the ultimate multi-sport shirt with technical features. It’s moisture-wicking, quick-drying, and reflects the sun – all while being ultralight. This hiking shirt is ideal for Southern Utah because of its ventilation and odor control design that helps prevent stinky buildup in the fabric. I’ve heard that people have worn this thru-hiking the PCT and JMT. So, if it can stay strong for months of rugged use on a thru-hike, I’m confident it will be a great addition to your Southern Utah packing list.
Long Sleeved Hiking Shirt: Patagonia Capilene Cool Daily Long-Sleeve Shirt
*Fair-Trade & Sustainably-Sourced* I have fair skin and have recently gotten into the habit of wearing long sleeve shirts when I hike, even in summer, in order to protect my skin. I love the Patagonia Capilene line of outdoor apparel, and this Capilene Cool Daily Long-Sleeve Shirt is no exception. The entire shirt is made with 50% recycled materials, including the dyes. And, it’s Fair Trade Certified™ which means that the people who made this shirt were paid a fair wage. It’s quick-drying, prevents odor, and is rated for 50+ UPF sun protection. It also breathes really well, so you won’t get too hot even in the sun. Safe to say, you could wear this on your whole trip and hand-wash it when you need to freshen it up.
REI Co-op Savanna Trail Shorts
*Sustainable* The REI Savanna Trail shorts are comfortable and durable. These shorts are made with bluesign® approved materials and are moisture-wicking, sun-protective, and quick-drying. Plus, the wide elastic waistband is designed so that you’ll be comfortable wearing a daypack with a hip belt. The Savanna Trail shorts are a perfect balance between comfy and performance-ready for hiking, rafting, and lounging.
Check price: REI
Long Pants: REI Co-op Taereen Pants
*Sustainable* When the sun goes down, you’ll want to put on another layer, like these REI Taereen pants. They’re light and stretchy enough for you to keep moving on the trail but warm enough when you need a little something extra in the evening. While your chances of encountering rain might be slim, they’re also coated with a Durable Water Repellant finish making them moisture-resistant. Overall, these are great pants for hiking in Utah.
Check price: REI
Light Warm Layer: REI Co-op Wallace Lake Flannel
No matter what time of year, packing a flannel is always a good idea. When you need an extra layer, the REI Wallace Lake flannel is a solid choice. It’s soft on your skin, yet durable for hiking and camping. And, it’s available in seven different colors, so take your pick.
Check price: REI
Warm Jacket: Patagonia Down Sweater
*Eco-friendly* If you are traveling in the shoulder season, nights in the desert can get pretty cold, you might need a warm jacket, depending on the time of year (you can skip this is mid-summer). I always have a down jacket with me in my van, and one of my favorites is the Patagonia Down Sweater. It’s super lightweight, warm, and made with sustainably-sourced materials. And, it’s packable so you can throw it in your luggage just in case you need it later. See more of my favorite lightweight down jackets here.
Sun Hat: Wallaroo Sedona Hat
Wearing a well-brimmed hat in the sun will reduce your exposure. The best hat for your Southern Utah trip is a hat you’ll actually wear, so pick one out based on your style – the wider the brim the better out in the desert. My absolute favorite sun hat is the Wallaroo Women’s Sedona Hat pictured below. It’s crushable making for easy packing, doesn’t get too hot when hiking, and it has a drawstring in the brim that allows you to tighten the hat if it’s windy.
*DISCOUNT CODE: Save 20% on the Wallaroo Sedona when you use the code KRISTENBOR20 at checkout.
Check price: Wallaroo Hats
SunCloud Patrol Polarized Sunglasses
Another must-have item for a Southern Utah trip is a good pair of sunglasses. One of my favorite reasonably priced pair of sunglasses are the SunCloud Patrol Polarized sunglasses. With 100% UV protection, these are great sunglasses for hiking in Utah to protect your eyes from the sun.
Check price: REI
Sun Bum Mineral Sunscreen
Aside from covering up with sun protective clothing, the next step to protect your skin is wearing Sun Bum mineral sunscreen. It’s eco-friendly, reef-friendly and free of oxybenzone and octinoxate. It’s also vegan, hypoallergenic, and free of gluten, paraben, PABA, propylene glycol, retinyl palmitate, silicone, and dyes. Be sure to pack eco-friendly sunscreen in your pack and you won’t need to worry about the desert sun!
Check price: REI
Oboz Arete Low Hiking Shoes
The Oboz Arete Low hiking shoes are perfect for Southern Utah. They’re lightweight and breathable. And, the tempest outsole is super grippy, which will help you navigate across rocky and sandy terrain. The Oboz Arete is comfortable from day one, so you won’t need to endure a stiff break-in period. They also have a mid-top style if you prefer some more ankle support, as well as waterproof options (although I personally recommend the non-waterproof for Southern Utah). If you’d like more info on these lightweight hiking shoes, you can read my full review here. (Check out the men’s model here.)
Teva Universal Trail Sandals
*Eco-friendly* One of the best parts of visiting Southern Utah is getting to explore the unique waterfalls and rivers. Rather than wearing your hiking shoes or flip flops, I recommend packing a water sandal that can also double as a camp shoe. These Teva Universal Trail Sandals are a durable option that will carry you from the trail to the river. They’re lightweight, comfortable, and provide great traction with their Vibram soles to prevent slipping. Even better, the straps on these new sandals are made of 100% recycled plastic! Check out my complete review of these sandals for more info.
Check price: REI
Excited to explore Utah’s canyon country? Here are 3 great hikes in Escalante!
Outdoor Gear to Pack for Southern Utah
Osprey Porter 46 Travel Pack
Whether you’ll be flying in or road tripping, you’ll need a reliable travel pack to carry everything in. The Osprey Porter 46 Travel Pack is one of the best packs. It’s comfortable and spacious enough for all your essentials, and has attachments for a separate day pack too. Plus, it meets the criteria for carry-on restrictions if you’ll be flying into Utah. After you finish this post, check out my other post with the best carry on travel backpacks.
Osprey Tempest 20 Day Pack
Once you get to your destination in Southern Utah, you’ll need a rugged, durable day hiking pack, like the Osprey Tempest 20. With just the right amount of room, it has several pockets to store everything you need for a day outside. You can attach a helmet or trekking poles to the exterior and integrate your hydration reservoir. Overall, the Osprey Tempest 20 Pack is a good all-around day pack to add to your Southern Utah packing list.
Osprey Hydraulics Hydration Reservoir
One of the most important things to remember when you’re out exploring Southern Utah is to stay hydrated. The Osprey Hydraulics Reservoir is a reliable, BPA free reservoir available in 1.5, 2, and 3 L. I recommend the 3L reservoir if you’ll be heading out for a full day (it’s amazing how thirsty you get down here!). This hydration reservoir is designed to keep a low profile, so your pack will still be comfortable.
Garmin Mini inReach Satellite Communicator
Throughout most of the wild places in Southern Utah, there’s very spotty cell service or none at all. You may want to consider carrying a satellite communicator like the Garmin inReach Mini 2-way Satellite Communicator. This tiny handheld device has 2-way texting, SOS, and tracking capabilities. It could be a life-saver (literally) if you need help and you’re out of cell reception. I feel a little more comfortable when I’m off-grid knowing I have an emergency device like this.
Utah Trail Map
You’ll find that the trails and points of interest are not always obvious or well-marked throughout the desert, so I suggest bringing a physical map on your Utah trip; This Utah Recreation Map details public lands, backroads, national parks, and wildlife areas. A good topo map is also smart to add to your Southern Utah packing list if you’ll be hiking, as it’s best not to solely rely on your phone or GPS device.
Check price: REI
REI Half Dome 2 Plus Tent
If you’re interested in camping while you’re in Southern Utah, you won’t regret it. Sleeping outside under the stars is the best way to experience it to the fullest. So, you’ll need to add a sturdy 3-season tent to your Southern Utah packing list, like the REI Half Dome tent. While this tent is a little heavy for backpacking, it’s an ideal car camping tent, being spacious, well-ventilated, and easy to set up. I like that it has two doors for easy access in and out. Another feature is that the bottom part of the tent is solid, rather than being 100% mesh. This is helpful in the dusty Southern Utah desert, as the solid fabric will help keep out more dirt than mesh, if it gets windy.
Check price: REI
I hope this helps you dial in the gear you need for your Southern Utah packing list! Where are you most excited about visiting? Let us know in the comments below and if you have any questions I’ll get back to you soon.
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