Hiking the Zion Narrows: What Gear to Bring


Last month, I went on a super cool backpacking trip through the Zion Narrows, which is one of the most impressive slot canyon hikes in the country. To learn more about the Zion Narrows, check out my previous posts in this series:

Anyways, Part 3 in my Zion Narrows series and is all about the equipment you need for a fun and successful backpacking trip. Preparing for the Zion Narrows is a little bit different than a normal backpacking trip since you’ll be (happily) slogging through 16 miles of river. And nothing ruins a trip faster than a soaked sleeping bag or damaged camera. So before heading out, you’ll need to put some thought into how to waterproof your stuff. Which shoes to wear is also a critical consideration.

When you begin your planning, first start by checking out my prior post on Backpacking Gear Essentials, which details all the gear that I take on every backpacking trip. Then add the items below, and you should be a happy camper on your trip through the Zion Narrows.

1) Trash Compactor Bag

Trash compactor bags are a cheap and reliable solution for keeping all of your stuff inside your pack dry. Simply open up a compactor bag and use it to line the inside of your backpack. Then place all of your items inside the compactor bag. This way, if you end up wading through some deep pools and the bottom of your pack gets wet, the stuff inside should stay totally dry.


2) Pelican Case

This California-based company makes rugged, durable water resistant cases that are perfect for any kind of water adventure. For years, Pelican Cases have been my go-to gear for protecting my camera on outdoor excursions, including white water rafting and beach camping trips. While backpacking the Zion Narrows, I kept my camera in a Pelican Case and used the attached caribeaner to clip it to my backpack’s chest strap, providing me easy, worry-free access to snap all those shots. They come in various sizes at REI.com and cost between $17-$32.


3) Dry Bag

If you have any larger electronics or other items that you want to strap to the outside of your bag, pick up a 3 or 5 liter Sea to Summit dry bag. These super strong dry bags roll down and easily clip to the outside of your pack. $20-22 at CampSaver.com

Sea-to-summit-dry bag

4) Footwear

Hiking boots will get heavy and water logged, making it very difficult to walk. So ditch the boots and sport an old pair of tennis shoes instead. I hiked all 16 miles of the Narrows in a 2-year old pair of Brooks tennis shoes that I wear daily to the gym. They were light, provided enough support, and I came home blister-free. When making your shoe choice, the most important thing is that they are closed-toe, closed-heel. Avoid sandals such as Chacos and Keens at all costs or you’ll be stopping constantly to dig the rocks out. You’ll also end up with stubbed toes and cut up feet.

If you are uncomfortable hiking in regular tennis shoes or if the water is chilly, I recommend you stop by Zion Rock Outfitters in Springdale and try on a pair of the 5.10 Canyoneer Shoes that they have for rent. These shoes are one of the most popular canyoneering shoes on the market and have soles that are ideal for gripping wet rocks. They also come with neoprene socks to keep your feet warm. I haven’t tried a pair, but I saw tons of people wearing them, and they also get great reviews online. The only thing is that the first couple of miles after leaving Chamberlain Ranch, you will be on a dry trail. In the summer months, I thought these shoes looked like they would be hot. The cost $20 for the first day and $10 for each additional day.


5) Walking stick / Trekking Poles

If you are going to follow just one piece of advice in this post, this should be it. Man was I happy that I rented a walking stick from Zion Rock Guides in Springdale for $8 a day. You will be crossing the river every few minutes, and some of these crossings can be swift and deep. A walking stick provides a great deal of balance and stability and will also gave you more confidence in your footing. Alternatively you can bring along your own trekking poles. Just make sure that they are sturdy.


Need more inspiration for your Zion Narrows adventure? Just follow my Southern Utah board on Pinterest!

Follow Bearfoot Theory I Outdoor Lifestyle Blog’s board SOUTHERN UTAH on Pinterest.

Written by Kristen Bor

Hey there! My name is Kristen, and this is my outdoor blog. I discovered the power of the outdoors in my 20s, at the time I needed it most. Now 15 years later, prioritizing that critical connection with nature continues to improve my life. My goal at Bearfoot Theory is to empower you with the tools and advice you need to responsibly get outside.

35 comments on “Hiking the Zion Narrows: What Gear to Bring

  1. Great tips! I’m heading to Zion next year and can’t wait to do some hiking. I’m particularly interested in those canyoneering shoes — I was wondering how to manage the water-logged hike with normal hiking boots!

    1. Jessica – I’m glad you found the post helpful. If you have any additional questions, definitely let me know. Zion is so amazing, so I’m really excited for you. I also have a bunch of other posts on Zion that also might be useful in your planning, so make sure to check em out!

  2. Hi Kristen.

    I will visit Zion for the first time in September, I have a backpack National Geographic with a protective pouch for rain, you think this is useful or I have to rent a dry bag for my cameras?. I’ll also do a rafting trip down the Colorado River, I have no experience, but I think I have not space in the inflatable for to carry my cameras, I’ll have to settle for taking only my GoPro. 🙁
    Thank you.

    1. Hi Charlie – I think it depends what you plan to do. IF you are going to hike the Narrows, then you might want to invest in a small dry bag for your electronics…just in case. But if you are sticking to the dry trails, then it sounds like you may be ok with what you have. As far as your rafting trip, maybe you can bring along a decent point and shoot. I like to store mine in a Pelican case or otter box on river trips. The GoPro is great, but doesn’t always perform the way I want it to for stills. Hope that helps! -kristen

  3. Hi Kristen
    How important to wear the canyoneering shoe? I am doing this 2 day hike next weekend. It has been very dry. Is it ok not to bring tent cover? Try to lessen weight.
    Thank you

    1. I did it in an old pair of sneakers, and I was very happy with my choice. I think it’s more important to have a walking stick than the canyoneering shoes.

      Tent cover all depends on the forecast. But at this time of year, rain can happen unpredictably in southern utah, so if it were me, I would bring it just to be safe. Have fun and let me know how it goes! Kristen

  4. Hey Kristen,

    I’m going to be hiking the Narrows over Labor Day weekend and am loving these posts- super helpful! I am still unsure about what footwear to hike in. Wasn’t it uncomfortable hiking for hours in wet tennis shoes? Did your feet turn into prunes from being wet all day? Would you still recommend tennis shows over Teva-type sandals?


    1. Hey Linda – Definitely don’t do it in Tevas. There are tons of rocks to stub your toes on and you’ll be constantly digging out pebbles from under the soles of your feet. Your feet will be prunes, there is no avoiding it. I still think tennis shoes is the best option for hiking, but you’ll probably also want something else to change into when you get to camp. Have fun!

  5. Hi Kristen,

    I’ll be doing the Narrows hike around Mid October and was wondering if I would need to rent also drypants or not. Any thoughts?

    1. Hey Vanya – You are going to love the Narrows! It’s hard to say, but my guess is the water temps will have cooled down by then. If the forecast is looking cold too while you are there, it might be worth renting a pair. There are a bunch of outfitters in town who rent dry suits who can probably give you better advice as the time comes closer. Have fun out there and let me know how it goes! Kristen

  6. (Forgot to add above) What camera (if any) did you use? I’m a casual photographer but take a lot of photos and like it. But I’m debating the weight and hassle of carrying a camera other than my phone (with a battery pack).

    1. I shoot with a Sony mirrorless. I use the A7S which is more of a pro-level camera:

      If you are looking for something more affordable, Sony has a ton of options that are at a lower price point. The a5000 (http://amzn.to/1RNXu79) and the a6000 (http://amzn.to/1RNXlk2) are super popular options that allow you to take pro-quality photos, swap out the lens, etc.

      I also use a GoPro Hero4 which is awesome for water based adventures: http://amzn.to/1WZ3rWB

      Hope that helps!

  7. Thanks Kristen! I’m doing Paria canyon and virgin narrows on the same trip with a couple of days in between. I have a 50L backpack for the 4 days in Paria. Wondering if it’s too much to use the same backpack for the narrows as well just for the overnight?

  8. Loving your site!! Will do doing the topdown Narrows this June 2017. I’m a hammock camper ( as often as I can) and was wondering if you could suggest campsite #s that would have hammock friendly trees.

    1. Hey Andrew – I really can’t remember which had trees. Some didn’t have any, so that would be a bummer. The Zion NPS website has images of each campsite. Go check that out and hopefully you can narrow it down.

  9. Thank you for all of this information! I have looked at a log of blogs and websites in order to plan for my trip and yours by far does the best job of compiling all useful information with the perfect amount of details! Thank you!

  10. Hi, Kristen!

    My friends and I are going to be only hiking The Narrows for only a few hours. We’re not doing the full hike. I know that you said you recommend hiking shoes or regular tennis shoes. but do you feel like they got a little heavy or waterlogged?


    1. Amelia, great question! They get a bit water-logged but generally regular tennis shoes are well vented so water comes in and out easily. The stability that regular hiking shoes or tennis shoes provide is really nice on all the rocks, especially when you can’t see the bottom. You can also rent water shoes with ankle support for the day if you are interested in that option. Have an awesome hike! -Kim

  11. HI, My son and I are planning to do the Narrows in a couple of weeks. I am 65 years old and know that we will only do a few hours and head back out. I usually wear my Keens for hiking, kayaking, don’t car that they get wet and they dry fast. Will these be good enough for 2 to 4 hours in the canyon?

    Thanks, [email protected]

    1. Hello! Are you speaking of Keen hiking boots or the great lightweight Keen water shoes? If you are speaking of the Keen water shoes those can work great in the Narrows and I actually purchased a pair specifically for the Narrows. I will say at times you might have to remove them to get small rocks/pebbles out but beyond that they worked great!

  12. This is great. I am glad that I found your post. I am planning a trip with family ( 4 adults) this September and want to do a day hike only of the narrows. Will we need dry pants during that time of the year? Also curious about your advise of hiking with tennis shoes. Once the shoes are wet, will they dry soon? Won’t it be difficult to hike on dry ground with the wet shoes?

    Also for a day hike, where to stop the hike and return back?

    What is the god time to start a day hike? How long is the hike ( for day hike)?

    1. Hello! Thank you so much for reaching out to us at Bearfoot Theory. It sounds like you are going to have a great trip. It is personal preference on your gear–in terms of pants, I would highly recommend quick-dry shorts. Generally, temperatures are still fairly warm in September in Zion. Personally, I like to hike in sturdy hiking water shoes, such as Keen Active Whisper shoes but Kristen mentions that you might have to dig rocks our or end up with cuts on your feet which is why she opts to wear old tennis shoes. Yes, tennis shoes take time to dry but only a day or two at most. If you are traveling with two pairs of shoes this is an option. Keep in mind you can also rent gear if you are concerned from numerous outfitters in the area.

  13. We have our permit to hike the Narrows from top down in one day (not overnight) Labor Day weekend. We will have 7 people with us (age 15 to 50) and your advice has been very helpful! Thank you! We will be renting shoes, bringing hiking poles, and wondered what FOOD you’d suggest and how much water to plan on bringing. Are there places to stop and eat lunch? We know the hike will be 17 miles, so we are expecting an all day experience. Any hints and tips would be greatly appreciated!

    1. Hi Lesa, so great to hear you are heading to the Narrows! You definitely want to have at least 2 liters of water each. I’d recommend getting a water filter so you can refill on the trail and not have to limit your water intake. For a group your size and for safety it is worth it. Here is our water filter post to look at different options: https://bearfoottheory.com/best-backpacking-water-filter/ You’ll definitely find places (mostly sandy banks/beaches) to stop and eat lunch. I used to hike the Narrows every May with 40 7th graders and we never had an issue finding a good place for a picnic lunch. I’d recommend packing wraps/sandwiches with lots of snacks. Dried mango is one of my favorite snacks!

    1. Hey Heather! I think it is a bit of a personal preference. Personally, I never wear socks when doing the Narrows–I really like the Keen water sandals. BUT, I definitely have warm socks ready for post hike! Best wishes.

  14. Thank you so much for all the great info. Just finished reading all three parts of your guide and feel sooo much more prepared because of it.

  15. My best friend and I are planning on hiking part of the AT in the spring. Several summers ago I hiked part of the Narrows with my family. My goal is to get back to Zion and do the whole thing! I want to do the finish the AT by myself once I can come back after my best friend and I hike it. We think it would be cool to start a blog/ Vlog. Do you have any tips. Also I would be hiking about half of the AT by myself. Any special tips my parents think that it is not okay for a young lady to hike by herself.

    1. Hi Loren, if you’re interested in starting a blog here is a great blog post Kristen put together to support aspiring bloggers: https://bearfoottheory.com/how-to-start-outdoor-travel-blog/ I hiked the PCT alone but made an incredible trail family who I ended up traveling with for most of the time. I would remind your parents that your just as likely to run into a difficult situation while out on the town one night then you are on the trail.

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