With Yosemite Mariposa County's lush forests, babbling brooks and granite-girded valleys it's easy to imagine that Mother Nature will wrap you in her loving arms and keep you cozy and warm. But alas, like most things in life, a little planning goes a long way, especially when it comes to properly packing for the kaleidoscope of Sierra Nevada weather conditions and bountiful outdoor activities.
With this in mind, and inspired by baseball-philosopher Yogi Berra who quipped "if you don't know where you're going, you'll end up someplace else," we've created a series of Yosemite Mariposa packing lists to help make your upcoming journey a success.
Packing for Yosemite Mariposa can be distilled down to four key factors:
- Length of Trip
Length of Trip
This is obvious yet crucial when it comes to packing. Are you taking a day trip, a weekend getaway or extending your stay? Determining the length of your trip impacts everything from how many pairs of socks to what type of food and overnight medications.
Destination has increased importance when visiting Yosemite Mariposa County due to the varying elevations, from the temperate/hot foothills of western Mariposa County to the cool/cold Yosemite High Country. This effects packing strategy from type of clothing you bring to activity-specific gear.
Pro tip: many combine warm and cool layers year-round if visiting multiple destinations.
The seasons in Yosemite Mariposa County are distinct, and play off of destination/elevation. Monthly averages for Mariposa, CA range from toasty and dry in summer, to mild winters with moderate rain moving up the Sierras from the Pacific Ocean. Yosemite Valley, at 4,000 feet of elevation is surprisingly hot in the summer months, reaching temps in the mid-90's, with occasional billowing, blink-and-they're gone, thunderstorms, while winter brings a mix of rain and snow. In Tuolumne Meadows and the Yosemite High Country at 8,600 feet of elevation the deep blue skies are complimented by cool summers "” barely 70 degrees "” with nights that are downright brisk (dress the part!) while winters are predictably cold, bringing heavy snow to the High Country. (Note: Tuolumne Meadows is not reachable by car in winter with the seasonal closing of Tioga Road)
(Elevation 1,949 ft)
(Elevation 4,000 feet)
(Elevation 8,600 feet)
There are essentially three categories with regards to packing based on accommodations: car (day trip), camping and hotel/vacation rental. Will you be snacking in the car, cooking at your campsite or eating out in town? Will there be laundry service at the hotel or will you need fast-drying hiking socks you can wash in a stream?
Factoring in packing's Fab Four as you consider your gear and clothing will streamline your suitcase/backpack while freeing up more time to explore the peaks, creeks and historic main drags of Mariposa County.
Yosemite Mariposa County Packing Lists
These lists are based on local experience but of course can be added to/subtracted from based on your personal needs. No two people pack alike!
Pack a paper map and don't trust that your phone will always work! Printed maps are essential when driving anywhere in the region. Mapping software apps can sometimes lead to unsafe locations in remote areas with no cell or data coverage.
Essential Yosemite Mariposa Packing List
- Hiking Boots/Athletic Shoes: for getting out on the trail.
- Clothing: warm layers, hat, gloves, extra socks and waterproof shell for Sierra thunderstorms and waterfall mist!
- Backpack/Hydration pack
- Water: in reusable bottles (vs. single-use) if possible.
- Supplies: blanket, plates, utensils and basket filled with your favorite outdoor treats! (Be Bear Aware: food is required to be kept out of your car in special storage containers in some areas of Yosemite)
- Kids Activities: Yosemite Mariposa Landmark and Animal Games, sketch pad (take a break from the screens!)
- Swimsuit & Towel: for taking a dip in the pure Yosemite Mariposa water.
- Eco-Friendly Sunblock
- Hand Sanitizer
- Maps: printed/downloaded for areas without cell coverage.
- Toiletries: wet wipes, toothbrush, prescription medications.
- First Aid Kit: bandaids, moleskin for blisters, aspirin, antibiotic ointment (Neosporin).
- Mosquito repellent
- Portable Cell Phone Charger
- Dog Supplies: portable food & water bowl, leash, poop bags, tags with contact information.
- Reliable Transportation: whether using public transportation or your own vehicle.
Car Camping List
Below are add-ons to Essential Yosemite Mariposa Packing List if you're taking advantage of the bounty of local campsites.
- Camp Stove/Propane
- Tent w/ Rainfly and Ground Tarp
- Sleeping Bags
- Air Mattress/Pump
- Camp Pillow
- Camp Cook Supplies: frying pan, pot, plates, bowls, utensils, knife, cutting board, eco-friendly dish soap, sponge, dish towel, portable coffee maker, cooking oil.
- Coffee Mug/Sierra Cup: for hot beverages/foods.
- Ice Chest/Ice
- Campfire Supplies (check local conditions/restrictions before starting a campfire): waterproof matches/lighter/flint, newspaper, kindling, firewood, wire hangers for s'mores!
- Portable Lamps: for table, tent and headlamp.
- Charged portable battery packs for cell phones
- Swiss Army Knife/Multi-Tool
- Book/Journal/Drawing Pad
- Board Games
- Sports/Outdoor Games For Kids
- Telescope: the night skies of Yosemite Mariposa amaze!
- Campsite Reservation: Yosemite Mariposa is a popular destination so make sure you reserve ahead or arrive early in the week for first-come/first-served sites.
- Fishing License: know your California regulations.
For those who like to rough it, everything comes down to weight and efficiency.
- Large Backpack
- Waterproof Boots
- Hiking Socks: wool or poly for fast drying.
- Clothing: warm wicking layers, waterproof shell, gloves & hat.
- Bivvy or Light Tent w/ Rainfly
- 3 or 4 Season Sleeping Bag
- Foam Pad: instead of air mattress.
- Backpacking Stove/Fuel: smaller/lighter than car camp stove.
- Backpacking Cook Supplies: light pot, plate/bowl, spork, backpacking coffee maker, Sierra cup.
- Dehydrated Backpacking Food: lots to choose from and getting tastier!
- CamelBak/Hydration Pack: for hands-free water.
- Water Filter/Tablets
- Headlamp and extra batteries
- Charged portable phone charger
- Swiss Army Knife/Multi-Tool
- Waterproof Fire Starter
- Day Pack (for short excursions from base camp)
- Toilet Paper (aka "Mountain Money" because it's so valuable in the backcountry!)
- WAG Bag: for packing out human waste.
- Garbage Bags: for wet/dirty clothes or leaking items in pack.
- First-Aid Kit
- Printed Topographic Maps
- Compass: learn how to use one!
- Wilderness Permit: required for overnight stays in the Yosemite backcountry.
- Bear Canister: also required for Yosemite backcountry.
- Fishing License
Be sure to learn about the local environment and how lessen your footprint on the natural environment by checking out these "know before you go" tips @ "Nature Rules",
Stowed & On The Road
Yosemite Mariposa's unique weather and countless things to do demand that paradise has a plan. Hopefully sharing our experience will help visitors know exactly where they're going...and how to arrive perfectly packed. For more inside scoop try our Yosemite Mariposa Vacation Planner to help take the guesswork out of your travels!