What to pack for your next visit to a national park

Feel like you’re forgetting something? See what other park-goers pack when they explore SA’s national parks.

Not only do South Australia’s national parks provide breathtaking scenery and an opportunity to connect with nature, they’re also the perfect setting to try out a range of activities, including mountain biking, rock climbing and nature photography – just to name a few.

To get the most out of your experience, it’s important to make sure you pack everything you’ll need.

Not sure what to take? Don’t despair, we’ve taken the guesswork out of it for you by asking some seasoned park visitors what they pack when they head out to undertake some of our parks’ most popular activities.

Here’s a sneak peek into their bags:

Trail running

Not only does trail running improve your fitness, but you also get the added health benefits of being out in nature, rather than on a treadmill at the gym.

Here’s what an experienced Trail Running SA member takes when he hits the track:

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Wondering what a buff is? It’s a tubular bandana that is very versatile in protecting you from the elements. It can be worn like a scarf, headband or balaclava, making it a handy addition to any trail running backpack.

This bag was used for hilly winter training, so you may need to make some adjustments for summer – remove the thermal, beanie and gloves, and add sunscreen and maybe a larger water bladder to ensure you stay hydrated.

Top tip: Need some inspiration for places to go? Check out these top parks for trail running near Adelaide.

Mountain biking

Whether it’s a relaxing ride along the shared use trails in Belair National Park, exploring the popular Craigburn Farm trails in Sturt Gorge Recreation Park or testing your endurance on the Mawson Trail in Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park, there is sure to be an experience to suit you.

When biking long distances, your backpack might be quite different to a day trip. Regardless of the length, there are some essentials that should come with you every time you put your wheels in motion. Here’s what one of our regular mountain bikers packs:

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This backpack was used for a morning ride, so you might need some additional supplies if you’re planning a longer trip.

Make sure you know how to use your tools before you head off – the tyre lever, chain lube and CO2 cartridges aren’t always intuitive to use the first time round.

Top tip: For more handy tips on mountain biking in SA’s national parks, check out what else you should know before you go.

Rock climbing

The diverse landscapes of SA’s national parks offer a range of rock climbing opportunities for beginners and experienced rock climbers alike. There are several breathtaking spots where climbing is allowed, including Morialta Conservation Park, Onkaparinga River National Park, Newland Head Conservation Park and Ikara-Flinders Ranges National Park.

Like most adrenaline-inducing activities, rock climbing can be dangerous, so it’s important to know the correct climbing techniques and to always take care when you’re out.

Packing the right gear is crucial to your safety and will help make your experience as enjoyable as possible. Here’s the back pack of an experienced rock climber:

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Top tip: this bag spread was used for traditional rock climbing. For different types of mountaineering you’ll need different equipment. If you’re new to rock climbing it’s recommended that you go out with an experienced climber who can show you the ropes…literally!

Overnight hiking

Hiking is one of the best ways to experience the beauty of SA’s parks, and overnight hiking trips take the adventure to the next level. Many of us go camping but we don’t exactly pack light, do we?

Working out what to carry on a multi-day hike can be difficult and will depend on the circumstances. Are you hiking with friends? Is it a remote location? How many nights are you going for?  

Your hike could be ruined if you weigh yourself down by carrying too much, but you also need to get the basics right to ensure you have a safe and comfortable experience.

Our mate Josh West from Trekking West has just returned from hiking the entire Heysen Trail over a 2-month period. Here’s what he packed for this once-in-a-lifetime trek across some of our state’s most beautiful national parks:

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Top tip: Wondering where you can go for a multi-day hike in SA? Check out some of our top picks.

Nature photography

With breathtaking landscapes and diverse plants and animals, SA’s national parks offer ideal settings for nature photography.

What you pack depends on the type of photography you’re setting out for, your level of experience and the type of equipment you have. For instance, wildlife photography is often a waiting game so you might spend hours scanning the horizon for your intended target. It’s simply not practical or comfortable to do this with your camera and lens, so binoculars and a tripod are a must.

Here’s what one of our park photographers usually takes with him:

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Remember, for amateur filming and photography in SA’s parks and reserves a permit is not required, however if your footage is going to be used for commercial purposes, or you plan to use a drone, you will need to apply for a permit.

Top tip: There’s a thriving community of amateur nature photographers sharing parks photos online. Check them out or join in by using the hashtag #nationalparkssa and individual park hashtags, such as #belairnationalpark and #deepcreekconservationpark.

Do you have any packing tips to share? Let us know in the comments section below.

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