Women’s Guide to Packing for Banff and Jasper National Parks in September: More Than Just Clothes

In this article:

  • Clothing + Gear Packing List
  • What To Pack in a Daypack
  • Food Related Gear
  • Bathroom Breaks in Banff and Jasper
  • Packing for Rain and Inclement Weather

September (after Labor Day in the USA), is the start of the shoulder season in Banff and Jasper National Parks. It’s still busy, but not bananas and not crowded. From that standpoint it was a great time to go – the weekend after Labor Day. We had some hiking trails and sites to ourselves early in the morning. And even later in the day, there were a lot of people around but it never felt crowded or even very busy. We found parking in town easily everyday and only encountered one restaurant with a long wait time in Banff.

The downside of going to Banff and Jasper in September is that there may be inclement weather – namely rain. Also the weather changes quickly, making it a little unpredictable. Just to give you a sense of just how unpredictable – all day today the forecasts said there was anywhere between a 60%-80% chance of rain starting at 3pm and lasting throughout the rest of the day and night. It’s currently 9:20pm and it has not rained at all! I checked multiple websites to verify the forecasts and they were consistent.

While I’m so glad it didn’t rain, I know it could have at any moment, so we prepared and planned our day accordingly. If we weren’t worried about rain we would have done other things. The forecast impacted our entire trip – what we saw, sites we didn’t visit, and how much we saw on a given day.

Don’t get me wrong we’re having an INCREDIBLE time and don’t feel like we crammed too much in but rain definitely impacts a trip here. You can curb its impact by being prepared. In this article I’m sharing the items I packed and why, didn’t pack and why as well as anything I should have packed.

{Women’s Packing List for Banff and Jasper in September}

As for packing, here’s the list and below is more detail as to how I came up with this list:

  • 1 pair of hiking pants for each day (assuming no access to do laundry)
  • 1 hiking shirt per day
  • 1 sports bra for every 2 days
  • 1 pair of hiking socks per day
  • 1 rain jacket
  • 1 REALLY cold weather jacket
  • 1 warm hat or headband
  • 1 wide brimmed hat or baseball cap
  • 1 scarf or neck buff
  • 1 pair of cold weather gloves
  • 1 pair of hiking shoes or boots
  • 1 pair of other comfortable shoes or sandals
  • 1 swimsuit
  • 1-2 cute outfits

Leave the expensive jewelry at home. I wore a pair of fashion earrings throughout the trip but that was the only jewelry I had. We tended to go to dinner straight from a day’s activities rather than going back to our hotel to freshen up first. If we had, I probably would have packed a few more pairs of earrings and maybe a couple necklaces to wear to dinner – but that’s just personal preference. It’s a VERY casual place.

{Gear To Pack for Banff and Jasper in September}

  • 1 reusable water bottle
  • Binoculars
  • Camera
  • Trekking polls
  • Hand warmers
  • Sunglasses
  • Eyeglasses
  • Contact lenses
  • 1 microfiber towel
  • 1 Drybag
  • 1 rain cover for day pack
  • Sunscreen
  • Tissues
  • Hand sanitizer
  • Chapstick
  • Moisturizer

{Notes and Details for the Packing List}

Hiking Pants vs. Leggings. I packed hiking pants instead of shorts because I knew I’d get cold in shorts. Also, I wanted to protect my legs from debris while hiking. I didn’t pack any athletic leggings. I saw a lot of women hiking in leggings which is fine. They keep you warm. If I didn’t have hiking pants I would have had taken my athletic wear also. The only thing I don’t like about leggings is that if a tree branch or something pokes you, it’s gonna poke right through the leggings to your skin.

I’m a fan of Prana’s Halle pants. Lululemon leggings. And Athleta jackets.

Hiking Shirts. I really like these Tamiami hiking shirts from Columbia – long sleeves, moisture wicking, nice colors, zippered pockets, and machine washable. Their low price tag is nice too! I have a few of these in different colors. I wore one everyday with a camisole underneath so that as I got warm while hiking I could shed layers. These are available for Men, Women, and Girls. For petite women, I recommend the Girls sizes. The Girls XL fit me perfectly (4’11”; 100lb). Athletic wear tops would have been fine too. But I like the features of these shirts vs. my athletic wear that I wear for working out.

Sports Bras. I definitely recommend sports bras vs. underwire bras. They’re just more comfortable which you need when you’re doing serious hikes and out and about all day. Make sure your sports bras are moisture wicking. I took 3 sports bras for a 5 day trip and used all 3. In the evening back at the hotel, I hand washed my bra from that day. If you look up ‘travel laundry detergent’ on Amazon you’ll find lots of options. I buy sports bras from Old Navy – good quality and inexpensive.

Hiking Shoes. This is a destination where you need proper hiking shoes. Don’t just wear your regular sneakers. I like Oboz’s Sawtooth hiking shoes.

Hiking Socks. I took all 3 pairs that I own and washed them in the hotel sink at night. I can’t emphasize how important moisture wicking proper hiking socks are vs. regular socks. We had action packed days of hiking and outdoor activities and I would have felt unstable and uncomfortable wearing my ‘regular’ socks. I did wear regular socks on the last day. We did a couple of hikes that day and my socks kept slipping off of my heels.

Cold Weather Jacket. Feeling cold is very subjective. While I was bundled up walking around Banff in my big North Face, down jacket, I saw people walking around in t-shirts. My best advice here is to look at the temperature before you leave. You know you, so pack cold weather gear accordingly.

Rain Jacket. I packed a cold weather North Face jacket as well as a Columbia rain jacket. My cold weather jacket can be worn for rain and skiing and since I found it cold in Banff and Jasper, I wore my North Face the whole time and never ended up using the Columbia jacket. Still I’m glad I brought it, as on warmer days I would have preferred the thinner rain jacket. You need at least 1 waterproof or rain resistant jacket.

Trekking Poles. I didn’t bring any. And I didn’t need them. But had it rained and we were caught on a hike and going downhill, trekking poles would have been nice to have.

Cute Outfits. I didn’t pack any cute outfits because of the flow of our days: up and out early and all day and evening, go straight to a restaurant for dinner and then back to the hotel for the night. If we were going back to the hotel to freshen up before dinner then I would have packed jeans and cute tops or maybe a maxi dress.

Rain Covers. Rain covers for your backpack and camera are important. My previous DSLR died from spray from a waterfall, so if you get caught in the rain you want to make sure it won’t get damaged. Same thing for your gear inside your daypack. This lowepro toploader comes with a rain cover.

Picnic Gear. If you’re not picnicking in Banff, you’re missing out. While there are restrooms at many of the sights and points of interest throughout Banff and Jasper, some have soap and water to wash hands and some don’t. Having hand sanitizer is a good idea. I went a step further and packed a small bottle of hand soap and little towelettes so we could properly wash our hands. I didn’t pack a collapsible travel cooler because the weather was pretty cold. If we had gone earlier in the summer I would have packed one. I did pack a few paper plates, cutlery, tissue packs to use as napkins – I had room in my luggage and then I didn’t have to buy packs of this stuff that I wouldn’t finish over there.

{What To Pack In Your Day Pack}

Bottle of water. Many drives and hiking trails are long and/or uphill and you’ll need water to stay hydrated. As you drive from Banff to Jasper or vice versa, or on the Bow Valley Parkway there’s none or few places to stop to buy things. So I recommend setting off each day prepared.


Food and Snacks. Again there’s very few places where you can buy anything. If you’re going in summer, I recommend packing one of those collapsible travel coolers, you probably won’t have access to a freezer to freeze your ice packs but you can buy ice from the IGA grocery store or Nesters Market, both in Banff town. Plus, you’ll want to picnic anyway. There are many places to stop with picnic tables, benches or simply lookout points with stunning views. As for our daypacks and what we carried on any long hikes or activities: water bottle + snacks. Sometimes we carried 2-4 KIND bars, or crackers, or carrots. 


Car Phone Mount. You’ll likely be using Google Maps or some form of GPS on your phone. We took our Wiz Gear with us and were so glad as it made navigating simple. We left this in the car for the duration of our trip. I put it in the daypack section, so you remember it, the first day. Don’t forget to remove it when you return your rental car!


Tissues and Chapstick/Lip Balm. Have you ever been running or exercising and your nose starts to run? We were so glad we brought Chapstick as we didn’t realize the air would be so dry.


Gloves. I had gloves because of the cold weather but they also served to protect my hands if I had to grab onto a tree or butt scoot while hiking.


Sunscreen. The UV rating in Banff is high. You’ll want a sunscreen with SPF 30 or higher. Don’t forget to apply it at last 30 minutes before you set out, to give it time to soak into your skin. You want it in your daypack, so you can reapply throughout the day.


Sunglasses. Self explanatory.


Hat. I packed a wide brimmed sun hat as well as a warm weather hat and I used both. The first two days we were there it was bright and sunny. The last couple days it was overcast and cold.


Rain cover for your backpack. The last thing you need is for all your gear to get soaked and/or ruined. If your backpack didn’t come with a rain cover, you can find one on Amazon. This came in very handy as we were out on a trail when it started raining. It’s super lightweight too.


Neck Buff. These multipurpose cloths come in handy as lightweight scarves, headbands, handkerchiefs and more.


DSLR Gear. I carry 1 camera body, 1 wide angle lens, 1 zoom lens, 1 extra camera battery (fully charged), 2-3 extra memory cards (empty cards), wipes to clean the glass. This is one destination where you might want to prioritize using a DSLR over your camera phone.


Medicine and First Aid Kit. I always keep some pain reliever, band aids, and Neosporin in my daypack. Some places in Banff and Jasper you may need mosquito repellant.

Hand Warmers. I packed a few of these and they came in handy. It did get really cold some nights that we were out and these made me a little more comfy. I bought these on Amazon.

{Food Gear To Pack For Banff and Jasper Regardless of When You Go}

  • Extra bags – resealable as well as larger grocery bags to store snacks, open food packages, and trash.
  • Food clips and/or rubber bands to seal open food packages.
  • Paper plates, cups, cutlery, napkins. These came in really handy when we stopped for picnics and breaks. (pack or buy there)
  • Small containers for hot chocolate and sugar (see info below)
  • Thermos for hot water
  • Water bottle
  • Tea bags (or buy there)
  • Oatmeal (or buy there see more info below)

You definitely want to plan for having a picnic while you’re in Banff and Jasper. Once you’re out of the main town there’s not much – as in very few places to buy food or go to a restaurant.

I bought these little containers and use them pretty much whenever I travel. For Banff and Jasper I filled them with hot chocolate powder and sugar. While we were out, after a long hike on a rainy and cold day, we really enjoyed hot cocoa and tea with cookies.

Oatmeal. If your hotel doesn’t include breakfast, and especially if you have any dietary restrictions, sometimes I travel with a small ziploc of my oatmeal. Most hotel rooms have a coffee maker and cups. So I warm up water in the hotel room’s coffeemaker which cooks the oatmeal in the cup. I’ll buy bananas, apples or blueberries if the hotel room has a refrigerator and eat that for breakfast. Healthy, tasty, convenient and cheap.

For the items I could have bought at the market, I had the space in my luggage and this way I could eat the oatmeal I know I like.

{Bathrooms in Banff and Jasper: What To Pack}

There are numerous public bathrooms throughout Banff and Jasper. At very popular and higher population areas such as Lake Louise and Lake Louise Village, Banff town, the Columbia Icefield Discovery Centre, Johnston Canyon hike, there are modern public bathrooms with plumbing, soap, hand dryers, and multiple stalls. At pretty much every trailhead there are bathrooms but they are dry toilets with toilet paper (though that seemed like it was hit or miss), and no sinks nor soap to wash your hands. We anticipated this might be the case in Banff and Jasper and set out each day prepared with:

Other products that seem useful but I’ve never purchased:
Toilet seat covers
Female urination device(?)

*The compressed towels have been a great add to my travel gear. They’re tiny, weigh almost nothing and perfect for washing your hands, face, or even just to use to freshen up.

Toilet Seat Covers. I think the US is the only country where toilet seat covers in public bathrooms is a thing. It’s definitely not a thing in Canada. You can buy disposable toilet seat covers on Amazon. I didn’t take them because I just used toilet paper. I am planning to buy them for an upcoming trip to the Galápagos Islands because these pack compactly in a daypack – more so than toilet paper. In the Galápagos I’m not going to have access to a car to store all our stuff, so that’s why packing compactly is more important.

Going While On a Hike. There are no restrooms on the hikes – only at the trailheads. If you’re out on the trail and you just have to go, then follow the principal – leave no trace. Just like you’d look after your dog, buy a pack of biodegradable trash bags. The rest of the items listed above will come in very handy too. I’ve never tried a female urination device but I know people who have and they are glad they got one.

Since we had a rental car, we didn’t have to worry about lugging this around all day. We just kept it in a bag in our car.

{Packing for Rain + Inclement Weather}

It rains often in Banff and Jasper. We were surprised that the weekend following Labor Day (US Labor Day), there were high chances of rain. We wore rain repellant gear – pants, jackets with hoods, and we had a cover for our day pack. We also packed a whole extra change of clothes, just in case we got stuck on a hike, in the rain (including underwear and socks; being in wet clothes, sucks!). That way we could change when we got back to our car. We also each packed an extra pair of shoes just in case our hiking boots were super muddy – to avoid bringing all of that into our rental car.

We also packed:

  • a couple of microfiber towels
  • a bag to store the wet clothes
  • two separate bags for wet shoes
  • a separate bag for the microfiber towel, which would be wet after use. Didn’t want to put it with the wet clothes, to keep it clean in case we needed it throughout the day. We didn’t use the bag. We just laid it out on the back seat of the car to dry. Be careful though. You never know if some of the color from the towel will rub off on the seat of the car.
  • rain cover for the DSLR, so we could still use it even if it was raining.
  • extra hair ties
  • I also had my travel hair brush. I have waist length hair and after a long hike…plus wet, it gets tangled.

Our rental car had tinted windows so changing in the car was no issue.

ProTip: Make sure to remove wet items from the car, otherwise it will stink up the car.

Pro ProTip: Once you’re changed and nice and dry, after a cold and rainy hike, it’s kinda nice to have a warm beverage. Before we set off for the day I put very hot water in my Zojirushi thermos and also packed tea bags and chai packets along with some cookies, paper cups and plates (not plastic) and napkins. Once we were changed and settled, I busted out the tea and cookies and my husband thought I was a travel genius. It was a nice comfy treat we enjoyed with the gorgeous wilderness in the background! I also packed a few extra gallon ziploc bags for our trash and any open food.

This Zojirushi thermos is insane. It keeps your hot beverages hot and your cold beverages cold – all day. 

As for the paper cups and plates, I packed those from home. We could have bought them at the market too, but I had a bunch at home and had the space in my luggage.

By the way, the products I link to are based on my own experience. I link them (instead of just mentioning them) to make it easy for you to find. I don’t get asked to endorse them nor do I make any money nor receive any other benefit from it.

I hope this info was helpful! There’s more to packing for Banff and Jasper than just clothes and I wish I had this info before I went on my trip so I wanted to share it with all of you. Have a brilliant time in Banff, Jasper and wherever else your travels take you!

{Some Of Our Favorite Photos From Banff + Jasper, National Parks}

Waterfall at Johnston Canyon, Banff National Park.
Mountain Goat, at Goats and Glaciers stop along the Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park.
Tangle Falls along the Icefields Parkway at Banff National Park.
Lake Louise, Banff National Park
Magpie in Flight, at Cascade Pond, Banff National Park. Love how you can see its reflection in the pond, too!
So glad I rented a wide angle lens for this trip! Peyto Lake, Banff National Park.

 

Raven at Bow Falls, Banff National Park.

 

Athabasca Glacier, Icefields Parkway, Jasper National Park.

 

Some of our Other Articles You Might Like:

Vegan or Vegetarian in Banff 
Mountain Gorillas in Uganda: A Photo Article
Petite Womens Guide To Packing for a Safari
Womens Guide to Packing for Costa Rica (applicable to Belize as well)

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