by Matt and Cheryl, updated May 2022
A wonderful vacation can turn into a nightmare when unsafe or uncomfortable situations arise. I once hiked 15 miles to a backcountry arch at Zion National Park but only stayed to view it for a couple of minutes because the bugs were so bad. Here are my suggestions to keep your trip running smooth and safe.
There are bears and other dangerous animals in a surprising number of mountain ranges in the United States. The National Park Service recommends you have a can of bear spray with you if you are going on backcountry trails in Glacier, Yellowstone, and Grand Teton National Park.
You can buy bear spray at these locations, but you’ll pay a higher price, not have a chance to get familiar with it (who wants to figure out bear spray on vacation?), and there is a chance they won’t have any available. I’ve noticed that as summer progresses, buying bear spray becomes more difficult.
If you aren’t going to be flying on an airplane, I recommend ordering the Frontiersman bear spray because it shot farther and longer than the others I tested in the video below.
Every RV, and home should have one. This Amerex Dry Chemical Fire Extinguisher found on Amazon will do the job well. Made of all metal parts, this extinguisher is made to last. Here are a couple of tips to make sure your extinguisher is working properly for when you need it.
- Pay attention to the pressure gauge. It will tell you when it needs to be recharged
- Have your extinguisher inspected every 6 years. There is a good change it will need to be recharged.
- If you aren’t sure where to have your extinguisher recharged, call your local fire department. They will be thrilled you are being so responsible and will refer you to a couple of local businesses.
Storms come and go very quickly in the mountains so a disposable poncho found on Amazon is a must. It takes up so little space and only costs a couple of dollars. This small purchase can save you a lot of misery if you get stuck in the rain on a hike or a long way from your car.
Don’t go on a trip without this. Great moments can be ruined by biting, swarming bugs! I’ve never purchased a can of mosquito spray that didn’t work, but here is a different option. Ultrathon Insect Repellent Lotion lasts for up to 12 hours and also protects against biting flies and deer flies. If you’ve ever been bitten by one of those, you’ll happily pay the $8 for this protection. A little bit of this lotion goes a long way. Plus I’d rather carry around this small bottle than a big can of aerosol mosquito spray that needs to be reapplied every couple of hours.
Once again, something that is so easy to pick up at the store. Most people don’t forget sunscreen when going to a dessert climate, but you can actually get a bit of sun at Yellowstone and Grand Teton, even if it’s cold! I love Neutrogena Healthy Defense Daily Moisturizer with SPF 50 and Vitamin E. I put it on my face every morning and never worry about the sun again. It is so light weight and I have NEVER had a face sunburn since I’ve been using this (everyone’s skin type is different, but I’m quite fair skinned). Plus, one bottle usually lasts me at least 6 months.
Bring a regular bottle of sunscreen for exposed skin, but use this on your face. You’ll love it.
At this writing, we are coping with COVID-19. Pack your mask or face shield. They are required to enter any building at the National Parks and are encouraged on the trails. You can make wearing a mask a bit more fun by getting festive and ordering one featuring a scene from a national park from Vamix, sold on Amazon, for your trip. So fun!