Joshua Tree National Park Backpacking Packing List

The following list is designed for a non-guided backpacking trip in Joshua Tree National Park. (For information about visiting the park, see our Joshua Tree Visitor’s Guide.) The list includes some environment-specific options for the park’s desert backcountry. If you’re going with a commercial group, check with the guide company to see what items it provides.

Included in this list are the Ten Essential Systems you should have on every backcountry trip: navigation; sun protection; insulation; illumination; first-aid supplies; fire starter; repair kit and tools; nutrition; hydration; emergency shelter. To learn more, see our Ten Essentials article.

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Important info about water: Because all water sources in the park are reserved for wildlife, you have to bring all the water you’ll need for your backcountry trip. The park service recommends 1–2 gallons per day, depending on the temperature and your activity level. That’s just for drinking. For hygiene and cooking, you’ll need more.

The backpacking pack you choose will need to have enough space for your whole water supply. An alternative is caching. The park service allows multi-day hikers to cache food and water for up to 14 days.

Clothing and Footwear

In Joshua Tree’s desert environment, sun protection is essential. Wear loose-fitting, light-colored clothing and a wide-brimmed hat. Apply sunscreen to all exposed skin. Some trails can be overgrown, so long or convertible pants are best to avoid scratches and protect against cactus spines. Because the temperature in the park can change as much as 40 degrees in 24 hours, you should bring plenty of layers.

Personal Items 


Quantity varies depending on activity and length of trip. Keep in mind the trade-off between the water you need to hydrate dried foods and the weight of canned and fresh foods. If you want to cook, you’ll need to pack in a stove and fuel because fires are prohibited in the backcountry.