We visited Yellowstone in mid September, towards the end of the season, and found the weather very changeable. In a three day visit we had fairly warm sunshine, drizzle, a couple of heavy showers, one thunderstorm and very chilly nights. So you do need to pack a little of everything and plan to layer your clothes as needed. Take t-shirts, fleeces or jumpers, trousers and possibly shorts.
One thing you won’t need is a particularly smart outfit – even the nicest of the restaurants we visited, that at the Lake Yellowstone Hotel, accepts casual attire without question.
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: You can find most of the basic necessities you might need in the various general stores in the park (one in each main tourist area) but you probably won't want to spend your trip shopping for toothpaste, and the prices are higher than outside the park, so you should plan to pack everything you might need, relying on the stores for back-up or (hopefully not) an emergency.
Clothing for all seasons! I would wear a tank top under a t-shirt under a long sleeve shirt under a jacket. Seriously! Throughout the day you will peel off layers and then put them back on. Oh that Rocky Mountain Weather! Definately bring hiking shoes!
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Sunscreen, Lip balm, any of your daily use products. If you forget anything, you can pick it up at one of the General Stores located throughout the park
Photo Equipment: We brought SO much equipment, but we used every single thing. You may not have/need /want so much stuff., but I would suggest a good zoom and a good wide angle lens. A polarizer will be helpful as well.
Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: Well it depends on what you're doin. If not camping, I would just suggest an umbrella.
Miscellaneous: An invaluable tool that was suggested to me by VT member Annk was the Road Guide to Yellowstone and Grand Teton. The large map is broken down into sections withe the facing page giving descriptions on what you are seeing, or what you can get off the road to see. I would read it aloud as Lou drove around the park. He very much enjoyed the commentary and we learned a lot about the parks. I picked mine up at Barnes & Noble, though you can order it online as well.
Binoculars are also a very handy thing to have!
I’m going to tell you to over pack. Although snow is rare in July and August you can get cold weather, rain, or snow during any month of the year in Yellowstone. Be prepared for any kind of weather. Bring shorts, long pants, long sleeve and short sleeve shirts, rainwear, and jackets of varying weights. Even in the summer a mid weight jacket may be necessary, one that you could put a sweater or heavy shirt under. Last time we were up there for a camping trip in September, I had shorts on the first day, a light jacket the second, then a winter jacket for two days, a mid weight jacket with a rain jacket over, then back to a light jacket, you see what I mean? You will do lots and lots of walking if you really want to see the sites, so be sure to wear good hiking boots, or the most comfortable walking shoes you own. And don’t forget that sun hat and sunglasses.
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Remember, you are at a high altitude; it is easy to get sunburned. I forgot this myself, and received a mild sunburn on a gray, overcast, dark day while walking geyser basins in the fall.
Photo Equipment: You are going to see wildlife at varying distances. I have been trying to stress the rule of not getting too close through out my tips. You may get away with sneaking up on that large mammal, but you may not. If the animal decides to charge, you are plumb out of luck if you are in the way. So either forget about taking pictures of animals that are not close enough or bring a telephoto lens, or a digital camera that has telephoto settings. The photo of this grizzly bear and her cub was taken with a 300 mm lens as I stood near the car---no chances were taken. So, if you do not have a telephoto lens or a camera with telephoto settings, but have been thinking about getting one, now is the time.
Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: Bring a water bottle that you can carry on your belt when the weather is warm. If you are going to do any back country hiking, please be aware of bears. Purchase bear spray, I know it is expensive, and hopefully you will not need it, but please do not go without it. Bear spray has saved a number of people in our area of the country. And I am talking about those large cans designed as bear spray, not those little purse size cans of mace. Bear bells, ok I know they go jingle, jingle, and every bird and animal in the area knows you are coming down the trail. I have to confess that I resisted these when we first moved to Cody back in 1976. My husband gave me bells for Christmas one year as he didn’t like to have me hiking alone as I sometimes do in the woods of Michigan and the mountains at home in Cody. In fact he gave me two pairs. I still resisted bear bells until the year I was hiking in Michigan and had a rather close encounter with a black bear. Read my bear encounter under Miscellaneous.
Miscellaneous: The black bear didn’t know I was coming, and I didn’t expect him so we were both surprised. Mr. bear ran across the creek, but he was MAD, ripping and tearing at a tree, huffing in an upset manner. If he had been a grizzly, I probably wouldn’t be writing this tip today. I am now a believer of bear bells, and always wear them around when hiking in grizzly country, and well, almost always wear them in Michigan black bear country. You can purchase these in some of the gift shops. If you do not have the bells, then you should talk, whistle, or sing as you hike along.
My second photo shows some items that I always take if hiking off the main tourist routes, including bear spray. Note the small bear bell on my hiking stick. I love this bell! I purchased it at the Bridge Bay Marina store. It has a net bag with a magnet in the bottom, so if you do not need the bell, you can stop the sound by placing the cover on the bell. The small container on my hiking stick is a refillable sun block bottle.
Luggage and bags:
Yellowstone has its share of backcountry camping so if inclined bring your backpack. Otherwise, a small day pack is sufficient for the relatively short hikes in this park.
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: If you are not planning on doing any real hiking, comfortable walking shoes will suffice on most walks in the park. Wear synthetic layers for the very changeable weather in Yellowstone. Remember this park averages 8000 feet and is generally a cool if not cold place.
Photo Equipment: A wide angle lens helps you bring the foreground into your landscapes, making them more interesting but this is a place you will want the biggest, fastest zoom you can afford. I found my 450mm was just not long enough on quite few occasions. A tripod is needed for low light situations which you encounter often with wildlife photos. They are also great for cute couple shots. Just take the picture of the Yellowstone sign and never think you will come back to it later!
Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: This is a great park for camping so bring your tent, mats and warm sleeping bags. The latter will be necessary if coming after summer and in this neck of the woods, that can mean late August!
Miscellaneous: D was a great partner for Yellowstone. This was more her kind of place and it made me enjoy it more showing it to her.
Miscellaneous: I ordered a package through the park service and found this guide to be the most useful of items received. Detailed sectional maps are on the left, descriptions of sights on the right. Compact and easy to follow. Easier than following a fold-out map. Guide is $5.95 U.S. Beside purchasing on-line these guides are for sale at all the visitors centers in the park. But it's best to have before you enter so you don't miss anything! We used this guide from the moment we entered the park.
Luggage and bags:
Stay away from taking marshmallows to roast - they attract bears.
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Take some warm clothes for evening.
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Extra TP is always a good thing.
Bug spray and sunscreen a must. You are at a high altitude and the sun will get you faster than you know and before you know it.
Also take some wipes for bug bites. My granddaughter got bit by a spider and her face really swelled up. When we put some bug bite wipe on it, it went back down nicely.
Photo Equipment: Must have camera!!!
Also check our our cleat. www.vacuummounts.com It is perfect for taking pictures from the side of the road. You can slap it on the side of a car in no time flat and does not take up a great deal of room.
Camping/Beach/Outdoor Gear: It gets cold in the park at night - even in the summer. Line your sleeping bag with a blanket and that will help greatly to keep you warm at night.
Miscellaneous: The firewood they sold in the campgrounds was full of sap and did not burn well. You might want to get some outside the park.
Being from Florida, we were surpised that there was extensive snow on the ground in Wyoming and Montana in June. The kids liked climbing on the snow banks, but I was frequently cold. So wear or pack coats
Photo Equipment: A good camera (preferably digital) with a good optical zoom and plenty of photo cards and batteries and/or battery chargers is a Virtual Tourist necessity. And be sure you know how to use it before you come.
Luggage and bags:
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Hiking, walking, rain weather gear, fishing gear
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: There are some excellent hospital facilities located throughout the park. Bring only your necessary medications
Photo Equipment: Bring lots of film or memory
Miscellaneous: The excitement of seeing and stocking grizzly and black bears are undescribable and addictive even for someone like me who did not have much interest in wild life. Unfortunately these cuddly looking features do not come close enough for best viewing. These are moments when I wished I had been more prepared.
Luggage and bags:
Take a backpack with you for on your hikes.
Clothing/Shoes/Weather Gear: Good hiking shoes! You won't be sorry about that. The trails are good, but you walk a lot during the day. And the hiking trails can be rather steep and rocky.
Toiletries and Medical Supplies: Insect repellent!
Photo Equipment: Bring plenty of film! You won't regret it, there is so much to take pictures of! If you can bring a good zoomlens, so you can get the animals more up close, and you don't need to endanger yourself by going to close to the animals.
If you have a tripod take it with you. It can be useful for the evenings when the light conditions get less.
Film : I mostly use a 100 ISO film, but under these lighting conditions, mabye a 400 would be easier.