Most couples who start planning their elopement wonder, “What do I need to bring for the day?” Packing for your elopement means having the right gear and all of the wedding-day essentials. And if you spend your free time hiking and exploring the outdoors, you’re probably well on your way to having everything you need. However, it’s always worth going over a list of things we recommend having.
We have been DIY hikers for many years. So don’t feel obligated to buy the nicest gear possible if it isn’t a good fit for you. These are our personal recommendations after countless miles of hiking and documenting elopements and should at least give you a better idea of what you may want to bring with you.
- Wedding Attire (Suit, Dress)
- Accessories (jewelry, hair piece, tie, cufflinks, etc.)
- Vow Books
- Permits and Park Passes (if needed)
- Marriage License
- Letters or gifts for your partner
- Backpack/daypack for hiking
- Hiking boots (with merino wool socks)
- Puffy Jacket
- Rain Jacket (for the PNW)
- Sunglasses (for the Rockies)
- Water Bottle
- Special items (beverage of choice, blanket, portable speaker, etc.)
- The Ten Essentials (we always have these while hiking with our couples)
We Want Couples to Be Prepared
We’ll be sure to tell you in advance specific items you may need to be comfortable and safe on the trail with us! We come prepared with a lot of extra items, so if you’re working with another elopement photographer, please check in with them to see if they have any gear or items that will make your experience more comfortable!
We carry a travel Dopp kit when packing for your elopement with lots of tiny things that couples have needed over the years. Everything from extra bandaids, a tiny mirror for touch-ups, and dry shampoo. We love our little kit as a way to be prepared for most circumstances. However, this blog post is more about the “big picture” and things that you can bring to be more comfortable.
Some of the links below are affiliate links. So you can support us by using the links below! We only link to products we genuinely recommend. Even if we receive no incentive or kickback for recommending a specific item. We just want to help everyone have a better time out on the trail!
Buy Gear at Backcountry
Backcountry is one of the most popular places to buy outdoor gear. If you’re looking to buy big ticket items, they frequently have a 20% coupon for signing up for their free rewards program. So that can be a nice way to save some money while buying new gear. If you like an item we link below, you can see if Backcountry carries it too so you can use that 20% off. They tend to have sales more frequently than REI and still carry popular brands like Patagonia.
Buy Gear at REI (and wait for those holiday sales too)
REI is one of the best places to purchase outdoor gear. You can sign up for their $20 lifetime membership (one-time fee of $20) and get 10% back on most purchases. They’ll send you a digital gift card typically in March of the following year. It usually pays for itself within one trip, and we’re usually purchasing the gear anyways.
REI is great for another reason though. They have a one-year return policy on their gear. So if you’re new to the outdoors, or not sure which jacket or item works best for you–you can have a much easier return or exchange process at REI. Not to mention they have exclusive gear for members and send out 20-25% coupons (even for expensive items). They also have gear rental available at different locations. So if you want to rent out snowshoes, a backpacking tent, or other common backcountry gear–you can rent it instead.
Buy Gear at Topo Designs
We love supporting Topo Designs! They’re a Colorado-based company that sells packs, jackets, and lots of useful stuff for traveling and adventures in the mountains. Their gear blends really well between city and mountain life. So that’s always a plus for us! Ryan uses one of their bags for fly-fishing, I use their dopp kit and accessory pouches for travel organization, and we’ve both traveled overseas with their backpacks. So we’re pretty big fans!
Purchasing used gear isn’t just for people on a budget. It’s also a more sustainable choice for the environment. Especially if you might not be using these items beyond your trip. We both have Arcteryx Atom LT Jackets that we thrifted in Colorado (we’re very proud of that). It’s obviously more work to track down used gear when you need it, so it’s not always feasible. But it’s worth a shot!
Luckily, the Denver REI flagship store is right across the street from Wilderness Exchange Unlimited. So it’s pretty easy to walk over there and see if you can find any deals! You can also look for popular outdoor brands like “Arcteryx” or “Patagonia” on apps like Mercari or Facebook Marketplace.
Hiking Gear We Recommend for Elopements
We require every couple to come prepared with high traction hiking boots. Even if you’re eloping somewhere where we won’t be hiking far. You could easily slip while crossing logs or standing up on a boulder. It’s also one of the comfiest ways to spend the day exploring. (: Hiking boots look great with dresses and suits! Do not bring tennis shoes, cowboy/work boots, or anything that isn’t meant specifically for hiking — we want you to first and foremost be safe. We’d hate for you to roll your ankle on your big day!
When packing for your elopement, you can bring dress shoes with you. But most of our couples opt to stay in their hiking boots all day. Chacos or Tevas are acceptable for some hikes but we’ll let ya know otherwise.
Blundstone Unisex 550 Boots – The best-looking boot that’s comfortable and goes with pretty much any elopement outfit with great traction.
Danner Women’s 600 Boots – Danner Boots are a classic choice, and these lightweight boots are stylish and a good investment for active hiking.
Danner Men’s 600 Boots – Same boot for men.
Columbia Women’s Newton Ridge Boots – They look like Danner boots for half the price. Good traction and are lightweight but they don’t last as long as the Danner boots.
Columbia Men’s Newton Ridge Boots – Same boot for men.
If you’re new to the outdoor world, these sock recommendations will seem expensive. But having quality merino socks can really make a big difference (believe me, having wet/damp socks and getting blisters is the worst)! Wool is one of the best fabrics for hiking and outdoor activities since it is quick-drying, odor-resistant, and breathable. When packing for your elopement, you want to avoid wearing cotton as much as possible. We recommend 1/4 cut (crew cut) for most hiking boots. Although you might want to get longer merino socks if you’re eloping in the winter/snow. Darn Tough socks are popular with most hikers and have a lifetime warranty too.
Darn Tough also makes some cute outdoorsy designs too:
We often hike around sunrise or sunset, so a headlamp is a must-have item to navigate in the dark. If you already own a headlamp, just make sure you have fresh batteries or have recharged your headlamp beforehand. It can be an easy thing to forget! Any headlamp will work just fine but the popular brands are Black Diamond and Petzl.
Cheap but works great: Black Diamond Astro 300 Headlamp
If you want to invest in a good headlamp for adventures: Black Diamond Spot 400 Headlamp
If you want the headlamp we use: Petzl Actik Core Headlamp (Rechargeable)
Any backpack will do for 80% of our elopements, but these are our favorite packs if you want to buy a new one. It’s also helpful to have either a trash bag liner or a removable rain cover to keep your items dry in case it rains. Typically a 20-liter bag is a great size for smaller hikes, with 30-35 liters being better if you plan on tucking away a puffy jacket, flowers, or other bulkier items. We do prefer Osprey bags over most other options. They are very comfortable, well-made packs. They’re pretty standard to see out on the trail.
Smaller Packs (around 20 liters):
Topo Designs Packs
We absolutely love supporting Topo Designs! They’re a Colorado-based company that makes really great gear that blends well between city life and mountain life. We have had a few brides with the Rover pack for their elopement, but they also have other packs to choose from. We really love all the colors they offer too! They also have great jackets, accessory items, and other stylish stuff for adventures in the mountains!
Even if you’re eloping in the summer, you’ll probably have colder temperatures around sunrise or sunset. If you’re eloping in the mountains, we might be hiking up to 6-12,000 feet in elevation where it’ll be much colder (and probably windy). So you’ll want to bundle up! Worst case scenario, a jacket sits unused at the bottom of your pack. But we’ve worn a jacket for nearly every elopement in the past many years. So chances are you’ll want a jacket!
We recommend the Patagonia Nano Puff since it’s a classic. But any “puffy” style jacket will work to keep you warm!
Tip: You can buy Patagonia jackets at Backcountry and use their 20% coupon to save some money.
Arc’teryx Atom LT Jacket / (Women’s Option Here) – Our favorite jacket for three-season use. It’s not as warm as a true puffy jacket, but we like that it’s more breathable. It’s pretty expensive for what it is, but we face a lot of peer pressure in the mountain towns of Colorado.
Decathalon Forclaz Puffy Jacket (Budget Option) – An amazing lightweight puffy jacket for only $80. It’s a favorite jacket by many ultralight budget backpackers!
Melanzana Grid Hoodie (Colorado only) – Wearing a “Melly” jacket is about as Colorado as it gets. They sell these jackets exclusively by appointment at their Leadville, Colorado store. It’s a breathable fleece hoody, and there are other options (like Fayettechill) available. But it makes for a pretty memorable way to get gear for your elopement trip if you can make an appointment! Note: these jackets are not warm at all on a windy day. They’re meant to be worn while hiking and staying active.
No matter where you elope, you’ll be outdoors where there is a chance of rain. While the Rockies tend to be a pretty dry climate, we still get afternoon rain showers in the summer. It’s always good to have a decent rain jacket around if you enjoy hiking or backpacking. If you’re on a budget or don’t imagine using a rain jacket, we have a budget option below. You can also just pick up an emergency rain poncho too.
Women’s Patagonia Torrentshell 3L Rain Jacket (Men’s option here) – We really enjoy these rain jackets after living in Washington and hiking a lot more in the rain! Like most rain jackets, these do eventually “wet” out. But we enjoy them!
Frogg Toggs Ultralite 2 Rain Jacket (Budget Option) – It isn’t cute, they tear easily, and they’re pretty baggy. However, it’s super lightweight (1/2 a pound lighter than most jackets) and will keep you dry for the duration of your elopement trip! A great option for those of you who don’t need a rain jacket back home or who are eloping in Colorado where it’s a drier climate.
If you have knee problems, a heavy pack to carry, or have a steep hike (1,000+ ft in elevation gain)–you’ll probably want to pick up some hiking poles. We use hiking poles all the time for hikes and they have really saved our knees! They’re also helpful for stream crossings and keeping your balance on exposed sections of the trail.
REI Trailbreak Hiking Poles – These are high-quality, lightweight hiking poles. Best for those who are driving out for their elopement, as these might not fit into a carry-on or in your suitcase easily.
Trekology Z-Fold Hiking Poles (Budget Option) – We use these poles for all of our hiking. Largely because these are affordable and compact–making it easy when packing for your elopement. This is one of those recommendations where the budget option works just as well as a big-name brand.
Blankets are great for resting after a long hike and having snacks or drinks. We’re all about that cozy feeling when looking out at an alpine lake with a fresh cup of coffee in hand. And in the early morning when it’s cold, you can take a break from photos to cuddle close. There are some lightweight options that are better for hiking, and some more stylish options too. So it just depends on how much weight you’re willing to carry!
Sackcloth & Ashes Mountain Blanket – The prettiest, coziest blanket around! They’re also sustainable and have an amazing donation program.
Pendleton National Park Blanket Series – A warm wool blanket that we absolutely adore. Super warm and easy to use at home too.
Rumpl Original Puffy Blanket – This is the lightest and warmest blanket you can buy. They have the texture of a puffy jacket, so it’s not a “wool” cozy blanket by any means. But it does pack a lot of warmth if you need a warm blanket for your elopement.
Alpaca Threadz (Colorado local) – Lightweight and softer than traditional wool blankets. Some of their options have a two-tone design which is pretty neat.
Some couples want to make coffee, tea, or hot chocolate on their elopement day! Especially if we’re planning for cool weather or hiking at sunrise, sometimes it’s nice to have a little pick me up!
REI Co-op Mug (Cute Campy Designs) – Just a cute, cozy mug that you’ll often see at REI.
YETI Rambler Mug – This is our favorite to use around the house too! The lid design makes cleaning a breeze. And we love putting cute stickers on tumbler mugs like this too.
GSI Camp Mug – This isn’t the cutest mug but it’s super lightweight and realistic for using outdoors or for backpacking.
Kuju Drip Coffee Single Origin – Some of the best backcountry coffee you can quickly make. It’s like a mini pour-over kit. So you’ll probably want a zip lock bag or something to avoid making a mess, but totally worth it for some good coffee.
Verve Instant Craft Coffee – This is really good instant coffee! Instant coffee has changed a lot in recent years, and now it’s tastier than ever.
Speakers are great for being able to do a “first dance” out on the trail and also for jamming out on the trail (at a low volume to respect other hikers). You might already have one sitting at home, but these are just a few that we like. Keep in mind for coastal elopements that the waves can be pretty loud–so you might want a bigger speaker for the beach.
JBL Waterproof Speaker – Super easy to clip onto your bag and has a great sound for the size.
JBL Waterproof Flip 5 Speaker – Larger size for coastal elopements, campfires, or anything where you might want louder sound.
There’s always a chance especially in the Pacific Northwest that it will rain. So packing for your elopement also means packing for the weather! A small dry bag is a lightweight option for storing your wallet and phone while we’re out hiking. There are various sizes, but we like 4 liters to be able to fit a few extra items. Totally depends on what essentials you need to keep dry.
You can also bring a trash bag or trash compactor bag as a “liner” for your daypack or backpack. You can shove it at the bottom of your pack and forget about it. And if the weather shows rain, you’ll have something to protect everything in your pack.
Water Bottle/Water Bladder
You’ll want to come prepared with plenty of water regardless of the hikes we plan. We prefer reusing 1 liter Smart Water Bottles since they are lightweight and have a sports cap (making it easy to drink). So you can easily pick those up from any store. But we also enjoy using our Nalgene bottles for road trips (plus: you can get cute stickers on your trip to put on your Nalgene bottle too)! We don’t recommend water bladders for a few different reasons, but we know there are some people who really love using them. So we’ve linked an option below! Just make sure your daypack has a way to properly carry a water bladder before ordering one.
Hyperlite Mountain Gear
This recommendation is for experienced hikers/backpackers who are looking to invest in new backpacking gear. We’ve really enjoyed using Hyperlite Mountain Gear this past year! We spend a ton of time outdoors on the trail. So we love having high-quality backpacking gear that allows us to explore nature while keeping our pack weight low. Their products are more expensive than what you might find at REI, but that’s because of the more expensive fabrics they use (Dynema). Hyperlite is all about minimal design and taking only what you need. So their packs and other products don’t have all the “bells and whistles” you might find at REI. But we really appreciate the minimalism! We have used their Southwest 2400 pack, pack “pods,” dry bags, and their Re-Pack for rehydrating backpacking meals!
More Specific Gear
You can pick up a Jetboil if you’re doing a camping road trip or plan on making a backpacking meal for your elopement. We have spent too many hours in high winds at 12,000 ft trying to boil water with other setups. Jetboil boils water super quickly and makes it easy to make coffee or meals on the go. Just be sure to pick up fuel before your elopement trip!
Oxygen Canister (high elevation elopements)
If you’re eloping in a high elevation area (typically above 5,000 feet), oxygen canisters can help you catch your breath while hiking. It’s essentially a large inhaler to help deliver high amounts of oxygen. The best thing you can do for your body is to adapt to elevation slowly, drink lots of water, and be physically prepared beforehand. But we’ve really enjoyed having these oxygen canisters with us. Note: Boost Oxygen has flavored oxygen which just seems like a bad idea. So we always get the green canisters that are the “natural” flavor which has no taste.
Bear Spray (MT, WY, and Northern WA)
We always recommend carrying bear spray in grizzly bear country: Montana or Wyoming. And for safety sake, we carry bear spray in Northern Washington or in areas known for frequent wildlife encounters. Chances of an encounter are rare. This is just a cautionary recommendation, and you’ll often see signs posted in areas that recommend it.
Keep in mind, bear spray cannot be brought onto an aircraft. So if you’re flying in, you’ll want to buy it locally. Also, bear spray is prohibited in some places like Yosemite National Park.