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 (here’s a helpful how to write your wedding vows blog post)
- Permits and Park Passes (if needed)
- Marriage License
- Letters or gifts for your partner
- Backpack/daypack for hiking
- Hiking boots (with merino wool socks)
- Fleece/Down/Rain Shell Jacket
- 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.
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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, but that’s just our biased opinion. (: 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 (this goes for guests too) — 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 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!). Merino 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. We hike with two pairs each, but you may only need one pair (just depends on what your activities you’re doing on your elopement — you may want a second pair if you’re doing a sunrise and a sunset hike).
We often hike around sunrise or sunset, so a headlamp is a must-have item to navigate in the dark. We’ll have spare headlamps with us and an emergency flashlight–so you can borrow them if you need. Just note that you’ll need to purchase headlamps if you plan on hiking on the other days around your elopement or if you have guests hiking with us.
Any backpack will do for 80% of our elopements, but these are our favorite packs if you need to pick one up. If you’re eloping in the Pacific Northwest, it’s also helpful to have either a trash bag liner or removable rain cover to keep your items dry when it rains. All of our packs have a removable rain cover tucked at the bottom of the bag. 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 puff jacket, flowers, or other bulkier items.
Osprey Stratos 36 Liter Pack – Fantastic pack for longer hikes with a hip belt, stowed rain cover, and an easy way to attach trekking poles to the bag. One of the more comfortable packs if you have to carry jackets and larger items.
REI Co-op Ruckpack 28 Liter – This pack has an easy way to attach trekking poles, a removable rain cover, and some nice internal pockets for organizing items for your elopement.
The North Face Pivoter 27 Liter Pack – Great option for most elopements and has a front panel that’s easy to store flowers while hiking (some colors have a different design, look for the front panel).
Osprey 20 Liter Pack – Smaller bag from a company known for great packs that also features a front panel for storing flowers.
Light-Fleece Jacket/Rain Jacket
Even if you’re eloping in the summer, you’ll probably have much colder temperatures before the sun comes up and after it sets. 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 most likely 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 the past many years. So chances are you’ll want a jacket!
Helly Hansen Men’s Fleece Jacket (for warmer days in the 60s) – Lightweight fleece that’s always worth having stowed in your bag.
Helly Hansen’s Women’s Fleece Jacket – Same jacket with a trimmer fit.
Patagonia Men’s Down Jacket (for colder temps in the 30s/40s) – Lightweight down jacket that packs a lot of warmth. Pair this with a fleece jacket and you’ll be warm and cozy in the mountains.
Patagonia Women’s Jacket (for colder temps in the 30s/40s) – Same jacket with a trimmer fit.
Coastal Elopements (PNW, Iceland, New Zealand)
Helly Hansen Men’s Rain Shell Jacket – If you have to hike in more rugged wind and rain, this jacket will be one of the best options out there.
Helly Hansen Women’s Rain Shell Jacket – Same style jacket for women.
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.
Trekology Z-Fold Hiking Poles – We use these poles for all of our hiking. Largely because these are affordable and compact–making it easy when packing for your elopement.
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.
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 in 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 hike with!
Pendleton Yakima Camp Blanket – The prettiest, coziest blanket around. The ‘mineral umber’ style is our favorite!
Kelty Insulated Blanket – Two-toned insulated blanket that’s lightweight and easy to pack.
Ruth & Boaz Wool Blend Blanket – Beautiful design and made of a wool blend.
Tumbler or Coffee Mug
If you want to bring hot (or iced) coffee on the trail, we definitely recommend bringing some form of a coffee mug. Ryan needs his coffee, especially when we start before the sunrise–so having a tumbler makes life a lot easier for us. Just depends on your coffee needs! In these more remote areas, you might have a long drive to the nearest coffee shop.
Hydroflask 16oz Coffee Mug – This is what Ryan uses for driving hot or iced coffee for most elopements.
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’ll 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 all you’d like to store–but use the diagram on the site to figure out the size you need!
Water Bottle/Water Bladder
You’ll want to come prepared with plenty of water. We bring our Nalgene Bottles for shorter hikes and our water bladders for longer hikes on elopement days. We’ll have a water filter on hand, so we can get fresh, filtered water if there are any water sources along our hike! Water does seem to keep humans alive. So make sure to have it!
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 quick and makes it easy to make coffee or meals on the go.
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.