Half Dome Packing List: 22 Essentials To Bring On Your Hike

Half Dome is Yosemite’s most iconic attraction in all of Yosemite Valley.

But I have a love-hate relationship with Half Dome. I’ve done the entire thing multiple times — and boy, is it incredible… yet painful at the same time. Let me explain.

Having experienced this adventure multiple times, I’ve been able to witness blunders and mishaps from the mistakes my hikemates (and I myself) have made over the years!

If you don’t bring the right stuff, you could easily have a miserable time.

Take, for example, my “tough guy” friend who thought he could make it all the way up/down Half Dome with just two 16.9-oz Arrowhead water bottles. Nope. He ran out of water — I shared my water with him — and we were both extremely dehydrated after running out of water mid-way down! Like I said, miserable time.

So! If you’re planning a day hike up to good ol’ Half Dome, you’ll need to pack the right gear and you’ll need to know a thing or two about what to expect.

In this blog post, I will provide you with a comprehensive Half Dome packing list, followed by some essential hiking tips to know before you go. This post will include everything you need to make your hike as safe and enjoyable as possible.

Make sure to read through it carefully before your trip!

If you’re looking for an entire hiking guide, check out the following posts too:

This post may contain affiliate links. You won’t be paying a cent more, but in the event of a sale, the small affiliate commission I receive will help keep this blog running/pumping out useful and free content. Thanks a lot!

Half Dome Hike: What To Expect

Rising 4,800 feet above Yosemite Valley and 8,800 feet above sea level, Half Dome is a Yosemite icon and a highly coveted challenge for many hikers. Of course, as many know, the most iconic part of the hike is the ascent up the cables. The cables allow hikers to climb the last 400 feet to the summit without rock climbing equipment (what a treat for all of us non-climbers).

In my experience, the cables were actually pretty easy. Maybe that’s because I don’t have a fear of heights—so this may not be the case for you.

The most difficult part of the hike for me? The first 7-8 miles of elevation gain getting there. And then the 7-8 miles getting back to the trailhead. This hike is no joke, clocking in at 14-16 miles round-trip, and such an incredible feat.

If you’re thinking about doing the Half Dome hike, you really should be in good physical condition and be prepared for every part of the trek (so continue reading).

Does that mean you’ll need to train for this hike? Maybe, depends on where you currently are. Your body should be conditioned to not only handle hikes with elevation gain, but also hikes that are pretty long in nature.

You’re in? Great! Aside from the physical expectations, here’s what you can visually expect on the hike. You can look forward to a variety of nature’s best work along the way, including towering rock formations, ancient trees, as well as majestic waterfalls.

Specifically, you’ll encounter enchanting views of Vernal Falls, Nevada Falls, and Liberty Cap. From up top, you’ll get to take in panoramic views of Yosemite Valley and the High Sierras!

Half Dome Hike Tips - Travels With Elle

Before we get into what to pack for your hike, let’s talk about logistics.

  • Total Distance: 14-16 miles roundtrip
  • Elevation Change: 4,800 ft (1463 m)
  • Difficulty: Strenuous
  • Duration: 10 to 14 hours
  • When To Go: Usually late May to early October. The cables are up (conditions permitting) from Memorial Day through Columbus Day.
  • Permits: You must have a permit to climb the subdome and the Half Dome cables.
Half Dome Hiking Tips - Travels With Elle

When Is The Best Time To Hike Half Dome?

The best time to hike Half Dome is typically from late May to early October. During this period, the cables that assist hikers on the final ascent are usually installed (conditions permitting) and available for use, typically from Memorial Day through Columbus Day.

These months offer the most favorable weather conditions and accessibility to the summit, making it the ideal window for tackling this iconic hike.

Having said that, there are times when the cables go up a lot later, such as in 2023 when our state saw record-breaking rainfall/snowfall the winter before! And in 2017 — a year with heavy snow, but lighter than 2023’s — the cables were up on June 2.

Personally speaking, my favorite time to hike Half Dome is in June. I’ve done the hike both in June, and in July, and I found July to be way too hot for such a long hike. By mid-day, the granite rocks are reflecting so much sunlight and heating up the surrounding air so much that it makes it almost unbearable to hike without being grumpy and very, very hot!

Of course, this is depending on the specific year’s weather patterns, so take my words with a grain of salt!

Half Dome Packing List: Essentials To Bring On Your Hike

America the Beautiful National Parks Pass

America The Beautiful National Park Pass

Yosemite National Park costs $35 per vehicle for a 7-day pass. Kind of steep, right?

The America the Beautiful National Parks Pass is a great way to save on entrance fees. If you intend to visit three or more NPS parks or sites in a year, the America the Beautiful Pass will more than pay for itself.

[Example: Let’s say you plan on visiting three national parks this year. 3 National Parks x $30 parking each = $90. Already, your savings with the annual pass = $10. Any more parks you go to thereafter = FREE!]

This pass can be purchased at the park entrances or online here.

Hiking Daypack

Bring a daypack to carry your gloves, camera/phone, snacks, water, and other gear while climbing Half Dome.

If you’re going to be doing Half Dome as a day hike, a 28 to 35L backpack is enough to carry all the essentials you need. One of the best of the best-selling backpacks is the Osprey Skimmer 28 Hydration Pack (for women).

For the guys, the Osprey Manta 34 Hydration Pack is a great daypack loved by many hikers.

If your daypack doesn’t already come with a hydration sleeve (the bag that holds all your water), buy one for the hike! I recommend a 3-liter hydration reservoir.

Overnight backpacking pack

For those of you doing the multi-day backpacking trip where you’ll be carrying all of your gear, you’re going to want to go with something ranging from 50 to 80 liters.

I am a huge fan of Osprey bags due to their genius design and high quality (they are my personal favorites)! One great thing about the Osprey Aura (women) and the Osprey Atmos (men) is that you can remove the top lid for shorter hikes, thereby turning them into smaller, less bulky packs.

Hiking Boots

First and foremost, you will need a good pair of hiking boots. Half Dome is a strenuous hike with lots of rock and elevation change, and you’ll need footwear that can handle the terrain.

They not only provide better protection for stepping on all of the rocks at Yosemite, but you’ll find yourself slipping a lot less on waterfall mist, dirt, and loose gravel. Trust me, it’s easier to hop around and walk on rocks with the extra traction provided by hiking boots as opposed to running shoes with no tread.

My favorites have always been the Lowa Renegade GTX Mid Hiking Boot. They check all the hiking boot boxes–durable, waterproof, and out-of-the-box comfort! They make these for both men and women.

I’ve also recently discovered the Hoka Anacapa Mid GTX Hiking Boot. They’ve also got out-of-the-box comfort, plus they look so darn cool! You can find them for women here and men here.

Trekking Poles

A must-have item if you want to save your legs and knees from the ascent and descent!

Walking sticks and trekking poles contribute to your stability and will greatly reduce the impact/stress on your lower body (especially helpful for the knees while hiking down the Mist Trail). I like the Black Diamond Alpine Carbon Cork Trekking Poles — you can find them on Amazon or REI.

Other great trekking pole options can be found at REI.

Gloves with grip

A must-have if you plan on ascending the cables. Make sure your gloves provide enough grip to ascend the Half Dome cables. You don’t need anything fancy here, you just need something to protect your hands.

This 6-pack of gloves on Amazon will be enough for you and your entire group.

Moisture-Wicking Shirt

Merino wool tops are your best option for long hikes such as Half Dome. They’re able to keep you warm on those cooler mornings and keep you cool throughout those warmer afternoons. Plus, you can wear them on the drive home or even on the next day and they won’t be stinky!

I went with a long-sleeved baselayer (men and women) for the added arm protection — protection from the bugs as well as all that sun exposure! But there are very good short-sleeved options as well.

Hiking Pants

My favorite pairs for women include the Prana Meme or the Prana Halle since they have a more modern, tapered look to them.

In terms of hiking pants for men, I hear great things about the Prana Stretch Zion.

Alternatively, if you know the weather is going to be very hot in the afternoon, zip-off pants work well if you want to enjoy shorts later in the day!

Extra Layers

If you plan on starting your Half Dome hike early in the day, you’ll likely be hiking in the dark and cold for a few hours. By midday, the sun really warms you up!

Be sure to pack a variety of layers including a packable puffy jacket or a lightweight windbreaker rain jacket. Whatever works best for you and packs up nicely into your daypack.

Hiking Socks

Along with the pair on your feet, I’d bring an extra pair of medium-weight wool socks along with you on your hike–just in case your first pair get wet. There’s nothing worse than having to hike hours on hours with cold, wet socks. I cringe just thinking about it…

Hiking socks by Smartwool provide the perfect amount of cushioning in the heel and ball of the foot for hiking and backpacking.

You can also go with lightweight wool socks as well, but note they are thinner with some light cushioning in key places like the heel and ball of the foot.

Sock Liners

If you tend to get blisters on longer hikes, don’t forget these for your Half Dome hike! The purpose of sock liners is to protect your feet from all the unnecessary rubbing and abrasion that hiking socks can cause.

On my first trek up Half Dome, I wore sock liners and got zero blisters, while my friend did NOT wear sock liners and ended up with 6 bubbly blisters on one foot… better to be safe than sorry.


No matter what you decide to do in Yosemite, every trip into the park warrants that you bring water. If you plan on being in the park for an entire day, you should plan on bringing a few liters of water per person. This is especially true in the summer when temperatures rise to the 90’s and even the 100’s.

For longer hikes, I recommend a 3-liter hydration reservoir. For Half Dome specifically, bringing 3-4 liters of water is crucial.

If you’re just sticking to shorter hikes in the area, packing a lightweight 1L water bottle such as the Nalgene water bottle will suffice. On hotter days, consider bringing an insulated Hydro Flask packed with ice and water so that your water stays cold all day.

Electrolyte Tablets

You’ll be burning so many calories and sweating out so much. Take some electrolyte tablets with your water to replenish your body throughout the day. If you’re bringing a hydration reservoir system, you might want to bring a separate water bottle for this.

Real Food

You will need to bring enough food to keep your energy up but not so much that you feel completely weighed down by it. I’d recommend having a dedicated food item for breakfast as well as one for lunch.

You could prepare a breakfast sandwich, oatmeal, and a banana for your first meal of the day and pack a large sandwich for lunch. (Personally, we love bringing banh mi‘s on big hike days!)

Sandwiches: Pick up some sandwiches and carry them all the way to the top for an ultra special meal at the top of Half Dome. Thinking it’s too much trouble to pick up sandwiches the night before? Trust me, having some real food once you summit as you enjoy your view is so, so worth it.

Lunchables: super easy to pack and always a great option regardless of how old you are.

In addition to this, you’re going to want to bring along some energy bars/snack bars so you can quickly refuel throughout the hike.


You’re going to need a lot of sustenance for the uphill climb to Half Dome. Make sure you have enough quick-energy options to feed your body.

If you plan on bringing fruits/vegetables, pick harder options such as apples, pears, cucumbers, and carrots since these do better in heat and backpacks compared to more delicate produce.

Go for energy bars that don’t contain chocolate to avoid the melted chocolate messes. Stinger Waffles are loved by outdoor enthusiasts and are delicious and easy to eat.

Clif Bloks Energy Chews are also a great source of quick energy and super easy to pop in your mouth on those shorter breaks.

Other snacks to consider include dried fruit, nuts, and trail mix.

Bug Spray / Bug Repellent

Summertime in Yosemite means the bugs come out to play. Maybe.

Depending on the year you visit and the previous winter’s conditions, mosquitos could potentially be a problem. The presence of mosquitos really depends on if there was heavy snowfall and a wet rain season. If so, mosquitos will be a problem.

Bring a bottle of bug repellent with you regardless. Sawyer Jungle Juice is my go-to!


Very, very important to have, as you SHOULD be applying sunscreen multiple times a day. Even though there are plenty of trees in Yosemite, there are many areas or parts of hikes that are exposed and shadeless.

Make sure you have a face sunscreen in addition to a hat as well. Hiking down Half Dome in the summer is known to be brutally hot and exposed to the sun.

Don’t forget your ears (this was the only place where I almost burned)!

Sunhat or Cap

You will definitely want to bring some type of sun hat for your Half Dome hike, as you’ll be hiking under the sun for hours on end.

A hiking-friendly wide-brimmed sun hat can double as sun protection to your face and neck. Here are a few stylish yet effective options for men and women. For added protection, I’d recommend a sun hat with a neck cape.


Similar to sunscreen, you should bring a pair of polarized sunglasses to protect your eyes from the sun. Not gonna lie, those granite rocks can get BRIGHT and will reflect a lot of sunlight into your poor eyes during the midday hours!


Birkenstocks and OOFOS Recovery Slides make for the best sandals for the car ride home! Seriously, who wants to stay in their hiking boots after spending 18+ grueling miles in them?

It’ll be great to have these in the car after a long day of hiking.

First Aid Kit

A compact first aid kit is essential for any national park trip. You can pack it with you in your daypack and it won’t take up too much space. It’s better to be prepared in case you have any mishaps on your adventures. This one is as compact as it gets and is super easy to carry.

Compeed Blister Cushions

You never know when a blister might form on your feet! While I did not personally get any during my hike, my friends did–they were so thankful that I had these with me!

In case of blisters, it’s great to have these assorted Compeed blister bandaids on hand.

Flashlight or headlamp

Definitely needed if you plan on starting your hike before the sun rises. Be sure to bring a headlamp with red light capabilities because you will need to walk and function in the dark.

Do not use bright white flashlights, headlamps, or cell phone lights. It typically takes 20-30 minutes for the human eye to fully adjust to very low light conditions. Having bright white lights in your face will prevent your eyes from adjusting to the darkness.


Don’t forget to bring your permit for the park ranger to check off! Otherwise, you will not be able to climb the cables and summit Half Dome.

Essential Tips For Hiking Half Dome

  • Your lottery odds are three times lower on weekends. For the best odds when entering the Half Dome Preseason Lottery, apply for a Tuesday, Wednesday, or Thursday.
  • Start early! Most people start at 5-6 am before the sun rises to make it back before sunset.
  • Establish a non-negotiable turn-around time. Check sunrise and sunset times before you begin the hike. Even if you don’t plan on hiking during the dark, always bring a flashlight or headlamp with fresh batteries for each person.
  • Hiking boots are highly, highly recommended. Sneakers or tennis shoes won’t cut it. You’re going to be treading on hard granite rock all day, and the soles of your feet will never forgive you if you don’t protect them from the get-go. You’ll also be walking on an incline for a good amount of the hike (not to mention the Mist Trail could very well be wet and slick), so the grip from hiking boots will also be essential.
  • Bring gloves with grip for the cables. The point of having gloves is two-fold. Not only will they prevent your hands from getting blisters when ascending the cables and the nearly vertical rock face, but they will greatly assist you with grip and sturdiness. These gloves are nothing special; you can get a cheap, disposable pair from your local hardware store or online. Cheap gardening gloves will also do the trick. Don’t bring slick or worn-out gloves, because the last thing you want on the cables is a slippy grip.
  • Going up the cables is not as scary as it looks. The wall might look vertical in photos, but it’s sloped enough to where you’re able to stand without gravity pulling you straight down. It might feel scary at first, but for most, it is easier than it looks. On another reassuring note, there are plenty of crevices as well as wooden planks jutting out of the rock that make good footholds.
  • Staying in the park the night before is ideal. If you want to stay as close as possible to the trailhead, stay at Curry Village. It’s only a 0.75-mile walk, so you can roll out of bed and begin your hike without transportation by car. If you camp here, make sure to bring your own lock for the bear locker.
  • No permit? Try cozying up with other hikers. If you weren’t able to secure a permit beforehand, try your luck at the permit checkpoint to see if you can join a group with open permit slots. This is a gamble, but since the hike is so enjoyable along the way, you can’t really be too mad if this doesn’t work.
  • Don’t forget to carry sunscreen and bug spray. Yosemite can be quite sunny and quite buggy in the summer so you’ll definitely want to carry these essentials with you on your hike.
  • Bring a lot of water. You can never have too much, but you can very easily run out. On my first Half Dome hike, on our way down from the top, our entire group of 6 ran out of water a few miles before Vernal Falls Bridge (the first stop to get filtered water on your way down). This was extremely miserable for all of us, so heed my warning—bring more water than you think you need. Or, bring a water filter so you can fill up at the Merced River.
  • Before ascending the cables, secure everything inside your backpack. Take everything out of your backpack’s external pockets and secure them inside the pack before you start up the cables. The last time I did Half Dome, while on the cables, I saw a GoPro of some hiker way above me bouncing down the sheet of the rock toward its demise. Don’t be that guy.
  • Be prepared for delays once you’re at the cables. If you reach the cables at prime time, you might experience a line to get on the cables. Once you’re on the cables, you’ll find that there is a lot of pausing. Often times, there will be someone frozen from fear, someone with muscle cramps or someone whose upper body is entirely fatigued. Do NOT try to get around the traffic jams by going outside the cables. Not only is this extremely dangerous for yourself, but it’s extremely dangerous unnerving for other hikers around you. Be patient and look out for your fellow hikers.
  • Plan your pees wisely. Flush toilets are available at the Vernal Falls Footbridge (below Vernal Falls). Outhouse-style toilets are available near Emerald Pool (above Vernal Falls), near the top of Nevada Falls, and in Little Yosemite Valley at Backpacker’s Campground. At any other location on the hike, do your business and pack out your toilet paper.
    • There is no bathroom once you begin ascending the cables, so be careful of how much water you drink. Waiting in line to fully ascend the cables could take about an hour depending on what time you arrive at the sub dome, so be wary of how full your bladder gets before this point! There are no bathrooms at the top of Half Dome, so be ready to hold it for a few hours.
  • Bring a small plastic bag for your trash. There is no trash service on the trail so be prepared to pack out anything you pack in (snack wrappers, toilet paper, body wipes, etc.).
  • Half Dome is extremely dangerous in stormy/rainy conditions. The granite dome is essentially a massive lighting rod. Keep a close eye on the forecast and don’t even attempt to ascend if you see storm clouds rolling in.
  • Don’t forget your permit. A ranger will be stationed at the base of the sub dome and no one without a permit will be allowed past. If you have trouble printing out your permit, no worries. As long as you have your ID, proof of purchase and/or application number, you should be good! FYI, the base of the sub dome, is not the actual start of the cables, but about a quarter-mile prior. So don’t think about pulling a fast one on the ranger.
  • Take care of your legs after your hike. Sleep with compression socks after hiking to help reduce soreness. Better yet, use a foam roller and give those babies some love.

Looking for more Yosemite travel tips? You may also like:

Your Essential Guide To Hiking Half Dome: Everything You Need To Know

Your Complete Guide To Yosemite Half Dome Permits

Where To Stay At Yosemite National Park: 10 Affordable Lodging Options

13 Unmissable Things To See at Yosemite National Park: 1-Day Itinerary

13 Best Things To Do Between San Francisco And Yosemite NP

Best Things To In California Eastern Sierra: Yosemite, Mammoth, Bishop, and More

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Elle Leung

My name is Elle and I'm a travel blogger and adventurer based in California. I love helping people plan trips and create unique itineraries based on their interests and their budgets. I'm a huge fan of outdoor adventures and doing off-the-beaten-path things in my state (and all around the world too)!

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