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How to Pack for a Camping Trip When it Starts with a Flight

Explorer C

A rainbow welcomes us at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone National ParkA rainbow welcomes us at the Grand Canyon of Yellowstone National ParkImagine filling your lungs with fresh, pine-scented air. Roasting the perfect, golden-brown marshmallow over a campfire. Sipping your morning coffee in a hammock by the river as the sun glows through the treetops. Camping is one of the best ways to enjoy national parks like Yellowstone, and it’s all accessible by air on Southwest Airlines.  


I recently flew from Denver to Bozeman, Montana, for a camping trip in Yellowstone National Park. Camping inside the park gives you a head start to popular attractions like Old Faithful, as well as a front-row seat for Yellowstone’s stunning sunrises and sunsets—also the best times to see the park’s iconic wildlife. 


One of Yellowstone’s famous geysersOne of Yellowstone’s famous geysersFlying to a campsite takes a little extra planning, but it’s 100% doable and definitely worth it. When I’m flying to a campground, I use a simple sorting system to sort my camping gear into three categories: Pack, Pick Up, and Pass.   



With two free checked bags on Southwest, I can pack almost everything I usually bring on a camping trip.  


My camping packing list includes:  

  • a two-person tent 
  • sleeping bags, inflatable sleeping pads, and travel pillows 
  • one-burner camp stove 
  • rechargeable lantern 
  • hammock 
  • two collapsible camp chairs 


Even after packing all of my camping gear for my flight to Bozeman, I still had room for my portable Oru Kayak, which folds into a backpack for easy transport. 


Right before checking my foldable kayak for free!Right before checking my foldable kayak for free!I checked the kayak as my second free piece of luggage (no extra charge on Southwest!) and took it for a gorgeous paddle on Hyalite Reservoir, just 30 minutes from downtown Bozeman.  


The Hyalite ReservoirThe Hyalite Reservoir

A gorgeous morning on the waterA gorgeous morning on the water

Pick Up 

If you’re flying to camp, plan to pick up a couple non-TSA-compliant camp supplies, like stove fuel and bear spray, after you land. Bozeman’s local gear shop, Crazy Mountain Outdoor Company, is just 15 minutes from Bozeman-Yellowstone International Airport and carries all the camping supplies you’ll need. 


Items we picked up in Bozeman-Yellowstone:  

  • Stove fuel  
  • Bear spray   
  • Lighter  
  • Marshmallows, kebab sticks, and firewood for s’mores


You can also rent bear spray inside Yellowstone National Park at the Canyon Village Visitor Center. 



When you’re flying to a camping trip, you’ll want to pass on any large, bulky items like hard-sided coolers or grills. Thankfully, most campgrounds include fire rings, grates, and picnic tables at each site, making it easy to prepare simple, delicious camp meals — including the campfire classic, s’mores— with minimal gear.  


Don’t want to cook? No problem! There are several tasty restaurants near Yellowstone National Park’s main campgrounds where you can enjoy a full breakfast or lunch buffet, snack, or sit-down dinner. (Order the huckleberry ice cream float and thank me later.)  


Visiting Yellowstone is a bucket list experience on its own, but camping in the park is even better. With Pack, Pick Up, and Pass, it’s easy to turn any camping trip into the flight-friendly adventure of a lifetime.   


A beautiful morning in Bozeman!A beautiful morning in Bozeman!

For more adventure travel content, follow me on TikTok @bonjourbecky and Instagram @bonjourbecky, or visit my blog 


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Need More Inspiration?

Looking for another camping spot? Check out our blog featuring Yosemite National Park. Not ready to camp? Check out these other blogs featuring Southwest destinations to find your perfect getaway: Sarasota/Bradenton, Colorado Springs, and Fresno.


*Becky Wood is a Southwest Storyteller whose trip was paid for by Southwest Airlines.   


1 Comment

Great tips here - can't wait to get outdoors this fall!