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What to Pack?

posted Jul 6, 2014, 12:03 PM by Matt Hubner   [ updated Feb 18, 2016, 9:13 PM ]

Following questions about the weather and what to do during a visit to the Big Island, what to pack for a stay in Volcano is the next most frequently asked question.  As you may have read in the Weather blog post, the weather in Volcano is very dynamic.  It can range from hot to cold and wet to dry in a matter of hours.  Being prepared by packing the right attire can make all the difference in enjoying your stay.

A lot of people come to the Volcano area completely unprepared.  Evidence of this is the abundance of visitors in the park you will see on a chilly day wearing long sleeve shirts bought from the park visitors center.  It's good business for the park, but bringing a couple layers can save you some $$ that you could spend on something you really want (you know you want that koa paddle).  

So, yes, layers.  Layers, layers, layers.  It's all about being able to stay warm and get down to the bare minimum as quick as possible (and stay dry if need be).  To do all this, I highly recommend packing the following

  • All your island attire (swimsuits, shorts, t-shirts, rubbah slippahs etc).
  • light jacket
  • light sweater
  • long-sleeve shirt
  • pants with zip-off legs or pants that you can wear over shorts or a swimsuit
  • hat
  • disposable poncho
  • waterproof hiking boots (if you plan on doing some serious hiking)
The reason for having some of these items is because one day you might be wearing shorts and a t-shirt at Kilauea summit, but the next it could be chilly and cool.  You can almost count on most nights that you choose to go out to see the glow of Halema'uma'u from Jaggar Museum there will be a slight to moderate breeze and chilly temps.  Having a jacket and long-sleeve shirt will allow you to stay longer to gaze at the mesmerizing sight.  

Also, one of the benefits of staying so close to the park is that you can get up early and head into the park and hit the trails and popular sights long before the crowds from the cruise ships and resorts show up.  But, most mornings in the area can be fairly cool and you'll want to start off layered up.  Typically, by mid-day, if you're hiking Kilauea Iki for instance, it might be getting pretty warm compared to the morning, and this is where being able to remove some layers will make you much more comfortable.

Finally, having a poncho will set you up to not be delayed by intermittent showers or the occasional day of rain that can occur anywhere on the island.  As long as there's not severe weather warnings, it's quite often that most rain showers will pass by and be followed up with a rainbow and clear blue skies.  Be sure to always check the weather and speak to Park Rangers if you're unsure about the weather, but don't let the rain discourage you.  Having waterproof hiking boots and a poncho will make a world of difference.

Some additional items that you may wish to consider bringing are:
  • Sunscreen - kind of obvious but it bears repeating
  • Trekking poles - great for allowing you to look around in awe and avoid falling face forward after tripping on lava rock
  • Binoculars - we have some at the house, but you may want to bring your own for driving around the island, especially during whale season
  • Mask and snorkel - we have a couple sets available at the house, but we cannot guarantee they will be there or undamaged by the time of your stay.  You can also rent gear in town or buy some at Wal-mart, but if you have your own, you may prefer to bring it and keep it in your car trunk (you never know when you might drive right past an awesome snorkeling spot)
  • Waterproof case - Most rental car keys are electronic these days.  And, most of us have cell phones.  Both don't really like getting wet. If you don't want to force someone to stay on the beach and watch your valuables, bring one of these that can be tied around your arm or ankle and don't fret about leaving items on the beach.  
I'll continue to update this post as I think of other items to bring.  If you have any suggestions of your own, please feel free to contact me or leave a comment below.


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