Why You Shouldn't Rent Gear to Hike The Narrows in Zion

The Narrows in Zion National Park isn't your typical walk through the woods. In fact, it isn't hiking through the woods at all. The Narrows will have you knee to waist deep in a river with massive canyon walls on either side of you. It's a hike well worth the time and effort, but it's important to go well-equipped to make your trek as comfortable as the canyon is beautiful.

Hiking The Narrows Zion HikeNarrows

There are a few essential items you'll need to enjoy The Narrows. That includes fast-drying clothes, shoes that will give you good grip, something to stabilize you while you carefully make your way back and forth across the river, and a camera to capture those inevitable good times you'll be having.

Hiking The Narrows Zion

You can rent these things from the conveniently located gear shop within the park. But as you can imagine, they come with a pretty hefty price. They'll recommend you rent their neoprene suits to stay warm in the brisk water, some pretty clunky neoprene boots, a hiking stick to keep you stable, and even a dry bag to keep your valuables safe.

While well intentioned, you just don't need any of the rental gear! It's totally doable to get away with gear you already have, or gear you can get at low prices and reuse time and time again.

I recently braved The Narrows with no experience, just a little ingenuity, and came away unscathed and with plenty of good memories. Here is how my friends and I coped with gear we already own.

Hiking The Narrows: Clothing

Hiking The Narrows Zion Clothing

The summer air is warm but the water is pretty chilly! You'll want a comfy t-shirt or light long-sleeve paired with some microfiber shorts that will dry quickly as you make it from one side of the river to another. The neoprene rental suit is overkill. The water isn't that cold. And your wallet will surely thank you.

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Hiking The Narrows: Hiking Sticks

Hiking The Narrows Zion Hiking Stick

Sticks in nature are free. Sticks from the rental gear shop cost $10. I felt that was ridiculous so I opted to use my camera's monopod as my walking stick, and it worked just fine! If you have a set of hiking poles, share one with a friend. One sturdy stick to lean on is all you'll need in the water as long as you're careful.

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Hiking The Narrows: Footwear

Hiking The Narrows Footwear

Like the neoprene suit, the fancy boots are just as unnecessary. A trusty pair of fast drying hiking boots or trail running shoes will do the trick! My Merrell All Out Crush shoes gripped the river bottom great and drained the water right out. If you're trying to keep your feet totally dry, good luck! Not even plastic wrap and duct tape will keep you immune to the cold water.

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Hiking The Narrows: Bags

Hiking The Narrows Zion Bag

Depending on if you plan on falling in the water, you may or may not need a dry bag. I felt fairly confident and didn't have any issues carrying a normal backpack. It kept all my snacks, camera gear, phone, wallet, keys, etc. together without ever touching the water. If you're worried about taking a plunge, grab a cheaper alternative to keep your stuff dry before you enter the park.

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Hiking The Narrows Zion ChooseSteps

Choose your steps carefully in the water and choose your gear carefully. Do that and you're bound to have a pleasant day in The Narrows. Happy trails!

Team Sierra blogger

*All photos courtesy Adam Fricke
posted by
Adam Fricke
As a member of #TeamSierra, Adam Fricke receives promotional consideration from Sierra Trading Post. Instead of settling into a comfortable desk job as a recent college grad, Adam opted for the ups and downs of vanlife. Currently living in a Sprinter van with his brother, he is pursuing a freelance career as a photographer, filmmaker, and writer. You can follow Adam's journey across all 50 states via social media @adamfricke or on his personal blog www.AdamFricke.com.
Comments (9)
7/29/2016 at 11:41 AM
Really foolish advice. I've had regular hiking boots fall apart because glue, dissolved, trekking poles are too flimsy for that kind of stuff, summer hiking without a neoprene suit is fine, but it is necessary in January.
7/29/2016 at 1:44 PM
Thank you for weighing in, Tim. We appreciate you expressing your concerns so people planning to hike The Narrows can make the best decisions for them. And we agree that hikers should re-consider their gear depending on the season. These suggestions were made for those planning to hike in the summer or early fall. -Lauren
8/2/2016 at 3:01 AM
I got a kick out of all the "hikers" suiting up at the beginning of the Narrows. The neoprene suits definitely looked like overkill to me. Different strokes...
8/24/2016 at 6:54 AM
Wadded up the Narrows in late September with nothing but wool socks and High Tech boots that were on their last leg. If one is worried about boots coming unglued, a partial roll of duct tape is worth the extra weight. If one is experienced at wadding rivers, a pole is not even necessary in the low flow conditions I experienced.
9/1/2016 at 8:20 AM
We wore the original Keen H20 sandals when we waded the Narrows. I'll admit we didn't get too far, because our day the water was chest high and we didn't have anything with us to keep gear dry.
7/7/2017 at 10:42 AM
Hiking the Narrows from the bottom up and from the top down are two very different animals, and that distinction should be made in these types of articles. A day hike from the bottom up can easily be done in gear a casual hiker already has. However, a top down hike--single day or overnight--should be carefully planned and thought out. It can be miserable, and potentially dangerous, to be underprepared. I distinctly remember one year when a group of young adults passed us at the very top of the canyon in water sandals and carrying milk jugs of water. We were traveling much slower because we were camping in the canyon that night and didn't have to cover the full 16 miles in one day. A few hours later we were seeing blood smears on the rocks from their beat up feet, and later that afternoon we passed them as they sat on the ground miserable and beat up wondering how they were going to make it down the rest of the canyon. They still had half the canyon to hike and dark was quickly falling. If you plan to do the top down hike, please make sure you are properly prepared.
9/3/2017 at 4:31 PM
The conditions vary from one: hike, day, month, rain cycle, time of year, water temp., to another so advice varies. Walking sticks are nice if you're a bit clumsy or out of shape take great care and the right equipment.
11/4/2017 at 7:42 PM
I agree the rental shoes and neoprene socks actually made it worse. I hiked it in the summer from top down and wished I had just used regular socks and hiking shoes. You're taking a risk w/rental gear - you're literally trying them out for the first time on a long, wobbly hike on boulders. Not prudent. The wooden poles were heavy for a 16-mile trek, but for a shorter hike, they may be fine. I do think a pole was very helpful though. And a dry bag.
7/26/2018 at 12:41 PM
Not great advice at all. You may have had extremely favorable conditions on your trip. I went in Mid-May once and the water temp was 42 degrees. Would have loved to see you in regular socks and boots with shorts doing the top-down hike then. I'm not saying you have to go all nuclear winter with the clothing, but the conditions there can VARY WILDLY from week to week. Any one looking to use this articles advice I urge you to do a little research before going
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