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South Dakota Packing List for Summer

South Dakota Packing List for Summer

Are you looking for the perfect South Dakota Packing list for summer? This guide tells you EXACTLY what to pack and what to wear in South Dakota in Summer for Badlands National Park, Mount Rushmore, Custer State Park and more whether you are visiting in June, July, August or September.

South Dakota is my favorite state to visit with its great combination of national and state parks and amazing attractions that are bound to be on your bucket list. However South Dakota can be more of the more challenging regions to pak for with its changeable weather and varying climates. But fear not with this guide you will find out:

  • What the weather is like in South Dakota in Summer
  • What to wear in South Dakota parks for hiking, driving and more and
  • other travel essentials to pack for South Dakota.

Note: this packing list is not intended as a camping packing list, instead for those in lodges and hotels or in towns and cities in South Dakota. If you plan to camp in the national park check out this post.

Summer Weather in South Dakota

Sign for Badlands National Park
South Dakota packing List for summer

But before we get into what to wear and travel essentials for South Dakota in summer, it is important to know what the weather is going to be like. July and August are usually the hottest month throughout South Dakota with temperatures usually in the 70s and 80s although it is not unheard of for them to reach the 90F.s

It is also worth mentioning too that summers in South Dakota can be pretty humid so a cooling towel for hiking days can be a welcome addition to your packing list. And out of all the summer months June tends to be the wettest.

What to wear in South Dakota in Summer

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Woman and childwalking away from camera in Badlands National Park
What to wear in South Dakota / South Dakota Packing list for summer

So now you know about the weather, we will tell you what to wear in South Dakota in Summer. Normally when we put together our packing list guides we split them into men, women and children. However if your South Dakota vacation is like ours you will be spending a lot of time outdoors being active. For this reason we have put together a very practical packing list so the list is universal.


Layers are the most important thing to add to your South Dakota packing list. If you are visiting Badlands NAtional Park, Mount Rushmore or heading to the Needles Highway near Custer State Park we recommend getting an early start to beat the crowds.

My favorite top layer on our South Dakota vacation was a lightweight fleece. It was warm for in the mornings but also packed away neatly into my day pack later in the day when the temperatures got warmer.

They other benefit to fleeces over say hoodies is that if you get caught in a rain storm they usually dry out quicker.


Depending on the month of travel you may also want to pack a lightweight packaway rain jacket just in case.

T Shirts

T shirts are my favorite base layer for South Dakota throughout summer. As the weather can be changeable it is a good idea to have a mix of short sleeve, long sleeve and tank tops with you.

For areas where there are likely to be ticks or you are next to standing water where there may be mosquitos you may want to stick to long sleeve tees and full length trousers as added proteciton.

Convertible Walking Trousers

Again, any trip to South Dakota usually involves walking, hiking and outdoor time so you will want hiking trousers with you. We like the convertible type as you can wear as full length pants of shorts depending on weather and time of day.

Jeans and Shorts

Outside of the parks and hikes we recommend having a mix of long length pants and shorts with you for use in towns and restaurants at night.


Although you may not associate South Dakota road trips with swimming there are actually plenty of opportunities for a dip.

When we were visiting Mount Rushmore we stayed in Rapid City in a hotel attached to a water park which was a huge hit with my kids. There are also lakes you can swim in in Custer and hot springs in Hot springs. Therefore we recommend having at least one piece of swimwear with you.


The sun can be strong in South Dakota so we recommend having a hat with a wide brim or a baseball cap to protect your eyes.

However if you are in one of the state parks or plan to stay around lakes you may want a hat with a mosquito net.

Hiking Socks

If you plan on wearing hiking boots in the park then you will also need hiking socks.

Best Shoes to wear in South Dakota

Having the right shoes can definitely make or break a trip. Now depending on where in South Dakota you are going and what your itinerary looks like will depend on the shoes you want. Shoes you may want to consider include:

Hiking Boots

I used hiking boots in Badlands National Park, the trail at Mount Rushmore and in Custer State Park. We just recommend picking a lightweight pair for Summer.


Sneakers are the best comfortable walking shoes for any vacation. I used sneakers when we were in towns such as Rapid City, Keystone, Sioux Falls and Deadwood.

Hiking Sandals

In hotter weather hiking sandals are a good pick. My current favorite brand of hiking sandals are Tevas like the ones shown above.

Other Essentials for your South Dakota Packing List for Summer

So now you know what to wear in South Dakota we will turn our attention to other essentials to add to your South Dakota Packing List for Summer.

Day pack

Days in South Dakota are long especially in national and state parks so you will want a day pack with you. We like Columbia backpacks but this is a personal choice.

Power Bank

Days are long in South Dakota and in the national and state parks it can be tricky to get good signal and reception. So be sure to have a charged power bank with you to recharge your phone during the day as you will find your battery drains quickly in the park.

Sun protection

The sun is strong in SOuth Dakota in Summer so be sure to have lots of sun protection with a high SPF with you.

Bug Spray / Insect Repellant

The mosquitos and midgies are pretty fierce in South Dakota in summer so be sure to pack plenty of bug spray and insect repellant. My favorite brand is DEET.

You may also want to consider packing a tick removal kit just in case as there are known to be ticks in the area.


Again the sun is strong so sunglasses are an essential.


There is some amazing wildlife in South Dakota from bighorn sheep, prairie dogs and bisons to birdwatching. We recommend packing a good pair of travel binoculars so you can enjoy South DAkota’s amazing wildlife..

Reusable Water Bottle and Extra Water

We recommend always having a reuable water bottle and extra water with you for any naitonal park visit especially in Summer.

Coffee Thermos and Mug

As your days will start early in South Dakota I recommend packing a coffee thermos and mug to help you get going in the morning.


Although there are plenty of places int he towns to stock up on provisions in the parks there are fewer rest stops and amentities. So we recommend packing lots of snacks and drinks in your day pack.

Cooler and food containers

As the temperatures are hot and you will be taking food into the park so you will want a cooler and food containers with you.

First Aid Kit

Although no one wants to use a first aid kit on vacation, it is a good idea to pack a first aid kit with you on any national park vacation just in case.

Quick Dry Towel

If you plan on doing any water based activities we recommend packing a quick dry towel.


A camera is a necessity for any visitor to South Dakota.

Toilet Paper, Hand Sanitizer and a She wee

The toilets in Badlands National outside of the main visitors center are pretty primitive. For this reason we recommend packing toilet paper, hand sanitizer and a she wee with you.

Complete South Dakota Packing Checklist

  • Layers
  • T Shirts
  • Walking Trousers
  • Rain Jacket
  • Hat
  • Sunglasses
  • Swimwear
  • Hiking Boots
  • Shoes – either sneakers or hiking sandals
  • Backpack and rain cover
  • camera
  • binoculars
  • sun protection
  • insect repellant
  • quick dry towel
  • coffee thermos and mug
  • resuable water bottle
  • food
  • first aid kit


What to wear in badlands national park?

There are a good mix of primitive and boardwalk trails in Badlands National Park. If you plan on doing the primitive trails or longer hikes we recommend wearing convertible hiking pants and proper hiking boots.

What to wear in Mount Rushmore?

View of Mount Rushmore on a sunny day
What to wear to Mount Rushmore

Most people we met in South Dakota were there to go and visit Mount Rushmore. The above packing list works perfectly for Mount Rushmore.

If you don’t plan walking any of the hiking trails then sneakers are perfect. However if you plan on going on the hiking trails (we recommend it as it is a great way to escape the crowds) we recommend wearing hiking boots of proper hiking sandals.

Further National Park Reading

And if you are planning on visiting more national parks then be sure to check our other national park packing lists