Located just a few hours north of New York City, the Catskills is a pretty popular weekend destination. While the region was once known for its luxurious mountain resorts (à la Dirty Dancing), it’s now a place for the outdoorsy types, with plenty of areas for hiking, biking, and world-class rock climbing cliffs and features. If those activities sound too extreme, a more relaxing itinerary can be found by hitting up the area’s restaurants, breweries, and bars.
No matter what your Catskills itinerary has in store, you’re going to need a few essentials. Before you load up your rental car or pack onto a Metro North train, check out our ultimate packing list to ensure you’re prepared for anything your vacation throws your way. Not sure what to do on your trip? We’ve even thrown in some tours and activities to help you explore the Catskills to the fullest.
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A Reliable Weekender
If you’re only going to be in the Catskills for a few days, Lo & Sons’ Catalina Deluxe Tote has enough capacity for all the clothes you need. Plus, you can tuck a spare pair of shoes into the zippered bottom compartment. Should you need to also bring a rolling suitcase, this bag also slides onto your suitcase’s handles.
Stock Up At A Farmer’s Market
One of the best things to do in the Catskills is to explore the plethora of fresh produce you can pick up directly from the farms themselves or at a local farmer’s market. Whether you plan on enjoying perfectly-ripe heirloom tomatoes or crisp apples in the fall, these French market bags will make it easier to carry everything home.
Lounge In Style
ITA Leisure’s outdoor accessories are a welcome change of pace when it comes to gear that looks and feels good. Inclusion is also the foundation of the brand — ITA aims to make tools and gear that BIPOC recreationalists can use to take up their own space in the great outdoors. One of their first releases, a lounge chair and ottoman combo, can easily be packed away in a car trunk for the drive up to the Catskills, then popped up to lounge by a firepit or campsite.
For Bringing Snacks Home
If you have the chance, you should also plan to stop at Harana Market, a Filipino deli and grocery store that will have you salivating before you even walk in the door. And to bring their assortment of sauces, ingredients, and prepared food, you’ll want an extra large market bag like this one.
Do A Wine Tour, No Car Needed
This trip from Travel Rush allows you to enjoy a few of the Catskills’ many wineries and beautiful natural scenery, and it even provides round trip transportation to and from New York City.
Or A More Adventurous Itinerary
If you’re the adrenaline-chasing traveler, this 3-day-long excursion is packed with plenty of activities that will get your heart racing. The trip includes a 2-night stay at a local hotel, access to a waterfall hike & viewing platform, and a ride on the highest, fastest and longest zipline in North America.
Be Prepared for Pests
No matter what your itinerary in the Catskills has in store, you’re probably going to end up in the woods at some point, and that means you could run into ticks. Be prepared with this tick key that can easily pull out the worst kinds of critters, and can be stored on your keychain.
A Nice Smelling Bug Spray
Bug bites are awful, and mosquitos and the like tend to enjoy the humid conditions throughout the Catskills. I like preparing with this lemon-scented, DEET-free bug spray.
Slap On Some SPF
You’ll spend a ton of time outside during your trip to the Catskills, so don’t forget to slather on some sunscreen. This one from Supergoop applies as a lightweight mousse, and has coconut oil to keep your skin hydrated.
A Small, But Mighty Grill
Grill up all your favorite camping meals with this ultra-portable grill. Plus, you can take advantage of any fresh produce or groceries you get in any of the Catskills’ quaint towns.
Work The Grill Easily
You don’t want to risk any burns while working the grill or cooking over a fire, so these extra long tongs will allow you to look after your food from a safe distance.
Keep Your Phone Charged On The Road
After a long day of exploring and documenting your vacation, you’ll need to charge your phone. If your car or rental doesn’t have a USB port, this converter will ensure at least two of your devices stay juiced up as you drive through the picturesque scenery.
A Fun Cooler For Local Beer
You’ll probably stop by a few craft breweries as you eat and drink your way through the Catskills, and it’ll be tempting to bring back a few growlers or bottles. Whether you’re looking to enjoy your brews at your campsite or want to make sure they stay fresh for the trek home, keep everything cool with a dedicated cooler.
Keep Your Own Beer Cold
If you go to the Catskills anytime from now until late September, chances are that it’ll be pretty steamy and warm. To keep your drinks cold while you’re tending to a campfire or walking an evening stroll, I suggest bringing an insulated can cooler to keep your favorite IPA perfectly crisp.
Capture Analog Memories
For those looking to take an analog approach for a fully unplugged weekend in the wilderness, these disposable cameras are super-lightweight and would fit into a fanny pack for mid-hike photo-shoots.
Enjoy Some Camp Coffee
The best way to enjoy barista-quality camp coffee is with an Aeropress. Grab one before your trip, regardless of whether you plan on staying at a hotel with a questionable coffee maker or roughing it at a campsite.
Chill Out In A Camp Chair
You can’t go wrong with a versatile camping chair for lounging around a campfire or for enjoying a cold beer while your friend works on a challenging rock climb in the mountains.
A Big Hat
You’ll want plenty of sun protection as you recreate in the Catskills, so it’s the perfect time for this big goofy Baggu hat to shine. I’m obsessed with mine, since it easily can be tossed into a tote bag and be hastily tied on when the moment strikes.
Bright, Waterproof Sandals
I also like packing a pair of waterproof sandals that are easy to slip on for walking to a campground bathroom or for casual tours of a local farmer’s market. They’re easy to hose down if they get dirty, and the bright colors are sure to earn you some compliments.
More Rugged Sandals That’ll Stand Up To A Light Hike
Should you want to let your toes breathe while hiking or wading through a swimming hole, these sandals will do the job.
Despite the consistently hot summer temps in the Catskills, it tends to get pretty chilly at night. This warm blanket will keep you warm inside your tent, or can be draped over your shoulders as you enjoy an evening nightcap.
A Perfect Casual Hiking Boot
Unless you’re going up loose and steep terrain, you don’t need a super involved hiking boot. The support of these Blundstone boots will keep your feet equally happy through a morning hike or exploring a pick-you-own orchard.
Better Wool Socks
Another way to keep your toes happy is by keeping them dry and cozy. Grab some merino wool socks to wick away moisture and keep your feet warm through colder night temperatures.
Stay Hydrated And Cool
You’ll also want to stay hydrated during your Catskill adventures, so be sure to bring a water bottle. I’m a fan of this bottle from Hydroflask because it’s insulating to keep your water cool, but not so heavy that it’s a burden to carry on longer hikes.
If Low Energy Is More Your Speed
If you’re more interested in enjoying the slower pace of life that can be experienced in the Catskills, a sightseeing cruise is the perfect way to spend an afternoon. See all the natural beauty that the Hudson river has to offer just a few hours north of New York City, plus you can grab drinks and snacks from the boat’s fully stocked bar.