Updated on December 20, 2023

You’ve booked your family vacation to one of America’s great national parks. Now comes the hard part … how do you ensure you have the right gear for your outdoor adventure? We talked someone who knows a thing or two about traveling in the great outdoors — Mutual of Omaha’s Wild Kingdom Protecting the Wild Co-Host Peter Gros.

He’s shared with us his favorite national parks, tips for experiencing nature and top places to hike in the U.S. Now, take a look at his favorite items so you can explore nature like a pro.

A collage of outdoor gear over a picture of a woman hiking up a dirt mountainside. Pictures include a headlamp, waders, hiking boots, backpack, sunglasses, binoculars, tent and tall men's outdoor boots.

Wild Kingdom Co-Host’s favorite outdoor gear

Clothing and accessories

Sadly, we can’t all pull off the Wild Kingdom khaki shirt quite like Peter. But when it comes to what to wear, he has great suggestions to help you stay cool and dry. You never know what weather Mother Nature will bring!



Choose a pair of boots that matches the climate you’re in. If you’re exploring a swampy or grass area, you’ll enjoy Cabela’s RedHead Lubbock 2.0 Waterproof Snake Boots. These boots are lightweight, waterproof and have excellent treads. Plus, they’re the perfect protection in case of a venomous snake encounter.

When Peter explores waist-high Florida swamps, he dons a pair of Orvis Waders. He also recommends Orvis’ Le Chameau Chasseur Leather-Lined Boots, which he calls “virtually indestructible.”

For day hikes or overnight backpacking, try Solomon hiking boots, especially ones with Gore-Tex — they’re comfortable, water resistant and great for staying stable on slippery ground and steep trails.



The key to exploring the outdoors? Lots of layers. Pack lightweight wicking undershirts, vests and packable jackets so you can adapt to whatever weather comes your way. For a wide variety of gear, check out Patagonia.

Since childhood, Peter has explored the great outdoors in Orvis gear. You may recognize their five-pocket twill rugged pants from his wardrobe on Protecting the Wild. He also recommends the classic Orvis Barbour jacket, especially for hiking through tall brush.


Sun protection

Sunscreen, sunglasses and a hat are a must, for all seasons. Peter sports Oakley sunglasses with polarized lenses for UV protection and a neck strap so he’ll never lose his shades. For both sun protection and style, we suggest a Wild Kingdom baseball hat.


Hiking and camping gear


Choose a backpack that’ll be comfortable for long trail hikes. Peter likes REI’s Baltoro 65 with its padded shoulders and hip harness to help distribute weight evenly.



If you’re backcountry camping, you’ll need a lightweight, waterproof tent that’s easy to carry. Try North Face’s Stormbreak 2, a backpacking tent with a rain cover and mosquito netting ventilation system. It’s kept Peter dry through rain and heavy winds.


Sleeping bag

Select a sleeping bag with temperature ratings in line with the season. You’ll want to make sure you’re warm if temperatures drop at night.


Water supply

The one thing you don’t want to forget on your adventures? Water. Stay hydrated with REI Hydration Packs.


Bear spray

Are bears native to your vacation destination? While you should always keep your distance, should you encounter one, you’ll want to have counter assault bear deterrent spray, preferably one that clips onto your belt. You can pick up bear spray at most outdoor shots near you.


Hiking poles

Steady yourself up hills or over streams with a set of retractable trekking poles from Black Diamond.


Food storage

Select a cooler and food storage container that’s watertight. Peter likes the Yeti cooler and the North Face waterproof duffel bags.


Viewing and navigating


What’s the best way to view wildlife? Through the lens of your binoculars. You’ll get that up-close image while keeping you and the animal safe. Peter’s favorite pair are from Vortex with 10×50 HD magnification. These medium, lightweight binoculars are even rubberized for moisture protection. They’re an investment, but to Peter, they’re worth it with the clear sights they provide to see incredible animals at a distance.



Though it’s fun to traverse the great outdoors, you never want to get lost in nature. Be sure to tell your friends and family where you’re going and when you plan to return. Check the weather before you head out on your trail. If you’re visiting a national park, the National Park Service offers daily weather forecasts and recommendations based on that forecast – just stop by the information office at the entrance of the park for more.

Though a GPS may seem like an obvious choice, many hiking and backpacking locations don’t have adequate coverage to pick up a signal. Instead, pack a waterproof backpacking map from REI, as well as a compass you’re comfortable with using.



Don’t lose sight of where you’re going. Pack a watertight, rechargeable headlamp, such as the Black Diamond Cosmo 350 R, with its powerful beam and red-light function.


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