Seattle Packing Essentials: What To Bring On a Trip to the Pacific Northwest
Seattle, Washington is a quirky, cool, and rainy city nestled between the Puget Sound (the water between the peninsula and the Pacific Ocean) to the west, Canada to the north, and the Cascade Mountains to the east.
Typical weather year-round is mild, overcast, and wet or rainy, with some occasional sunshine during the summer.
As someone who grew up in the Seattle suburbs, I couldn’t WAIT to move somewhere sunny. Which is exactly what I did: after graduating college and traveling for a bit (DC, NYC, Europe), I moved to sunny Arizona en route to my current home of Southern California. If you follow me on Instagram, you may notice in my captions how obsessed I am with living in California, haha.
What’s funny is that I’ll often talk to friends or people I meet who visited Seattle and they’d be like, “Everyone says it is cloudy and rainy, but it was sunny when I went!”
They are somehow among the lucky few that experience fantastic weather…
There is MUCH more to Seattle than the infamous clouds and rain, but seeing as packing for a trip is based on weather and activities, I thought I’d prepare you for your trip to the Pacific Northwest!
If you LOVE grey skies, a light sprinkle of rain, walking through wet grass, and seeing the most beautiful landscapes filled with evergreen trees, mountains, and hills, then you may love the Pacific Northwest.
SEATTLE PACKING ESSENTIALS
I know you know you’ll need to bring the typical packing essentials - I don’t need to tell you to bring X number of shirts or how many pairs of socks - but here are a few things that a trip specific to the Northwest may elicit:
1. Instead of an umbrella, bring a North Face rain jacket
Why no umbrella?
Contrary to what is normal in 99% of the world and what movies based in Seattle show (looking at you, 50 Shades of Grey and Twilight), using an umbrella is something locals do not do in the Northwest.
Yes, it’s weird. I agree with you, it doesn’t make sense.
However, when you’re used to daily light sprinkles of rain, it’s a hassle to carry a wet umbrella around with you.
It’s much easier to throw your North Face rain shell over whatever you’re wearing and put the hood on.
Traveling in the winter? There are plenty of warmer waterproof jackets.
Please feel free to bring an umbrella if you’d like, but be prepared to be one of the few within the sea of rain jackets from North Face/Patagonia/Mountain Hard Wear/etc.
I've had the North Face rain shell for years and it is perfect for Seattle. I like to take it traveling too, as it it easy to pack and hardly takes up any room in luggage.
2. Rain boots
Any type of waterproof boots work well. I'll wear my leather booties in the rain for walking around the city or the suburbs.
3. Layers - scarf, long sleeve
Perfect for the plane and for Seattle weather. While the weather is typically overcast, maybe a light sprinkle or mist of rain, you may catch some sun breaks during the day where it warms up for a few minutes.
4. Hair tie for wind
If you are boating, sailing, or doing something out on the water, the wind can be strong and you may want to tie your hair back or wear a hat.
Headed to Seattle for the famous Seafair in August? You may be able to experience some sunshine (yay!) but I definitely recommend grabbing a light jacket, pullover, or sweater for the boat.
5. Outdoorsy gear
if you can’t rent it or don’t want to for certain activities, pack your favorite hiking boots, jackets, camping gear, skis, etc.
What’s the style like in Seattle?
It’s part city-slicker fashion (the department store Nordstrom is headquartered there), part hipster (it is often cited the most hipster city in the USA).
I tend to see a lot of neutral colors and athleisure (think Lululemon leggings with boots and a motorcycle jacket). If it’s spring and the sun is out and it’s at least 60 degrees F? Everyone will be in shorts and flip flops. Everyone. When you have hardly seen the sun for months, you have to take advantage of 60 degrees and sun.
What’s funny is that now that I’m used to living in warmer climates, if the weather drops below 70 degrees, I’m wearing a coat. But that's a tangent for another time.
What types of things can you do in the Seattle area?
Well, Seattle is a big city, so if you’re staying in the city alone, you don’t need much outdoorsy stuff. The city of Seattle is very hilly and driving isn’t the best due to limited parking. Luckily, there are buses, taxis, and Uber to get around if you don’t rent a car. Keep in mind the hills for which shoes you wear!
Nearby Bellevue is a quieter city but still has that skyscraper feel, and the suburbs are typically just homes, schools, grocery stores, and Starbucks. I’d assume that unless you are visiting family or friends, you’ll probably stick to the city of Seattle and/or adventure activities.
If you plan to venture out to the many nearby lakes, mountains, or do other activities outside - which the PNW (Pacific Northwest) is a haven for - then be sure to pack accordingly. Look up online what activities require what type of gear, and see if you need to bring your own or if you can rent it while you’re there (for example, skis or snowboards or hiking boots).
When in doubt, you can always purchase outdoorsy items upon getting to the city.
If you're headed to the PNW, I hope you found this helpful! Have fun on your trip!