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What to Pack for Seattle: Year Round Essentials
Posted On October 21, 2020
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If you’re planning a trip to Seattle or you are getting ready to move here, Welcome! Seattle is a great city to explore year round and we are ready to welcome you. In addition to what you would normally pack for a trip, this article will talk about what to pack for Seattle for a visit at any time of year, with some particular attention to winter. I’m a born and raised Seattleite and these are the items that I rely on year round as a Seattle resident!
A few general things to note when you’re thinking about what to pack for Seattle:
Seattle is a very casual city, most visitors will not encounter a dress code during their visit and locals rarely do either! (other than standard requirements like wearing shoes or face coverings). Whatever your normal style is, you can wear it in Seattle.
People wear workout clothes in public – this seems normal to me until I got to other places and see this is much less common! Feel free to bring those running, biking or walking clothes and you’ll see lots of others getting in their workouts outdoors all year long. You can even wear those clothes into a coffee shop or to get breakfast!
Seattle has a reputation for being very rainy and it’s certainly true that you should come prepared for rain! However, Seattle also gets quite hot at times in the summer and very few places (including hotels and vacation rentals) have air conditioning. If you’re packing for Seattle in the summer (or late spring or early fall) definitely bring the lightest possible clothes for hot buildings. We also have a lot of days that are gray and cloudy without much rain falling from the sky and a lot of days with drizzle.
Changing and unpredictable weather are the norm in Seattle so packing for different kinds of weather, especially temperature, is helpful! If you’re heading out for the day in the morning I’d recommend bringing some layers. Even on cooler days it often gets quite warm in the afternoon and even on hot summer days the evenings are cool.
For the most part, bring the things you would bring anywhere else, favorite clothes, phone chargers, medications, etc. You know those things better than me, so I’ll just be talking about things you’ll want to pack for Seattle specifically.
Before we get into the specifics of what to pack for Seattle and what I consider essential, it’s worth mentioning that it’s important to know what weather to expect during the different seasons and when those seasons are:
Summer (July – mid September): Summer in Seattle is relatively short but truly glorious. Warm sunny days are the norm, sometimes lasting all the way through September. Late July and early August are statistically the driest time of year in Seattle. Often we have little or no rain for several weeks in July and August. I would still bring a rain jacket however, as rain is always possible! Summer days are usually in the 70s and 80s, though evenings and mornings are much cooler.
Fall (mid September through early November): Fall in Seattle is personally my favorite time. Sunny, warm days mix in with cool and cloudy and rainy ones. My favorite hiking of the year happens in fall too! During fall in Seattle, pack for variable weather and expect it to change throughout the day.
Winter (November – February): These are the wettest months (statistically Seattle’s wettest time of the year is late November) where you are most likely to experience lots of rain and wind. A sunny day is still possible, but you will definitely see lots of gray skies. Being ready with warm and waterproof gear is important this time of year. Winter is a surprisingly good time for hiking too. Or snowshoeing if you want to get into the mountains!
Spring (March – June): Spring is the longest and most unpredictable weather season in Seattle. Make sure to note that May and June are spring months in Seattle, not summer! Spring is rainy and cloudy, but there are more sunny days mixed in than in the winter. In April, May and June there may be days where it’s truly warm (over 70). If you’re coming to Seattle in the spring, be ready for anything!
Now that you know what the seasons are like in Seattle and some things to consider in general for what to pack for Seattle, let’s get to my Seattle essentials packing list in order of importance!
A Solid Rainjacket – All year
It’s probably not a surprise that the most important thing to consider in what to pack for Seattle is an excellent rainjacket. Make sure it’s actually waterproof and not a light windbreaker (although if you’re visiting late July through early September that would likely be adequate if you’re staying in the city).
When you’re looking for a rainjacket for Seattle, here are some things to keep in mind:
Make sure it’s waterproof (I like Gore Tex material but it’s not the only option)
Make sure it’s big enough to fit over other layers (especially in winter when you’ll need a warm layer underneath it). I always have a rainjacket one size bigger than other tops I own.
Make sure it’s long enough – this is a matter of personal preference but I prefer one that is long enough to not ride up all the time, especially with layers on
Get a lightweight one – Because we have rain at a wide variety of temperatures in Seattle, I recommend getting a rain jacket without an insulating layer and getting a separate layer of warmth (like a fleece or puffy) . This will allow you to wear them separately. A light raincoat is also easy to bring in your bag for that sudden rainstorm
If you’re looking for a specific rainjacket to pack for Seattle, I highly recommend both this Marmot one from Amazon and this REI Co-op one (also available in plus sizes!). Both of these are excellent rain jackets that are durable and reasonably priced.
Waterproof Boots or Shoes – Fall, Winter and Spring
Another essential item when you’re considering what to pack for Seattle is waterproof footwear. If it’s late June through mid September, join the locals in comfortable sandals instead and just let your feet get wet if it rains!
If you’re visiting in Fall through Spring (late September through sometime in June) you’ll probably be happier with waterproof footwear! Even if it isn’t actively raining, there are lots of puddles!
Lots of people wear rubber boots on the streets of Seattle when it’s raining, in particular the super popular Hunter rubber boots, which come in a variety of colors. I personally prefer Xtra Tuf Boots (especially these beautifully patterned Salmon Sisters ones) because they are also super comfortable for muddy hikes!
My absolute favorite footwear for wearing around town is the rubber Xtra Tuf ankle deck boot. They are perfect because they are super waterproof, but not as heavy as the knee high ones which usually aren’t necessary in town! They are comfy to wear all day and super cute! Once again, Salmon Sisters has fantastic colorful patterns. My husband has the same shoes and swears they are the best waterproof footwear for wearing around town in Seattle.
If you’re more interested in hiking boots or hiking shoes, that’s another great option for the footwear you pack for Seattle. I personally recommend Merrells which I wear for hiking. I prefer hiking shoes to boots, but if you prefer the extra ankle support of hiking boots then I recommend these.
In addition to shoes, wool socks will help keep your feet warm and if they get wet it’s not totally miserable! Bring lots of extra socks for your trip to Seattle!
A Waterproof Bag – Fall through Spring
This is something that people don’t always think of when thinking about what to pack for Seattle, but keeping your stuff dry is just as important as your body!
I have this waterproof messenger bag that I use whenever it’s raining and it’s lasted for 15 years of heavy use with very little sign of wear. Timbuk2 is a Seattle company too!
Warm Layer – All Year
There is a lot of flexibility here, but when you pack for Seattle make sure you bring a warm layer, even in summer! Evenings are early mornings are cool even on hot days and if you want to enjoy some outdoor dining or walking in the evening you’ll definitely want a sweater, fleece or light jacket.
Fleece is part of the Seattle uniform but you don’t need to have a fleece! Bring whatever warm layer you want for summer evenings and to wear under your rain jacket (make sure your rain jacket is big enough to accommodate you wearing your warm layer underneath it) in fall, winter and spring.
Waterbottle – All Year
Seattleites frown on drinking commercial bottled water and you’ll see most locals carrying around their favorite waterbottle! Tap water is wonderful here so you’ll have no trouble filling it up.
You can use any waterbottle you like, but if you’re looking to buy one for your trip to Seattle I highly recommend the Mira metal insulated ones. They are affordable and easy to clean. Mira waterbottles also have a coating that prevents them from getting wet on the outside from condensation when they have cold drinks or ice in them. You can also keep ice in it for hours, which is wonderful on a hot day. And they come in a million bright colors!
Travel Mug – All year
Seattleites are always carrying around coffee and you can too! Of course, you can always get a to go cup, but if you bring your favorite travel mug you can keep your drink warm for hours while you’re walking around.
After literally more than a decade of being frustrated with travel mugs, I have finally found THE PERFECT travel mug. If you haven’t found your forever coffee mug, I highly recommend the Hydro Flask one. It keeps your coffee hot forever and it fits in all my cup holders! It also has a handle so you can easily attach it to things. I have the bright yellow color, which is perfect for gray days.
Reusable Shopping Bag – All Year
Seattle has a plastic bag ban, so a reusable shopping bag is a really helpful thing to pack for Seattle. You can easily pick one up while you’re here (perfect souvenir!) so it’s not that important to bring it with you, but you’ll definitely want to have one.
Hi! I'm Jennie. I’m a fourth generation Seattleite who lived in Alaska for 7 years. I've been a tour guide in both Alaska and Washington and I love to share the places I love with visitors, newcomers and my fellow locals. I’m so glad to have you along on the journey to experience your best low key adventure in Washington, Alaska and Western Canada!
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