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What to Pack for Seattle Any Time of the Year

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Seattle tops my list of favorite cities in the world. Obsessed with good beer, coffee, music, and epic outdoor adventures, it’s a city that captured my heart with its effortless cool in the year that I lived there. Unlike New York or San Francisco, Seattle isn’t obviously hip — which adds to the appeal.

However, there is one downside to Seattle: The rain. While it does rain often in Seattle, the summer months are the exception. From June to August, the weather is typically a sunny, 70-80 degrees with 14-15 hours per day of daylight. Throw a temperate rainforest or mountain full of wildflowers in there, and the Seattle area is pretty much the perfect place to be in the summertime.

That said, there’s still a lot to enjoy about Seattle at any time of the year. So whether you’re heading to Washington State in January or June, here’s what to pack for Seattle:

What to Pack for Seattle: Basic List

what to pack for seattle

For any trip to Seattle, be sure to pack:

  • A rain jacket
  • Trail/outdoor adventure gear
  • One outfit for a concert/show

Rain Jacket or Shell

Locals don’t really use umbrellas in Seattle. I know, I know, “But it’s the rainiest city in America!” Actually it’s not. “How do they survive without umbrellas?” With rain jackets, duh.

Seattle’s rain is usually a light drizzle, not a torrential downpour, so rain jackets are typically just fine for keeping you dry. Plus, they’re much more practical than an umbrella on any of the hikes within an hour or two of Seattle.

If you don’t have a good rain jacket, lucky you — Seattle happens to be home to REI. Use it as an excuse to swing by the flagship REI store and check it out.

Trail & Outdoor Adventure Gear

Given the number of The North Face and Patagonia jackets in downtown Seattle, it sometimes seems like half of the city is ready to jump on a trail at any given time. And you should be too — from the coast to the Cascades, there’s so much wilderness to explore in and around Seattle. Definitely find time to do something outdoors (even if it’s just a morning walk at Alki beach or Discovery Park) while you’re in Seattle and bring:

  • Trail runners (water resistant or waterproof — Merrel has a great line)
  • Hiking poles (if you use them)
  • Daypack (I love Osprey’s 20 liter bags for short hikes)
  • Water bottle
  • Warm clothes and wool socks for winter hikes

Hiking is great while traveling because it doesn’t require a lot of bulky gear. However, if you’d prefer to explore the wilderness surrounding Seattle by rock climbing, biking, kayaking, skiing/snowboarding, or camping, there are plenty of places to rent equipment. REI is a great first stop for most gear. For cyclists, the Cascade Bicycle Club is your best resource.

Wear Your Best Grunge: One Outfit for Going to a Show

If you’re a music lover — grunge or otherwise — Seattle will have more than enough going on to keep you entertained. After all, music heavyweights from Kurt Cobain to Macklemore have called the city home.

Seattle is also home to (in my opinion) the best local radio station in the nation, KEXP, which also does a great job of highlighting concerts and music events in Seattle. I highly recommend their Music that Matters podcast if you’re looking for a Seattle travel soundtrack. If you’re around in July, I hear that the Capitol Hill Block Party is a blast.

With all the dance parties, shows, and concerts happening in Seattle, be sure to bring one going out (to see a show) outfit. Ripped jeans and slouchy sweaters are more than encouraged.

Things to Pack for Seattle September – May

packing for Seattle

From September through May, Seattle sees the most rain. October is when things begin to really cool down and May is about the time that relentless grey overcast begins to let up. During this time of year, be sure to bring:

Rainproof Boots

A pair of rainproof boots — or boots that will standup well in the rain — is the best footwear to bring. A few of my favorites include:

  • Toms line of booties — The soles aren’t slick and they’re comfy for walking around
  • Tretorn rain boots — I wore their fleece lined rubber boots every day for 6 months in Seattle; however, the low boots are more practical for travel.
  • Hunter boots — Another solid line of rubber boots for men and women with a low, Chelsea boot option

If the boots you choose are suede, waterproof them before you depart.

What to Wear in Seattle Winters: A Down jacket & Warm layers

Seattle doesn’t get quite as cold as the New York or other parts of the northern half of the country during the winter, but you’ll still want to bring warm layers like:

  • A down jacket (waterproof or resistant if possible)
  • 1-2 sweaters
  • A beanie
  • A scarf
  • Wool socks

Generally, a pair of skinny jeans, slouchy sweater, and boots will never go wrong if you’re unsure about what to wear in Seattle.

A Good Book

When the sun sets at 4:30 and you just can’t take the weather outside anymore, there’s no shortage of cafes or breweries in Seattle to hunker down in while reading a good book — including Elliott Bay Bookstore (a seriously awesome pitstop if you don’t have anything good to read at the moment or just love books).

Putting it All Together: Sample Packing List for Seattle in the Winter

On a 3-day trip to Seattle in December, this is what my packing list looked like:

Clothing

  • Black Toms booties
  • Sneakers
  • Black down jacket
  • Rain jacket (my down jacket isn’t very waterproof — I also ended up not using this)
  • Black ripped jeans
  • Yoga pants
  • 2 t-shirts
  • Sweater
  • Infinity scarf
  • Hat
  • Underwear + socks

Other

  • Book
  • Toiletries (shampoo, conditioner, soap, toothpaste, toothbrush, lotion, deodorant, eyeliner, chapstick)
  • 1 necklace
  • Phone + charger
  • Laptop + charger (wasn’t 100% necessary)
  • Water bottle
  • Headphones
  • Wallet, ID, etc.

I packed everything in a small duffle and had a small cross body purse for my phone, wallet, keys, and chapstick.

Things to Pack for Seattle in June, July, and August

Packing list Seattle

Summer in Seattle is probably the city’s best kept secret. If you’ll be here in June, July, or August, ditch the sweaters and rainproof boots and instead bring:

  • Sandals
  • Warm-weather clothing
  • Sunglasses
  • Bug spray
  • Bathing suit
  • Camping gear

Shoes: Sandals & Sneakers

With nice weather and minimal rain, a pair of sandals and a pair of sneakers are the best shoe combo for a trip to Seattle in June, July, or August. Even if you plan on sticking within the city limits, I’d still recommend bringing sneakers that you can hike in (maybe not your Toms?) since Seattle parks, like Discovery Park, have great trails.

What to Wear in Seattle in June, July, and August

It gets warm enough in the summer in Seattle for you to wear shorts and cute dresses during the day, but you’ll still want to have a sweater or light jacket for evenings. If traveling here during the summer, you’ll want to make sure to bring the following:

  • A dress or skirt
  • A pair of shorts or capris
  • 1 tank top
  • 1 t-shirt
  • Sunglasses
  • A sweater or light jacket

If you plan on doing any hikes this time of year, you should also make sure to bring (or buy) sunscreen and bug spray. Also note that camping spots at high altitudes can drop into the 40s at night.

A Bathing Suit

On those rare, really warm days in Seattle, locals will hang out at Madison Park Beach, Madrona Park, or several other swimming beaches and take a dip in Lake Washington. Bring a bathing suit — just in case! — and join them.

Camping Gear

As I mentioned earlier, you can rent tents, sleeping bags, and other camping gear in Seattle if you’d rather not pack all of that stuff. However, if you plan on spending time in the Washington wilderness and are on a budget, by all means bring your camping equipment and enjoy that piney mountain air.

Putting it All Together: Sample Packing List for Seattle in the Summer

Last year, this is what my packing list looked like on a 10-day trip to Seattle in July (minus the bike, bike gear, and tent — I was there for the Seattle to Portland bike ride:

Clothing

  • Sandals
  • Sneakers
  • Basic black pants
  • Yoga capris
  • Mini skirt
  • 2 t-shirts
  • 1 tank top
  • Rain jacket
  • Sweater
  • Infinity scarf + hat (it was necessary while camping but not in the city)
  • Underwear + socks
  • Bathing suit

Other

  • Book
  • Toiletries (same as above)
  • 1 necklace
  • Phone + charger
  • Laptop + charger
  • Water bottle
  • Sunscreen
  • Bug spray

TL;DR

If you’re traveling to Seattle, you won’t need to deviate from your usual packing list too much. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when planning your perfect trip:

  • Bring a rain jacket, not an umbrella
  • Pack trail gear and get outdoors
  • For shoes, a pair of sneakers and waterproof boots are best from September – May
  • In the summer, opt for sandals and sneakers
  • Bring pants, sweaters, and warm clothing from September – May
  • In the summer, prepare for nice, sunny daytime weather as well as cooler nights
  • Get your grunge on and pack your best ripped jeans and worn-in band t-shirts, or go crunchy with your favorite pair of Birkenstocks

Photo Credit coffee shop

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