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17 Top Outer Banks Packing List Items for 2024 + What to Wear & NOT to Bring

what to pack for the outer banks
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Summer is in full swing, and what is a better time to plan a beach trip for the whole family? The Outer Banks, located off the coast of North Carolina, is a spectacular place. They are known for being a peaceful beach scene, with no flashing lights, and no loud theme parks or boardwalks. This is a place to simply enjoy the beautiful, fresh, open beach air with the family!

Before you start packing for your next trip to the Outer Banks, take a look at this article. Here, I have made a list of essentials you’ll want to bring, other packing items, what to wear, what not to wear and so much more!

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What to Pack For the Outer Banks- 17 Essentials

  • 1. Quick Dry Travel Towel

    What’s a beach trip without a trusty towel? This towel is perfect for the beach. It dries super quickly and rolls up into a perfect compact bag. Sure, bring your large beach blanket, for drying off, this is the best towel to have!

    travel towel

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  • 2. Beach Bag

    A solid beach bag is a must for beach trips. This beach bag, or tote, is amazing for holding practically everything you’ll need for a fun day on the beach. It has so many pockets, it’s high-quality mesh and it’s even made in the USA!

    Beach Bag

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  • 3. Virtual Private Network (VPN)

    Whether you’re getting on someone’s wifi at an Airbnb, or a hotel, or even a coffee shop or restaurant, make sure your private information and everything on your phone is well protected with this VPN.

    Virtual Private Network (VPN)

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  • 4. Windproof Travel Umbrella

    Not only do you need protection from the rain, but you can also use this amazing umbrella for sun and wind protection! Coastal winds are no joke and can make a beach trip a little uncomfortable, but not if you have some solid wind coverage. This umbrella is perfect for trips because it’s super lightweight, weighing only 1 pound, and is super compact.

    Windproof Travel Umbrella

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  • 5. Waterproof Phone Case

    I never trust myself bringing my phone near any sort of water without protection first. I always stick my phone in this phone case before I even get to the beach. This phone is great since it’s universal, it works amazingly well, and you can even use the touch screen without taking your phone out.

    Universa Waterproof

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  • 6. Cooling Towel

    A perfect companion to the quick dry towel, you must bring this cooling towel along with you. While you’re sunbathing or taking a walk on the beach, or around the lighthouses, this cooling towel will be your best friend under that hot summer sun. Simply, dip it in water, drape it around your neck, and it will keep you cool for up to an hour!

    cooling towel

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  • 7. Portable Charger

    A long day at the beach may run your phone down, and with no place to plug it in, this portable charger is perfect! It fits right into any bag, even a small fanny pack, and will charge your phone for two full charges.

    Portable Charger

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  • 8. Packing Cubes

    Feeling anxious about packing? Don’t be! Not if you have packing cubes! Let the stress of packing disappear as you easily pack all your belongings into these 5 cubes. Everything fits so perfectly, and it’s all organized and compact. Plus this set comes with 2 laundry bags. They all fit wonderfully into any backpack or suitcase.

    Packing Cubes

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  • 9. Floating Wrist Strap

    For any water trip, I’m putting this floating wrist strap on my phone or my camera. Better to be safe rather than sorry!

    floating strap

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  • 10. Neck Wallet

    Instead of losing important IDs, bank cards, or cash, have them all in one easy place. And, you don’t even have to go digging around your bag or purse for them either, when they’re all right around your neck!

    Neck Wallet

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  • 11. Hanging Toiletry Bag

    Instead of tossing your toiletries in a random bag, or even just loose in the car or around the hotel, you must try this hanging toiletry bag. With its large capacity, you can fit everything you need from hair brushes to tooth products, to shampoos and more. It all folds up into a perfect travel-sized bag, then simply unfolds and can be hung for out-of-the-way access!

    Hanging Toiletry Bag

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  • 12. Travel Insurance

    For any reservations you make, or any rentals you purchase, you want to be covered. Travel insurance has your back and will help you get your money back in full! We use to compare policies from top companies to find the best option for our family and travel plans.

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  • 13. LifeStraw Water Bottle

    Water can be untrustworthy anywhere you go. It’s such a nice peace of mind to be able to fill up your drinking water knowing that the LifeStraw is filtering out 99.9% of all bad bacteria.

    LifeStraw Water Bottle

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  • 14. Reef Safe Sunscreen

    Obviously, sunscreen is a very important thing to bring to the beach. I recommend only wearing reef-safe sunscreen to any beach to protect the waters and the sea life.

    Reef Safe Sunscreen

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  • 15. Beach Wagon

    You may think you don’t need it, but once you have it, you’ll be a changed person. The beach wagon has quickly become my favorite thing ever. You can toss everything you need in one place, and roll it down to the beach. No more back-and-forth trips to the car! It’s so easy, especially with the kids running around.

    Beach Wagon

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  • 16. Beach Blanket

    A beach blanket is a must for any beach trip. I love this one for beach trips because it’s large enough for the whole family, and is so easy to clean! Sand just falls right off, and water doesn’t collect in the nylon. Perfect for the beach.

    Beach Blanket

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  • 17. First Aid Kit

    Bumps, cuts, and bruises are always bound to happen on any outdoor trip. Be prepared and have a first aid kit along with you for a quick bandage, or even a life-saving measure.

    First Aid Kit

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What to Wear to the Outer Banks

Following the beach theme that is the Outer Banks, wear your best coastal clothing on this trip! Pack your favorite swimsuit or two, and comfortable summer lounging clothes. I recommend having a beach cover-up on hand for staying comfortable and being modest. For stopping in shops, or going into restaurants, it’s nice to have comfortable, nice-looking town clothing apart from your beach attire.

Always bring sweatshirts and pants in case it gets chilly, or if you’re taking a lovely moonlit walk on the beach! Sneakers are great for tours, and sandals or flip-flops are perfect for everywhere else. There is a chance of rain all year round, so whenever you’re visiting, make sure to have a quality rain jacket.

What Women Should Wear for Outer Banks - (Click to expand)

Below is a sample women’s clothing list.(All items link to for your convenience).

Women will feel comfortable wearing their favorite beachy clothes to the Outer Banks. Bring that cute swimsuit and your favorite beach cover-up. Apart from beach clothes, I recommend bringing something that feels a little nicer in case you dine in any nice restaurants, or want to take a fun picnic date. A summer dress and a cute pair of sandals are perfect to have along with you for this trip.

What Men Should Wear for Outer Banks - (Click to expand)

Below is a sample men’s clothing list.(All items link to for your convenience).

Sticking with the beach theme for this trip, men can wear their favorite swim trunks and a great summer beach button-up. Keep it lightweight, comfortable, and casual for day trips. Spending on the season or your activities, you will want a sweatshirt and some pants, joggers, or jeans. As we prompted the women, there are many fine dining places in the Outer Banks, so don’t be afraid to bring some nicer clothes for a lovely date night!

Packing for the Seasons in the Outer Banks

Winter – December, January, February

Winter is certainly the off-season in the Outer Banks. However, that doesn’t make it a fun destination to visit for the holidays! It may be too cold to go into the water, but the beaches are still open, as are the restaurants and museums. If you are looking for a quiet visit to the Banks, then this is definitely the time to go. The chance of rain is pretty high, and it may even be cold enough for snow! So bundle up! The average daytime weather during the winter months is around 50-60’s degrees, and the nights plummet to somewhere in the 30’s.

With the cold, rain, and potential snow making up the Outer Banks’ winter weather, this means layers. Bring your favorite cozy sweater, a pair of jeans, and a nice insulated, waterproof jacket. You can probably get away with just wearing sneakers, however, you may want to bring some waterproof boots just in case. Hats, gloves, and scarves are always nice additions to have.

Spring – March, April, May

Spring is the perfect time to visit the Outer Banks if you are looking to avoid crowds, while also getting some good weather. Hotel and lodging rates are still low, and those summer crowds haven’t picked up yet! It may still be a little cold to take a dip, but it’s always nice to lay out on the beach no matter what. During March, it may still be a little chilly, no higher than 65 usually, during the days. However, April and May start to warm up and are consistently somewhere in the 70’s. During the nights, it can range anywhere from the low 40’s to 60’s.

You’ll still want some layers for the spring season. Base layer shirts, jeans, and a nice jacket are fine. You could also bring a pair of shorts, and some t-shirts in case it warms up during the day. A spring dress and cardigan are nice for wearing out during the spring, and the men could bring a nice button-up and some jeans. Definitely pack your rain jacket and rain boots.

Summer – June, July, August

When summer is in full swing, here comes the masses! Summer can be such a fun time of year to go, to meet new people, hang out, have lots of fun on the beach, and do other activities. You will probably want to plan ahead if you’re visiting during the summer and make reservations for any campsites or hotels/Airbnbs, as things can get booked up very quickly. The summer weather here is perfect and gorgeous. Usually, during the days it is around 80-90 degrees, with nights being no less than 70.

Summer style is in full swing, and it’s time to pack your favorite bikini, or swim trunks and a beach cover-up! Light loose summer clothing is very appropriate for summer in the Outer Banks. Light tank tops, shorts, and flip-flops are practically all you’ll need. For going out to shops or restaurants, a simple summer dress, or a button-up are perfect. Pack an extra light jacket, and maybe some jeans in case it gets chilly in the evenings. You will want your rain jacket just in case. Sunglasses, sunscreen, and a sun hat are all important things to remember for being out in the sun.

Fall – September, October, November

Fall is, honestly in my opinion, the best time to visit the Outer Banks. You’d think, like most East Coast beaches, the weather would start getting cold, but the Outer Banks stays mostly warm until late November. So with the summer rush over, and the weather still holding, fall is simply beautiful. The water is still warm too, and this is a popular time for windsurfing and kiteboarding!

Don’t forget that swimsuit! Fall swimming is sometimes the best swimming, you may want a rash guard though to protect from the wind. You’ll probably want a fall jacket and some pants for daytime activities, though you may be able to wear shorts if the weather is warm enough. Sneakers are perfect for fall time, and like always, do not forget a rain jacket!

Dressing appropriately for the activity– (Click to expand)

Water Sports: From sailing to kayaking, to jet skiing and surfing, you can participate in almost any water sport you desire in the Outer Banks! There are places where you can sign up for surfing or sailing lessons, and also places where you can rent jet skis and kayaks.

For all water sports, you’ll want a solid bathing suit and probably a rash guard for chillier waters. Water shoes, goggles, and waterproof, reef-safe sunscreen are perfect for spending a day in the ocean.

Museum Tour: For the more relaxed, or rainy days, there are over 15 museums or galleries that are fun for people of all ages to explore around the Outer Banks! The most popular is the Wright Brothers National Memorial, there are many museums around that will teach you the history of the land, and show you interesting and fun artifacts.

Museum tours often involve lots of walking, so make sure you have a good pair of sneakers or comfortable sandals to wear. Sunglasses and sun hats are great for visiting the outdoor lighthouse exhibits. Comfortable clothing like athletic shorts and t-shirts are perfect, and you may want to bring a light sweater just in case. If you are visiting the museums on rainy days, bring your rain jacket and rain boots.

Camping: There are so many beautiful places to camp in the Outer Banks. Staying at the campsites is usually much cheaper than renting a beach house, or getting a hotel or Airbnb for the night, plus you get to sleep practically on the beach! If you’re visiting the Outer Banks, consider getting a campsite to experience some gorgeous camping.

Summer is the best time to camp in the Outer Banks, as it can get pretty chilly otherwise. The evenings during the summer, with that ocean breeze, tend to get a little cold as well. Comfortable clothing like sweatpants, a sweatshirt, or even a jacket will be perfect for camping. I like having shoes that are easy to remove for lounging around the campsite, like moccasins or flip flops. Do not forget the bug spray! Those mosquitos can get nasty at dusk.

Hiking: Even with all the other fun things around, don’t forget that the Outer Banks has some spectacular hiking trails! There are many, many hiking trails that are open year-round, and allow you to walk through the beach dunes, and marshes and get some beautiful views.

For hiking in the Outer Banks, you’ll want some quality hiking shoes or close-toed sandals. A very thin base layer shirt is great for summer and spring hikes, or layers for winter hikes. Moisture-wicking hiking shorts or pants are always great, and you’ll always want to have on sunscreen and bring a sun hat and sunglasses. Many hikes are nestled in the coastal forest, which has many bugs, so make sure you have bug spray.

What NOT to Bring to the Outer Banks

  • 1.DON’T Bring Glass

    Glass can be a big problem when it breaks, and can hurt bare feet and animals walking around on the beaches. It also is a big pain to haul in and out.

  • 2.DON’T Bring Expensive Jewelry

    There really is no need to flash your expensive jewelry on beach trips. So many times I’ve heard of people losing their diamonds to the sea.

  • 3.DON’T Bring Lots of Food

    Pack a few snacks, but there are so many restaurants and grocery stores waiting for you once you are there. Save some cooler space and stock up on food once you arrive.

  • 4.DON’T Bring Many Shoes

    It can be hard to decide what type of footwear is best for trips. You will probably end up only wearing flip flops at the Outer Banks anyway! Save space for more important things in your bags and pack a pair of flip flops, and a pair of sneakers.

  • 5.DON’T Bring Liquor

    Wine and beer are allowed on all the beaches in the Outer Banks. However, liquor is prohibited.

  • 6.DON’T Bring Snowshoes

    All snow gear can be happily left at home, as the chance of snow, and any actually sticking around, is extremely slim.

What NOT to Wear on a Outer Banks – (Click to expand)

As we know, the clothing for a trip to the Outer Banks should be kept fairly simple, beachy, and comfortable. While there are fine dining restaurants, you still don’t need to dress to the 9’s. You can leave your fanciest tuxedo and most expensive jewels at home for safekeeping.

While the chance of snow is there, it’s extremely slim. Leave the snow gear and thick snow pants, and snow jackets at home, and save room for other things in your suitcase.

FAQs about Visiting the Outer Banks

  • 1. Is the Outer Banks pet friendly?

    Is the Outer Banks pet friendly?

    It has actually been said that the Outer Banks is one of the most pet or dog-friendly coastal places on the East Coast. Dogs are not only allowed but it is encouraged to bring along your furry companion! Every beach and many restaurants in the Outer Banks are dog friendly. Of course, leash rules apply, and always, always pick up after your dog.

  • 2. Is there camping around the Outer Banks?

    There are many public and private campgrounds scattered along the Outer Banks. Each campground has a different cost, but nothing too outlandish. Here are just a few of the most recommended campgrounds by the Outer Banks.

    • Oregon Inlet – A beautiful campground that is owned by the national park service. Nestled amongst the dunes, and practically on the beach, there are over 100 campsites to choose from. Priced at $28 a night.
    • Ocracoke Island Campground – Ocracoke island is about a 1-hour ferry ride out from the banks, or you can get there by small aircraft! For camping that isn’t as crowded, and for a beautiful island visit, this is the place for you. Priced at $28 a night.
    • Frisco Campground – Another large camping area, this place has 127 campsites for anybody to choose from! Located in the Cape Hatteras area of the Outer Banks, this campground has beautiful ocean views. Pierced at $28 per night.
  • 3. What are the best beaches around the Outer Banks?

    What are the best beaches around the Outer Banks?

    There are many many beaches to visit during your stay. Here are some of the most recommended beaches to check out while you’re there.

    • Corolla Beach – A quaint beautiful area of the Outer Banks, stretching about 24 miles. It is one of the most popular beaches since the waters are beautiful AND this is where you can see wild horses living their lives all over the beach.
    • Nags Head – Nags Head area is notably where all the action is. This is where most people visit first, to dip their toes into the whole Outer Banks scene. There is everything in this area from tours and museums to go-karts, shops, and restaurants.
    • Ocracoke Island – Not as popular as the main beaches, since this area is only accessible by water or small aircraft. As I mentioned above, this area has some amazing camping, but it has some amazing beaches. You can also find many of your favorite water sports like surfing, water skiing, and more here.
    • Coquina Beach – Located just south of Nags Head, Coquina beach has been said to be a favorite beach for many many visitors. One of the few undeveloped beaches, for some classic East Coast coastline, this is the place you’ll want to be.
  • 4. How big are the Outer Banks?

    The Outer Banks is a stretch of land that begins at the Virginia border and split off the coast of North Carolina. In total, the beaches take up almost 200 miles.

  • 5. What to do with kids?

    What to do with kids?

    Besides spending the day at the beach, or going to the museums, there are so many kid-friendly and fun things to do in the Outer Banks. Personally, across the board, our favorite was visiting Roanoke Island. There’s an amazing aquarium (NC Aquarium on Roanoke Island), a dolphin cruise, a trampoline park (great for rainy days), and our favorite, the Roanoke Island Festival Park. Roanoke Island Festival park is located on 25 acres and allows kids to hands-on explore what it was like for the first English settlers arriving in 1585.

  • 6. What are the best restaurants in the Outer Banks?

    There are almost 400 restaurants scattered along the Outer Banks. It can be hard to pick one! For all meals, at any time of the day, there is something for everyone. Here are just some of the most popular restaurants in the Outer Banks.

    • Mad Crabber – Located in Avon, this has been one of the best places for seafood for over 20 years. For some amazing crab, and a great family-friendly environment, this is where you’ll want to be!
    • Tale of the Whale – In Nags Head, this is one of the best places for a lovely fine dining experience. With beautiful waterfront dining and some of the most amazing seafood, take your date to this place for an all-around amazing dinner.
    • Outer Banks Brewing Station – Located in Kill Devil Hills, this is an award-winning local brewery, with some of the best beer selections in town and some great food! Also a very fun kid-friendly place, with a pirate ship playground in the backyard.
    • Owen’s Restaurant – Falling on the more fine dining side, it’s still a great place for the whole family. If you’d like to take your kids to experience fine dining and amazing food, I highly recommend this place. Owens is located in Nags Head.
    • Country Deli – If you’re looking for inexpensive, quick, but delicious food, the Country Deli in Kill Devils Hill is perfect for everyone. The sandwiches are to die for and the service is wonderful.
    • Sam and Omie’s – Sam and Omie’s is, in my opinion, the best breakfast spot in the whole area. It’s a quaint, down-to-earth restaurant. Opened almost 70 years ago for a quick breakfast for local fishermen and still serves the best Sunday brunch you may ever have.
  • 7. Best hikes around the Outer Banks?

    Best hikes around the Outer Banks?

    There are so many wonderful hikes to choose from, it’s hard for me to pick my favorites! As someone who has spent a lot of time walking around the dunes of the Outer Banks, I have explored some spectacular hiking trails. I will list just a few of my favorites.

    • Nags Head Town Trail – A lesser-known trail, this is one of my favorites because not only is it beautiful, but the distance is perfect for a quick walk. At only 1.5 miles round trip, it takes under an hour to finish, and it’s a super easy walk. The trail includes a lovely walk through the forest, then brings you to a wonderful beachfront. It’s perfect for bringing dogs and kids!
    • Open Ponds Trail – If you are looking for a little bit more of a challenge, the Open Ponds trail located in Cape Hatteras National Seashore, is the perfect hike for you. It’s over 8 miles round trip. The terrain is sandy, and you walk along the dunes and marshy ponds. There is no ocean view on this one but brings you sort of to the behind-the-scenes action of the coastal ecosystem. This trail is amazing for seeing wildlife, and birding.
    • Freedom Trail – An in-between for the trails I mentioned above, the Freedom Trail is about 2.5 miles total, still easy, but takes a little longer to complete. The hike is beautiful, following woodland and meeting at the ocean. The Freedom Trail was made as a reminder for everyone about the island’s history in the Civil War, and there are many informational signs all along the trail. This hike is definitely much more secluded, if you’re looking to escape the crowds, this is the perfect place to be! Quiet, and peaceful, it’s a lovely hike.
  • 8. What are the liquor laws?

    You are allowed to drink wine and beer on all beaches in the Outer Banks. However, do not use glass containers, drink responsibly, and be respectful. No liquor is allowed in public.