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17 Top Vancouver Packing List Items for 2023 + What to Wear & NOT to Bring

what to pack for Vancouver
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Vancouver is a west coast seaport surrounded by mountains and is the largest city in British Columbia, Canada. Whether you’re planning on hiking in Pacific Rim National Park or spending most of your time in the city exploring restaurants and strolling around Stanley Park, Vancouver, B.C., is one for the books.

We’ve put together a list of all the things you’ll want to make sure to not forget, what to wear in each season, as well as a list of what NOT to bring.

See our product selection criteria and guidelines here.

What to Pack for Vancouver - 17 Essentials

  • 1. Packing Cubes

    You learn things after a lot of traveling—one of those things is putting packing cubes at the top of the packing list! Packing cubes have saved me time, money, and make travel so much easier and more organized. I’ll never pack a bag without them again. This five-piece set also includes two laundry bags, so you have an eco-friendly way (as opposed to plastic bags) to keep your clean and dirty clothes separate.

    Packing Cubes

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 2. Chaco Sandals

    If you’re planning on traveling to Vancouver in the summer, Chacos make river wading and kayaking a completely different experience. While sturdy, waterproof hiking boots are often needed for longer treks, Chacos are for outdoor and water activity enthusiasts who want to feel as connected to the earth as possible.

    Chacos

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 3. Windproof Travel Umbrella

    The rainy season in Vancouver is typically the first three months (Jan, Feb, March) and the last three months (Oct, Nov, Dec) of the year. If you’re planning on traveling to Vancouver, especially during these months, you’ll want to pack a compact, windproof travel umbrella, as well as a sturdy rain jacket.

    Windproof Travel Umbrella

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 4. Backpacking Backpack

    If you’re planning longer treks in Pacific Rim National Park, a 55L backpack gives the storage you’ll need for all of your camping gear. The most important thing to keep in mind is planning your trip and purchasing a backpack that supports your needs rather than trying to make a daypack work for a longer trek.

    Backpacking Backpack

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 5. LifeStraw Water Bottle

    You never know what the water supply will be like while out on the trail. Your best bet is to bring a water bottle that has a filtration system like LifeStraw. Whether you need to rehydrate from the river or from the water stations along the trail, you can enjoy your surroundings without worrying about whether or not the water is safe to drink.

    LifeStraw Water Bottle

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 6. Biodegradable Wet Wipes

    We outdoors people know the saying by heart: leave it better than you found it. If you’re looking for a way to maintain hygiene and keep it eco-friendly, these wipes take six months to degrade fully, making them a great option for the campsite and the trail. Please note that since there is a timeline decomposing for any paper products, use discernment when potentially leaving items on the trail.

    Biodegradable Wet Wipes

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 7. Quick-dry Travel Towel

    In rainy Vancouver, a microfiber, quick-dry towel keeps you and your gear dry no matter the weather. If you’re visiting Vancouver in the summer (the driest season) and want to kayak or cliff jump, there’s no need to carry around a bulky, damp towel—Hero’s travel towel dries 10x faster than cotton, so you can get back to adventuring ASAP.

    travel towel

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 8. Insulated Coffee Mug

    Everyone prioritizes different packing list items while on vacation, and if you’re a coffee drinker, odds are, you know what a difference a double-walled coffee cup can make. I’ve carried mine through airports, on the trail, and on road trips—it’s one of my must-have items on every trip. Whether you’re trying to be more eco-friendly or need to keep drinks hot or cold, it’s a game changer. This one has a built-in handle too!

    Insulated Coffee Mug

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 9. Neck Wallet

    Keeping your cards, ID, and cash organized and secure is paramount on trips, whether you’re in a touristy part of town and want to keep it hidden from potential pickpockets or on the trail and need a flat, compact alternative to your wallet. It’s also a bit like keeping your sunglasses on your head—if you’re jet-lagged, it’s nice to have your wallet attached!

    Neck Wallet

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 10. Rain Jacket

    A longer, sturdy raincoat with an adjustable storm hood makes a difference during Vancouver’s rainy season. The last thing you want is a flimsy hood when you’re caught in a rainstorm, and a raincoat that gives proper protection from the elements allows you to angle your umbrella towards protecting the gear in your daypack.

    Rain Jacket

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 11. Lipstick-Sized Portable Charger

    Whether you’re having a picnic at Stanley Park or exploring and hiking Lynn Canyon Park, a portable charger is a must. While there are a lot of size options for portable chargers, a lipstick-size charger from trusted and reliable brand Anker ensures you get the juice you need while out and about without adding an unnecessary amount of weight.

    Lipstick-Sized Portable Charger

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 12. Universal Waterproof Phone Case

    If you’re a water sport enthusiast, Vancouver has a lot to offer. Whether you’re kayaking, white water rafting, or taking a dip in the river on a day hike, a dry bag will keep your phone and valuables secure and keep you focused on all of the fun adventures ahead of you.

    Universa Waterproof

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 13. VPN

    VPNs (Virtual Private Networks) keep your sensitive information secure and have become essential in the digital world we live in, especially when you’re traveling and need to connect to public wi-fi at the airport or at a coffee shop. While there are some free (read: limited) options, if you need to put in credit card information or check your bank account, it’s worth it to purchase a trusted, quality VPN like NordVPN.

    vpn

    View options at NordVPN ➜

  • 14. Bear Spray

    Vancouver, B.C. is known as home to both black bears and grizzlies. The best way to prepare for potential bear sightings is to read park advice and maintain a safe distance. Additionally, carrying bear spray is a good preemptive addition as this will deter a charging bear while keeping everyone injury-free long-term.

    Bear Spray

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 15. Travel Insurance for Vancouver

    Travel always has a number of variables: flights get delayed, bags get lost, flat tires always seem to happen on road trips. Preparing for these possibilities is simple with travel insurance. Travelinsurance.com gives unbiased comparisons, and guarantees the best prices, so whatever life throws at you, you’re covered.

    Travel Insurance for Vancouver

    Compare policies at TravelInsurance.com ➜

  • 16. All-weather Lip Balm

    One of the most important things to have while out in the sun but the easiest to forget: is all-weather lip balm. Anyone else experienced sunburned lips or a sunburned hair part? While a baseball cap can help some, an all-natural SPF lip balm will ensure you’re protected, whether you’re at Vancouver’s beaches or hitting the slopes.

    All-weather Lip Balm

    View on Amazon.com ➜

  • 17. Carabiners

    Need a way to hook your water bottle to the outside of your pack? Lose your keys easily and need them attached to you? Carabiners and bungee cords are two of the most compact, versatile items to make sure to pack on outdoor adventures. Please note that these are *not* suitable for rock climbing. Make sure to check your gear as you pack and have the right items for the right activity.

    Carabiners

    View on Amazon.com ➜

What to Wear in Vancouver

Vancouver has a lot to visit, whether you’re wanting to check out Gastown, Vancouver’s oldest neighborhood known for its whistling steam clock, or head over to Vancouver Island to hike in Pacific Rim National Park.

What to wear depends a lot on the season and activity, but generally, you can divide what to wear by warm or cold weather and city or hiking activities. Vancouver gets the least rain in the summer but a good amount of rain the rest of the year, with the rainy season in the first three months (Jan, Feb, Mar) and the last three months (Oct, Nov, Dec) of the year. It generally never gets above the low 70s (℉), so you may want to carry a cardigan or fleece jacket if you’re coming from a warmer climate.

What Should WOMEN Wear in Vancouver? – (Click to expand)
Below is a sample women’s clothing list. (All items link to Amazon.com for your convenience).

If you’re walking around downtown Vancouver in the summer or fall, a black blouse, gray paper bag pants, and a warm cream cardigan give you a versatile outfit you can switch up on other days. If you’re hiking in Pacific Rim National Park or anywhere else, you’ll want to wear your most comfortable athletic clothes and take a rain jacket with you.

What Should MEN Wear in Vancouver? – (Click to expand)
Below is a sample men’s clothing list. (All items link to Amazon.com for your convenience).

If you’re in the city, you can’t go wrong with a button-down and travel-friendly chinos. Since it doesn’t get warmer than the low 70s (℉) year-round, it makes sense to wear or pack a warm scarf and a beanie, and gloves if you’re headed to Vancouver in cooler weather. If you’re hiking, wear your most comfortable outdoor clothes and opt for wool socks—and don’t forget a rain jacket and compact umbrella.

Dressing for the Seasons in Vancouver

Spring – March, April, May

The last month of Vancouver’s rainy season is March, so you’ll want to keep your rain jacket accessible and expect scattered showers if you’re in Vancouver in April or May. March is quite chilly with a low of 37℉ and a high of 51℉, and you can expect lows in the 50s in April and May, with May getting up to 64℉. A good pair of wool socks make a huge difference in colder Spring weather.

Summer – June, July, August

It rains the least in the summer in Vancouver, with 1.5-2 inches of rain depending on the month. Temperatures average between highs of 67℉ and 72℉, so while it’s comfortable, you’ll want to pack a light cardigan and have a way to dry off quickly if you decide to go swimming. Summer in Vancouver, B.C., is really lovely.

Fall – September, October, November

November has the most months of rain and snow, with 20 days out of the month on average. September at lower elevations has a low of 52℉ and high of 67℉, while November has a high of 50℉ and dips down to 38℉. Always plan for more layers if you’re headed up the mountain, and take a compact umbrella with you. Snug fleece jackets can be layered underneath a warm coat and over a workout shirt or thermal.

Winter – December, January, February

The west coast of Canada is the only place where the average temperature remains above freezing, and that goes for Vancouver, especially, where it doesn’t get below 34℉ on average. You’ll still want to bring a winter coat, a beanie, or ear warmers, and plan for lots of snow with snow boots and thermal underwear if you’re planning on skiing in the mountains.

Dressing Appropriately for the Activity – (Click to expand)
Hiking in the Summer: If you’re hiking in the summer in Vancouver, keep in mind that the temperature generally won’t get above the low 70s (℉), with cooler temperatures in the mountains. As such, you’ll want to pack layers like a fleece jacket and wear wool socks. And don’t forget to pack a compact umbrella and rain jacket.

Winter Activities: If you’re skiing at Grouse Mountain or Whistler Blackcomb, make sure to pack or purchase all of your ski gear: a warm base layer, snow boots, and a snow bib (this one has both short and tall sizing). In the winter, you can expect about 7 feet of snow at any given time on Grouse Mountain and an average of 2 feet on Whistler Blackcomb.

Vancouver City Life: Whether you’re exploring cafes or the food scene in Vancouver, you can’t go wrong with comfortable outfits that layer well. Whether that’s a nice blouse or button down, jeans or chinos, comfortable sandals, or dress shoes, just think of how you’d dress downtown in any major city, and you’ll fit right in.

What NOT to Bring to Vancouver

  • 1.DON’T Bring Lots of Cash

    While you will probably want to do currency exchange to have some CAD (Canadian Dollars) on you, most places take cards, and there isn’t a need to carry a lot of cash. Make sure to check on international fees if you’re using your card.

  • 2.DON’T Bring Breakable Items

    Anything you take with you on a trip can easily get damaged. If you do have to pack something delicate, make sure to pack it in bubble wrap and between clothes. But if at all possible, don’t bring anything that can break while your luggage gets shuffled around.

  • 3.DON’T Bring Lots of Books

    As someone who tries to always read a book on vacation, I would still advise not taking a lot of books. It’s easy to be overly optimistic about your reading list, but likely, you’ll be enjoying too many things in Vancouver to read much.

  • 4.DON’T Bring Too Many Clothes

    The key while traveling is to bring versatile outfits that you can mix and match, not a lot of clothes you might not even wear. It’s easy to overpack, so try to set a limited number of packing cubes ahead of time and stick to the plan.

  • 5.DON’T Bring A lot of Jewelry

    My rule of thumb is unless it’s something I’m wearing while traveling or have a specific occasion for, I leave it at home. There’s no need to pack too many things that will probably just get tangled anyway.

  • 6.DON’T Bring Full-size Toiletries

    With eco-friendly solid shampoo and TSA-approved containers, there’s no need to pack full-size toiletries. Pro tip: make sure to label your liquids on removable masking tape. You may think you know the difference between body wash and leave-in conditioner, but if those containers sit around after a trip, it’s easy to forget what was what.

What NOT to Wear in Vancouver – (Click to expand)
Similar to a lot of trips, packing anything that wrinkles easily is going to add time and energy. There’s always the possibility of ironing that linen top, but more likely than not, it will just take up space in your luggage. Additionally, formal wear probably isn’t needed unless you have a specific occasion on the itinerary. It’s best to pack clothes you’ll often wear and feel comfortable in.

FAQs about Visiting Vancouver

  • 1. What’s the best time of year to travel to Vancouver?

    What’s the best time of year to travel to Vancouver?

    The best time of year to travel to Vancouver depends on what your itinerary looks like. Summer is the busiest time to visit, but it’s also great weather—it never gets above the low 70s (℉), so if you’re wanting cooler summer weather and lovely hikes, summer is great.

    Alternatively, winter is off-season, so lodging and flights may be less expensive, and Vancouver has beautiful Christmas lights and great skiing. It really just depends on what you want to see and experience while in Vancouver, B.C.

  • 2. Do I need my passport to travel to Vancouver, B.C.?

    If you’re outside of Canada, you will need a valid passport to travel to Vancouver. Make sure everything is up to date and check out current border guidelines re: Covid on Canada’s travel website.

  • 3. What is there to do in Vancouver, B.C?

    What is there to do in Vancouver, B.C?

    Vancouver is an incredible place with a plethora of city, water, and hiking activities. If you’re in downtown Vancouver, Stanley Park is a can’t miss place. Vancouver’s largest urban park, you’ll find botanic gardens, restaurants, and lots of places to bike and stroll.

    If you’re interested in suspension bridges, Capilano Suspension Bridge Park is the most well-known. However! If you’re looking for a free alternative for the family, Lynn Canyon Park is not as crowded and has a towering suspension bridge, along with trails and places to swim. In my opinion, unless you’re traveling to Vancouver during the holidays when Capilano is lit up with lights, Lynn Canyon is the way to go.

  • 4. What are some of the best coffee shops in Vancouver?

    There are so many great coffee shops in Vancouver that it’s hard to choose. If you only have time for a few shops, Revolver, Nemesis, and Matchstick are all worth the stop.

  • 5. I’m traveling to Vancouver, B.C. in December. What activities are there for the holidays?

    I’m traveling to Vancouver, B.C. in December. What activities are there for the holidays?

    Capilano Park has canyon lights that run roughly from November to January, which is a unique experience. The city of Vancouver also has a lights display and a German Christmas market. And fresh powder always makes for a more festive holiday for everyone traveling from warmer climates. Bonus: If you’re coming from downtown Vancouver, there’s a free shuttle that goes into Capilano Suspension Park.

  • 6. What’s the currency in Vancouver?

    The Canadian Dollar is Vancouver’s currency. Make sure to check current exchange rates and average cost of items ahead of traveling—it helps a lot with budgeting!

  • 7. What bears are in Vancouver?

    What bears are in Vancouver?

    British Columbia has about a quarter of all black bears in Canada and about half of all grizzly bears. A bear sighting can be an incredible experience. Just make sure to keep a safe distance and follow park instructions. If you want to see bears, there’s a season for it. As we all know, bears hibernate during winter, so you’ll need to go before winter arrives if you want a chance at spotting bears.