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Stark landscapes, sweeping vistas, and starry skies… These are the words I associate with the Baja Peninsula – a state that seems like a world unto itself compared with mainland Mexico. While Baja is certainly Mexican in many delightful and delicious ways, it is also unique: informed by unique native heritage and influenced by different scars of Spanish colonization. Today, Baja is both a getaway destination if you want to escape during the cold months further north and an outdoor playground if you’re up for adventure. (I assume you’re the latter if you found my blog!)
When I started my site almost a decade ago, I had no idea that I would eventually become focused just on travel in the American West – but once I did realize that, I always knew: that also included Canada (BC and the Yukon) and Mexico (the Baja Peninsula). While these aren’t “America” like the U.S. – they are part of North America, and thus part of the region I want to encourage you to explore.
Part of exploring means packing for whatever trip you have planned – and let me tell you, the Baja Peninsula has plenty to offer beyond sand and surf if you want to really have an adventure. That’s why, following my second trip to the Baja peninsula (in 2023), I decide it made sense to put together my own Baja packing list.
Over the course of my Baja travels, I’ve hiked, ridden horseback and burro, stargazed under deeply dark skies, snorkeled with sea lions, and had close encounters with whales – the range of experiences you can have on/from this relatively small land mass are astounding, and you want to be prepared to enjoy them all.
My Baja packing list will help you understand what adventures you can have when visiting the Baja Peninsula – as well as what you need to pack to be comfortable and safe. Ready to see the essentials I recommend, plus some other tips about packing for Baja? Vamos!
In this post, I promote travel to a destination that is the traditional lands of the Comom’ti-pa (Cochimí), Guyacura, Ko’lew (Kiliwa), Kumeyaay/Kumiais, Monqui, Paipai (Akwa’ala), Pericú, and Xawiƚƚ kwñchawaay (Cocopah) peoples. With respect, I make a formal land acknowledgment, extending my appreciation and respect to the past and present people of these lands. To learn more about the peoples who call these lands home, I invite you to explore Native Land.
What You Actually Need to Pack for Baja
Let’s be honest with each other: I pretty much pack 90% of the same things over and over… and I bet you do too. That’s why I have this separate list of travel essentials I always pack, as well as a weekend packing list that covers all the basics.
Also, most packing lists are about 90% of those same things, right? So instead of giving you a comprehensive Baja packing list that’s 90% of what you already know or are already planning to pack (yes, you do need 1 pair of underwear for each day…), here’s a packing list that’s 100% of specific things you need for traveling in Baja.
In addition to the items listed below, you might add other things based on the activities you plan to enjoy. Unless you’re planning a multi-day backpacking trip or kayaking your way up the Gulf of California coast, pack your normal clothes and you’ll be fine.
What to Pack for a Trip to Baja
If your Baja travel plans are just:
- Step 1. Fly to Los Cabos
- Step 2. Find a fruity drink
- Step 3. Lay on the beach
You probably don’t need most of what I’m recommending below (except the reef-safe sunscreen and sunglasses!). This is a packing list if you want to get out and actually explore the Baja Peninsula. Maybe that’s heading out on a few hikes, hitting the open road on a trip up Federal Highway 1 (southern sister of the Pacific Coast Highway), or taking a cruise in the Gulf of California – as I recently did with UnCruise.
Whatever level of adventure you seek, these are the essentials you need to pack for Baja to enjoy the rugged, natural beauty of this place in a safe and responsible way.
1. Long Layers
It might seem surprising that I recommend packing long layers for a nice, warm weather climate like the Baja peninsula. After all, I recommend the same thing for Alaska in the winter – and these are completely different climates and seasons!
But if you want to get out and explore, as I love doing – think hiking, kayaking, stargazing, etc. – you’re going to want layers to protect yourself from the sun and all the spiky desert plants and burrs and such.
Lately I’ve become a huge fan of merino wool for travel clothing; my closet is increasingly full of pieces from both Unbound Merino and Woolx. Merino is wrinkle-resistant, odor-resistant, quick-drying, and thus perfect for adventures during your Baja trip without looking or smelling by the end.
2. Reef-Safe Sunscreen
Jacques Cousteau named the Gulf of California “the aquarium of the world” – and there are reefs throughout the Gulf that are threatened as much as any you’ll find in oceans and seas elsewhere in said world.
There’s a simple but effective way to help protect reefs from coral bleaching caused by the chemicals we humans use: reef-safe sunscreen.
Anymore, reef-safe sunscreen is the same price as regular sunscreen – it’s better for you AND the reefs, so it just makes sense!
On the rare occasions, I make it to the airport and realize I’ve forgotten something, it’s almost always sunglasses. I’m always so annoyed about it, because I wear sunglasses all the time – and you definitely need some in sunny, blue-sky Baja.
To help me not forget as often, I now have two pairs of sunglasses from Trickster Company, which have designs by Tlingit/Athabascan designer Rico Lanáat’ Worl on them.
I love these because they honor the Alaska Native communities of my favorite destination while still adding a pop of color to my outfit (which, as you can see, I absolutely don’t need!).
4. Long-Sleeve Swimsuit (or Rash Guard)
Okay, y’all, I’m really bummed: the company I bought my long-sleeve suit from is no longer in business, so I don’t have a great recommendation here anymore…
I can say that having a long-sleeve swimsuit and/or rash guard is a really good choice if you plan to go in the water at all when visiting Baja. There reefs (as mentioned) as well as jellies and other stingers that love the cold water ecosystems of the Gulf of California and Pacific Ocean. Also, long sleeves help protect you from the sun!
5. Day Pack
Whether you’re out hiking in Espiritu Santo National Park, taking a walking tour of Loreto, or just need an easy bag to have in the back seat for stops along the Carretera Transpeninsular (MX-1), it’s good to have a small bag or day pack to hold your camera gear, water bottles, and a few snacks.
This is Baja after all; you’ve got to be prepared for any adventure!
The Luzon Del Dia 18L from Cotopaxi is my favorite day pack (I own TWO); I love that they are colorful (again, I’m always thinking about adding a pop of color for those times I want a picture of me to stand out in the incredible landscapes around me.
6. Hiking Shoes/Boots
I will be the first to admit that I am not an expert on anything to do with hiking – especially not choosing hiking boots. So if you need new boots, I recommend going to a gear store and chatting with them about your adventure plans.
However, I did want to share that I recommend having some sort of hiking shoe or boot during your Baja trip, especially (of course) if you plan to do some hiking.
I only packed my Chacos for my trip, and it was the wrong call – I wish I had either packed my old Solomon trail runners (pictured; a great choice for a hiking “shoe” since they have tons of stability and grip) or my TOMs Mesa Boots that have become my go-to hiking boots for up to 7-mile hikes (not pictured, and usually not in stock).
Mr. V’s Pick for Men: Here
While we now all carry incredible cameras in our pockets every day, there’s nothing quite like a GoPro if you’re seeking out some adventures during your Baja trip.
I was recently given the chance to try the GoPro HERO11 Black on my Baja cruise and it was the perfect (second) camera to record all my adventures. (Let’s be real, I’ll always have my phone with me, but I usually pack a second camera – and this is going to become my go-to.)
If you watch any of the videos I shot from Baja, they were almost all on the GoPro; similarly, a good number of the photos in my Baja stories are screen-grabs from the videos – yes, they really are that high of resolution!
While it’s not necessary, I also have the GoPro Creator Edition which includes a powered Bluetooth handle, mic, and light. If you want to shoot vlogs and stuff, it’s a really nice setup.
What Else to Put on Your Baja Packing List
As mentioned at the top, this list is not meant to be exhaustive – it’s meant to cover the items I think you’re less likely to remember when packing all of the essentials and normal clothes you usually pack. Here are a few extra tips:
- Your packing list for Baja will vary a bit based on the season you visit. While Baja has less seasonal variability than other destinations in the American West, it still does have seasons – in winter you can expect colder weather (especially overnight) and a higher chance of rain. Just check the forecast and use your own instincts.
- Don’t want to pack a guidebook? Snag a digital copy. Annoyingly, Lonely Planet doesn’t have a Baja guidebook – it’s just part of their Mexico guide. In any case, LP offers ebook versions of all their guidebooks, usually at the same price or cheaper. Here’s the link for the Mexico ebook; it’s also available for free with a 30-day trial of Kindle Unlimited!
- Adjust your Baja packing list based on how long you’re traveling. Whether you’re only spending 3 days exploring Los Cabos, doing a 7-night Baja cruise, or spending a full 10 days driving Federal Highway 1 fro tip to tip add one more top for every two days of travel, and one more pair of trousers for every 3 days. Don’t forget extra undergarments and socks!
- You should pack your personal items too. You won’t find the same brands in Baja as up in the U.S., so remember to bring the basics and your travel essentials too!
- Bring a water bottle!!! Don’t contribute to the plastic problem in Baja – but also don’t get dehydrated. Bringing your own water bottle will help you get enough water into your body in Baja’s arid climate while reducing your travel footprint.
Have any other questions about my Baja packing list or what you should pack for Baja and the adventures you have planned there? Let me know in the comments!