10 Essentials You Need to Pack for Portland in Any Season
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For a long time, Portland, Oregon wasn’t really ‘on the map.’ People in the Pacific Northwest liked Portland, and local residents were proud of their city, but were also glad to keep the secret of Portland’s quirky nature and the variety of activities you could enjoy there.
That all changed in 2015, when a Washington Post food critic named Portland the #1 city for food in America. The eyes of all foodies in the U.S. turned toward Portland; as people flocked to Portland, they found a bustling city with plenty of non-food activities to enjoy, outdoor adventures within easy reach, and temperate Pacific Northwest weather year-round. Unsurprisingly, Portland rode the wave to become one of the most popular cities in the Western U.S. and still draws travelers each year.
I’ve been fortunate to visit Portland several times, mostly when I lived in Seattle and could easily plan a weekend trip to Portland. During each trip, I had the chance to sample the wide variety of things to do and flavors to enjoy in the Rose City.
If you’re planning a trip too, you might wonder: what do I pack for a trip to Portland? After all, this is a PNW city – meaning you should plan for rain – but is also a beautiful city with plenty of urban and outdoor adventures to enjoy if the weather cooperates. Below you’ll find 10 essentials I recommend you pack for Portland, Oregon that will be handy no matter your travel plans or the season you visit.
This post was originally written in September 2014, and was updated in October 2017 and October 2022,.
Packing Tips for Travel to Portland
Before we launch into my Portland packing list, here are a few quick tips for packing for your first trip to Oregon’s biggest city. As usual, my list isn’t meant to be a strict set of required items you must pack; feel free to take liberties based on these tips, your own fashion, and the season in which you’re visiting.
- Though the Pacific Northwest is known for lots of rain, Portland also has nice weather, especially in summer. I always advise bringing a raincoat/shell if you visit in case Portland’s weather isn’t optimal, but I promise: it’s not 100% rainy weather all the time – it’s more likely to be grey skies than raining.
- Portland is a prototypical casual West Coast city. That is to say, it’s a casual place – even when it comes to professional attire. As such, you don’t need to glam out unless that’s how you feel most comfortable.
- If you love walking and taking public transit, Portland is a great city to explore this way. You can take the Max (Portland’s public transit system); you can take the buses out from downtown to all the major neighborhoods, and you can explore almost everywhere on foot. As such, shoes play an important role in my packing list.
What You Actually Need to Pack for Portland
I’ll be honest: 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 list of essentials for travel that I always pack.
Also, most packing lists are about 90% of those same things, right? So instead of giving you a 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 things you need specifically for traveling to Portland.
In addition to the items listed below, you might add other things based on the activities you plan to enjoy. For example, if you’re visiting during Portland’s sunny days of summer, you might not need a rain shell, and can throw in a light hoodie for cool evenings instead; if you decide to head out of the city for hiking, you’ll need goar for that. No matter what though, these items won’t take up unnecessary space in your bag. Here’s exactly what to pack for Portland any time of year.
There are a lot of Portland travel guides out there, and you may be wondering why I suggest another when you’re already reading my blog about visiting Portland. Nothing beats an old-school guidebook if you want comprehensive resources.
Lonely Planet is my go-to guidebook recommendation and having worked for LP while I lived in Seattle, I know they have great recommendations and guidance. While there is no dedicated Portland guidebook, this one for Washington, Oregon, and the PNW is your best bet.
Bonus: Get this guidebook for free with a free 30-day trial of Kindle Unlimited. Sign up here!
2. Base Layers
As you can see in pretty much all of the photos in this post, I’m wearing layers. While this is my go-to everyday style, it’s also a great idea when visiting Portland. Having several layers each day allows you to adjust as the weather changes.
My favorite company for layering items is Unbound Merino; their women’s collection has all the essentials you need to put together cute outfits with items that travel well – they’re odor- and wrinkle-resistant and mix-and-match well!
3. Light Down Jacket
Jacket layers are the hardest to pack, but you can’t go wrong with the UNIQLO Ultra Light Down jacket – it’s perfect for keeping you warm on a cool Portland day, but packs down small enough to not be annoying if you don’t end up needing it. I love my jacket so much that I’ve replaced the zipper once already.
Unfortunately, there are no UNIQLO stores in Portland, so you’ll want to get this jacket in advance before your trip.
4. Light Rain Shell
Yes, it rains a fair amount in Portland, but it doesn’t rain every day. Plus the rainy days in Portland are usually more of a mist than a downpour. You don’t need a big bulky rain jacket or trench coat to survive the rain.
Instead, it’s a good idea to throw a light rain shell in your bag that you can pull out and put on when needed but won’t take up too much space. Skip the travel umbrella; Portlanders don’t use umbrellas!
The Pacific Northwest owes a lot to its grunge roots. Without the likes of Nirvana and other rock artists with their dirty audio quality, greasy hair, and plaid shirts, the PNW wouldn’t have its reputation as a cultural destination.
Channel that cultural influence with long-sleeve plaid shirts, like this one; it fits perfectly with the casual city vibes of Portland. Or, if you’re less about grunge, pretend to be an Instagram outdoor-glam influencer, since Portland has mountains nearby
Even better, plaid is good as a warm layer if you’re visiting during a cooler part of the year.
6. Blanket Scarf
I always love traveling with a scarf (I have a whole list of my favorites), and a blanket scarf is the right one to pack for a trip to Portland.
I love this fiery plaid pattern since it goes well with more neutral outer layers but also brings a cozy vibe if you’re visiting during the cooler months in this part of the country.
7. Comfy Sneakers
Next, I recommend packing two pairs of shoes for your trip. First up, comfy sneakers that you can tackle the city by foot.
I’m not one of those people who recommend tourist shoes – my go-to’s are equally classic Converse All-Star low tops in “optical” white. There are plenty of other colors, but I love these shoes and they fit my style as well as allow me to sightsee in any city I visit.
8. Water-Resistant Boots
When you hear “water-resistant boots,” your mind might go to Wellingtons or other rain boots, but that’s not what I mean here.
Instead, I recommend buying a good pair of boots that can handle the rain but still look good and are good for walking.
Enter the TOMS Mesa boot (which replaced my beloved Teva De La Vina boots a few years back…). I own three pairs of this style, and while they tend to go in and out of stock a lot, they’re absolutely clutch for me on basically every trip – urban or outdoor adventure.
I’ve worn a lot of sunglasses over the years, but my current go-to style comes from a Native-owned and designed company called Trickster Company. I have two pairs – you can also see them on my list of travel essentials – and grab one or both depending on the other colors I’ve packed for my trip.
These sunglasses are a great option to rock the Ray-Ban style but support a Native company and have a bit of flare in the design.
10. A Good Camera
I left one of the most important items you need to pack for Portland to last – a camera to capture your memories! You might be, like me, an iPhone-only photographer, but if you’re looking for a nice camera to capture this bucket list trip, I’ve got a suggestion.
The Sony A6000 isn’t as amped-up as the A7III that many pro photographers use, but it’s got a ton of the same functionality, great quality, and costs less than half the price
Other Portland, Oregon Travel Tips
As mentioned, Portland channels some outdoorsy attitude in its style. That’s because there are loads of great outdoor activities to enjoy within a few hours of Portland. While I’ve got a complete guide for how to spend a weekend in Portland, here are some ideas to inspire you:
- The Columbia River Gorge is chock-full of outdoor activities to enjoy. One easy one is Multnomah Falls, which is easy to walk to from the parking area. You can also visit Mount Hood, part of the Cascade volcanic range.
- The Oregon Coast is a 60- to 90-minute drive from Portland. Popular attractions include Haystack Rock and Newport, Oregon. You can also drive up to the northwest corner of Oregon and explore Astoria, Oregon where The Goonies was filmed.
- If you’re less adventurous in the traditional sense, the Willamette Valley is a 60-minute drive south from Portland. It’s one of Oregon’s great wine regions.
Have fun in Portland! If you have questions about visiting Portland or what to pack, let me know in the comments.
Fantastic article! Super helpful! We want to plan a trip to Portland next year:)
I’d love to visit Oregon one day. I have to say, I giggled at the “Instagram hat”
Beauty With Lily
Tara Liston Fuller
i’ve never been to portland and i’ve always heard it’s beautiful! loving the plaid!!
As a fellow Seattleite/fan of Portland, this is a pretty accurate packing list! I always tell people to leave their heels and fancy jackets at home, bring cozy, comfy, and waterproof clothes 🙂
Thank you! Im packing now and had no idea being that im in NY.
Glad to help! Thanks for reading, Wen.