Packing Lists for Travel

What to Pack for Portland, Oregon

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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 it didn’t garner much national attention, and wasn’t exactly a tourist destination unless you knew someone there – or knew someone who visited and spoke highly of it.

That all changed in 2015, when a Washington Post food critic named Portland the #1 city for food in America. All the eyes of foodies in the U.S. turned toward Portland, and there was an explosion of #foodporn Instagram photos tagged in 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.

Portland quickly surpassed big-sister Seattle as ‘the place to visit,’ much to the chagrin of Seattleites like me who were living in Seattle when this happened.

No matter what brings you to Portland, it’s undoubtedly a cool place to visit. The city has blossomed over the past decade (which helped it top the food-cities list), and there’s ‘something for everyone.’ As you prep for your trip to Portland, here’s what to pack to make sure you also take advantage of Portland’s super-cool scene.

What to Pack When You’re Traveling to Portland, Oregon

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Portland didn’t so much borrow styles from elsewhere as claim and reiterate them. Undeniably ‘hip,’ style in Portland has elements of Pacific Northwest grunge, Brooklyn hipster, and mountainous west outdoor adventurers. Somehow, it all works together!

  • Plaid Shirts. Cozy and comfortable, you can’t go wrong with plaid in the Pacific Northwest, and you won’t look out of place rocking a bright color shirt.
  • A Statement Sweater. For two reasons: 1. Portland is a place where you can express your opinions (climate change is real!). 2. Layers are always a good idea when traveling.
  • Funky accessories will make your outfit pop, like a dino skeleton necklace (evolution is real!), an Instagram hat (Portland is a very Instagrammable city), cat’s eye sunglasses (so hip), and a country-style belt (because Portland effortlessly blends country and city chic).
  • Layering tanks are a must for every trip. I never travel without them; I hardly go a day without wearing one!
  • Jeggings are also great for travel. Make sure you have a denim pair for Portland, because it’s part of the look.
  • A big ol’ blanket scarf will complete your look on chilly autumn or winter days.
  • Comfy flats and multi-use boots will allow you to easily transition between walking around the city and exploring the Columbia River gorge or Oregon coast on a day trip. For Portland, you might even opt for black boots instead of my favorite brown ones pictured above.
  • A utility trench. Will help protect you from Portland weather in most seasons (autumn and spring for sure, and possibly winter depending on the temperature).

Put these disparate elements together in your bag as you pack for Portland, and you’l be surprised how well you fit in. The other thing to remember is that Portland is welcoming: you can wear whatever you want and still not stand out. If that means taking liberties with this list and adding your own faves, go right ahead!

Exploring Beyond Portland

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. Here are a few to consider if you have a couple days on your itinerary:

  • 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.
  • The Columbia River Gorge is chock-full of outdoor activities to enjoy. One easy one is Multnomah Falls.
  • If you’re less adventurous, 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.

This post was originally written in September 2014 and updated in October 2017.

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I was born on the East Coast and currently live in the Midwest – but my heart will always be out West. I lived for 15 years in Alaska, as well as four years each in California and Washington. I share travel resources and stories based on my personal experience and knowledge.


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