Seattle, Washington. The Emerald City. The Capital of Grunge. Home to the Seahawks, Sounders, and Mariners. HQ for Starbucks, Amazon, and Microsoft (sorta!). You already know Seattle – and you know what makes it special. But do you know what you need to pack for Seattle during a visit?
If you’re planning a trip to Seattle, you have a lot of questions. Does it really rain all the time? Is everyone a coder dressed in jeans and hoodies? What’s the proper wardrobe to fit in with Seattle style but be comfortable during a day of sightseeing???
Don’t worry, I’ve got you covered! I lived in Seattle for four years, and have traveled there many times too. Whether you’re visiting Seattle for work or fun – as part of an Alaska cruise or as the start of a Pacific Coast Highway road trip, you’ll know exactly what to pack for Seattle after reading this post. Plus I’ve added some other tips on packing for Seattle too.
This post was originally published in October 2017, and was updated in January 2019, and August 2021.
Tips to Packing for Travel to Seattle
Before we launch into my Seattle packing list, here are a few quick tips for packing for your first trip to the city of Seattle. 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 western part of Washington State is known for lots of rain, Seattle also has nice weather, especially in summer. I always advise bringing a raincoat/shell if you visit in case the Seattle 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.
- Seattle is a prototypical casual West Coast city. In most of the cities main industries (tech being the biggest), jeans and a tee are standard work 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, Seattle is a great city to explore this way. You can take the Link Light Rail or one of Seattle’s other train lines; 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 Seattle
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 in Seattle.
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 Seattle’s sunny days of summer, you might not need a rain shell, and can throw in a light hoodie for cool evenings instead. No matter what though, these items won’t take up unnecessary space in your bag. Here’s exactly what to pack for Seattle any time of year.
What to Pack for Seattle
Seattle’s fashion sense combines outdoor performance gear with casual coder attire. It’s also fun to pack a few ‘throwback’ items which harken to Seattle’s grunge history. Where it makes sense, I had Mr. V suggest what he thinks men need to pack for Seattle too.
There are a lot of Seattle travel guides out there, and you may be wondering why I suggest another when you’re already reading my blog about visiting Seattle. 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. If you’ve never used a guidebook before, check out my helpful post on how to use guidebooks!
Bonus: Get this guidebook for free with a free 30-day trial of Kindle Unlimited. Sign up here!
2. Rain Shell
Yes, it rains a fair amount in Seattle, but it doesn’t rain every day. Plus the rainy days in Seattle are usually more of a mist than a downpour. You don’t need a big bulky rain jacket or trench coat to survive the Seattle 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; Seattleites (the name for a Seattle resident) don’t use umbrellas!
Seattle may be known as a casually dressed destination, but that’s no reason to skip out on looking good, whether that’s making a run to the corner coffee shop (it seems like they’re literally everywhere) or strolling the Elliott Bay trail along the shores of Puget Sound.
Tall boots are perfect for travel to Seattle in the autumn, winter, or spring. A good pair will hold up for a day of sightseeing and transition perfectly to a nice dinner or concert at a local music venue.
4. Hiking Shoes
Whether you plan on hiking one of the trails in the Seattle area or just trying to make it up and down Seattle’s downtown hills, a good pair of comfortable walking shoes will provide you foot support without standing out. (Skip the bulky hiking boots; you don’t really need them for most hikes.)
Soloman Trail Runners are my go-to for good support without straying into bulky hiking boot territory.
While everyone thinks it rains 24/7 in Seattle, there isn’t that much rain! And when the sun is out, it’s pretty darn bright and beautiful – especially as it reflects off Lake Union or Elliott Bay while you’re sightseeing in Seattle.
Seattle 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, Seattle 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 Seattle. Or, if you’re less about grunge, pretend to be an Instagram outdoor-glam influencer, since Seattle is surrounded by mountains!
Even better, plaid is good as a warm layer if you’re visiting during a cooler part of the year.
7. Leather Jacket
When I first saw Get Him to the Greek, I thought the jabs about plaid and leather jackets being the ‘Seattle wardrobe’ were a joke. Then I moved to Seattle and found myself sporting a leather jacket daily!
A leather light jacket is a good choice if you’re a culture vulture and planning to enjoy Seattle’s music scene during your trip. It also makes you look cool, of course!
Seattle is very environmentally friendly, and this means you can’t just go and find single-use plastics anywhere you want. Seattle has banned several of the single-use plastics you might commonly find while traveling – yay, Seattle! ??
Whether it’s a water bottle, straw, or grocery bag – bring your own and you’ll be set during your trip.
Seattle is a pretty darn picturesque city, and you’re going to want to capture your experiences – whether that’s the rotating glass floor of the Space Needle or the flying fish of Pike Place Market.
Personally, I love my Sony Alpha camera; I used to shoot on an NEX-6 but would recommend the a6000. It’s my go-to for every trip (in addition to my iPhone), and I’m astonished how versatile it is in different photo settings.
(Bonus: if you need extra lenses, Glazers in Seattle has rentals!)
10. Day Pack
Whether you go out for a day hike outside Seattle or just do some urban exploration, you’ll need a bag to hold your water bottle, camera, and rain shell all day while following my suggested 3-day itinerary for Seattle.
Timbuk2 makes hardy, waterproof messenger bags in a variety of sizes. The one pictured has some green since Seattle is the ‘Emerald City.’
What Else to Pack for Seattle
I’ve put together a weekend packing list, which can help you see some of the basics I pack for every single trip. Additionally, here are a couple tips to help you pack for your trip to Seattle:
- Looking for the perfect luggage for your Seattle trip? I recently upgraded to the Pro Carry-On from Level8 Cases and love having a laptop pocket built-in. This is easily the best carry-on luggage I’ve used, packs efficiently, and rolls super easily.
- What you pack for Seattle will vary a lot based on the season you visit. Seattle’s summer months are noticeably drier and warmer than winter months. As such, you may find you don’t need to pack as many long trousers or waterproof items. Seattle’s wettest months are during the late winter and early spring. In any case, be sure to check the forecast before you start packing – and throw in a rain shell anyway because it never hurts to have one!
- Don’t want to pack a guidebook? Snag a digital copy. Lonely Planet offers ebook versions of all their guidebooks, usually at the same price or cheaper. Here’s the link for the Seattle ebook. (Pro tip: it’s available for free with a 30-day trial of Kindle Unlimited!)
- You don’t need waterproof shoes or boots. In all of my years living in Seattle, I never owned waterproof boots; you can easily move about the city on rainy days without getting wet feet. You can leave the chic Hunter rain boots at home!
- Adjust your packing list based on how long you’re traveling. Whether you’re only spending 3 days in Seattle or 10 days exploring the Pacific Northwest, 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!
- If you’re looking for travel flats, I always recommend Tieks. While these are an investment at $175 per pair, they hold up so well while traveling. I put over two million steps into my first pair! Read my review here.
I’ll add links to my master packing list and seasonal packing lists, as soon as they’re live!
Have any other questions? Let me know in the comments!