Northern California Packing Guide For Women

NorCal is more than San Francisco’s beautiful cityscapes. It is also known for its stunning sea-to-mountain scenery and many bucket-list-worthy destinations. There are a few essentials that you can’t leave home without, whether you’re heading to Napa for wine, Tahoe to enjoy the snow, Yosemite to hike, Santa Cruz to see the ocean, or Napa for the wine.

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Cold Weather Outerwear

California is known for its sunny weather, but it can also get cold at higher elevations. Beach cities are notorious for their unpredictable weather and frequent fog bouts, even during summer months. So make sure you pack long pants and a jacket.

It doesn’t matter where you are, layering is a good idea. However, I recommend having a cardigan handy at all times.

Comfortable clothing

Except for SanFran, there aren’t many people wearing designer labels or showing off the latest fashion trends. Northern California is known as a laid-back state that values comfort and a high level of comfort.

Most people wear a simple jeans/tee/flipflop outfit every day, while Santa Cruz and Sonoma residents prefer to wear more athletic clothing.

NorCal venues are not conducive to being underdressed. You’ll likely find yourself wearing your favorite pair more often than you think. Heels are a waste of luggage space.

However, wine tasting in Napa and possibly a nice night out in SF are probably the best occasions to wear a nice dress. A long maxi skirt and jean jacket are my go-to outfit when I’m not feeling the need for jeans and a tee. Flat sandals are the best choice for dresses, as Napa’s hills and gravel driveways don’t lend themselves to wedges or stilettos.


While you may not find yourself on sunny beaches all day long, you will notice that you look a little more pink if you spend enough time outside.

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Although Tahoe’s cool air may make it seem like sunscreen is unnecessary, the sun will cause blistering sunburns in Tahoe within hours of exposure. Apply sunscreen daily, even if it’s overcast or the temperature isn’t above 70 degrees.

Protective Gear that is Water Resistant for Electronics

You’ll find yourself in water somewhere in NorCal, whether it’s in the rain or in waterfalls, lakes, rivers, and even the ocean. You can take pictures at many places, so grab your GoPro or waterproof case to capture underwater photos. No matter what device you have, water-protective gear is essential to protect your electronics.

Bug Repellent

My beloved state is lush with greenery in spring and summer, but pesky mosquitoes are also a part of the territory.

Although repellents containing deet have been shown to be most effective in keeping them away, I have also found success with Avon Skin So Soft products (the bubble bathtub smells incredible!). Although they were not originally designed to repel bugs, many people find them to be an excellent, natural-smelling option to sticky and harsh bug sprays.

Minimalist Clothing

You should pack simple clothing that can be worn in many settings. Think plain or striped teshirts, simple dark jeans, or flowy pants. Also, consider a pair of flats or sandals.

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These “convertible” pieces can be used for multiple purposes. They can be worn for breakfast, dinner, shopping, and even to the beach. The idea behind having multiple outfits is to be able to mix and match, regardless of whether you are planning on doing something.


This region offers a lot of outdoor activities, so bring a towel. You will find a lot of beach towels handy, even if they are small and thin. Your towel should be accompanied by a bathsuit. But, that’s up to you!

Large Backpack or Purse

Given my daily needs, I find that I cannot carry anything less than a large hobo-style purse or bag.

You’ll be tempted to buy handcrafted items from local artisans if you are visiting the area from afar. Are you not a purse-person A backpack will not make you look out of place.

A scarf is also tied to my bag’s handle — this serves two purposes: practicality and fashion. You could also use it as a belt for your backpack. Additional packing tips for California

AAA memberships available

Northern California is a popular destination for travelers. You will likely travel by car if you choose to visit. Public transportation is limited and Uber/Lyft only works in cities. AAA membership is great for when you need to fill up, change the tire, or lock the keys. It also offers significant discounts on many hotels and attractions. Insurance is an excellent value for money.

Take into account where you will be traveling in the region

It will be different to pack for Yosemite and Lake Tahoe than for cities or the coasts. These tips are applicable to all locations. However, if you’re only going to one spot, you might want to adjust your packing list.

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It is possible for campsites to get noisy and crowded, especially in the summer. Bring earplugs. Whale-watching in Monterey or Santa Cruz is a popular day activity. However, it can be very cold so make sure you bring an insulated jacket and waterproof jacket.

The Bay Area, the Tahoe foothills and the Chico waterfall region are great places for beautiful hikes. However, it can also get extremely hot and there isn’t much water nearby. You should always bring a reusable water container!

Although this isn’t an exhaustive list, it is important to remember that the weather, altitude, and activity type can vary greatly and you may need to pack a few different items.


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