The following packing list for Vancouver in winter was submitted by Kate. See all packing list posts here.
Every year for the past 5 years, I have visited Canada to celebrate my birthday. Lots of people think I’m crazy for heading north in the middle of the winter, but I can’t think of a better place to go! I’ve played in the snow and made new friends all across the Great White North.
But if you’re not quite ready to brave the full-on Canadian winter weather, what about a visit to Vancouver? The climate is much milder on the west coast, and it generally feels more like fall, even in February. I happened to take my trip during a bit of a cold snap, and, being true Canadians, several Vancouverites actually apologized for the unseasonable chill. But I handled it just fine – especially because of what I packed.
So here’s my ultimate packing guide for Vancouver in the winter!
My number one clothing item to pack – leggings!
Leggings are the perfect way to layer, and they make it easy to change up your outfit. Best of all, they hardly take up any space in your luggage. I recommend at least two, perhaps three pairs (and, in that case, make one of them fleece-lined).
Despite the whole “leggings-are-not-pants” controversy, as long as you pack the proper tops, you really don’t need to bring any pants!
Tunics, long sweaters, or dresses
If you’re going to wear leggings instead of pants (like me!), you’ll want long tops to wear over them. My favorite long layers are from Roots – a Canadian company, of course! How many you’ll need will depend on how long your trip is, but I packed one per day. I also mixed up the weights – a couple of heavy sweaters and a couple of lighter knits means you’ll be prepared for temperature fluctuations.
>>Check out our advice for packing light for winter travel.
These are especially important if you plan to do a lot of walking, like I always do. Again, with the temperature in Vancouver, I recommend a few thicker socks to keep your toes cozy if it’s cold, and a few lighter ones for milder days (or, if it gets especially cold like it did for me, you can double up). I would also throw in a few extra pairs, just in case you get caught in the rain!
Speaking of rain, you’ll definitely want to be prepared for that! Vancouver is quite close to Seattle, so keep in mind that it rains with a similar frequency, and waterproof boots are something you’ll definitely be glad to have. The boots don’t need to be lined, because of the warmer climate, but you’ll want something that keeps the water out. Even though it was colder when I was in Vancouver, it didn’t rain until I was heading back to the airport. This was extra lucky for me, because my boots weren’t waterproof, and I certainly would have regretted that.
You don’t want something that’s too heavy, so I recommend a fall jacket. Once again, you’ll be smarter than me if you go with a water-resistant one (I have one I like from REI), but I brought a Roots favorite. If you wear it or carry it during your travels to Vancouver, it won’t take up space in your bag.
A travel umbrella is something I can’t recommend strongly enough! Even though it barely rained for me, I was super happy to have it on my trip out of town. I like my umbrellas to be colorful in order to brighten up a rainy day, so my favorite is Miu Miu which I found at Target. Also, I suggest getting a small carabiner (REI carries them), so you can clip your umbrella to your bag when you’re walking around town and not have to worry about carrying it – or losing it!
Although Vancouver is relatively warm, you’ll want a hat – or a toque as it’s known in Canada. And if you like to make new friends, I suggest a cute one! My raccoon hat by Delux never fails to elicit comments and compliments, but you can, of course, go for a simpler toque if that’s more your style.
Keep your hands toasty with a pair of gloves. If you want to be able to use your phone while you’re wandering the city, you can probably get away with fingerless ones, or bring a touchscreen friendly pair. But do remember that if you’re from the US (or another country that’s not Canada), you’ll want to make sure you have an international data plan or an unlocked phone to avoid racking up some serious data charges. Or you can turn your data off and go to Tim Hortons for a double-double (a standard coffee with 2 creams & sugars) or some Timbits (donut holes) and use the wifi for free!
>>Read about buying a SIM card overseas here.
Other Tips for Visiting Vancouver
Don’t forget that you’ll need Canadian money! Getting it from the ATM is your best bet, but try to figure out how much cash you’ll need for the duration of your trip so you don’t pay too much in fees. And if you end up with extra Canadian cash, banks in the US will change your bills to US dollars, but they won’t take coins. Since Canada has 1 and 2 dollar coins, it’s easy to forget you have a bunch leftover, so I like to use my loonies and toonies (that is really what they’re called!) for food or souvenirs in the airport – perhaps a last trip to Timmies! – or for public transportation to get there.
Speaking of public transportation, Vancouver has an excellent system, and you can buy a Compass Pass or a ticket for Translink to get around.
Vancouver is a truly fantastic city with a wonderful juxtaposition of green space and urban amenities, and I hope this packing list helps you make the most of your trip!
Book a Viator Tour for Your Trip to Vancouver in Winter
Visit Vancouver’s Stanley Park with a storyteller guide on a walking tour that explores the park’s weirdest art installations, crime scenes, hidden trails, and secret cemeteries.
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About the author: I am a storyteller who has always had nomadic tendencies. My favorite souvenir is the scar from a broken nose I got in a snowball fight with strangers who became friends on a solo trip to Québec City to celebrate my 30th birthday. My mission is to spread delight while encouraging and inspiring people to travel. You can read more of my travel tips, guides, and inspiration at wanderu.com. I’d love for you to say hello on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, too!
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