California scene
Photo by Viviana Rishe on Unsplash
By Destination

The Perfect Packing List for California

Surfers, palm trees, and the excessive use of the word “dude”—there are several things we associate with California. But in truth, this is a humongous 800-mile long state, so while it definitely has beach boardwalks and taco joints, it also has ski slopes and foggy forests. The weather is just as wide-ranging: while LA is known for endless blue skies, San Francisco can be surprisingly cool and windy. Your best approach for a multi-stop trip? Pack with versatility in mind and prepare for a range of weather and activities. These 10 items will get you started.

The Nylon Commuter Backpack
1

Transitional Nylon Backpack: Everlane

Lightweight, water-resistant, roomy, and stylish, this backpack from Everlane can transition from a hiking hold-all to a sleek city sidekick. Eight pockets help you stay organized, including open side-pockets that offer easy access to essentials like a water bottle or an umbrella. (Yes, even in L.A. it rains!) Taped zippers help keep contents dry during a downpour, while straps are cushioned and adjustable for comfort. Available in light gray and black, both colors that’ll go with any outfit you’re rocking.

$68 at Everlane

RELATED: The 10 Best Carry-On Backpacks for Your Next Flight

athleta Getaway Dress
2

Breezy Maxi Dress: Athleta

This super-soft, lightweight, easy-to-pack dress is a travel staple that’s so comfy you can wear it on the beach, and so feminine you can wear it on a date. Made from a super-smooth, breathable modal-spandex blend, the dress features a UPF 50+ rating—perfect for that relentless Cali sunshine. The maxi length feels on-trend and glamorous, but the breezy cut keeps it casual. Even the jewel-toned colors give a hint of red-carpet drama.

$66 at Athleta
Clarks Un Adorn Lo
3

Cute Supportive Sneakers: Clarks

These aren’t your grandma’s Velcro sneakers! Cute, comfortable kicks are the foundational piece for any vacation wardrobe. This sleek, suede pair looks a little more dressed up than your average walking shoe, and it does a great job of hiding its super-comfy interior, which includes a removable Ortholite footbed. They’re available in neutral navy, taupe, or black—all easy, wear-with-everything colors that guarantee multiple wearings.

$91 at Zappos
eddie bauer WOMEN'S ELYSIAN DENIM JACKET
4

Classic Denim Jacket: Eddie Bauer

The denim jacket could be shorthand for “California cool.” And apart from being stylish, it’s practical to boot. After all, you’ll want some layers for cool nights, unexpected weather, or aggressively air-conditioned venues. This jacket features classic denim detailing and a current cropped cut that looks good with just about any outfit. Reviewers love the fabric, which isn’t stiff but rather made with super soft lyocell and a touch of spandex for a great fit.

$90 at Eddie Bauer
Old Navy Printed Gauze Scarf for Women
5

Wear-Everywhere Patterned Scarf: Old Navy

Packing advice to live by: Pick neutral wardrobe basics, and add in color and flair with your accessories. This lightweight, gauzy scarf comes in fun florals and festive polka dots. Drape it over your shoulders for a lightweight layer, or tie it around your neck in endless configurations. (Check YouTube for a quick tutorial on the infinity and the European loop.) It makes a stylish and inexpensive substitute for a statement necklace, too.

$13 at Old Navy
Simple Modern Wave Water Bottle - Vacuum Insulated Double Wall 18/8 Stainless Steel
6

Brightly Colored Water Bottle: Simple Modern

Yes, Mom was right: Drinking water is essential, especially for daytrips, hikes, or urban sightseeing. And in California, reusable bottles also double as bright, eco-conscious accessories. This sleek stainless steel S’well-lookalike earns high marks from Wirecutter and Amazon reviewers alike for its sleek design, durable construction, and excellent vacuum insulation. According to owners, water stays cold for hours. Plus, it’s available in four different sizes and a huge range of stylish colors and patterns.

$10 at Amazon
La Blanca Island Goddess Sweetheart One Piece Swimsuit
7

Glam One-Piece Swimsuit: La Blanca

Channel old Hollywood glamor with this va-va-voom-y one-piece. The sweetheart neckline gives a ‘50s bombshell vibe, but the supportive molded cups and adjustable dual straps means it can stand up to laps in the hotel pool. Great coverage, a trendy retro cut, and flattering ruching are other pros. All that’s missing is a jumbo pair of shades to block out the paparazzi.

$119 at Bloomingdale's

RELATED: 8 Sarongs to Bring on Your Next Vacation

Packable Mesa Straw Hat Madewell
8

Packable Straw Hat: Madewell

Jam this hat right into your day bag without fear. This wide-brimmed straw number is surprisingly durable and packable, and reviewers rave that it retains its shape. Plus, it’s a far more elegant alternative to a baseball cap when it comes to sun protection, and it pairs great with swimsuits, jeans, and even dresses. It’s available in two sizes, so those with bigger or smaller noggins can still get coverage.

$38 at Madewell
Aveeno Protect+Hydrate Lotion - SPF 30
9

Lightweight, Long-Wear Sunscreen: Aveeno

Even Cali residents have ditched tanning in favor of sunscreen (and the occasional spray tan). Our pick? Aveeno Protect + Hydrate Lotion, a top-rated sunscreen by Consumer Report. There’s so much to love: It offers full UVA/UVB protection; it’s got an oil-free but hydrating lotion-feel; and it’s sweat- and water-resistant. But what reviewers love best, though, is that it’s quick absorbing, making application fast and painless. Plus, this three-ounce tube is TSA-friendly, too.

$7 at Target
Reusable Wine Bottle Protector Sleeve Travel Bag
10

Wine-Bottle Protector Sleeve: Wine Wings

Headed to Napa Valley? Then there’s no way you’re flying home without some wine. This four pack of reusable bottle protectors ensures your wine bottles stay intact and the contents of your suitcase stays dry. Each Wine Wing features inner and outer bags, a Ziploc and Velcro closure, and a padded interior. And, according to over 450 satisfied customers on Amazon, they really work. Cheers to that!

$20 at Amazon

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