Post Summary: Your Essential Pacific Coast Highway Packing List
So, you’ve decided to plan a Pacific Coast Highway road trip. Great choice!
It’s such a stunning route, with an incredible coastline, towering Redwoods, and lush rainforests to discover.
Berty and I are no strangers to this route. Living in the Pacific Northwest, we have done this trip many times over the years! An every time we return, we are always discovering new and unique places along the route!
We know a thing or two about packing according to the variety of weather one might expect on the PCH. This is a unique trip, becase you need to be prepared for a multitude of weather events, climates, and adventures!
Keep scrolling for our all-season Pacific Coast Highway packing list, and scroll down even further for seasonal additions along the way.
The Complete Pacific Coast Highway Packing List For All Seasons
Let’s start with an all-season packing list for the Pacific Coast Highway. We’ll dive into specifics for each season below, but this first section is dedicated to things you’ll need any time of year.
But first, you might want to also save these posts for further reading and trip planning:
> The Complete Pacific Coast Highway Road Trip Route
> The Ultimate Oregon Coast Road Trip Route
- The Complete Pacific Coast Highway Packing List For All Seasons
- What To Wear On The Pacific Coast Highway
- Accessories To Bring To Pacific Coast Highway
- Tech For Your Pacific Coast Highway Packing List
- Pacific Coast Highway Necessities (Outdoor Edition)
- Pacific Coast Highway Packing List (By The Seasons)
- Do NOT add these items to your Pacific Coast Highway Packing List
- Let's Wrap Up Your Pacific Coast Highway Packing List (Free Download)
- MORE WEST COAST ADVENTURES
What To Wear On The Pacific Coast Highway
1. A Raincoat!
Nothing is more essential on the Pacific Coast Highway than a rain jacket! Because you’re on the road, choose one that’s lightweight, but super sturdy.
We love San Poncho’s Legacy rain jacket – it holds up in the biggest downpours, and stows away really small in your bag!
2. Lots of Layers
The days are pleasant, but the mornings and evenings can be quite chilly! It’s essential to be prepared for any type of weather on the west coast.
Here are the layers you should be packing:
- Base Layers: Merino wool or quick-dry synthetic fabric. NO cotton. (Cotton can hold on to water and make you feel colder.)
- Fleece Jacket: This layer retains heat and keeps you warmer.
- Rain shell or wind breaker. Depending on the weather, the outer layer should keep you away from the elements, but especially the wind.
3. Long Pants
No matter what time of year you visit, long pants are always a good addition to your Pacific Coast Highway packing list.
Not only do they keep you warmer, but they can also protect your skin from the harsh sun and wind. They can prevent you from getting scratched by underbrush and keep mud off your body. This is especially true on some Oregon coast hiking trails that can have some narrow trails with scratchy underbrush.
Try the zip-off kind! These pants are cool again, and allows you to pack shorts and pants at the same time.
A good pair of shorts in the summertime is such a valuable addition to your Pacific Coast Highway packing list! From museums to overlooks, they can be a comfortable and breezy staple for hotter days on the coast/
My personal favorites are the Wanderwell Pleated Shorts by Toad&Co. They are super comfy and great for outdoor activities, but also feel put together enough for a nice meal at a restaurant!
Either way you go, make sure your shorts and comfortable enough while sitting (in the car), walking, standing, and moving around!
5. Rash Guard + Swimsuit
What’s a rash guard? It’s a long-sleeve shirt that is designed to be worn over your swimsuit. Oftentimes, rash guards have SPF protection, called UPF. They are breathable and protect your skin from the harsh weather.
You could even pack a wetsuit if you wanted to try surfing. Oswald West State Park is a great place for beginners!
6. Wool Socks
Why wool socks specifically? Wool socks wick the moisture off your feet, which is important on those humid, coastal hikes. They also keep your temperature regulated! Our favorites are these thin ones from REI and Darn Tough.
7. Waterproof Shoes or Boots
During your trip, you may find yourself hopping over rocks in Oregon coast tide pools, or following trails full of tree roots and uneven surfaces. Choose shoes with traction, for more grip on heavily textured terrain.
Looking for the perfect pair? Read these articles:
> The 12 Best Hiking Boots For Pacific Northwest Adventures
> 7 Features You Need to Know When Choosing Hiking Boots
> How To Break In New Hiking Boots
8. Fleece Sweater or Jacket
A fleece jacket is an excellent layer to add to your Pacific Coast Highway packing list.
Fleece is lightweight and cozy! Paired with other layers, it keeps you warm during those cool mornings and evenings.
9. Windbreaker Jacket
Let’s face it. The seaside is windy! You need to add a windbreaker to your packing list. Windbreakers will keep you warm even when the wind is whipping, which is quite often on the coast!
If you find rain in the forecast, you can double up on a windbreaker/rain jacket combo too, so you don’t have to pack two separate coats.
For casual evenings around a beach bonfire, a casual hoodie will do just fine! No need to get fancy on this one, choose your favorite zip-up hoodie or pullover one from home.
Accessories To Bring To Pacific Coast Highway
11. Baseball Cap
Despite the PNW getting the reputation of always being rainy, there are more sunny days than you would expect! Make sure to protect your face with a baseball cap. There are endless choices out there. Pick your favorite brand or choose a simple 5-panel hat like the one from REI.
You many not expect to pack sunglasses for a rainy coast trip, but they are important! Along with a hat, sunglasses will protect your eyes from the harsh rays, from the car to the beach.
We really like these ones from Goodr. They stay on your head even on strenuous hikes, even when trail running! They are inexpensive too, so no need to cry if they break or get lost in the waves.
13. Warm Hat
Planning a Pacific Coast Highway road trip in the late fall, winter, or early spring? The mornings are quite cold, so it’s important to bundle up!
We like to pack at least one or two beanies with us on our trips. They will keep you warm as you walk along Cannon beach for sunrise, or if you’re sitting outside enjoying an evening sunset at Samuel H Boardman.
14. Packing Cubes
To stay organized on trips, we highly recommend using packing cubes! Tidiness is especially important on road trips, when you are moving and changing locations almost every day.
I personally sort my clothes by type (shirts, pants, underwear, etc) or by outfit.
We also pack an empty packing cube on purpose, to use for dirty laundry. This way, they stay separate in your bag!
15. Hair Ties
The coast can get windy, especially on Oregon Coast hikes that have cliffside views of the ocean!
Pack a few extra hair ties in your bag to tame those flyaways and keep the hair out of your face.
16. Small Wallet / Waist Pack
Generally speaking, stops along the Pacific Coast Highway are safe places. However, we don’t recommend leaving valuables in your car anywhere you park.
For comfort, pack a small waist pack to keep cash, cards, and keys on hand. If you don’t want your items visible, you can also opt to get a small neck wallet, and tuck it away under your jacket or in your shirt.
17. Cash & Debit/Credit Card
Most places along the Pacific Coast take credit cards. However, in smaller towns on Highway 1, you may encounter cash-only transactions!
Pack both cash and cards in your wallet to prepare for any situation. ATMs are common in bigger cities like Portland and San Francisco. Even places like Canon Beach, Crescent City, or Eureka, CA.
18. Travel Insurance
As stated above, Oregon Coast towns, and places along the PNW are generally safe places to travel. However, in today’s world, travel circumstances change so quickly! If you are concerned about your trip being interrupted, it’s a safe bet to purchase travel insurance. Our personal preference is from VisitorsCoverage. They have tons of options to choose from!
Travel insurance can cover things like a health emergency, travel changes, and even more specifics if you want.
Tech For Your Pacific Coast Highway Packing List
19. Hands-Free Phone Mount For Your Car
Keep distractions at bay with a hands-free car phone mount! We own this one by Belkin, and love that it’s compatible with Magsafe iPhones.
Some of the best West Coast photography locations are location on the Pacific Coast Highway!
Don’t forget to capture those moments and bring a camera. It doesn’t have to be fancy either – smartphones nowadays take high quality images that rivals its DSLR counterparts! If you’re coming with just your phone camera, here’s how to take amazing landscape photographs with your smartphone.
Want To See Our Setup? Read Our Complete Travel Photography Gear List
21. Drop-Proof Phone Case
If you are planning to spend an extended amount of time around cliffs, rocks, or sandy trails, it’s essential to keep your gear protected!
We can’t even count how many times our phone has dropped out of our pocket in the dirt or sand. We really love the Scooch case and screen protector combo. It’s been our favorite for years.
22. Power Bank
Have you ever been stuck in an unfamiliar place with a dead phone? Trust us, it’s not fun! Especially in remote places along the Pacific Coast Highway where cell service is few and far between.
Pack a pocket-sized power bank and an extra phone charging cable. This way, you have power on hand when you need it.
23. Extra Cords or Chargers
Because Berty and I travel a lot, we’ve learned that outlets in hotels or Airbnbs are not always where you expect them to be! (Cue halfway across the room from your bed!)
This is why we bought 6ft phone charging cords on Amazon. When the only outlet is clear across the room, it’s a lifesaver!
24. Backseat Organizer
If you have passengers of any kind, consider getting a backseat organizer! You can find them fairly cheap, and they includes tons of pockets for all your road trip essentials.
Books, water bottles, tissues, an iPad – everything will have it’s place and keep your car mess-free.
Pacific Coast Highway Necessities (Outdoor Edition)
25. Paper Map
One of the most essential items you need to guide you to points of interest is a map! Maps come in handy when you need to navigate, but find ourself without cell service.
Get one that’s up to date with the latest new roads and attractions. (2021 or newer.)
- Want to go digital instead? Download Google offline maps, and discover even more road trip planning apps here!
26. Cute Road Trip Book
A cute road trip book can hardly count as road trip essentials, but it sure makes for fun in the car! We LOVE Pacific Coasting by Danielle Kroll – it’s beautifully illustrated and provides tons of attractions to look for on your journey!
28. Empty Tote Bag
Tote Bags ALWAYS come in handy with Berty and I on road trips. From packing away muddy shoes to a quick grocery trip, there are endless uses for them.
We know everyone got at least 10 in their house somewhere, so throw a few empty ones on yur Pacific Coast Highway packing list and you’re good to go!
Yep, you can still get a sunburn through those Pacific Northwest clouds!
Make sure to put some sunscreen on your Pacific Coast Highway packing list, especially if you are planning a trip during the summer months.
31. Bug Repellent
Mosquitoes are a nuisance in the summertime! This is especially true on nearby lakes, as still water is a breeding ground for these pesky insects.
Pack some bug spray for use in the mornings and evening (which is peak time for mosquitos).
32. Water Bottle
Being properly hydrated can be the difference between a bad road trip and a great one!
Pack a water bottle that fits in your car’s cupholder for easy sipping on the go.
Yes, we actually do recommend the famous Stanley 40oz Quencher! It has everything – cupholder use, a handle, a straw, and lots of color choices!
Snacking is such a customizable thing – you can get as fancy or as cheap as you want!
Personally, we like to visit a local grocery store and pick up some seasonal fruit, nuts, or dried meats. Other times, we bring our own coffee and make Aeropress brew mid-drive if we’re going on a sunrise excursion. The choice is yours!
Read More: 15 Easy Hiking Snacks To Bring On The Trail
Pacific Coast Highway Packing List (By The Seasons)
In addition to all of the above items, here’s what to specifically pack for the Pacific Coast Highway based on the seasons.
What To Pack For a Pacific Coast Highway Trip in Winter (Dec, Jan, Feb)
More often than not, you’ll encounter rainy weather on the PCH in the winter. West Coast winter weather averages between the mid 30s and high 40s, which means bundling up is essential.
You’ll want to pack plenty of waterproof layers during this season and add these extras to your PCH packing list:
- Waterproof Hiking Boots (for snowy hikes – rare on the coast but they do occasionally happen!!)
- Towel for the car
- Waterproof Coat / Parka
- Rain pants
- Long Underwear
- Extra Trash Bags (for wet clothes and boots in the car)
What To Pack For Spring on the Pacific Coast Highway (March, April May)
Spring on the Pacific Coast Highway is the second-most popular times to plan a trip.
You’ll find that there will be a mix of sunny and cloudy days. You can almost always expect the mornings and evenings to be cold and the afternoons to be warm.
Here’s what we suggest adding to your packing list for the Pacific Coast Highway trip in spring:
- Camp blanket (for picnics)
- Lightweight Rain Jacket
- Reusable mug for hot coffee in the morning
What To Pack For A Pacific Coast Highway trip in Summer (June, July, August, September)
Most of the main list here outlines what to bring to the Pacific Coast Highway in summer, seeing as it’s the most popular time to visit the park.
However, if you are extending your time to thing outside of the route (like day trips from San Francisco, or going inland to see Yosemite or Tahoe) Here’s what to add to your packing list for the summer:
- Flip flops or water sandals
- Quick-dry Shorts
- Swimsuit / Wetsuit
- Beach Games / Volleyball
- Portable cooler
- Beach Blanket
- Camping Chairs
- Bonfire Supplies: Firestarter, paper, matches, wood (make sure your area doesn’t have an active fire ban in place)
What To Pack For Fall along the Pacific Coast Highway (October, November)
The Pacific Coast Highway in the fall is a unique and peaceful time of year. It’s a season of variable weather, which means you may get fog one day and beautiful sunshine the next. Expect to pack a few extra layers for some late evenings out. Think warm and cozy!
Add these to your packing list if you’re driving the Pacific Coast Highway in the fall:
- Camp slippers
- Extra warm Socks
- Jean Jacket / Light Jackets
Do NOT add these items to your Pacific Coast Highway Packing List
So what should you NOT bring on a Pacific Coast Highway road trip? Here are some things we suggest leaving at home and why:
Towns along the Pacific Coast Highway are laid-back, outdoorsy, and casual. With notable exceptions for fancy dinner reservations (say at the Headlands Lodge, or a getaway in Big Sur), nice clothes are not necessary. In fact, you’d probably stick out quite a bit!
Most people on the West Coast wear outdoor casual gear! If you want to feel dressed up but casual, consider Toad&Co! They have great, high quality piece that are put together but still give off that casual vibe that the west is know for.
Our current favorite “dress-up” styles from Toad&Co include:
Impractical or uncomfortable shoes
A lot of activities along the Pacific Coast require being outdoors. If your shoes are uncomfortable, that’s going to affect nearly everything you do!
This isn’t the time to try out new shoes, so add a pair of tried and true kicks to your packing list.
Let’s Wrap Up Your Pacific Coast Highway Packing List (Free Download)
We hope you enjoyed our take on what to pack for a Pacific Coast Highway road trip trip! The coast is a beautiful and adventurous place. If you stick to the guidelines of low-key, active, and functional, you’ll be just fine!
Did we miss anything on our Pacific Coast Highway packing list? Have any additions to make? Leave them in the comments below!