Alright! You’ve booked your trip to the Bay Area!
From an adventurous day trip to Big Sur, hiking Mount Tamalpais, to going sightseeing at the Painted Ladies, you won’t have a single moment of boredom in the San Francisco area.
Winter (December through March) is the perfect time to visit because there are fewer tourists around and the weather isn’t that bad! Christmas in San Francisco also brings seasonal activities, and it’s a fun place to spend the holidays.
In this post, we’re sharing our essential packing list for San Francisco in the winter so you can be prepared and excited about your trip!
Grab a free download of our packing list for San Francisco below! Let us know what email to send it to and it will be in your inbox right away.
The Essential Packing List For San Francisco In The Winter
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1. A Good Raincoat
We’d consider San Franciso a part of the Pacific Northwest. That being said, January can be an unpredictable month for all kinds of weather, rain included.
Berty and I encountered many days with sudden rainstorms, then sunshine just minutes later.
We suggest going for a stylish one like this one from Stutterheim or an easily packable one like this to quickly transition from city life to outdoor adventure. Make sure to bring it with you to Big Sur!
Read More: 21 Stylish Rain Jackets To Wear In The PNW
Winters in San Francisco average around 13.5 inches of rainfall, which means you rarely see snow, but you’ll be preparing for rain for the better part of the season.
We find rain boots to be a staple in San Francisco winters because of the obvious functionality and versatility. They are easy to slip on and off, and you can stash clothes in them as you are packing your suitcase to save on space.
We’re also a huge fan of taking our rain boots to the beach. They work as waterproof shoes for running into the oncoming waves, but also as a good protector for keeping sand out of your shoes!
Bring your boots to Shark Fin Cove, Pfeiffer Beach, and anywhere else in the Bay Area around water!
Read More: 40 Essentials For Every Winter Travel Packing List
3. Walking Shoes + Hiking Boots
When Berty and I travel, we seem to walk everywhere. We love getting the vibe of a city this way, and experiencing what everyday life could look like!
However, at the end of the day, Berty and I have sore feet after walking ~10 miles. Comfortable shoes are essential for exploring in and around San Francisco! Our favorite picks are from Red Wing Shoes (a favorite of ours found in posts here and here) for their style and utility out hiking.
We also love our Adidas for their style and function in the city!
Read More: 12 Best Travel Sandals For Your Next Adventure
4. Sweaters / Cardigans
While it can usually be 10 degrees warmer than in other parts of the Pacific Northwest, San Francisco is still cold in the winter!
Mornings are commonly greeted with a thick layer of fog (hello Karl!) so bundle up if you have an early morning adventure. We like to choose sweaters that are in neutral colors, so you can mix and match them with outfits throughout your vacation.
Make sure to bring a sweater to Shark Fin Cove because that ocean breeze can get cold!
Read More: 7 Jackets To Wear In The Pacific Northwest
5. Warm Layers
Warm layers are important for those cold and unpredictable days. For figuring out the best items to pack, read our guide on how to layer clothes for winter adventures.
Berty and I strongly recommend layers when hiking – you can quickly warm up as you get your body moving!
Easy and stylish layers to pack for San Francisco are a jean jacket, this Outdoor Voices pullover, a puffy vest, or even a lightweight zip up-hoodie like this OV one.
Pack layers especially for activities like hiking around Mount Tam, exploring Pfeiffer Beach, or watching the sunset at Bolinas Ridge.
Read More: Winter Coats & Jackets To Wear This Winter In The PNW
6. Travel Backpack
Each and every bag we own fits our lifestyle of travel, adventure, and rugged fun. However, if you like the look of leather, but don’t want to support that industry, here are some incredible vegan backpack options to consider as well!
We’re obsessed with the ONA collection because it embodies all of these traits! Since we’re camera people, we look for things like:
- Separators for camera bodies and lenses
- Outside zip-pockets to store things like extra batteries and memory cards
- Stylish. I mean, we’re taking photos of them… 😉
Read More: 7 Backpacks For The Adventurous Traveler
7. Lightweight Coat
Like we stated earlier, San Francisco’s weather changes drastically during this time of year. This means you’ve got to choose from some of the best travel jackets out there to withstand the rollercoaster weather in San Francisco!
You can leave your giant puffer at home (that’s more for a trip to Vancouver, Canada) and instead pack a smaller, lighter coat.
We recently wrote a post about coats and jackets to have in the PNW during the winter, and we suggesting taking a lightweight puffer like this one on your trip to the Bay area.
Read More: 5 Winter Coats and Jackets To Wear This Winter In The PNW
Hats will have two purposes in San Francisco – style and warmth.
If you are one who likes to take lots of photos, bring a stylish one like this to get pictures at beautiful places like Big Sur or Twin Peaks. Make sure to bring a warm beanie like this one from Madewell to keep you cozy on those cold city mornings.
We recommend also taking a hat to the beach – it can get cold really quickly!
Read More: 10 Things To Do In San Francisco: Adventure Edition
There are so many gorgeous places to capture in the Bay Area. We think a camera is a perfect way to save those memories for years to come!
Berty currently has a 5D Mark iii, 5d Mark iv and G7x in our arsenal, but the gear is up to personal preference. Phones these days take just as beautiful photos, so no need to buy a fancy camera!
Berty always says that the best camera is the one you already have with you. 🙂
Read More: Our Complete Travel Photography Gear List
10. Additional Things To Pack:
- Fingerless Gloves
- Camera Strap/Sling
- Read More: Our 20+ Favorite Carry On Bags For Travelers
- Laptop & Charger
- Hard Drive for photos
- Read More: Our Complete Travel Photography Gear List
- Toothbrush & Toothpaste
- Face Wash
- Read More: 30 Essentials For Carry-On Only Travel
- Long-sleeve tees
- Dark denim
- Cozy sweatpants
- Athletic wear (a current favorite from Outdoor Voices)
- Layering Tees
- Read More: 5 Winter Coats & Jackets To Wear This Season In The PNW
Make sure to grab your free packing list For San Francisco below!
What would you add to our packing list for San Francisco? Let us know about your recent trip to the city so we can share more tips with other readers!
Read More California Posts
What To Expect at Shark Fin Cove
10 Things To Do In San Francisco: Adventure Edition
How To Pull Off A Trip To Big Sur, California
Driving Through The Redwood National Forest
How To Spend 24 Hours In Yosemite National Park
How To Spend A Weekend In West Hollywood
Follow Our San Francisco Board on Pinterest for inspiration for your next trip!