: Justin Bailie

First-Timer’s Guide to Packing for Oregon

January 11, 2019
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So you’ve booked the trip, now how do you pack for your trip to Oregon? It’s good to channel your inner Scout and be prepared. Because at around 400 miles wide and 360 miles long, Oregon has vastly different regions and weather conditions. Here’s a handy guide to packing the essentials for all seasons.

Layers: A good fleece, with other layers of non-cotton (quick-dry clothing) is best — in fact that’s considered Oregon’s standard uniform.

Raincoat: Rain is a beloved part of Oregon’s charm and the reason our forests stay so impossibly green.

Emergency supplies: If you’re hiking or on another outdoor adventure, it’s wise to pack a first-aid kit and other 10 essentials, such as a navigation device and flashlight.  

Road trip essentials: Snacks, a full tank of gas and a playlist will keep everyone happy on road trips. In rural parts of the state, gas stations can be far apart and may require visitors to pump their own gas.

Sun protection: Sunglasses and sunscreen are a must, especially during summer, and if you’re doing snow sports on a bright or cloudy day, any time of year.

Tire chains: These are required if you’re traveling over a snowy pass. Check TripCheck.com for road and weather conditions and make sure you know how to use your equipment.

Trail guides and road maps: Download your information since there may not be an internet connection.

Two cyclists smile in the rain as they pedal up a hill in waterproof gear.
Rain is a beloved part of Oregon’s charm and the reason our forests stay so impossibly green — and it doesn't keep us from playing outside. (Photo credit: Russ Roca)

Winter

Winter brings snow to Oregon’s mountains, rain to the valley floor, and crisp sunny days in just about every corner of Oregon. Yes, it snows too —  in some places, some of the time. Eastern, Central and Southern Oregon see the most snowfall at the highest elevations, but some winters bring just a dusting. The more temperate regions can see snowfall too, when drivers generally stay off the roads due to slick and icy conditions. Temperatures range from the 50s and 60s Fahrenheit on Oregon’s South Coast, also known as the Banana Belt, to the 20s or below in the mountains. Wherever you go in the winter, make sure to winter like an Oregonian and come prepared. In addition to the essentials, here’s what to pack for this season.

Gloves: Warm and toasty hands can keep the outdoor fun going for much longer (especially for little ones). Look for hand warmers at any outdoor store too.

Waterproof boots: These will keep your feet dry and cozy, and the traction will help if you’ll be trudging through snow or on slippery ice.

Wool socks: These are best for keeping warm. Bring extras to change into if they get wet.

A man and woman, both wearing hats, hike up a grassy hill dotted with purple and red wildflowers.
Wear layers on your spring wildflower hikes, such as the Iron Mountain Trail, home to more than 300 types of wildflowers. (Photo credit: Christian Heeb)

Spring

If you’re here March through May, you’ll likely find yourself shedding layers as wildflowers sprout and the chill fades from the air. You may feel like venturing outside on a clear blue-sky day without your coat, but keep your raincoat close by, especially when chasing those spring waterfall hikes. And layer up — temperatures can fluctuate wildly as you change elevation.

Often times, spring brings stellar ski opportunities to Oregon’s mountain resorts, and new exciting upgrades such as the all-weather snow-making machine at Mt. Hood Skibowl guarantee snowy fun even if temperatures are above freezing in late season (think spring break). When you’re not in the snow, you go on a treasure hunt of wildflowers, explore a new hike in the Gorge or find more inspiration to beginners’ outdoor adventures here. In addition to the essentials, here’s what to pack:

Hiking boots: You’ll need foot protection and traction when you’re trekking. Don’t be that guy or gal in flip flops on the trail.

Wetsuits: If you plan to swim or surf in the ocean or go stand-up paddleboarding on a river or lake during the cooler months, wetsuits will keep you much warmer than a swimsuit. Oregon’s coastline is beautiful but not tropical.

Hats: Even if it’s sunny, the weather at the mountain or the Coast can be quite windy and chilly. Hold onto your hat and fly a kite!

A man and woman wearing breathable fabrics play guitar on a raft down the Rogue River.
Whether you're floating down the Rogue River or backpacking the wilderness, you'll want to wear layers. (Photo credit: Nate Wilson / Northwest Rafting Co.)

Summer

Ah, summer — that famed season of moderate temperatures and endless outdoor adventures. Whether you’re cruising around a city by bike or on foot, floating down a river or backpacking the Steens Mountains, you’ll still want to wear (or pack) layers and summer like an Oregonian.

Summer temperatures range from the 60s and 70s to 100-plus degrees, cooler at higher elevations and on the Coast. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to beat the heat and stay cool — by heading to a lake, lava tube, shady hike, ice rink or waterfall hike. Life vests and helmets are stylish in Oregon, and sunscreen is your best friend. In addition to the essentials, here’s what to pack.

Light and heavier layers: Breathable fabrics are best, so you can keep your body as cool as needed on your outdoor adventure. Take a sweater or jacket if you’ll be out in the evening. And bundle up if you’ll be camping!

Water: Bring along your favorite reusable water bottle, or backpack with a hydration pack for treks. Always pack more water than you think you’ll drink for remote excursions.

Waterproof sandals: If you plan to be on the water, it’s good idea to protect your feet and gain traction from a sturdy sandal rather than go barefoot.

A boy lifts up a large orange pumpkin in a Sauvie Island pumpkin patch as he mother smiles and tries to help.
Ask any Oregonian, and they’ll tell you that fall may be their favorite season of all. (Photo credit: Clayton Cotterell)

Fall

Ask any Oregonian, and they’ll tell you that fall may be their favorite season of all. The sun typically shines well into October and the leaves provide a spectacular show of fall colors for weeks on end (so get out and learn how to leaf peep to your heart’s content). When it rains, the focus turns to those cozy autumn harvest celebrations — think corn mazes, pumpkin patches, apple picking and cider sipping. Besides the essentials, here’s what to pack.

Sturdy shoes: Bring shoes that you don’t mind getting muddy if you’ll be outdoors; sometimes rubber boots are great for touring a farm or vineyard.

Umbrella: Some people prefer umbrellas to rain coats, and there’s nothing wrong with that. You can even have both on hand.

Rain pants: If you’ll be in the elements for a prolonged time, waterproof rain pants over your first layer will keep you warm, dry and happy.   


Before you go:

  • Try a guided tour, so you don’t have to worry about packing bulky equipment.
  • Consider going car-free. With a little flexibility and a big sense of adventure you can tour the Gorge, the Coast, Willamette Valley wine country, Bend and other regions of Oregon by train, bike, shuttle, electric vehicle and mass transit. See more transportation options for more inspiration.
  • Check the weather before heading out to any region of the state.

About The
Author

Jen Anderson
Jen Anderson writes and edits Travel Oregon's e-newsletters and other online content. She loves finding the latest places to eat, drink and play around the state with her husband and two young boys. Brewpubs, beaches and bike trails top the list.

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