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What to Pack for British Columbia, Canada

I recently traveled to the remote archipelago of Haida Gwaii, which is about a two-hour flight from Vancouver. I’d never been to western Canada, so I wasn’t too sure to pack. After seeing showers in the forecast, I went with rain gear and active wear, which ended up being the right move, as I quickly learned what “coastal rainforest” meant.

You’ll find coastal and temperate rainforests (read: muddy grounds and misty rain) throughout British Columbia, Canada. From a tuque and gum boots—I mean, winter hat and rain boots—to the perfect hybrid puffer rain jacket, here’s what to pack for British Columbia during the main tourist season (April through October).

What to Pack for British Columbia: The Suitcase

To get to most places in British Columbia, you’ll likely need to fly to Vancouver and then take a smaller plane to your final destination. For this reason, I took my Cotopaxi Chumpi duffel backpack. It was the perfect size for my five-day trip, and I didn’t have to worry about checking it. When needed I could carry it on my back, and the outer nylon-canvas material held up in the rain. And, of course, I used my trusty packing cubes to organize everything.

What to Pack for British Columbia: The Personal Item

For this trip, I brought a Patagonia Lightweight Travel Tote Pack as my personal item. It’s a hybrid bag that shifts between a tote and backpack. It offered the perfect amount of room for my laptop and other in-flight essentials and doubled as my daypack on hikes.

What to Pack for British Columbia: In-Flight Essentials

  • Silk eye mask: This plush silk eye mask from Yala adds a luxe element to the rather non-luxe experience that is a red-eye flight.
  • Headphones: I’m a die-hard Beats Solo-wearer (just don’t forget the aux cord!).
  • Collapsible water bottle: This model from Hydaway saves packing space when not in use.
  • Tablet: This came in handy on my shorter flight to the islands since there was no seatback entertainment.
  • Neck pillow: Nemo’s Fillo pillow isn’t embarrassing, and the memory foam cushion works wonders.
  • Snacks: I was happy to have KIND bars for my flight and on hikes.

What to Pack for British Columbia: Shoes

  • Waterproof hiking boots: LOWA’s Innox Evo GTX boots did the trick for me. The grippy sole was perfect for mud, as some people wearing rain boots ended up sinking.
  • Casual slip-ons: This pair from Rockport was great for travel days and casual dinners.
  • Water shoes: Depending on what time of year you visit, you’ll want water shoes for the rocky coast if you’re planning on doing any water activities.

What to Pack for British Columbia: Jackets

  • Nau Poncho Via: This outer-shell layer is perfect to throw on when showers hit.
  • Craighoppers Voyager Hybrid Jacket: This mid-weight jacket was super waterproof and insulating. I couldn’t think of a more perfect jacket for a trip to British Columbia.

What to Pack for British Columbia: Clothing

  • Hiking pants: I really like the stitch-knit waistband on Helly Hansen’s Hild Quick Dry pants. The pair is comfortable like yoga pants but dries fast.
  • Leggings: Bring a few pairs of your favorite full-length leggings for hiking and travel days.
  • Layering tops: Due to the rain and varying temps, bring a few layering pieces like tanks, short-sleeve tees, long sleeve tees, and pullovers.
  • Sweaters: Bring at least one mid-weight sweater for nighttime—I tend to like Gap’s sweater collection for affordability and style.
  • Jeans: Bring one pair of dark jeans for casual meals.
  • Sports bras: These are a must for active days.
  • Swimsuits: BC is known for its hot springs, so bring your suit if this is on your itinerary.

What to Pack for British Columbia: Toiletries

  • Dramamine: You’ll want some sort of motion sickness relief for seaplanes and boats if these typical BC activities are on your itinerary.
  • Basic toiletries: Depending on your accommodations, you may want to bring travel-size versions of your essentials. Properties in British Columbia will vary in what they offer in terms of amenities, for example on Haida Gwaii some lodging provides basic toiletries, but not all. To be safe, bring the basics.
  • Disposable shower cap: Bring one to cover your hiking boots while traveling home.

What to Pack for British Columbia: Gadgets

  • Backup phone charger: If you’re going to take a lot of photos and videos on your phone, bring a backup charger. Most of the activities you’ll be doing in British Columbia will have you out for most of the day.
  • Fitness tracker: Any trip to British Columbia is an active one, so give yourself some credit.

What to Pack for British Columbia: Accessories

  • Hat: Even in the spring and fall you’ll want a beanie-style hat, or as Canadians say—tuque, to keep your ears warm. For summer, a brimmed hat is a good idea for sun protection.
  • Wool socks: These are a must for hiking and other outdoor activities.
  • Daypack: Make sure to have a lightweight, waterproof or water-resistant daypack.

What to Pack for British Columbia (That I Didn’t)

  • Umbrella: I didn’t bring one and was happy with just my poncho, but some travelers in my group did use an umbrella. The BC climate is more prone to light showers than sustained downpours, but you’ll want to be prepared for both.
  • Gloves: In the spring and fall, you’ll want a pair of thin, waterproof gloves.
  • Portable clothesline: Bring one if you’ll be doing a lot of outdoor activities or washing any articles of clothing.

What Not to Pack for British Columbia

  • Dressy clothing, accessories, or shoes: Unless you’re heading to British Columbia for a special event, leave your valuables and dressy clothes at home.

More from SmarterTravel:

Ashley traveled to Haida Gwaii courtesy of Destination BC. Follow all of her adventures (big and small) on Instagram and Twitter.

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Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.

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