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9 Things to Pack for Unpredictable Fall Weather

SmarterTravel

Autumn is a gorgeous but fickle season. Temperatures can drop from warm to freezing as soon as the sun sets, clear skies can suddenly turn into rain, and it can feel like summer one day and winter the next. So how on earth do you pack for a fall trip without bringing two separate wardrobes? Read on to see nine items that belong on your fall packing list.

An Extra Layer

Scottevest madeline cardigan
SCOTTeVEST

Layers are the keys to being comfortable in fall weather, but how do you wear them without looking bulky or sloppy? The answer is SCOTTeVEST’s Madeline Cardigan, a layer that’s stylish enough to go with any outfit, thin enough to pack away when you don’t need it, and warm enough for chilly nights. You don’t need a jacket or a purse when you have this cardigan, thanks to the four hidden pockets that are big enough to hold your passport, smartphone, or even Kindle. For long plane rides, the cardigan’s cowl neck converts to a head cover to protect you from sketchy airplane seatbacks.

For men, a button-down shirt is the perfect second layer. Wear Orvis’ Tech Chambray Work Shirt over a T-shirt for extra warmth on a moderate day, or underneath a sweater for chillier weather. This quick-drying shirt has a hidden button-down collar to keep you looking pulled together.

Multitasking Jacket

Columbia women's frigid flight long interchange
Amazon

Jackets are a hassle in fall: Your heavy winter jacket is great on an autumn morning, but it becomes a bulky burden to carry around once the day warms up. And if you pack only your lightweight jacket, you’ll regret it when temperatures drop below freezing. That’s why we like jackets that do double or triple duty.

There are tons of jackets on the market that convert from shells to fleece liners to warm coats through zipper or Velcro systems. Our favorite for men is the L.L.Bean Weather Challenger 3-in-1 Jacket, which has a water-resistant shell and a fleece liner, both of which can be worn separately or zipped together into one mega jacket—keeping you comfortable no matter the temperature.

Columbia’s Frigid Flight jacket is a similar, women’s specific three-in-one jacket that’s lined with the high-tech Omni Heat material to keep you warm without weight.

Light, Waterproof Shoes

Vasque women's talus trek ultradry hiking boot
Amazon

Be prepared for fall showers with shoes that are waterproof but still lightweight enough that they’re not a pain to wear or pack. If you’re going on an outdoorsy trip, lightweight hiking boots are a good bet. If you’re trying to stay dry and fashionable in an urban environment, look for waterproof dress shoes or boots.

A Windproof Umbrella

Stop buying Dollar Store umbrellas that break in the first gust of wind. This Teflon-coated umbrella is just as cheap but will withstand winds of up to 60 miles an hour. The canopy is big enough to keep you dry but retracts to a travel-friendly 11.5 inches.

Rain Poncho

 woman in plastic rain poncho forest looking up
smolyaninov/Shutterstock

OK, so there’s no way to look fashionable while wearing a rain poncho, but when you get indoors (or when the rain stops) and you take it off, you’ll look smart and dry. Rain ponchos are cheap and they fold up small, so you can carry yours with you all day in case of unexpected showers.

Convertible Pants

convertible pans product shot
Amazon

The upside of convertible pants: They change from long trousers to shorts with the pull of a zipper. The downside: We’ve never found a pair that looks like normal pants. Still, consider the pants/shorts combo if you’re going on more of an adventure trip or if you choose comfort over fashion.

Pashmina

pashmina scarves on sale in a market
frantic00/Shutterstock

Go to any major city and you’ll see street vendors hawking these inexpensive shawls—so stock up on this miracle travel item! A pashmina can be worn as a scarf, a shawl, or even a blanket on a plane. It’s lightweight and easy to toss in your bag if the weather warms up.

Tights

MANZI women's 2-6 pairs opaque control-top tights with comfort stretch 70 denier
Amazon

Tights are the perfect way for women to layer in the fall. On warmer days, wear your dress or skirt solo, and on colder days, add a pair of tights underneath. This prevents you from having to pack two separate items (like shorts and pants) in case the weather changes. Get cold easily? Invest in some fleece-lined tights. They look like normal opaque tights but are lined with cozy fleece to keep your legs warm even on the coolest days.

Sunscreen

Sunscreen on shelf in a pharmacy
defotoberg/Shutterstock

You can leave the sunscreen behind if you’re not going on a summer beach vacation, right? Wrong. The rest of your body may be bundled up, but you should use sunscreen on your face and hands in every season to protect yourself. Don’t skip this, even on overcast days—clouds can sometimes magnify UV rays, resulting in an even greater risk of sunburn than on a sunny day.

More Outfits We’re Loving for Fall

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Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2013. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.

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