What should I pack for a trip to San Francisco?

Answers from Our Experts (4)

Mark Twain didn’t actually say, “The coldest winter I ever spent was a summer in San Francisco.” But whoever came up with the quote summed up the city’s unpredictable weather patterns. Although San Francisco’s Mediterranean climate is mild, the city’s hills and valleys create microclimates. While it may be 70 degrees and sunny in the Mission District, it could be windy and cold in the Marina. Add the Pacific winds and chilly fog, and you’ll see why many unprepared, clad-in-shorts tourists end up buying fleece jackets and souvenir sweatshirts. Your best bet is to dress in layers, particularly if you’re planning to go out in the cooler evenings, and don’t even think about a warm day at the beach — unless you’re wearing a wetsuit.

Although San Francisco’s climate is mild year-round, the weather varies seasonally. Winters are cool and rainy, with temperatures that dip into the 40s. In the overcast months of June and July, it’s not unusual to see people wearing knit hats to ward off the chill. Time your trip in the fall, and you’ll see those sunny California days. Whenever you choose to visit, just make sure you have a sweater or scarf packed.

DeMarco Williams

If you look at a weather report for the Bay Area this very second, we can almost bet that the temperature falls somewhere between 60 and 70 degrees. Though the fog and sunshine roll in and out whenever they like, most days are roughly the same--and your luggage should reflect the mildness (think: light sweater, jeans and sneakers). When prepping for a long day of sightseeing along Fisherman's Wharf or walking across the Golden Gate Bridge, you'll need to have on a pair of comfortable shoes and a couple of layers atop the upper body. By midday though, you should be able to remove the jacket. But do yourself a favor and keep it handy because it'll be down to a breezy 50-something when it's time for dinner.

Maria Hunt

Even if Mark Twain never quipped about it, it’s well known that the weather in San Francisco can be unpredictable and downright cold even if the calendar says it’s summer. I live in the warmer East Bay and more than once have felt like I was driving into November as I crossed the Bay Bridge into San Francisco. Here are a few things it’s wise to pack for your trip to San Francisco:


1. All-weather jacket. Since the weather can be clear and sunny in one part of the city and windy and cool in another, it’s good to have a mid-weight jacket that will keep you warm and relatively dry.

2. Sweater. You’ll want to layer as you head out for a day in San Francisco and sweaters come in handy. They also fill that gap between too-warm-for-a coat and not warm enough for shirt-sleeves.

3. Walking shoes. Whether you’re exploring Golden Gate Park or Union Square, you’ll find yourself doing quite a bit of walking in San Francisco. The city is hilly and what looks like a short distance on a map can be rather long in reality, so I keep a pair in my trunk at all times.

4. Scarf. Men and women in the Bay Area rock scarves with a European fashion flair; they’re actually quite useful for keeping drafts off your neck.

5. Umbrella. A folding umbrella in my trunk or bag has been a lifesaver on those days when you hop into the BART and find that the heavens have opened up while you were in transit.

6. Hat. Whether you need it because it’s drizzling or too sunny — or to cover up your hair after San Francisco’s humidity has its way with your ‘do — a hat will come in handy.

Kimberley Lovato

One of the things tourists often miscalculate is the summer weather in San Francisco. I can't tell you how many times I've told people that July and August are cold and foggy only to hear---what? Really? And drive across the bridge on a misty July day and newly purchased "I Heart San Francisco" sweat shirts seem like the latest fashion trend.

Basically, you never can tell in San Francisco so layering is a good idea.  Thin sweater over a t-shirt, with a wind and water proof jacket at the ready wouldn't hurt.  Evenings are almost always chilly year round, even when the day time temperatures stretch above 80 degrees (which is rare).

If you're down near the water or on the water, count on wind and, there's lots of walking in San Francisco so bring comfortable walking shoes.

San Francisco is pretty casual by day, unless you're working in an office. In certain parts of city, I'm pretty sure the only thin people where is yoga pants. But jeans are totally acceptable, even to dinner at night, but why not pack that little black dress, or dinner jacket---you won't look out of place.  San Francisco accepts it all!

Sunscreen: check  Umbrella:  couldn't hurt   Camera:  Don't leave home with out it!

Related Questions