Wondering what to wear in San Francisco?

San Francisco was my first home base as a flight attendant. There were lots of things that surprised me about San Francisco when I moved there. It was more beautiful than I had imagined. It was more expensive than I had imagined. And most of all, it was WAY colder than I had imagined.

The weather is something that you will want to keep in mind as you prepare your packing list for San Francisco.

Here are some things that you will want to pack for your trip to San Francisco.

Young woman sitting in front of the Golden Gate Bridge. She has dark hair, her glasses are on her head. Ideas for what to wear in San Francisco

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General Packing Tips For ANY Destination

Before I get into the specifics of packing for San Francisco let me give you a few packing tips for ANY destination!

Always, Always Check the Weather Before You Leave

It is best not just to assume that you know what the weather will be. Always check the weather report the day before you go on a trip. This will give you time to add or remove a jacket, throw in an umbrella, or completely redo what you had planned to bring.

I’ll never forget FREEZING in Florence Italy in June because I had forgotten to check the weather and had packed nothing for cold weather.

Are You Packing Light or Bringing Whatever You Want?

Decide whether or not you are going light before you start packing.

Some of this may depend on how far you are going and whether or not you are flying or road-tripping. Honestly, If we are taking a road trip I pretty much bring whatever I want. When I’m flying I pack much lighter. In fact I often pack in a carry on when I’m flying. It’s crazy, but sometimes I bring less on a trip to Europe than I do on a road trip to the next state.

What About Luggage?

Do you want something on wheels or do you want to carry your luggage on your back?

I’m a wheels person myself!

I do love the Away Bag Bigger Carry On but it is a little pricy! If you are looking for a carry on that is high quality but a little less expensive check out the Amazon Basics Carry On. It is under $100 and gets great reviews!

Roll or Fold?

Almost every packing guru will tell you that you need to roll your clothing rather than fold them. Y’all, I just can’t do it! I’m a folder not a roller.

However, I do LOVE using packing cubes and definitely recommend them. The ones pictured are my favorite packing cubes.

You can divide items up anyway you like: by outfits, or tops in one and bottoms in another…pajamas, swimwear, etc.

I personally like to set up outfits, but do whatever works for you!

If you are really trying to squeeze a lot into a small suitcase you can use these Compression Cubes by Eagle Creek!

What are You Wearing? It’s all About the Layers

OK. I include this section in all of my packing lists, but it is never more important than when you are planning what to wear in San Francisco. The weather in this gorgeous city is incredibly changeable.

One thing that you might not know is that the weather can also be different from place to place within the city ON THE SAME DAY. You might find it cold and very windy at a Golden Gate Bridge viewing point and much, much warmer in the Mission District.

Layering is something you do automatically at home…you throw on a cardigan when you go out on a spring morning knowing that you will be removing it by afternoon.

Layers are something that you will need to think through a little more than normal as you pack for a trip to San Francisco.

As you put together your outfits always ask yourself questions like: Do I have a jacket I can throw on if it suddenly gets cold and windy. What can I wear if the fog rolls in? Will I still like this outfit if it gets hot and I have to take the jacket off?

My favorite layer? Always a denim jacket! I like mine a little oversized and kind of basic like this cute denim jacket on Amazon.

Layers, y’all. Especially for San Francisco!

A Few More Basic Packing Tips

Put the heaviest items towards the wheels of a rolling bag or in the bottom of your backpack. This will make a rolling bag more stable and not as likely to fall over and it will make your backpack more comfortable.

Choose travel friendly fabrics (meaning things that don’t wrinkle) You don’t want to spend your vacation ironing do you? However, if you do bring something that wrinkles consider using this travel steamer instead of an iron.

Bring a bag for laundry that will keep the dirty things separated from your clean items. Bring a bag specifically for wet items if you will be doing some swimming or working out! I love this waterproof wet bag and it comes in a ton of colors and patterns.

Pack by outfit! This way you won’t bring individual items that you don’t actually need and won’t wear.

Lay things out before you put them in your bag. This enables you to see what you don’t really need or what you might be missing!

Packing List For San Francisco

Prepare for San Francisco Weather

Let’s talk about the weather in San Francisco! Mostly…it’s on the cooler side, but not always! As mentioned above you always want to check the weather before you travel.

Here is what you can “generally” expect in San Francisco.

By the way, the climate in San Francisco does not show a lot of variation throughout the year. The main differences you will encounter are the amount of rain and fog versus the amount of sunshine.

  • May – July: Are you aware that the average temperatures in JULY in San Francisco are the same as the average temperatures in DECEMBER in San Francisco. Summers in San Francisco are COOL. The average high in July in the city is 57 and the average low is 46. Be prepared for cool and foggy and occasionally rainy weather.
  • August – October: In my opinion fall is the BEST time of year to visit San Francisco. The weather warms up a bit and the sun is usually shining with less fog. There is not much rain especially in September and October, although it can pick up a bit in November
  • November – January: Honestly, these months are very similar to the summer months. It can be a definitely be a little chilly but it is very rarely truly cold. You can expect some rainy days in the winter as well.
  • March – May: It does warm up a little in the spring and becomes much sunnier with less rain and fog. Spring is also a great time to visit.

What is the San Francisco Style?

So what do people wear in San Francisco? What is the general “style?”

  • San Francisco is trendy but casual. Even the business people or tech workers might be wearing jeans and T-shirts, sweaters and sneakers.
  • Colors are muted. People wear a lot of black and grey and neutrals and not a lot of bright color.
  • People rarely wear shorts. It is almost never warm enough to be in shorts for an entire day.
  • Jeans are ubiquitous, especially smart, trendy denim.
  • Lots and lots of jackets or sweaters. Leather jackets are popular and even on a warmer day almost everyone will be carrying a jacket or a lightweight sweater. You will almost never need a full-blown winter coat or jacket, but you will almost always need a light weight jacket. Think about bringing a North Face jacket or some other type of sports brand.
  • Shoes with closed toes. There are two reasons for this: First, hills. Don’t forget that San Francisco is incredibly hilly and you won’t want to be walking those hills in flip flops or sandals. Second, the streets in certain parts of San Francisco (yes, even the touristy sections) are really dirty.
  • Dresses are fine but I would suggest either wearing leggings under your dress or bringing a pair of leggings just in case. Why? First, because of the wind can pick up at any time and second, because the weather can change on a dime and leave you shivering.

What to Pack For San Francisco

In addition to your regular clothes you will want to bring:

Water Bottle

You will definitely want to stay hydrated even though the weather may not be hot! Plan to carry a water bottle with you for sightseeing and outdoor activities! You can carry one like the Takeya shown in the photo or this Lifestraw water bottle with a filter straw for hiking.

North Face Jacket

A North Face or any other brand of light weight fleece or sports type jacket is perfect for the San Francisco weather! They aren’t too heavy and are a bit water resistant.

Rain Jacket

This Columbia rain jacket is inexpensive and when combined with a sweater on a cool day will be all that you need for the San Francisco weather. It comes in tons of colors including the typical black or grey that you will see most often in the city. It can be both a rain jacket and a windbreaker.

Travel Umbrella

Because of the unpredictability of the weather it is always a good idea to bring a nice travel umbrella with you when sightseeing in San Francisco.

Activewear and Athleisure

There is a lot of walking and hiking and biking in San Francisco. In fact, I definitely recommend doing some biking! It is a great way to get around and see some of the gorgeous viewpoints. Be sure and bring some active wear. I like this pictured joggers which would take your from your bike into a restaurant.

Day Pack

A day pack is a good choice for carrying your stuff around San Francisco. It can hold your water bottle, your umbrella, and your extra layers. Plus it makes it easier to navigate the hills because it leaves your hands free. My favorite is this Osprey Ultralight.

Comfortable Shoes

One of the most important things to wear in San Francisco is a pair of comfortable shoes! You will be walking a lot and up and down some VERY steep hills. I would suggest a great pair of sneakers. I love this Ecco Soft 7 which is in the photo. It is so comfortable! These SeaVees are great, this is a brand I really like. You might also opt for a cute pair of flat boots like this Ugg Ankle Boot which is both cute and comfy!

A Great Pair of Jeans

There would be almost no place in San Francisco where jeans would not be acceptable. Jeans are basically the queen of most wardrobes in the city. In fact, did you know Levis is a San Francisco company? You could pack a pair of Levi’s 505 straight jeans. A great basic!

Tote Bag

Did you know that San Francisco was the first city to outlaw single use plastic bags? If you are going to be doing any shopping while you are in town you might want to bring your own tote bag!

I hope that this helps you to know what to wear in San Francisco and what to pack for your San Francisco vacation!

Have a great time visiting this fascinating city.

Planning a trip to Texas? Check out my post about what to pack for a Texas vacation.

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