I can see why people love to live in California. I personally adore the climate in San Francisco — it’s basically my ideal temperature and weather year-round (give me ALL of the cool and overcast weather, please!). A short hour and a half drive north to Napa Valley and the weather shifts a bit; it’s much sunnier, drier and just aglow with classic “California desert” warmth. When the sun disappears so does the heat (due to the lack of insulation from the concrete and buildings of a city) and evenings in the Napa region can become quite cool.
My husband and I enjoy visiting Napa every August because my birthday typically aligns with the start of the grape harvest and it’s just a fun time to be in the area. Since we’ve made the visit 4+ times now, I feel like I have mastered my packing list for optimal enjoyment of our summer Wine Country adventures!
(1) sundresses, jumpsuits & rompers
I basically recommend anything breezy that you can stay cool in, especially if you will be participating in outdoor tastings or exploring the grounds of participating wineries / vineyards. I’ve been a big fan of maxi and midi dresses lately… and I try to bring ones that can easily be dressed up for a nice dinner with a quick shoe / accessories change.
(2) swimsuit + coverup / caftan
I’m definitely in my One Piece Era so all of my swimsuit recommendations are going to be in that style. I shared a post this year that went into a lot more detail about my favorite brands and some of my favorite styles — you can find it here!
(3) a light / medium outer layer
Having an outer layer in Napa is always a good idea — they’re ideal for: early mornings and as the sun sets in the evenings, air-conditioned indoor tastings or for taking cave tours (which are going to be naturally cooler).
Packing a denim jacket, linen blazer, light cardigan or a wrap would be perfect for these circumstances. California is HOT (as is expected), but if you tend to get chilly easily I definitely recommend bringing a versatile outer layer. As a general rule, California is a pretty relaxed place, so just imagine that the dress code at 99.9% of the places you go will be casual to dressy casual (and even then, you could probably get even more casual at most places; I just personally prefer to be more over-dressed than under-).
When planning the outfits for your trip, try to bring pieces that would work well with the same outer layer… you should only be packing one so choose wisely!
(4) a hat*
*an optional but fun daytime accessory!
I adore my Peter Beaton sun hat, but a packable straw hat would perfect for outdoor tastings or relaxing by the pool.
(5) a purse with a strap
In the interest of packing light, I suggest bringing something versatile and neutral that can be used with all outfits, but also something with a shoulder strap that will allow both of your hands to be available for tastings + taking notes / snapping photos / etc.
(6) versatile sandals
Low wedges / espadrilles or classic leather sandals would be ideal to keep the number of shoes to a minimum (shoes take up so much space and add lots of weight to bags!). You will want a pair (or two, maximum!) for dinner, tours / tastings, and of course, being poolside. Also be sure that your shoe choice(s) are comfortable enough that you can do a lot of walking around in them! Downtown Napa and the city of Yountville are both super cute and walkable so while you will probably be in a car going between wineries for tastings you may want to explore these areas on foot.
(7) MegaBabe Thigh Rescue
This is the newest addition to my daily lineup and I honestly can’t remember life without it. For those of us that suffer from Chub Rub, this product is a god-send. I keep a stick with me in my purse for every day application (just keep it out of the sun so that it doesn’t melt!).
I always bring sunscreen with me when we travel (especially when the destination is California!). The sun rays are stronger there than they are in Seattle and my skin simply isn’t used to it (plus, I need to be especially careful due to my fair skin). Supergoop! does the best job protecting me from harmful UV rays so that I can enjoy my wine in the sunshine; I love that they offer so many travel-friendly options! (My fave is this mineral-based one).
(9) Carpe lotion
I’ve shared about my Sweat Journey before (so gross, but it’s my reality) and Carpe is the most effective solution that I’ve found to managing my hyperhidrosis. Carpe products are already a TSA-compliant size so I just include a tube in my bag of beauty items. Luckily, Napa is very dry (read: there is minimal humidity), but it still gets HOT so if you suffer from hyperhidrosis like me, don’t forget to pack your Carpe!
*If you are trying to decide what to bring to wear based on your planned activities, I have a couple of suggestions:
Hot air balloon rides over the vineyards are magical — we had an amazing time when we went a few years ago, but I really regretted my clothing choice that day. I was unaware that there would not be any doors on the balloon baskets (meaning that you have to climb in/out them) and I had foolishly decided to wear a maxi wrap dress for the event. Such a #rookiemistake — I basically flashed everyone in our basket as I scrambled to get in. (lol — apologies, everyone! )
Knowing this, I would definitely recommend wearing pants in some capacity, even something like a jumpsuit / romper, and shoes that you can wear to safely climb into a basket (maybe leave your wedges at the hotel on this day…). You also have to get started super early in the morning when the Valley is still chilly, so you may want to bring a light layer with you (a denim jacket or heavier knit cardigan would be perfect) and don’t forget your sunnies!
Some adventurous Napa visitors opt to ride bicycles between vineyards to do tastings… that’s not really my thing and it doesn’t sound super safe, but to each their own. If this is an activity that you plan to participate in, I would strongly suggest wearing a pair of sneakers or any type of closed-toe shoes, as well as some pants (it gets breezy!)
We really love our visits to Napa, so I also put together a Travel Guide to help you plan a trip to the Valley. Let me know if you have any packing questions in the Comments section below!
I hope you have a great time in Wine Country!
Sending hugs —