Planning an epic trip to Canada? Knowing what to pack for Canada can be tricky depending on what season you are visiting. Seasons can vary in each province and city, so it’s important to plan ahead. This packing list for Canada outlines what you will need for all four seasons.
Canada is the second largest country in the world and there are many regions to explore. This also means that what you pack will differ based on your destination. A winter in Vancouver is vastly different to a winter in Montreal.
When I first moved to Canada, I arrived in the winter. I had one suitcase packed full of bulky winter gear. I packed thermals but never wore them. Needless to say I soon discovered what a life safer they were. And once the summer came around, I had to buy new clothes – the thermals were definitely not practical after 6 months here!
If you’re unsure what to add to your Canada packing list, I’ve got you covered! Whether you are moving here for the winter season, taking a 2-week trip or studying abroad, this post outlines everything you’ll need from Summer to Winter and beyond.
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Packing List For Canada: Free Printable Checklist
Luggage Options: Suitcase/BackPack Etc
Before you decide what to pack for a trip to Canada, first you need to decide what type of luggage is best suited for your trip.
There are a few things to think about before you make a decision, such as:
- Will you be traveling in winter or summer?
- Are you here for a short vacation? (2 weeks for example)
- Will you be backpacking throughout Canada for several months?
- Are you traveling on a work Visa?
- Will be you be visiting a major city or a ski resort?
- Is this a permanent move?
I have outlined a few luggage ideas below to help you decide which type is best suited to your style of travel and trip type. The are just suggestions, and every trip differs, but choose which ever suits your situation best. Traveling comfortably is the ultimate goal.
Suitcase on wheels
Traditional wheeled suitcases are what most people bring when visiting Canada and in most cases this is the ideal type of luggage. I moved to Canada with a wheeled suitcase because the bulkier winter clothes take up a lot of room.
While wheeled suitcases may not be great in snowy or icy conditions, I have wheeled mine in snow and as long as you buy a good quality suitcase, you’ll be fine in winter. It also depends on how far you’ll be wheeling your case.
Backpacks are great if you are traveling long-term through Canada. If you are staying in hostels a backpack is easy to store and convenient for moving from one place to another. I really like the Osprey Ariel 65 which comes with a detachable day-pack, which you can use for any day hikes you have planned. They also make this backpack in a mens size, the Osprey Aether Plus 70.
I find duffel bags to be the least convenient for traveling, but they do make great carry-on bags and are good for short stays.
There are many types of carry-on bags, such as duffel bags, backpacks or small suitcase style. Carry-ons are great if you want to save money on luggage fees.
If bringing a carry-on backpack, they can double as a day hiking pack. If you are checking a bag, I still recommend a carry-on, and always travel with my Osprey Tempest 20 if I plan on hiking.
Essential Items For Your Canada Packing List
The first thing on your Canada trip packing list should be your essentials, which you’ll need no matter what type of trip you are taking. There are some items that you’ll need regardless of your trip type, such as socks, underwear toiletries etc. How much you bring will depend on your individual situation.
Before I travel anywhere I always take photos of my important documents or make copies. You can email them to yourself or send them to a family member in case of emergencies.
Depending on the reason for coming to Canada (Work/Travel/Study) the travel documents you need may differ.
- Passport: The first thing on your Canada travel checklist should be a passport, which you will need to enter the country. Before traveling to Canada, make sure that your passport is valid. If you are visiting from the USA, other travel documents may be accepted. Read more on the Canadian Government Website.
- ETA (Electronic Travel Authorization): An ETA is needed to enter Canada by air for many visa-exempt countries. Once you have your ETA approved and issued, it is valid for up to 5 years or when the passport you applied with expires. If you travel multiple times throughout this period, you do not have to re-apply. To check if you need an ETA prior to traveling, you can check the Canadian Government website.
- Insurance: Travel Insurance is essential on any trip so make sure you bring proof of insurance with you to Canada. I recommend WorldNomads, True Traveller and Allianz.
- ID/Drivers License: If you are planning to rent a car during your time in Canada, then you need a valid Drivers License or International Drivers Permit. If you don’t have a drivers license, you should bring any other photo ID that you have to save carrying your passport.
- Cash/Bank Cards: I always bring cash on short trips as I often get a better rate. But I also always carry my credit and/or bank cards as a backup.
- Small Toiletries Bag: A good toiletries bag will help you keep everything organized. I really like this one as it has several compartments and you can hang it anywhere in the bathroom or shower.
- Toothbrush/Toothpaste: Don’t forget to pack a toothbrush and toothpaste. Remember if bringing a carry-on that toothpaste classes as a liquid, so you can bring a travel size or just buy in Canada when you arrive.
- Hairbrush: I travel with a basic hairbrush, but if you are wanting to save space in your luggage, this foldable hair brush is a great option.
- Deodorant: Especially important if you are planning lots of outdoor activities such as skiing or hiking.
- Make-up: When it comes to packing I only bring my every day makeup unless I am planning a night to a fine-dining restaurant etc. I also bring the minimum if I am only bringing a carry-on case to save on liquid allocation.
- Shampoo/Soap: Depending on your style of travel and the amount of time you’ll be spending in Canada, you can opt to bring shampoo or buy it once you arrive. I’ll often transfer my shampoo and conditioner into travel-sized bottles like this one, or if I’m backpacking I’ll opt for a solid shampoo bar to save on space.
- SPF – This is a really important item to pack in order to protect your skin from the sun. While you might remember to bring SPF in summer, you’ll also need it for the winter. The UV rays in winter can actually be stronger than summer, especially if traveling to a ski resort.
Just like any other destination, you’ll pack the “basic” clothing. I’ve listed some of the basic things to bring to Canada below. How many pairs of socks/underwear etc will depend on the duration of your trip.
- Shirts/ T-shirts/ Long-Sleeves: No matter the destination or season, t-shirts can be worn year-round in Canada. You can also add in some long-sleeve tops for cooler days or nights and some fancier shirts for drinks or dinner in the city. I would recommend adding a cardigan that can be worn up or down as they are easy for layering.
- Pants: The type of pants you bring to Canada will depend on season and activities you have planned. A good pair of jeans are versatile as they’re wearable in all seasons in Canada. You can also wear them in semi-formal settings, I live in my Levi’s jeans. Yoga pants are also worn in Canada year-round, whether for active adventures or casual wear. You cannot go wrong with black leggings in Canada.
- Fleece Jacket: A fleece jacket can be worn year-round in Canada. It’s great for chilly summer nights or as a mid-layer in the winter months.
- Underwear: A must on any packing list. Bring as many as you feel you need.
- Socks: Depending on the season of travel will depend on how many socks you bring.
- Laptop/Tablet + Charger: I generally don’t bring my laptop on shorter trips but will if I am traveling long-term. You may also need your laptop if you are traveling for work. Canada has public WiFi just about anywhere.
- Phone + Charger: Your phone is something you definitely don’t want to forget on your trip to Canada. I charge mine the night before I leave too. I use my phone for all sorts when traveling, from watching Netflix on the plane to looking up directions on Google Maps. I also use this for my GPS when hiking, My preferred app for GPS is FATMAP and they have trails for all kinds of activities, not just hiking.
- Camera + Charger: Canada is one of the most picturesque destinations, and you will not want to leave your camera at home! You don’t need a DSLR to take great photos in Canada, a point and shoot like the Canon G7X is a great choice. If you are an avid photographer and want to make the most of Canada’s beautiful landscapes, then a mirrorless camera like the Sony A7R V is a great investment.
- Kindle: If you love read while traveling, packing a Kindle will help save space in your luggage. If you are heading out on any long drives or spending time in areas with no signal, download your favourite books prior to arriving in Canada.
- Memory Cards: If you’re like me then you take a ton of photos when you travel. Memory cards help you capture every moment of your trip. I have used SanDisk SD cards for years and they have never let me down.
- Card Reader: I like to transfer photos onto a laptop throughout my travels to help keep my SD cards clear and also to edit any photos on the go. This card reader works with all types of memory cards.
- Power Bank: A power bank is a really handy item to pack if you have some long days planned, especially for any outdoor activities such as hiking. This power bank is compact and compatible with Iphone and Samsung.
- Travel Adapter: If you are coming from outside of North America, then you’ll need a travel adapter in order to use any electronics. I like to travel with a universal adapter so I’m ready for any kind of trip but you can also bring a Worldwide to North American specific adapter like this one.
- Hair Dryer/Hair Straightener: Although many hotels come with their own hair dryer, I like to bring my own as it’s often better quality. I really like the GHD brand for both hair straighteners and hair dryers as they feature universal voltage meaning you can use them in any country as they adapt to the correct voltage.
- Travel Pillow: An inflatable travel pillow is great as it packs easy and takes up little room. I like having this for long flights or road trips.
- Travel Towel: If you are staying in hostels, sometimes a towel is not provided so bringing a packable microfibre towel is a good addition when packing for Canada. Travel towels are also great if you are planning any camping or hiking trips.
- Sunglasses: Canada can be sunny even in the winter so don’t forget your sunglasses!
- Water Bottle: A reusable water bottle is awesome for any trip as it helps reduce single-use plastic waste and you can fill up just about anywhere.
- Tripod / Selfie Stick: Both tripods and selfie sticks are great for solo travellers. Deepening on your preferred method of photography. A tripod is great for those avid landscape photographers too, and Canada is somewhere you’ll want to photograph a LOT. This lightweight tripod is great for all kinds of trips, I have even packed mine on solo hikes.
- Travel Guides: A travel guide is more of a luxury item but they do come in handy when you want to find somewhere new to explore. This Canada travel guide covers the whole country so you can explore every province.
- Hiking Boots: Canada is a wonderland of hiking trails so packing a good pair of hiking boots is recommended if you want to hit up some of the best hikes. I love my Salomon X Ultra 3 GTX for longer hikes and the Columbia Newton Ridge boots for day hiking.
- Trekking Poles: After investing in trekking poles a few years ago, I never hike without them. You can purchase hiking poles just about anywhere in Canada if you don’t already own any or decide you need them once you arrive.
Skiing & Snowboarding
- Snow Pants: Snow pants are amazing during the Canadian winters. They are water-resistant and designed with gators which help keep snow out of shoes and pants. Snow pants aren’t just good for skiing and snowboarding, they can be worn on cold days, for snowshoeing, snowmobiling or dog sledding.
- Ski Jacket: Winter can be harsh in Canada, especially if you are visiting a ski resort. Ski jackets are designed to keep you super warm and are water-resistant for those heavy snowfall days. I have worn mine all throughout winter, even when it rains.
- Ski Goggles: Ski goggles pack down relatively small and can fit in just about any bag. I recommend bringing your own goggles and renting ski gear such as skis and boots once you arrive.
- Helmet: If it is your first time skiing in Canada you might not want to invest in high end gear straight away. You can purchase an affordable ski helmet prior to arriving or rent one. I’m not a fan of renting things like helmets and goggles, so I recommend purchasing them beforehand.
Seasonal Specific Clothing
Spring & Fall
Spring and Fall often experience similar weather patterns so what you’ll need to pack for these seasons will generally be the same.
Early Spring and Late Fall experience higher rainfall – especially in provinces like British Columbia. Early falls and late spring will be sunny days but cooler days. During these seasons you’ll often find it’s cold in the mornings and then warm during the day time, this is where layering is great.
Below are some suggestions of what to pack when going to Canada in spring and fall.
- Jacket/Shacket: It’s time to ditch the big puffy winter coat and go for something a little lighter. When the shoulder seasons get chilly I opt for a cozy shacket or jean jacket.
- Raincoat: – Don’t let the rain spoil a good time. On days when it rains from morning to night, I put on my favourite raincoat and go exploring. Fall and Spring are great seasons for exploring waterfalls, but that often comes with heavy rainfall.
- Waterproof / Comfy Boots – My go-to fall and spring boots are Blundstones, a favourite among Canadians. While these may not fair well in the winter, they are great in wet conditions. I love my Blundstones, they are the comfiest boots I’ve ever worn and great for long walks. Hunter rain boots are also fantastic in spring and fall.
- Umbrella: A small umbrella is a must during the rainy seasons. I never leave my house without an umbrella in spring and fall in Canada, the weather can change so quickly so it’s best to be prepared.
The summers in Canada are seriously the best. Don’t be fooled by the “Great White North” – Canada can get pretty hot in summer. This is the season for hiking and spending time at the many lakes. Summers in Ontario and further east can get really humid, while the West Coast is a dry heat.
Below are some suggestions of what to pack for a trip to Canada in Summer.
- Shorts: I live in shorts during the summers in Canada, so I definitely recommend bringing them if you are visiting between late June and mid-September. Canada may be known for its cold temperatures but don’t be fooled – they get incredibly hot summers too!
- Sandals/Flip Flops: A pair of sandals or flip flops are essential when visiting Canada in summer, especially when visiting the lakes. Birkenstocks are super comfy for walking around a city but I also love flip flops if I am camping or staying in a hostel.
- Dresses/Skirts: Packing a dress or two if visiting Canada in summer is a great idea. Dresses make for easy outfits that are versatile and pack down really well. Choose a dress that you can wear for casual daytime activities as well as for evening drinks and dinner.
- Vans/Converse/Etc: I live in Vans so will usually pack these for every day shoes when traveling, but if you are doing a lot of walking during your trip you will need a comfy pair of walking shoes. While I love my Vans and Converse for every day outfits, Toms are great for long days with lots of walking involved.
- Bathing Suit: A bathing suit is a must when visiting Canada in the summer. There are so many lakes and beaches across the country that on a hot day you will want to go for a dip. IF you are brave enough, you can even do a polar dip in the winter months.
- Floaties: If you plan on spending a lot time on lake and have space in your luggage, a floatie like this very Canadian Moose, is super fun for cruising on the water.
- Cap: A cap will help protect your face from the sun.
Winter in Canada is beautiful but cold. Winters in Canada can be very unpredictable, especially in the mountains where the weather can change at a moments notice. You can expect snow, ice and windchill across the country in winter. Knowing how to dress in Canada in winter is essential to having a good time.
Below are some suggestions of things to pack for Canada in winter.
- Winter Boots: Investing in a good pair of winter boots will help you withstand the harsh Canadian winter. After a heavy snowfall the snow compacts and turns to ice, so having a pair of winter boots with good grip is essential in the winter. Brands such as Sorel and Kamik are highly rated as their boots have great grip, are waterproof and super warm.
- Toque/Beanie: Canadians call beanies “toques” and a toque is a must-have in winter. Keep your head warm with your favourite toque – with or without a pompom. I also like the headbands that cover your ears so you can wear your hair up, like this one here.
- Winter Coat: I would not be able to survive a winter in Canada without a good winter coat. If you are planning a trip to Canada in winter, a warm insulated coat is a must. Canada Goose offer some of the best winter coats out there, but come with a hefty price tag. This down jacket is a similar style for a fraction of the cost.
- Scarf: A scarf is a must in the winter, especially on windy days. It’s great for bundling up and keeping your neck and face warm.
- Hand & Toe Warmers: Hand and toe warmers are a godsend on a cold day in Canada. With temps reaching -40 in the winter, hand and toe warmers will keep you warm so you can spend longer exploring the outdoors. These are great for activities such as snowshoeing, skiing and snowmobiling.
- Base Layer/Thermals: Base layers and thermals are a game changer in winter. I recommend adding thermals to your Canada winter packing list regardless of where you are visiting. Even on the west coast where winters are mild, temperatures can dramatically drop.
- Gloves/Mittens: f visiting a colder part of Canada (such as a ski resort), I recommend wearing mittens over gloves as they are warmer and you can stick hand warmers in the them.
- Lip Balm: The winters in Canada are very dry so it’s important to keep your skin hydrated. My lips are especially dry in the winter so I use a medicated lip balm daily.
Canada Carry-On Checklist
Many of the items on this list can be added to a carry-on bag if you are only traveling with a small bag and aren’t checking any large luggage.
If you are checking larger items such as suitcases, below is a list of suggested items to add to your carry-on bag.
- Water Bottle
- Ear Phone
- Book or Kindle to read
- Any applicable medications
- Cardigan or blanket
- Notebook & Pen
- Travel Pillow
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