What Clothes to Wear in the Great Bear Rainforest Packing List

A view of a cabin tucked into a forest with a stream in front and birds swimming on the water

Nothing is worse than going to an amazing destination like Canada’s Great Bear Rainforest only to realize you didn’t pack the right clothes to wear. A good packing list can make the difference between a great vacation and life raining on your parade, but no worries. I’ve put together just what you need.

What is the Great Bear Rainforest?

The Great Bear Rainforest is the largest temperate rainforest in North America, spanning the northwest coast of British Columbia from Knight Inlet to the Alaskan Panhandle, and an hour’s flight northwest from Vancouver.

A vast region the size of Ireland, the Great Bear Rainforest is home to extraordinary biodiversity and stunning landscapes. A backdrop so beautiful it’s hard to imagine it’s not a Hollywood creation.  

Such incredible scenery can be enjoyed on a multi-day small-boat cruise or staying at a lodge deep in the heart of the region. Either choice promises an extraordinary holiday.

Weather

Let’s just say there is a good reason they call this region a rainforest. The moist air from the ocean colliding with the mountains results in significant rainfall up to 13 feet a year. Summer days between June through August are cooler, averaging 54 degrees, while winters are slightly warmer at an average of 30 degrees. 

Packing List: What Clothes to Wear in the Rainforest

Soft-sided luggage like a duffle (ok if it has wheels) is your best bet especially if you need to fly into your destination within the rainforest on a bush plane. The soft sides make it easier to squeeze bags into the small luggage compartments. Options include a waterproof version without wheels I love. A duffle that’s water-resistant with wheels, and one that is water-resistant without wheels.

If you’re tight on space, consider investing in a few compression bags to give you a little more room.

Two backs of humpback whales breaching the water of the Great BearRainforest
Two humpback whales gliding through the water at twilight

What to Pack for Outdoors

There’s a saying, there is “no bad weather, just bad gear.” In the Great Bear Rainforest it’s a good notion to take to heart since weather is so volatile.

Layers

Pack layers. On a sunny summer day, you may want a t-shirt, but when clouds appear, the temperature drops. 

Baselayers

Merino wool is the best investment. It’s warm but not too heavy and anti-microbial, which means they stay fresher longer between washings. 

I wear Woolx tops and bottoms. The lightweight version is a little flimsy and see-through, but I like the mid and heavyweight items a lot. 

T-shirts

Include long sleeves and short sleeves with quick-dry fabric.

Sweater or fleece

Be sure to pack a couple of fleeces and/or a warm sweater to wear over your layers. 

Lightweight puffy coat

For extra chilly moments, a packable puffy coat is immensely useful as another layer of warmth, especially when it rains. 

Bottoms

On cooler days, jeans are fine if you have rain pants you can wear over your denim, but not good if they get wet. 

Shorts or lightweight hiking pants are good on warm days. 

Mountains covered in mist under cloudy skies. It's important to have a good packing list for British Columbia
One of many spectacular views of the mountains from the water

Raingear 

Waterproof Shell or raincoat to wear over your layers. Rain pants, hat (one with a wider brim is a good idea. Don’t rely on the hood of your coat), and waterproof gloves will come in handy if you’re on the water or out hiking when the skies open.

Warm Headband or Cap

I brought a wool headband and a warm cap I was able to fit under my hat. 

Comfortable Shoes / Hiking Boots

Comfortable, warm, waterproof shoes and/or boots will come in handy. (Tip: Check with the lodge, outfitter, or tour guide you’ve booked, they may supply waterproof boots to muck around in.) 

Socks

Warm wool socks that dry quickly. 

Walking through the forest in British Columbia while it's raining. One of the reasons you need a good packing list
A rainy hike through the rainforest on Gribbell Island in the Great Bear Rainforest

Swimsuit

Check where you are staying. Hot tubs and saunas are common in these parts.  

Sunscreen 

Even with the clouds, the sun’s rays can do a number on you. Be environmentally conscious and use sunscreen that’s environmentally safe.

Sunglasses 

Polarized lenses are the best because they remove glare, which you’ll appreciate, especially when you are on the water. 

Waterproof Daypack For Excursions

You’ll want to have a day pack (bonus if it’s waterproof) to carry a water bottle, your camera, sunscreen, etc., for excursions. Be sure to include your rain gear. The weather can change quickly. 

Water Shoes

If you plan to kayak, canoe, or paddleboard, you’ll want a good pair of water shoes. 

Insect repellent 

Waders

If you plan on fly fishing you may want your own waders

An ivory-colored Kermode "Spirit" bear standing in a stream in British Columbia's Great Bear Rainforest hunting for salmon
A rare Kermode “Spirit” Bear

Comfy hanging out clothes

For those times you’re inside. Cozy sitting in front of the fireplace kind of clothes. Stay casual. The Great Bear Rainforest isn’t the place for fancy duds. Wrap yourself in flannel, soft cotton, and cuddly cashmere. 

Toiletries

Toothpaste, toothbrush, dental floss

Eco-friendly shampoo and conditioner

Facewash and moisturizer

Medicines

Prescribed medications and over-the-counter medications in case you have a headache, get sick, have a bout of diarrhea––like a Boy Scout, be prepared.

Glasses and extra contact lenses

Nail file / nail clipper

A good book/ Kindle / music 

Gadgets You may Want to Pack

For excursions

Waterproof day backpack

You’ll likely need a daypack for any excursions. One that can stand up to rain is even better.

Binoculars 

Accommodations usually have a few binoculars on hand, but if you want to guarantee you’ll have one when you want it, bring it.

Camera  / Lenses

If you’re a photography enthusiast and want to capture close-up portraits of wildlife, you’re going to need a long lens—400 mm minimum. I used a Canon 5D Mark iV, the 100-400mm lens, and the 1.4 extender to capture my images. I used a 24-70mm lens to create environmental portraits and landscape photos.

If you have a point and shoot (ie.. the lens is not interchangeable) pay attention to the length of the “optical” zoom, not the “digital” zoom. If you enable the digital zoom, the quality drops significantly.

The fluke of a whale in silhouette just above the water dripping with water at sunset

Go Pro

A Go-Pro is great to have along for videos (obviously, smartphones can work well too. It depends on the quality you want and whether you have an interest in grabbing underwater footage too).

Great Go-Pro Accessories for capturing your adventure

 Baseball cap with mount 

Go pro floating hand grip

Suction cap mount

Go Pro Max Grip + tripod

Reusable Water bottle (check your accommodation, they often give guests reusable water bottles. 

Journal 

Capture those details you want to remember but likely to forget once you’re home.

Small dry bags for cameras 

Small dry bags you can use for personal items when you’re on the water. If your backpack is waterproof (see below), that’s even better.

For When You’re Relaxing

Travel Powerstrip

If you’re somewhere that doesn’t have multiple outlets this baby is just what you need. It’s a must-have for all my trips.

Portable Charger 

Don’t forget an outlet adapter for the USB.

Book 

Nothing like immersing yourself in a good book and glass of wine.

Earpods

I love listening to podcasts and music when I travel. Earpods with noise-canceling capabilities are great. Use this adapter if you want to connect your earpods to the in-flight entertainment.

Bose speaker 

Depending on your accommodations, if you enjoy sharing music with those around you, this travel speaker is first rate.

Gratuities

Don’t forget to have plenty of cash with you for tips. While not compulsory, tipping at least the guide is considered good form. 10% per person of a cruise or accommodation’s cost is the norm.


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