Summer in Canada can be pretty wild. In case you’re unaware Canada is a massive country. I mean – it’s the second largest. So the summer months – typically June through to August – can be varied from province to province. That’s why it can be hard to know what to pack for Canada in summer.
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And don’t go thinking that Canadians live in igloos and ride polar bears to work – we get summers – hot ones too.
Last year the mercury rose to nearly 40 degrees Celsius at the peak, and I hated walking around feeling like a sweaty mess. So yes, we get summers.
Climate in Canada
As I said, Canada’s climate varies from province to province. Consider Ontario, where last year we had scorching temperatures from June to October, or Newfoundland, where it snowed in July.
In British Columbia, it’s usually mild and humid year round, where the prairies can be windy and dry. On the east coast, the fog can roll in at any time, and Southern Ontario is known for its wild summer thunderstorms.
Generally, however, we have comfortable summers that allow you to enjoy the country from coast to coast to coast. Most of Canada has four very distinct seasons that you’ll need to think about when you decide to visit.
This list will help you build a base of what to pack for Canada in summer, and all you have to do is check the weather beforehand and adjust accordingly.
Backpack or suitcase: Which is better for summer in Canada?
Ah, the age-old question … should you use a suitcase or a backpack? My answer is very Canadian – it depends. Unlike Europe, there are hardly any cobblestone streets, so navigating with a suitcase is pretty easy.
Try the Chester carry on for a solid, well-built suitcase. Since it’s a hard case, it’s pretty weather durable too.
But I generally prefer a backpack – my PacSafe VentureSafe Exp45 is my go-to for trips both domestic and international.
For those staying in hostels or camping, as I do, then a backpack is the way to go. But if motels and hotels are more your scene, then a suitcase will ~suit~ you just fine! (pun intended!)
No matter what you choose – go for the carry on size. I stopped over packing two years ago, and it has honestly changed how I travel. I don’t have to worry about my bag at the airport, and I don’t have to wait for my luggage at the carousels. It’s just so much easier to travel carry on only.
Carry on travel essentials
Before I get into what to pack for Canada in summer, these nine items will make your life so much easier when it comes to
Secret compartment scarf
Come on ladies. We know that most clothes we wear have inadequate pockets – I mean what is with that? That’s why I freaking LOVE Waypoint’s travel scarves with a hidden pocket. When I’m at the airport and on the plane, I slip my passport, boarding pass, phone and lip balm in there, and I’m good to go. I never have to dig around for anything during the flight.
Plus Waypoint has the BEST patterns, like my personal favourite, a watercolour map of the world.
When I’m not at the airport, I keep my passport, boarding pass and other important documents in a travel wallet in my luggage. I love this one from Indigo. I bought it a couple of years ago and have been using it ever since.
Leak-proof, travel sized bottles
I think the world knows that you don’t need to bring your full-sized shampoo, soap and conditioner when you travel. But I have tried a lot of different versions of reusable travel sized bottles and found that these are the best because they do not leak.
Plus they help you cut down on waste since you can wash them out and use them again and again.
A clear toiletry bag
Since carry on travel is the way to go, you have to know how to pack your liquids to get through security. The general rule is that liquids must be under 100ml and be in a 1-litre bag. It’s also key to have a see-through bag to make things easier for everyone when going through security.
But the bonus is that the clear bags are waterproof, so if any of your liquids do leak – I’m looking at you contact solution – then the rest of your bag will be totally fine.
Compression packing cubes
I’m not sold on the idea of packing cubes, because I don’t think they save a whole lot of space. However, I am in 100% agreement that packing cubes help keep things organized when you’re on the go. So I found these freaking amazing things that I LOVE.
Compression packing cubes help you stay organized, and they save on space since they compress further. Kudos to whoever invented these.
Reusable water bottle
You’ll be able to find clean, drinkable water in most places in Canada. So why not reduce your plastic use and save money at the same time? Use a reusable water bottle! I’m a huge fan of Hydroflasks, but I also adore collapsible water bottles, like this one, for saving space.
Microfibre travel towel
If you’ve never experienced the absolute gold of a microfibre travel towel, then you haven’t experienced paradise. I’m not even kidding. These lightweight towels are hella great.
Not only do they fold up nice and small but they are quick drying and super absorbent. Most have a loop that you can use to hang it up to dry. Microfibre travel towels are the best addition to your carry on travel essentials.
If you’re coming from anywhere other than North or South America, then you’ll need an adapter for your plugs. Canada has a type B plug with a voltage of 110 to 120V.
To decide if you need an adapter or converter then you need to look at what you want to plug in. It will show the voltage range that it can handle. For example, a phone charger usually has a range of 110 to 240V, so you would only need an adapter. However, a hairdryer is usually just one voltage, so you’ll need a converter. While converters are more expensive than adapters, you do not need both. So take a look at what you’ll be plugging in and decide.
This one is my favourite adaptor since it is small and has room for USB and USB-C plugs.
Poncho or tiny umbrella
Look, no one wants bad weather, but it rains in Canada, often. So you’re going to want to bring a poncho or umbrella with you. There are some great ones out there – like this super tiny umbrella – that is perfect to fit in your day bag or purse.
But I am a huge fan of ponchos. Umbrellas are great and all, but you still get wet from the waist down from the rain that blows at you from the side. Ponchos – like this one – keep you much drier. Yes, they look silly, but you’ll be drier than everyone else when the rain stops – so who’s laughing now?
There are several toiletries that you do not want to forget on your trip.
- Toothpaste and toothbrush – this one combines the two!
- Shower products (using your handy reusable bottles)
- Face moisturizer
- Hairbrush and hair products
- Glasses, contacts and contact solution if applicable
- Any makeup that you want to bring – I LOVE Stowaway Cosmetics since they are the perfect size for carry on travel
- Medicine first aid kit – I like to travel with a few bandages, antibiotic ointment, ibuprofen and antihistamine (eff you allergies)
- A couple of dryer sheets to keep your clothes fresh
However, anything you forget you will be able to find anywhere in Canada from small towns to big cities.
What to pack for Canada in summer
Alright, now to the meat and potatoes of this guide – what to actually pack for summer in Canada. I like to follow the 5, 4, 3, 2, 1 packing rule for any trip 10 days or longer. That means packing the following:
- 5 tops
- 4 bottoms
- 3 accessories
- 2 shoes
- 1 swimsuit, 1 jacket
With this formula, you can mix and match and have more than enough outfits to wear for the entire duration of your trip. Go for items that work well together. I love blacks, olives and royal gem colours because they mix really well.
Let’s break down the formula.
When you’re packing for a trip longer than 10 days, five tops seem to be the perfect amount. You can wear them twice without washing, and if your trip is longer, then it’s easy to wash.
When looking for tops, look for fabric that won’t be heavy, absorb water like crazy, or wrinkle. I like to pack two plain t-shirts in black and olive green since they are both neutral and don’t show stains. Then I pack two nice tops made with rayon since it doesn’t wrinkle easily and it’s a breathable fabric. Lastly, take a versatile sweater, you’ll need it for nights in Canada.
I’ve mentioned that summer in Canada can be varied across the country. I suggest looking at the weather forecast before you go, but you can usually get away with a pair of shorts, a pair of jeans, a pair of black leggings and a romper or summer dress.
I’m not one for bringing a lot of accessories. I have a pair of studs that I wear in my ears all the time, and I don’t fuss with other jewellery when I travel because I find it a hassle. However, there are three accessories I always bring: A scarf, like this one with a pocket, a hat, like this stellar one, and sunglasses. I love these ones.
There’s absolutely no point in bringing more than two pairs of shoes. I have one exception to this rule, which I will explain in a minute.
For summer in Canada, you’ll only need to pack a pair of runners (these ones are so comfortable and stylish at a decent price or second best are Bobs.) and some sandals (Go for the supportive Birkenstocks or fashionable, yet supportive
As I said, I have one exception to the two-shoe rule: Hostel showers. Yup, I definitely bring a cheap pair of rubber sandals to wear as shower shoes when I stay at hostels or campsites. If you’re not choosing the hostel life, then you won’t need shower shoes.
Yes, Canada is warm enough to go swimming. It’s a summer pastime for locals. Don’t miss out on the rush of jumping off a dock in Muskoka in summer. You can get some cute and affordable swimsuits, like this one, on Amazon.
When the temperatures get a little chilly at night or when you are taking public transportation with the air conditioning at full blast, you’ll thank your lucky stars that you brought a jacket. I brought a comfy white jean jacket on my trip through British Columbia, and I have this fleecy one from Mountain Equipment Co-op. Here’s a similar one on Amazon.
If you want to do double duty – why not get a light rain jacket like this one and you won’t have to bring an umbrella or poncho!
I have a rule for underwear – I bring a pair for every day plus an extra if I’m going on a trip of 10 days or less. With a short term trip, I’m likely not going to wash my clothes. Anything longer than 10 days I will bring eight pairs (enough for a pair a day for a week plus one) and wash them when I can.
I also bring two bras, a comfortable nude bra and my Knix bra. That thing is the most comfortable piece I have ever owned, and now it goes with me everywhere. I always bring two bras for two reasons. 1. I had an underwire snap on me once and replacing a bra in my size in other countries is a nightmare. 2. I mix up my activities. I don’t want to wear my nice bra on a hike – these things are expensive!
My last packing tip is to wear a separate airport outfit – usually comfortable clothes – that I don’t wear while I’m on my trip. That way I can wear them again on the flight home still feeling fresh.
My go-to outfit is leggings, a t-shirt and cardigan with my sneakers and travel scarf. Classy yet comfy.
One final item
You’ll also want a day bag that will carry your things like your water bottle, wallet, phone, camera and more.
You can read more about what goes into my camera bag, aka what I lug around on a day-to-day basis when travelling. Spoiler, I have yet to find my perfect camera bag, but I prefer one that I can have free hands with.
Summer is the perfect time to explore Canada from coast to coast to coast. But don’t fret over what you should bring. Simple, lightweight clothes plus minimal toiletries will help you go carry-on only for your trip. With this guide, you won’t have to work about what to pack for Canada in summer.