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Mission Mondays: Solo San Francisco – Part XI

August 23, 2010

Weather in the Bay Area is delightfully capricious. I’ve been told it can be cold and blustery on the water and the waterfront, warmer a little inland, 40-something degrees in Muir Woods, and downright summery in the Sausalito/Tiburon area. Some travelers might feel overwhelmed in deciding how to pack for such a wide variety of microclimates but I see it as the ultimate challenge. How does one pack for San Francisco with only a 22” rollaboard? Pretty much the same way I pack for everything else.

This is where my experience as a backpacker comes in really handy. On a backpacking trip for several days, the temperatures can be warmer at lower elevations and significantly colder above the tree line, sunny on day one and rainy and windy on day three. As a backpacker, you’re taught to be prepared for every possible situation and I have to distill that preparedness down to what I can carry in a 65-liter backpack. In addition to the short-sleeved tee I generally wear while backpacking, I always have at least two other articles of clothing in my pack no matter what: a fleece and a light rain jacket. No matter what. I don’t care what the weather forecast says. Those two pieces can cover a multitude of sins and in the backcountry, can potentially save your life.

Translating this concept for San Francisco, I plan on taking 3-4 short-sleeved tees plus the aforementioned fleece and rain jacket to build the layers of my wanderlust wardrobe. For example:

  • Warm and dry = t-shirt.
  • Warm and rainy = t-shirt + rain jacket
  • Cold and rainy = t-shirt + fleece + rain jacket
  • Cooler and windy = t-shirt + fleece
Dressing in layers

Dressing in layers - items from Lands End.com

Short of a freak snowstorm blowing through San Francisco in September, I’m fairly well-covered (pun intended) for almost any situation. Jeans are a practically a no-brainer (particularly since they were invented in San Francisco), while a pair or two of pants with legs that roll up and fasten into capris will get you through almost any day. A large 2-gallon Ziploc bag and a little laundry detergent can turn your bathroom sink into a makeshift laundry to keep your clothes fresh for the duration of the trip.

But what about when you want to get dressed up a leetle bit more? Say for going out for some San Francisco nightlife? Luckily, San Francisco is supposed to be a pretty laid back town. A pair of skinny jeans with ballet flats and a nice top will do just nicely. I’m also thinking about packing my black strapless jersey dress (I wrote about it in an earlier post) to throw into the mix if there’s need and room for it.

And even if I don’t pack absolutely everything I need for the trip, there’s lots of great shopping available in San Francisco. If your tastes run more to the high-end, Union Square is for you. With anchor stores like Macy’s, Saks, and Neiman Marcus, you’re sure to find whatever you desire. If you have more eclectic leanings, a jaunt to the Mission district should suit you just fine (no more puns allowed). Just remember to pack a small duffel in your suitcase if you’re planning on doing a substantial amount of shopping and be prepared to pay whatever checked baggage fees necessary on your journey back home.

Wow. I head out next week.  Time to get packing.

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2 Comments leave one →
  1. August 28, 2010 5:32 pm

    I love, it a guide to dressing for winter in SF’s summer. People are so often not prepared for summer here and this year was especially cold. Layers are definitely key. SF is pretty laid back, but if you do want something more dressy for evening, I often sport dresses and tights with ballet flats or boots when I go out.

    • August 28, 2010 5:45 pm

      @Ekua–I loved reading your blog. Thanks for stopping by and for the advice on nights out in SF. I can’t wait to explore your city!

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