Traveling to the Tar Heel State and don’t know what to pack? Don’t fret. I’m a North Carolina native and am here to help with this ultimate North Carolina packing list!
Visiting North Carolina is all about enjoying the state’s diverse range of places and its easy-going pace. All four seasons are generally mild here, but weather and temperatures can vary. You’ll want to pack layers, come prepared with outdoor gear, and of course, bring a camera to capture your stay.
Without further ado, let’s dive in!
Table of Contents
- North Carolina Packing Checklist
- Clothing to Pack for North Carolina
- North Carolina Packing Tips
- FAQs About Packing for a North Carolina Vacation
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North Carolina Packing Checklist
A water bottle is an absolute must-have for visiting any place in North Carolina. Whether you’re road tripping or staying active with some outdoor recreation, you’re going to want to stay hydrated. These water bottles are fantastic for keeping your drinks cold or hot, and fresh. They’re also easy to clean and carry with their flex strap on top.
👉 Pro Tip: Personalize your water bottle with stickers from different places around the state!
Sunscreen is definitely a necessity for visiting North Carolina, especially in the warmer months. This hypoallergenic sunscreen provides the right amount of protection with 50 SPF.
You’ll need it for any outdoor activities including hiking and camping in the mountains. The same applies when exploring the warmer Piedmont region, and spending time at the Outer Banks beaches. I’ve personally used this sunscreen for years!
Motion Sickness Medication
The Blue Ridge Parkway and other parts of Western NC are full of curvy country roads. Although they’re beautiful and offer tons of incredible scenery, they can be miserable for those prone to motion sickness. To keep yourself or anyone else from feeling sick, pack some motion sickness medication.
If you plan on doing any hiking, biking, or camping, this Osprey daypack is comfortable, durable, and lightweight to use. It’s also a Travel Lemming favorite! Daypacks are great for storing water bottles, snacks, and other hiking essentials. They also allow you to be hands-free and able to move when you’re exploring places like the Blue Ridge Mountains.
📚 Related Reading: Before arriving at the trailhead, take a look at Abigail’s Hiking Essentials Checklist, too!
You’re probably going to need your phone for GPS, looking up local guides, and taking photos. The last thing you want is your phone dying on you. Keep your peace of mind by packing a portable charger like this one that’s solar-powered and reliable. It’s also super useful gear for camping!
North Carolina has a decent amount of insects, and the last thing you want is any bug bites or insect issues ruining your trip. In Western NC especially, tick-borne diseases like Rocky Mountain Spotted Fever and Lyme Disease can occur if you get bit. Other parts of the state have mosquitoes. To protect yourself, I highly recommend packing some insect repellent!
Spring allergies in the South are no joke. Throughout North Carolina, the pollen can get especially bad, and ragweed is the main culprit. Even as a North Carolina native, I can attest that spring allergies can ruin a good time. Take Zyrtec in the morning, though, and you should be good to go. Just know you may get a bit drowsy as the day goes on.
Granola Bars or Snacks
No matter where in the state you go, there’s a high chance your North Carolina vacation is going to be filled with some adventure. To prevent low energy and frankly, getting hungry, it’s a good idea to keep energy bars like these on hand. Clif bars are a personal favorite and they come in a ton of delicious flavors. They’re also organic and packed with protein.
Rain in North Carolina is frequent, especially in the summer. Whether you’re road tripping, exploring a new town, or spending time in nature, it’s a good idea to keep an umbrella like this one handy.
Insulated Cooler Backpack
A cooler is a must-have for any summer picnic, lake, or beach day. It’s also important for keeping food and drinks cold and fresh, so you can stay hydrated. This backpack cooler is a great option since it’s easy to carry, insulated, and leakproof. It’s especially useful if you have to make a trek in order to reach your destination.
First Aid Kit
Whether you spend your North Carolina vacation walking around towns or trekking through nature, it’s a good idea to keep a first aid kit handy. This mini first aid kit has all the essentials like bandaids and tweezers, as well as tons of other hospital-grade supplies.
Camera for Photography
North Carolina is full of breathtaking scenery just waiting to be captured. If you’re an avid photographer, this Nikon D850 is phenomenal for landscape photography and it comes with everything you need. If videography is more your thing, a GoPro is great for capturing things like water sports, skiing, and everything in between.
If you’re a hiking and biking enthusiast planning on exploring challenging, off-the-beaten-path trails, a remote GPS can be useful. This one from Garmin has a long battery life, active maps, and satellite systems so you can have a helping GPS hand while you’re out in nature. It also has 8 GB of storage for downloading additional maps.
Other North Carolina Essentials to Pack
- Valid ID
- Face masks
- Quick-dry towels
- Aloe vera gel for sunburns
- Speaker for music
- Personal toiletries
- Tote bag
- Toothbrush and toothpaste
- Cell phone and charger
- Disinfectant wipes
- Flushable wipes
- Soap leaves for camping
- Floaties for the beach
- Other snacks
Clothing to Pack for North Carolina
North Carolina weather can be pretty mild, but you’ll always want to pack according to season. Pack typical clothes for the spring, summer, fall, and winter. But always bring some layers that will allow you to cool off or get warm if the forecast fluctuates a bit.
Some essentials will include outdoor sandals for the summer, vests for the spring and fall, and a good, basic coat for the winter. North Carolinians dress pretty casually. So, feel free to dress up a bit if that’s your style, but know it’s acceptable to keep it informal, too.
So, what clothing should you pack for North Carolina? Here is a quick clothing checklist for North Carolina:
- 2-3 pairs of shorts
- 1-2 pairs of pants
- 1 pair of dress pants
- 2-3 tops or shirts
- 2-3 T-shirts
- 2-3 swimsuits
- 2-3 sundresses
- 1-2 pairs of leggings or convertible hiking pants
- 1-2 pairs of pajamas
- 1-2 sweatshirts or jackets
- 1 rain jacket
- 1 winter coat
- 1 vest
- 1 beach/lake coverup
- 2-3 thermal base layers (for hiking)
- 1 pair of flip flops
- 1 pair of waterproof outdoor sandals
- 1 pair of sneakers or hiking boots (depending)
- 5-6 pairs of undergarments
- 5-6 pairs of socks (normal socks and thicker hiking socks)
- Baseball cap or beanie (depending on the season)
This list covers all the top clothing essentials you’ll need throughout the year. Below, I cover our top picks with specific recommendations that I, as a North Carolina native, can attest to!
North Carolina’s summer rain storms are frequent and normal. Whether you’re at the beach or in the mountains, it’s a good idea to pack a rain jacket for your trip. Columbia has some great options for men, women, and children that are comfortable, breathable, and come in several colors and styles.
Chacos are a longtime North Carolina favorite when it comes to outdoor footwear. The Z-style strap makes them easy to adjust as well as take on and off. They’re comfortable, durable, and waterproof—perfect for any outdoor adventure! I’ve actually had my own pair for seven years and they’re still going strong!
If you’re planning on doing more challenging treks, investing in a good, sturdy pair of hiking shoes is a must. Columbia makes a ton of different hiking shoes that come in a variety of styles to suit everyone’s comfort and needs.
Lakes, beaches, hot springs, water parks, and more—the Tar Heel State has it all when it comes to water attractions! No matter where you are in the state, you’re sure to find somewhere to get a little swim in. Be prepared by bringing a bathing suit you feel comfortable and confident in.
Convertible Hiking Pants
Convertible hiking pants are a great thing to pack for any outdoor adventure, especially if you’re doing things in Asheville and the surrounding mountain areas. At high elevations, temperatures are cooler, so having the option to switch from pants to shorts with a simple zip is super convenient. These pants for men and women are a comfortable cargo style and even provide sun protection.
Sweatshirt or Pullover
There’s nothing like a comfy sweatshirt or pullover to throw on after a long day of travel and adventure. No matter the season or place, temperatures tend to drop a bit at the end of the day. To be prepared, pack a comfy sweatshirt like this one.
As important as footwear is when it comes to outdoor recreation, socks are often overlooked! If you’re planning on hiking, I highly recommend Smartwool socks. They’re comfortable and lightweight, yet moisture-wicking so your feet won’t overheat or get cold. They also come in varying thicknesses depending on what season you plan on traveling.
Vests are the perfect kind of outerwear to pack during the transitional seasons of spring and fall. On slightly chilly days, wearing a vest will help keep your core warm, but not cause you to overheat as you move. Whether you’re traveling through a city or exploring the outdoors, they’re comfortable to wear and easy to style.
If you plan on traveling to Western NC in the fall and winter, consider packing some thermal base layers to wear underneath your outerwear. These base layers from Smartwool are a personal favorite since they’re super comfortable and perfect for chilly days. They’re also great for wearing on their own because they’re thin and lightweight, but still warm.
It doesn’t matter where you are in North Carolina, a baseball cap is a go-to for locals and visitors alike. They’re perfect for keeping the sun off your head and out of your eyes, as well as a fun way to spice up any outfit since they come in so many different colors. Overall, baseball caps are a vacation must-have!
If you plan on doing any travel in the fall and winter, a beanie is a must-have for your packing list! Wear one to keep your head and ears warm as you explore all the state has to offer. If you plan any winter sports activities like ice skating or skiing, then a beanie is especially important. And with so many colors to choose from, there’s a beanie for everyone.
North Carolina Packing Tips
Dress in layers
Dressing in layers (especially if you’re near the Blue Ridge Mountains) is never a bad idea. The temperatures can vary based on the time of day and whether you’re in a valley versus a high elevation area. Layers are also super important for hiking and outdoor activities.
Always check the weather when you wake up
The weather forecast in North Carolina is notorious for being a tad unpredictable. Pack for the season but always check the weather each day to ensure that you’re dressed appropriately for whatever activities lie ahead.
Download music and podcasts before your trip
This isn’t so much a physical packing tip, but a tech one. North Carolina is full of rural areas where service can sometimes be spotty. I recommend downloading any music and podcasts ahead of time (especially for the Blue Ridge Parkway!).
Laundromats can be found throughout North Carolina, however, they aren’t as common. Most hotels and vacation rentals provide laundry machines, though.
Pack with packing cubes
One of my favorite travel tips is using packing cubes! Packing cubes make traveling light and easy. They’re perfect for keeping clothing, personal items, and miscellaneous items organized.
FAQs About Packing for a North Carolina Vacation
What should I wear in North Carolina?
In North Carolina, you should wear clothing that is comfortable and suitable for any activities that you plan on doing. This especially applies to outdoor activities.
What should I pack for a road trip to North Carolina?
What is the best month to visit North Carolina?
The best months to visit North Carolina are between April through November, depending on the purpose of your visit.
How do people dress in North Carolina?
People in North Carolina dress quite casually. Wear what’s comfortable and conducive to any activities you’re participating in.
That’s it for this North Carolina packing list! Whether you plan on hiking the Blue Ridge Mountains or enjoying the Outer Banks’ beaches, this list should have you covered. If you’re stopping in Asheville on your North Carolina trip, check out our guide for the 45 best things to do in Asheville.
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