A MN packing guide for year round travel (organized by season)
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An overview on Minnesota weather
So, you’re headed to the great state of Minnesota and you want to know what is essential to pack for your trip. Minnesota experiences all four seasons and at times the extremes which is why this Minnesota packing guide by season is a valuable tool to planning a trip to this mid western state. Minnesota’s weather can be so unpredictable! (Cue the locals making comments about the great Halloween blizzard of 1991.) But, because of this, Minnesotans truly appreciate the change in the seasons and make the most out of our short but absolutely gorgeous summers!
Now, lets jump into packing for your trip to Minnesota! First, with a few packing pointers then I’ll dive into the specific details for each season.
Minnesota packing best practices
For any season in Minnesota, layers are your best friend! Keep that in mind when you’re determining exactly what to pack for Minnesota. Also, be cognizant of what activities are you planning on doing if you need extra protection from the elements or more warmth. I dress differently during winter when I’m going out to grab a beer or getting dinner compared to spending an afternoon playing ice golf, ice skating or snowboarding spending a majority of my time outside. For that reason, I categorized this Minnesota packing guide by each season and also further broke it down into regular daily activities and outdoor activities so you can plan (and pack) appropriately.
Keep in mind, that although this packing list is comprehensive, it is also subjective. When preparing to travel to another city, state, or part of the world I always encourage you to research the forecast in advance to ensure you’re prepared to your best ability. We all know how unpredictable the weather can be at times no matter where you are in the United States or the world!
I generally dress pretty casual, (like brewery t shirts and yoga pants a majority of the time.) but you get the idea based on my recommendations of what would work for each season, you can just tweak it slightly to incorporate your own personal style. (Just use my recommendations as a baseline.)
Let’s get packing
Be sure to start with a great set of luggage. I especially like hard sided luggage because it can get wet and be exposed to elements as well as the ease of wiping it down to clean/disinfect the surfaces after use. I’ve had this three piece luggage set since 2016 and for the price point and amount of times it’s been used, it’s a great option!
Another general item that may or may not be a bad habit of mine, but I always wear sunglasses regardless of the season. My eyes are very sensitive to light so even in the winter with the sun reflecting off of the snow it can be extremely bright! Regardless of the season, be sure to pack at least one pair of your favorite sunnies.
What to pack for Minnesota in the winter
A warm winter jacket is the main thing to pack for your time in Minnesota! I like down jackets or thicker jackets. Be wary of sizing because you want it to fit well but not be too tight to allow for the possibility of multipe layers underneath.
Personally, I prefer a longer jacket that has a hood. I have this one that keeps me really warm daily in the winter.
You always want to be sure to have warm and shoes that fully cover your feet so definitely be sure to pack at least a few options for your time in Minnesota. I love pretty much all styles of Sorels. Even the wedge ones are super grippy and great on ice in the winter! (Not to mention, really cute too!) Fleece lined boots are definitely not as cute, but are extremely warm. They’re definitely a winter staple to remain toasty warm. They are perfect when it’s really cold in Minnesota. Uggs are my go to, yes, they’re on the pricier side. But, I’ve had my first pair for over 12 years! The taller boots are great when I will be trudging through the snow a little (like when I take my dog outside on the regular.)
You’re definitely going to want a good winter hat or two! I’d pack a neutral colored one and maybe one with a pop of color. I usually coordinate my hats with the jacket I’m wearing and also a scarf (or scarves) as well.
I don’t know what it is, but I’ve always loved a tartan plaid scarf. The large ones are so warm and allow you to add to a very basic outfit with some pops of color. Below is one of my favorite go to options.
I’ve always been partial to mittens. I just think my hands stay warmer vs. having all of my phlanges separated. These mittens below are my absolute favorite! I have multiple pairs and they last for years, I literally don’t use any other winter mitten. Technically they’re a liner that can be worn inside of a “chopper” leather mitten. But, I’ve always worn them independently and they keep my hands so warm!
Outdoor Activities (snoeshoeing, skiing, snowboarding, ice skating etc.):
In addition to everything above, you’re going to want to have some base layers, snow pants, wool socks, heavy duty winter boots & (although I’ve never tried them) heated winter jackets & vests are becoming increasingly popular. If you think you might fall in the snow or possibly get wet via an outdoor activity you should be sure to have waterproof mittens or gloves. (The ones I listed above can get wet really easily and I use them more so for daily wear.)
The main objective to dressing in Minnesota in the winter is layers so be sure to pack accordingly! You can always remove layers so if in doubt, layer up. Even when I’m just doing errands and not really outside for an extended period of time I always bundle up. Starting with a base layer, then a t-shirt or long sleeved shirt over with a sweater on top. You’ll always want to be sure you bundle up then be sure to add a scarf, hat, and jacket.
What to pack for Minnesota in the fall
Mid to light weight jacket a fleece jacket (or a similar weight jacket) is perfect during the fall. A mid weight zip up is so easy to layer with other clothing items. You can layer this either underneath or over other clothing items. It’s a great mid weight for the in between chill that you could experience during the fall in Minnesota. You definitely want to pack something similar to the below for your trip to Minnesota!
A down vest is a perfect in between seasons fall staple. It’s not quite cold enough for a full winter coat but you need just a little warmth. A down vest is perfect! You can add it on top of a long sleeve T or a zip up mid weight fleece or a sweatshirt/sweater. A down vest is the most versatile fall piece I constantly wear during the chilly weather transition.
A lighter scarf such as a pashmina is perfect for fall. You won’t necessarily need a really heavy scarf, but if it’s a little windy, you’ll want something.
If you’re spending any time outdoors while in MN in the fall you will want to pack a winter hat and some light mittens or gloves in addition to all of the items listed above. Especially if you’re spending time outdoors in the evening it can get on the colder side.
What to pack for Minnesota in the spring
You will need a light weight rain jacket. This time of year tends to be rainy, sloppy and muddy as snow is melting and the ground is becoming exposed after the long winter months.
A mid weight jacket/sweater to layer underneath is very helpful as well on the cooler spring days. In addition to that, you will want t-shirts or lighter blouses in case you get a surprisingly really warm spring day.
You may want a winter hat or light gloves/mittens. However, unless I’m outdoors for a long period of time I typically skip them in the spring.
Definitely do not wear newer light colored shoes! Spring can get so crazy muddy in Minnesota. Be sure to bring a rain boot or something that can withstand puddles & mud.
Having a packable travel umbrella is a great idea as well!
What to pack for Minnesota in the summer
Summer literally is the season of all seasons in Minnesota. It’s the reason why most of the locals stay after enduring the winter. It’s warm, but generally not too crazy hot and we have so many lakes for all of the swimming, boating and outdoor activities. If you’re planning on traveling to Minnesota during the summer, check out my Minnesota Summer Bucket List for fun things to do!
Cotton tank tops, t-shirts, jean shorts or sundresses.
dry fit clothing (I seriously cannot stress this enough!) It gets really humid in Minnesota in the summer and especially if you plan on hiking or being out on the lake boating, kayaking or on a stand up paddle board you’re going to want something that’s comfortable, breathable and dries relatively easy. I would pack a decent amount of tank top options and some t-shirt as well, but that also is personal preference.
A swim suit to enjoy all of the amazing lakes!
I always have a baseball hat or two packed for weekends when I’m hiking, camping, or out on the lake a bunch. The sun can get really intense off of the lakes and rivers and burn your face really easily. I usually prefer a trucker hat just because I feel they’re not as hot, but anything to shade your face will work just fine!
Something that you might overlook when determining what to pack for your trip to Minnesota would be sunscreen & bug spray. These items are especially important if you’re going to be spending a lot of time outdoors or at a cabin/on the lake.
Packing list by Season
Beyond what to pack for a trip to Minnesota
For more Minnesota travel inspiration, check out my comprehensive Minnesota Travel Guide (coming soon!)