What to wear in Tofino, BC

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What to Pack for Tofino: Essential Packing List

Looking for the ultimate Tofino packing list so you’ll know exactly what to pack for your vacation? Well, you’ve come to the right place!

If you’re planning a trip to Tofino, you’ll want to make sure you pack the right items. Whether you’re visiting in the summer or winter, this ultimate packing list will help make sure you have everything you need for a comfortable, enjoyable stay in the beautiful Tofino.

As Vancouver Island residents, we’ve visited Tofino plenty of times so we know exactly what to bring. We love visiting the massive sandy beaches, surfing the perfect waves, and exploring the West Coast trails. We just keep coming back!

Cox Bay in Tofino at sunset

If there’s one thing you should know about Tofino when packing, it’s that the weather is unpredictable. One day it might be sunny and warm, while the next could bring stormy weather. So you’ll need to be prepared for anything by packing appropriately!

From clothes to surfing gear, we’ve got you covered in this ultimate packing list for Tofino. You’ll know exactly what to pack for your Tofino vacation by the end of this article.

So what are you waiting for? Start packing!

Essential Things to Pack for Tofino: The Basics

Flying to Hot Springs Cove from Tofino, BC

Ready to start packing for your trip to Tofino? Let’s start with the basics!

Packing for a trip to Tofino can seem like a daunting task. There are so many different things that you might need. It’s hard to know what will be the most essential items and you definitely don’t want to overpack!

Luckily, there are a few key items that you absolutely must bring on your trip to Tofino, no matter what. Here are the basic must-have essentials you’ll need to pack to have the best vacation in Tofino:

  • Suitcase – You’ll want a good quality suitcase to carry all of your clothes and belongings. We prefer bringing a carry-on suitcase for our vacations. Traveling is so much easier if you don’t have to check your luggage! Just make sure that you have enough space for souvenirs. This small 20-inch suitcase is our go-to for traveling. It’ll fit in the overhead bins, while also being lightweight and sturdy. It even has built-in TSA compatible locks! If you pack smartly, you’ll be able to fit enough for a week or two of travel (depending on how much you bring). Of course, you could give yourself more space with a larger suitcase like this one. It’s not a bad idea if you have lots of beach gear.
  • Travel Backpack – Alternatively, instead of a suitcase, you could use a travel backpack for carrying all your belongings. Backpacks are a great option for traveling because you can carry all of your stuff hands-free. We usually use a suitcase, but if we do travel with a backpack, this Pacsafe travel backpack is our go-to. It distributes weight comfortably across your body and fits the carry-on requirements for most airlines. Also, it has anti-theft features to keep your valuables safe. Alternatively, if you’re a backpacker, you can use your camping backpack for traveling. We absolutely love our Osprey 65L backpacks (Women’s / Men’s). They are so well made and comfortable, even if you cram them full of gear!
  • Driver’s License and Passport – If you’re traveling within Canada, you’ll need your driver’s license to get on your flight to Tofino. Also, you’ll have to bring your driver’s license if you want to rent a car while you’re on Vancouver Island (check out RentalCars.com to find the best rental vehicle prices). If you’re traveling from outside of Canada, don’t forget your passport too!
  • Travel Credit Card – You’ll need money for food, souvenirs, and activities. Tofino is a relatively expensive place, so make sure you have enough cash on hand. Credit cards are accepted in most places in Tofino. While you can often use cash, you’ll need a credit card for rentals, hotels, and other purchases. We recommend using a credit card that gives you travel points or cash back for spending so you can save some money while traveling.
  • Money Belt or Bra Pouch – Like most of British Columbia, Tofino is a pretty safe place. Just to be careful though, you can bring a money belt or bra pouch if you’re worried about your valuables. These can be pretty handy while you’re traveling. Plus, they aren’t just for keeping your money hidden! You can even wear them while doing everyday things if you find them handy.
  • Travel Insurance – We always recommend getting travel insurance before any international trip. You never know what could happen, so it’s better to be safe than sorry! SafetyWing is a great choice for international travel insurance, particularly if you’re planning to travel for longer stretches. They also cover a variety of adventure activities (including surfing) and provide COVID-19 coverage, which is not something that every travel insurance company does.
  • Lock – While you should be able to safely leave your valuables in your hotel room, you’ll probably want a lock if you stay in a hostel. You can also lock up your luggage if necessary. If you’re checking in your luggage when flying, make sure to use a TSA-approved lock. However, we don’t recommend using a TSA-friendly lock for non-checked luggage or other bags, because the keys for these locks are easy to make and they open every TSA lock!
  • Masks – If BC has a COVID-19 mask mandate, you’ll need to bring a mask. Airports may also require masks. We prefer reusable masks because they are much more environmentally friendly. You might also want to bring some testing kits, just in case. Obviously, this decision is up to you (and what’s legally required).

What Clothing to Wear in Tofino

What to wear in Tofino, BC

Figuring out what clothing you’ll need for a vacation is always one of the hardest parts of packing. You never know what the weather is going to be like and you don’t want to be caught unprepared!

When traveling to Tofino, you’ll need clothes for all weather conditions. The weather in Tofino is unpredictable, even in the summer. Be prepared for anything by packing quick-drying clothes for both warm and cold weather, as well as rain gear! Also, be sure to bring plenty of layers.

Generally, Tofino is a casual place, so pack accordingly. With a laid-back atmosphere, casual attire is quite acceptable in most places. You can dress up if you want to, though!

Here are a few key clothing items that we recommend adding to your packing list to make your trip to Tofino as enjoyable as possible:

  • Rain Jacket (Women’s / Men’s) – A rain jacket is a must-have on any trip to Tofino. While you might not need a rain jacket every day, when it does rain, you’ll be glad you have it. Winters in Tofino are stormy and while summers are sunny, the weather will still randomly surprise you with some rain. Plus, it can get quite misty by the ocean, year-round. A rain jacket will let you enjoy the outdoors no matter what. We love the Arc’teryx Beta AR (Women’s / Men’s) and wear it year-round on Vancouver Island. This GORE-TEX waterproof outer shell does an amazing job of keeping you dry in the rain. You can also refresh the waterproofing easily using a waterproofing spray. While the jacket itself is a bit pricy, it’s worth it. We spent a lot more money trying to make cheaper rain jackets work before investing in this one. Now, we won’t have to buy a new one for years!
  • Insulated Jacket (Women’s / Men’s) – Vancouver Island has a mild climate but even so, it does get chilly on stormy days or during winter. Despite the temperature not going much below freezing, the winters do feel quite chilly. The wind, rain, and humidity get to you! A good puffy jacket will make a huge difference. Many people on Vancouver Island layer a puffy jacket underneath an outer waterproof shell. We like wearing an Arc’teryx Atom LT Jacket (Women’s / Men’s) underneath our rain jacket. This insulated jacket is warm but packs down really really small, making it perfect for traveling.
  • Rain Pants (Women’s / Men’s) – As we mentioned before, the weather in Tofino is unpredictable, especially in winter. So, be prepared for anything by packing a pair of rain pants. You don’t want to get stuck at home due to the bad weather! Our favorite rain pants are the Mountain Hardwear Stretch Ozonic Pants (Women’s / Men’s). They are waterproof, comfortable, and have full-length zippers so you can easily take them on and off without removing your hiking boots.
  • Hat – No matter what time of year you visit Tofino, a hat is a good idea to help protect you from the sun. Bring whatever hat style suits you. A baseball cap or snapback (Women’s / Men’s) will work great for keeping the sun out of your face. Or, if you want protection for your neck, you can get a sun hat like this one. Heading to Tofino in the winter? You should bring a toque to keep your head warm. We like this winter hat, which is well made and warm. It fits both men and women, even though it’s marketed for men (here is a women-specific one though).
  • Shirts (Women’s / Men’s) – A few different styles of shirts should suffice for your trip to Tofino. For hiking and other adventures, make sure to choose quick-drying shirts, like Icebreaker Merino T-Shirts (Women’s / Men’s). You’ll probably also want some nicer shirts for outings to restaurants, but you don’t need to get too fancy.
  • Pants, Leggings, Dresses, and/or Skirts – You can bring leggings or jeans – whatever suits your fancy! Or, pack some summer dresses or skirts if that’s more your style. Personally, we wear a lot of leggings (like these Lululemon ones) on our vacations. They’re super comfortable, especially on long travel days. If you want to dress up, feel free to bring something more stylish.
  • Warm Sweaters (Women’s / Men’s) – It can get chilly in Tofino, so make sure to pack a sweater (or two)! In the winter, you’ll feel the cold from the wind and rain. Summer days will be quite warm but nights sometimes feel cool. Ideally, pack at least some sort of warm clothing, whether it’s a sweater, hoodie, or fleece jacket. Something like these Columbia fleece jackets (Women’s / Men’s) should do the trick.
  • Socks (Women’s / Men’s) – Don’t forget to pack socks! They’ll definitely come in handy. You might be spending all day in sandals, but you’ll at least want some socks to wear around the hotel room. We try to bring enough socks for every day, plus a spare or two.
  • Hiking Socks – You’ll need some hiking socks for any backcountry adventuring in Tofino. Unlike regular socks, hiking socks cushion your feet and keep them drier, preventing blisters. Our favorite socks for hiking are Darn Tough socks. Darn Tough makes some of the best hiking socks out there, and they also have an amazing lifetime guarantee. If your socks start to wear out, they’ll replace them – no questions asked. That’s a pretty good deal if you ask us!
  • Underwear (Women’s / Men’s) – And of course, don’t forget your underwear. We always pack enough for every day. Sometimes a few extra, depending on the time of the month.
  • Bra and/or Sports Bra – Be sure to pack a bra and/or sports bra, if you need them. If you’re going to be doing any hiking or other activities, you’ll want a sports bra to keep you comfortable. We like this Under Armour sports bra because it’s quite supportive. Plus, it comes in a bunch of fun colors! If you’re just planning on relaxing, any bra (like this one) will do. Just make sure to pack whatever will make you most comfortable.
  • Pajamas and Loungewear (Women’s / Men’s) – You’ll want to pack some cozy pajamas for your nights in Tofino. After a long day of surfing and exploring, you’ll need to spend time relaxing. Bring a couple of pairs of lounge pants or PJs like these (Women’s / Men’s) to relax in while the day is wrapping up.
  • Gloves – If you’re visiting Tofino in the winter, make sure to pack a pair of warm gloves. The temperature might fool you in the winter – it gets chilly with the humidity!
  • Scarf – A scarf is another good idea for winter weather. It will help keep you warm on chilly days. This scarf does a good job of keeping the cold air out. It also looks quite fashionable!
  • Base Layer Tops (Women’s / Men’s) and Bottoms (Women’s / Men’s) – Base layers (like long underwear) are a good idea for colder weather. They’ll help you stay warm, even when it’s wet outside. We highly recommend Smartwool Merino wool base layer tops (Women’s / Men’s) and bottoms (Women’s / Men’s). They’re pricy but definitely worth it. Plus, they don’t even take up much space in your luggage.
  • Hiking Pants (Women’s / Men’s) – If you plan on doing any hiking while you’re in Tofino, make sure to pack a pair or two of hiking pants. You want pants that are comfortable and will protect your legs from scratches (and bugs!). You can often find good hiking pants at a second-hand store, but if you want something that’s designed for outdoor activities, Fjällräven trousers (Women’s / Men’s) are a great choice. While not fully waterproof, Fjällräven pants are water-resistant due to a Greenland wax coating that you can reapply as needed. You’ll be able to go out in light rain without getting soaked! They also have lots of pockets and reinforced fabric for improved durability.
  • Shorts (Women’s / Men’s) – If you’re visiting Tofino in the summer, make sure to bring shorts (Women’s / Men’s)! It can get pretty hot in the summer and you’ll be spending a lot of time on the beach. Alternatively, bring a pair of boardshorts (Women’s / Men’s) that doubles as casual shorts.
  • Sunglasses (Women’s / Men’s) – The sun is very bright in Tofino, and you want to protect your eyes! We like Costa Del Mar sunglasses (Women’s / Men’s) because they’re designed for people who spend a lot of time outdoors. They have 100% polarized lenses that reduce glare and provide UV protection. As a bonus, they look good too!

What Footwear to Pack for Tofino

A woman and dog walking on the beach at sunset in Tofino, BC

You’ll want appropriate footwear to hike in the forests around Tofino, walk on the beach, and more. Make sure the shoes that you bring are comfortable and versatile so you can enjoy your time here to the fullest.

If you’re flying to Tofino, you may need to limit how many pairs of shoes you bring. They take up a lot of space in your suitcase!

Base your footwear decisions on the time of year that you’re traveling, as well as your planned activities. You don’t want to overpack, but you also need to be prepared.

If you’re just hanging around the beaches, sandals and some comfy shoes will work. Those who’re planning hiking adventures will need to find a way to cram hiking boots into their luggage. And, in the winter, some waterproof footwear will make a huge difference.

Here’s the footwear you should add to your Tofino packing list:

  • Comfortable Shoes – You’ll need a comfortable pair of shoes to walk around in. We recommend packing a pair of walking/running shoes (Women’s / Men’s). Or, if you want to look like a local, get a pair of Blundstones. These shoes feel like they’re the official footwear of Vancouver Island (they aren’t really but they definitely feel that way). Almost everyone rocks a pair! They’re comfy, versatile, and fashionable. We’ve even seen people hiking in them (we really don’t recommend doing that though).
  • Hiking Boots (Women’s / Men’s) – If you plan on exploring the awesome hiking trails around Tofino (like the Cox Bay Lookout, Canso Bomber Ruins Trail, or Tonquin Trail), bring a good pair of hiking boots. If you’ve ever hiked on a coastal trail, you’ll know they aren’t just a walk in the park. You’ll be scrambling over logs, dodging exposed roots, and at times, slogging through mud. While the trails in Tofino aren’t too rough, it’s important to have the best hiking boots with ankle support, good traction, and waterproofing. We highly recommend Salomon Quest GTX hiking boots (Women’s / Men’s). They’ll handle the rough West Coast trails while providing plenty of support and cushioning. Make sure your boots are broken in beforehand so they won’t cause you any blisters on the trails though!
  • Sandals (Women’s / Men’s) – There are plenty of gorgeous sandy beaches to explore in Tofino, so you’ll want to pack a pair of sandals or flip-flops to wear. We like Sanuk flip-flops (Women’s / Men’s) but you can bring whatever you have. If you want to do a lot of beach exploring or wading into the ocean, we recommend a pair of Chaco sandals (Women’s / Men’s) that strap comfortably onto your feet. These will keep your feet happier if you decide to walk some of the longer beaches, like Long Beach, Wickaninnish Beach, or Chesterman Beach.
  • Rain Boots (Women’s / Men’s) – Just in case it rains, you don’t want your feet to get soaked. Bring a good pair of rubber boots so you can enjoy Tofino, even when it’s wet out. Rain boots are most important in the winter but they’re also great for tide pooling. We love BOGS tall rain boots (Women’s / Men’s) because they’re comfy and you can wade into the ocean with no worries. If you want something more fashionable, try their ankle height rubber boots (Women’s / Men’s). Also, if your hiking boots are water-resistant, they might do the job too.

What Electronics to Pack for Travelling

The awesome waves at Cox Bay in Tofino, British Columbia

While you don’t want to be glued to your electronics during your Tofino trip, you’ll also want to pack a few things for entertainment in your downtime, to stay connected, or take photographs.

Make sure that you keep an eye on any electronics you bring on your trip. Don’t let them out of your sight! While Tofino is a relatively safe place to stay, anything can happen while traveling, especially in airports. To keep your electronics safer, use backpacks that open on the back instead of the front or lock the zippers.

Here are some of the electronics that we bring on trips to Tofino:

  • Cell Phone and Chargers – Don’t forget your cell phone and its charger! You’ll want to be able to keep in touch with your family and friends (and take plenty of pictures).
  • Travel Camera – With all of the natural beauty in Tofino, you’ll want to document your trip! So don’t forget to pack your camera, the battery, memory cards, and some extras. We currently shoot on a Canon EOS 5D Mark IV Full Frame DSLR and while the price can be a bit daunting, photography with a professional camera like this one is life-changing. Plus, we love wildlife photography and this is one of the best cameras out there for that. We highly recommend this beast of a camera, and all of our photos are taken on it! If you’re looking for something more budget-friendly and compact, a good option is a pocket-sized Canon PowerShot.
  • Camera Lenses – We don’t leave home without a few camera lenses. Our camera lenses of choice are the Canon EF 100-400mm f/4.5-5.6L II (for extra zoom, we also attach a 1.4X extender to this lens) for wildlife photography and a Canon 16-35mm f/4L lens for landscape photography. Make sure whatever lens you pick fits your camera type (e.g. full frame, crop sensor, mirrorless, etc) and brand. If you want a multi-purpose lens for traveling, the Canon 24-105mm or Nikon Nikkor 24-120mm are great choices.
  • Tripod – A tripod is often the difference between an okay photo and an amazing one. They’re great for taking low-light photos and for setting up your camera to take photos of you and your friends on the beach. The UBeesize tripod works well if you need a lightweight tripod for your cell phone. If you have a big camera, make sure to get something sturdy, like a Manfrotto Element. For people who like to take photos on the go, a monopod (like this one) is also a good option.
  • Camera Bag – All of your camera gear is an investment so you need a good quality camera bag to carry it all in. We have a few different camera bags, depending on the situation. For adventuring, we prefer a camera backpack like this Lowepro ProTactic 450, which is a safe spot for your camera as well as other items (like your lunch). Make sure that the backpack doesn’t open from the front, to prevent your camera equipment from being stolen. It should also have a rain cover, just in case of bad weather. If you’re just carrying your camera around town, a top-loading shoulder bag is also a good option.
  • Memory Cards and External Hard Drive – Don’t forget extra SD cards for your camera! You’ll want to be able to store all of those beautiful photos you’re going to take. We also recommend bringing an external hard drive to store all of your photos and videos. If you take a lot of photos, you’ll find your camera and laptop storage filling up quickly! This SanDisk 1TB SSD external hard drive is perfect for traveling. It’s super portable and barely takes up any space in your luggage.
  • External Battery Pack – Bringing a portable battery charger is always a good idea when traveling. You’ll probably drain your phone battery fast if you’re taking pictures all day. An external battery (like this Anker PowerCore Slim) makes it so you don’t have to return home to recharge your devices. Also, it’s useful if you use your phone a lot to watch movies on the airplane or while waiting around in the airport.
  • Laptop and Laptop Case – If you need to stay connected while you’re in Tofino, make sure to bring your laptop and the charging cable. During downtime, it’s nice to have a computer to watch shows or browse the internet. Also, you should bring a laptop case to protect your computer. Laptops will get bumped around and damaged easily while traveling if you’re not careful. A good-quality laptop sleeve adds some much-needed protection for your computer so you don’t have to worry as much while traveling.
  • GoPro – With all of the outdoor activities available in Tofino, a GoPro is a great way to capture your adventures. We recommend the GoPro Hero10, but many of the earlier versions will also do the job. If you plan on surfing, you’ll also need a surfboard attachment and a protective casing for your GoPro. Alternatively, you can use a GoPro Mouth Mount, although we don’t like these as much as simply attaching the camera to your board.
  • EBook Reader – We do prefer reading physical books, but nothing beats having an entire library at your disposal while traveling. E-book readers (like a Kindle Paperwhite) are great for vacations, especially if you’re a fast reader. Books take up a lot of space in your luggage so you’ll be limited in how many you can bring. For a beach vacation where you might be reading on the beach all day, you might speed through a few books!

Toiletries & Beauty Travel Essentials

Aerial view of the coast by Tofino, BC

When packing for your trip to Tofino, don’t forget to pack your toiletries and beauty essentials. If you only have carry-on luggage, make sure to pack travel-sized toiletries that are under 3.4 ounces (100 ml). You don’t want to have to throw out anything while going through security – that’s no fun!

If you’re planning on surfing, keep in mind that you’ll be in and out of the water pretty often. It can be quite hard on your skin and hair. You’ll need lots of moisturizer to counteract the saltwater.

While it’s easiest to be prepared, don’t worry if you forget something! There are stores in Tofino where you can purchase whatever toiletries you’ve forgotten.

You’ll need all the basics when heading to Tofino. Here are the items we recommend bringing:

  • Toiletries Bag – You’ll want a toiletries bag to keep all your toiletries clean, together, and organized. We recommend this toiletry bag (or this one for men), which should be able to fit all of your stuff (and probably even your partner’s too). It hangs from a hook for easy access to all your items! Or, if you prefer something smaller, something like this toiletry bag would work well. If you don’t want to invest in a toiletry bag, you can also use a ziplock bag to organize your toiletries.
  • Toothbrush, Toothpaste, and Dental Floss – Of course, you want to stay fresh on your trip so don’t forget to pack your toothbrush and toothpaste! Because we usually drive to Tofino, we just bring our normal-sized toothpaste and electric toothbrush. But, if you’re flying, you’ll probably need travel-sized versions. Here’s a good folding travel toothbrush that takes up less space in your luggage. Also, this travel-size toothpaste is a good size to bring on the plane. If you floss regularly, don’t forget that as well!
  • Shampoo and Conditioner – Most hotels provide small bottles of shampoo and conditioner. It’s usually not very much and not good quality, but it’ll do the trick for a short trip. However, if you’ll be in Tofino for a long stretch or need special hair products, you should bring your own. Also, hostels don’t usually provide you with these amenities. We recommend picking up some small bottles like these and filling them with your shampoo and conditioner. Alternatively, buy pre-filled travel-sized shampoo and conditioner bottles. If you want to be more environmentally friendly or not worry about traveling with liquids in your luggage, try using a shampoo bar and conditioner bar instead. They work surprisingly well and are easy to travel with!
  • Soap or Body Wash – Hotels also often provide bar soap for washing your hands and bathing. If your skin is sensitive or you’re not staying at a hotel, you’ll want to bring your own soap or body wash. We like this zero waste handmade bar soap – it works well and smells amazing! Alternatively, bring body wash, either in pre-filled travel-sized containers or fill your own little travel bottles. If you need a facial cleanser, don’t forget that too!
  • Deodorant (Men’s / Women’s) – No one wants to be smelly on vacation! We usually just bring whatever deodorant we already have. If you’re traveling by air, make sure that your deodorant is an airline-appropriate size.
  • Sunscreen – In the summer, Tofino is known for its sunny days. Lots of your time will be spent outside, laying on the beach, surfing, or exploring. It’s important to apply sunscreen, especially if you’re out on the water all day. Even on cloudy days, the UV rays are strong in Tofino. If you use sunscreen in the water, make sure that it’s ocean-friendly, biodegradable sunscreen, like Sun Bum sunscreen lotion. Plus, this lotion smells great and stays on well in the water!
  • Lip Balm – The sun and seawater will dry your lips out, which you don’t want! We recommend bringing a good lip balm with you to keep your lips hydrated and protected from the sun. Our favorite is the Vanilla Bean Burt’s Bees chapstick. It smells good and works well!
  • Makeup – You probably won’t need a lot of makeup for your trip to the beach (unless that’s your style, of course). Coverup is pretty handy for hiding any sunburns you might get, too. A travel mirror is also handy if you like to do your makeup on the go.
  • Hairbrush and Hair Elastics – If you have long hair, you’ll want to bring a brush and some hair ties. The saltwater and wetsuit hood will get your hair quite tangled.
  • Hair Styler, Hair Dryer, and Hair Gel – For those who style their hair, don’t forget to pack your hair styling equipment and hair gel! If you need a hair straightener and curling wand, we recommend bringing a 2-in-1 styler like this one. The ocean air and saltwater will do a number on your hair, especially if you’re surfing every day. Unless you prefer air drying your hair, you’ll also need to bring a hairdryer to help tame your hair. Some hotels provide a hairdryer, so phone ahead if you don’t want to bring yours.
  • Feminine Hygiene Products – We all know that periods show up with the worst timing. You don’t want to be caught unprepared! Pack some extra pads or tampons, just in case. Or, an amazing eco-friendly and budget-friendly solution is a menstrual cup. Then you never have to worry about running out of tampons!
  • Nail Clipper Kit – Pack a nail care kit with a clipper and/or file to keep your nails looking nice. Any pair of clippers will work but make sure they aren’t too big if you plan on bringing them in your carry-on. Also, if you have a nail care kit, make sure you don’t have scissors that airport security will confiscate in your non-checked luggage. Tweezers are also handy on vacations.
  • Cologne or Perfume – A small bottle of your favorite scent is all you need for your vacation in Tofino, especially on shorter trips. Make sure your favorite scent is in a small travel-sized bottle if you’re bringing it in your carry-on luggage.
  • Razors (Women’s / Men’s) and Shaving Cream – Hair doesn’t stop growing on vacation, so pack your razors and shaving cream if you need them! If you have a standard disposable razor encased in plastic you’re usually allowed them in your carry-on. Any loose blades, straight razors, or removable blades have to be in your checked luggage, though.
  • Contacts and/or Glasses – Don’t forget your contacts, contact lens solution, and their carrying case! If you wear glasses, make sure to pack them and their case too. We like packing a backup pair of glasses too, just in case. You’re going somewhere gorgeous so you want to be able to see clearly!
  • Moisturizer – The humidity on Vancouver Island is quite good for dry skin, but the ocean isn’t! Take care to moisturize your skin extra while it’s exposed to salt water, sun, and sand. If you have dry skin, you’ll have to take special care of your skin in these conditions. We love bringing a moisturizer like Aveeno (our favorite), as well as a light face moisturizer. If you burn easily, you probably should consider bringing some Aloe Vera lotion, too.

Essential Health Items

Long Beach in the Pacific Rim Regional Park

Tofino is full of fun outdoor activities, but any adventuring also comes at the risk of injuries. Also, traveling is hard on your body at times, like sitting on long flights or eating new foods. Be prepared for anything by bringing essential health items and medicine to stay healthy. Also, we recommend purchasing travel insurance – just in case!

Here are the essential health items that we recommend adding to your Tofino packing list:

  • First Aid Kit – If you plan on doing any backcountry adventuring, it’s important to pack a first aid kit just in case of emergencies. You can buy a pre-made first aid kit or make your own. If your kit has scissors or other sharp objects, it’ll need to go in your checked luggage.
  • Prescription Medication – If you take any prescribed medication, bring enough for your entire trip. You don’t want to regret not bringing your meds like an EpiPen or inhalers! Also, if you’re on birth control, don’t forget to bring it!
  • Stomach Medicine – Tummy trouble ruins a vacation. If you’re prone to getting stomach aches or travel sick, pack some stomach medicine, like Imodium or Pepto Bismol. Antacids are also a good idea if you get heartburn (you’ll probably be eating out lots). There are drug stores in Tofino, but it’s better to be prepared. Trust us, you don’t want to have to go buy medicine when you’re already stuck by the toilet…
  • Painkillers – Don’t forget to pack some painkillers, like ibuprofen or acetaminophen. You never know when you might need them! We get pretty regular headaches and can’t travel without some sort of pain medication. It’s also nice to have if you get sore from sitting through a long flight.
  • Bandaids – Bring a few bandaids in case you get any cuts or scrapes. You don’t want to bleed everywhere if you scrape your knee while tide pooling!
  • Antihistamines – If you’re allergic to anything, bring some antihistamines with you. Sneezing all vacation from allergies is never nice! It’s a good idea to have some long-lasting allergy medicine (like Claritin) if you’ll be spending the day outside, especially if you have environmental allergies. Benadryl is also a handy way to fall asleep at night if you’re staying at a hostel (it has the same ingredients as some sleep medicines).
  • Tissues – Don’t leave home without a travel pack of tissues! You never know when you might need them.
  • Bug Spray – Mosquitos aren’t too common in Tofino (like most of Vancouver Island), but there are black flies in the summer. Personally, we find black flies more annoying than mosquitoes! Pack a travel-sized bottle of bug spray to ward off any annoying biting insects (but don’t worry too much if you forgot it).

Extra Things to Bring on the Plane

Tofino Floatplane parked at the dock

Long flights suck. For those traveling in BC, the trip isn’t too bad. But, if you’re visiting from across the country or internationally, you’re in for a longer flight. Luckily, there are some things to bring on the plane that make the experience much more tolerable!

If you have a long flight to Tofino, bringing a few extra things to keep you comfortable and happy on the plane will make a huge difference. Here are some extra things to bring on the plane to help survive the long trip:

  • Reuseable Water Bottle – Pack a reusable water bottle and refill it once you’re past security. This way, you don’t have to buy water in the airport or drink the gross airplane water. Can’t find a water fountain to refill your bottle? Ask nicely at one of the cafes to fill your bottle. Also, bringing a water bottle is important when you’re on the ground, exploring Tofino. It’s especially important to stay hydrated in Tofino while you’re constantly at the beach or exploring. You don’t want to have to head back to the hotel room to get a drink! A water bottle will help you stay hydrated while on the go and the tap water in Tofino is safe to drink. A Nalgene is a classic choice or you can get an insulated water bottle so your drink stays cool.
  • Neck Pillow – Sleeping is one of the best ways to make a flight go by quickly. As a bonus, you’ll feel more refreshed (hopefully) when you arrive! We find sleeping on a plane is quite uncomfortable, but a neck pillow helps. If you can’t sleep with the lights and noise, an eye mask and earplugs also make a huge difference.
  • Snacks – Got a long flight to Tofino? You’ll probably want to bring some snacks so you don’t go hungry. The airline sometimes provides food but it won’t be much more than a few pretzels or cookies. A sandwich, some crackers, rice crisps, jerky, or other snacks will make your flight a lot more enjoyable. We also like bringing a pack of gum, in case your ears pop!
  • Entertainment – If you have a long flight, you’ll need something to entertain you during it. Not all planes have built-in TV screens! We usually bring our Kindle or laptop to keep occupied on a long trip. We won’t pay for the expensive in-flight internet, but we do use our laptops to watch pre-downloaded movies or get some work done. Or, download some podcasts on your phone beforehand and listen to them on the flight. You’ll need to bring a pair of headphones or AirPods, too.

Tofino Surfing and Beach Packing List

The best surfing in British Columbia is at Tofino - don't worry, you don't need to pack all your surfing gear! Tofino has lots of surf rental shops

Tofino is all about the sun, sand, and surf. So, of course, you’ll need to be ready for days at the beach or riding the waves!

You don’t need to own all your own gear to go surfing in Tofino. Most of the gear you can rent from one of the local surf shops. However, you can bring your own if you want to.

We’ve listed what you need to pack for Tofino if you plan to bring your own gear. If you don’t already have surf gear, check out our essential surfing gear list for BC.

  • Swimsuit (Women’s / Men’s) – You’ll need a swimsuit (or two) if you want to relax on the beach, soak in the hot tub, or go surfing! While you can try swimming in Tofino, don’t forget that the water is quite cold (even in the summer). You’ll probably want a wetsuit if you plan on doing any swimming!
  • Wetsuit (Women’s / Men’s) – Tofino’s water is notoriously cold, even in the summer! A good wetsuit will help you enjoy your time in the water, whether you’re surfing or swimming. Most people surf in a 5/4 mm hooded wetsuit (yes, you’ll need a hood), but some surfers get away with a 4/3 wetsuit in summer if they don’t get cold easily. Wetsuit rentals are available in Tofino but if you want to buy one, we recommend an XCEL Infiniti 5/4mm Hooded Fullsuit (Women’s / Men’s). It does a great job of keeping you warm!
  • Beach Towel or Surf Poncho – You’ll need to pack a towel for the beach! There are plenty of great sandy beaches for sunbathing and surfing in Tofino, like Cox Bay, Chesterman Beach, and Long Beach. Whether you want to swim, sunbathe, or surf, you’ll want a towel to lay on or dry off with. Also, if you like to surf, a surf poncho is a great alternative to a towel. Wearing them like a shirt makes it easier to change in and out of your wetsuit instead of struggling to hold your towel up.
  • Surfboard – If you’re planning on surfing in Tofino, you’ll need to rent or bring a surfboard. There are plenty of great surf spots in Tofino, so you’re sure to find the perfect waves. There are also lots of surfboard rental shops in Tofino, so don’t worry if you don’t own your own!
  • Surf Booties – Don’t let your feet freeze while surfing! You’ll need a good pair of surf booties (like these O’Neill Round Toe Booties) to keep your toes warm in the cold water. Something 3 to 7 mm should do the trick. If you rent wetsuit gear, the surf booties will come with them.
  • Neoprene GlovesYour hands will get cold while surfing, even in the summer. So, make sure you pack a pair of neoprene wetsuit gloves to keep your hands nice and warm. Something between 2 to 5 mm should be sufficient. Don’t go too thick – you’ll lose all your dexterity! Bring your own pair or rent them with your wetsuit.
  • Surfboard Leash – One of the most important things to pack for a Tofino surf trip is your surfboard leash. A good surf leash keeps you connected to your board and stops it from washing away in the waves. The surf leash cord should be between 5 to 7 mm thick, and about as long as the surfboard you use. We recommend using a reliable brand like Dakine to ensure you don’t lose your surfboard in the ocean.
  • Surf Earplugs – Cold water surfers must protect their ears from a condition called “surfer’s ear” (aka exostosis). Surfer’s ear is caused by prolonged cold water exposure that causes abnormal ear bone growths, leading to infections, pain, and loss of hearing. The condition is only reversed by surgery, but luckily, it is easily prevented by wearing earplugs that protect your ears. We like Creatures of Leisure SurfEars because they effectively block the cold water and wind, while still allowing you to hear. Cheaper earplugs are hard to hear through, making you less aware of your surroundings. However, if you want something less expensive, Mack’s AquaBlock Earplugs will do the trick.
  • Cold Water Surfboard Wax – You’ll need cold water surfboard wax for your board if you want to stay on it! Wax helps you grip your surfboard so you don’t slip off while surfing. It’s important to use temperature-appropriate wax so it doesn’t melt off the board or harden too much. Because Tofino has cold water (under 15°C / 60°F), you’ll need cold water surfboard wax, like Sticky Bumps cool-cold surf wax. This type of wax does a great job of staying grippy while not hardening too much in the cold water.
  • Surfboard Bag – A surfboard is a pretty big investment, so protect it during your travels. Make sure to buy a bag that fits your surfboard properly.
  • Surf Watch Timing is key when surfing. Pay attention to what the tides are doing and you’ll get the perfect waves. Surf watches (also called tide watches) help you track the time, tides, your activity levels, and ocean conditions like wave height. A Garmin Instinct Solar Surf Smartwatch is a great investment if you love surfing. Alternatively, wear a waterproof watch to track the time.
  • Snorkeling Gear – Want to try snorkeling in Tofino? There are gear rental shops in town, but you also can bring your own set of snorkel equipment. You’ll need a full wetsuit, snorkel mask, and flippers.

Other Travel Accessories for Tofino

A boardwalk through the rainforest in Tofino - make sure to pack your hiking boots for your trip to Tofino!

There are a few other travel accessories that will be useful to bring to Tofino. Here are some suggestions on what else to pack for Tofino:

  • Binoculars – You’ll definitely want a pair of binoculars while in Tofino, especially if you plan on going on a whale-watching tour or any adventuring where you could see animals. Tofino is full of wildlife, including gray whales, orcas, bald eagles, sea lions, and so much more! You don’t want to spot something like a whale and not be able to get a good look at it. We love using our Nikon Monarch binoculars that work amazingly for magnifying distant animals. They’re perfect for whale-watching tours and birdwatching!
  • Travel Umbrella – Locals on Vancouver Island don’t use umbrellas as much as you might think. Usually, we just wear a good quality rain jacket instead. However, if you like to use umbrellas in the rain, they are handy to bring during Tofino winters, when storms are more common.
  • Travel Mug – Who doesn’t love sipping from a mug of hot coffee or tea on a chilly day? Or, drinking a hot cup of soup in the evening at the beach? Bring a travel mug along to warm up after surfing or wake up in the morning with your coffee. Our go-to is a Contigo travel mug but bring whatever you have. Just make sure it’s empty when you’re going through airport security!
  • Laundry Bag and Detergent – A great way to keep your suitcase organized and clean is to bring a laundry bag (this one has a fun world map). This allows you to separate your dirty and clean laundry. If you plan on washing your clothes while traveling, you should also bring some laundry detergent. While you can bring individual packets of detergent, we love using laundry detergent sheets. The sheets are easy to travel with, and also quite environmentally friendly and packable. We even use these sheets at home because they take up no space in our apartment!
  • Travel Shoe Bag – Another way to keep your suitcase and things clean is to keep the shoes you aren’t wearing in a travel shoe bag. The bag will prevent anything gross on your shoes from getting all over your belongings. If you only have one pair of shoes, you won’t need this. But, we highly recommend bringing something to keep your hiking boots or muck boots in!
  • InReach – If you’re planning on doing any hiking or camping in remote backcountry areas, an InReach (or any SOS device) is a great way to stay safe. With an InReach, you can send texts and SOS signals if you’re in trouble, even if there’s no cell signal. We prefer a Garmin InReach Mini over the larger version. Link it up to your phone and use it to send messages via satellite while you don’t have a cell signal. Keep in mind that you will need a satellite subscription to send messages and use the SOS function, though.
  • Bear Spray – There are plenty of bears and cougars on Vancouver Island. While encounters are rare, it’s always best to be prepared! Many people like to use bear bells, but they don’t actually work well. Talking and making other loud noises is just as effective (or more) than bear bells. One of the most effective ways to ward off wild animals is bear spray. Make sure you know how to use bear spray properly before heading into the bush. Unfortunately, you can’t bring bear spray in checked or carry-on luggage, though.
  • Day Pack – You’ll want a small day pack to carry your essentials while you’re out exploring. Get one that’s comfortable to wear for a long time, like this Osprey Daylite Daypack. If you’re camping in the backcountry, you’ll also need a larger backpack like an Osprey 65L (Women’s / Men’s) for all your gear.
  • Hiking Poles – We highly recommend bringing trekking poles if you plan on doing any backcountry hikes. They’re great for helping you keep your balance on uneven terrain. We use Black Diamond Trail Ergo Cork trekking poles and are quite happy with them. Alternatively, check out these best budget-friendly hiking poles if you don’t want to spend too much!

Where to Stay in Tofino

Four chairs sitting by the ocean in Tofino

Before you figure out what to pack for Tofino, you need to start planning your trip! Tofino is an incredible place with something for everyone. So whether you’re looking for a luxury resort or beachfront suites, you’ll find it here.

Tofino has lots of amazing hotels, so picking the best places to stay can be difficult. Here are a few options for accommodations:

Luxury Resort: Middle Beach Lodge
Check rates & availability of Middle Beach Lodge!

One of the best luxury, oceanfront resorts in Tofino is the Middle Beach Lodge. Nestled in lush rainforest, this beautiful property features two private beaches, upscale rooms, and impressive views. There are even tree houses you can stay in!

Luxury Hotel: Long Beach Lodge
Check rates & availability of Long Beach Lodge!

Long Beach Lodge is another amazing option if you want to stay at a luxurious beachfront resort. Right on the water, this boutique lodge resort offers rainforest cottages, penthouse suites, and waterfront rooms. Plus, they even offer on-site surfing lessons and rentals.

Mid-Range Accommodations: Tofino Motel Harborview
Check rates & availability of Tofino Motel Harborview!

Don’t want to spend a fortune on a room? A good mid-range hotel option is the Tofino Motel Harborview. Here, you get private rooms at a slightly more affordable price (for Tofino). Plus, the rooms are still quite nice and feature balconies that overlook the marina and Clayoquot Sound.

Budget-Friendly: Whalers on the Point Guesthouse / Tofino HI Hostel
Check rates & availability of Tofino HI Hostel!

Whalers on the Point Guesthouse / Tofino HI Hostel has the most budget-friendly accommodations in Tofino. If you don’t mind the basics or sharing a room, this hostel is a great way to save money in Tofino. Choose between shared dorm rooms or a private room with shared bathrooms.

Weather in Tofino

Knowing what the weather is like in Tofino will help you decide exactly what to pack for your vacation.

Tofino is a beautiful town situated in a temperate rainforest climate on Vancouver Island, which means that it experiences mild weather conditions year-round. It never gets too hot and it never gets too cold.

Winters in Tofino are relatively mild, with average temperatures ranging from 4-7 degrees Celsius. However, the town does receive a fair amount of rainfall, so visitors should be prepared for wet weather conditions.

Spring and summer are the best times to visit Tofino, as the weather is warm and sunny. However, even during these months, it’s important to pack rain gear. Rain showers can occur at any time!

Overall, Tofino weather is mild but unpredictable. Summers are warm and winters are rainy. Luckily, our packing list for Tofino covers all kinds of weather conditions, in both winter and summer, to help you stay prepared!

What to Do in Tofino

Paddleboarding towards the sunset above the hills in Tofino

Now that you know what to pack and where to stay in Tofino, it’s time to decide what things you should do on your vacation!

Tofino is an excellent destination for nature lovers and outdoor enthusiasts. The town is surrounded by stunning scenery, including towering forests, mist-covered mountains, and massive sandy beaches.

Surfing is what Tofino is famous for. With incredible cold-water wave conditions, you won’t find better surfing elsewhere in Canada! Even if you don’t know how to surf, it’s worth giving it a try. Some of the best surf beaches include Chesterman Beach, Long Beach, and Cox Bay. These are also beautiful and great for sunbathing!

While Tofino is best known for its surfing, there are plenty of opportunities for other activities like hiking, biking, kayaking, and more. Pacific Rim National Park offers plenty of nature to explore, and the Clayoquot Sound has some incredible sea kayaking.

Tofino is also a great place to relax and enjoy the laid-back lifestyle. Whether you’re looking for adventure or relaxation, Tofino is the perfect destination!

Top Travel Tips & Resources for Tofino, BC

  • Travel Insurance – If you’re travelling internationally, travel insurance is a must for any trip. Being covered by insurance is especially important when you’re going to an adventure-filled place like British Columbia. If you injure yourself while adventuring, you want to have insurance! We recommend using SafetyWing for international travel insurance. They are affordable and have great policies for travellers, digital nomads, and remote workers. Also, SafetyWing provides COVID-19 coverage, which many other insurance companies don’t cover.
  • Car Rental – We find the best deal on vehicle rental prices using RentalCars.com. They compare the prices for different car rental companies so you can find the best deals.
  • Accommodations – We prefer booking all of our hotels, hostels, and other accommodations through Booking.com because they have a flexible cancellation policy. Also, there are lots of different options on their platform, from hotels to vacation homes. Alternatively, Expedia and Hotels.com are good for booking accommodations. For vacation home rentals, VRBO is an excellent choice (they have lower fees than Airbnb, many of the same properties, and are more ethical).
  • Flights – You’ll find many good flight deals on Skyscanner or Google Flights. You can book flights through these websites and they’ll help you find the best prices and flight times. If you fly at less popular times (e.g. mid-week or red-eye flights), you can also save some money.
  • Tours – Get the most out of your vacation by taking a guided tour! This is a great way to see the city, adventure to exciting new locations, and learn about the local culture. Viator or GetYourGuide are great options for booking tours.

About the author

Hey, I'm Nicole! I've travelled all over the world but my favorite place is British Columbia. I've lived in Victoria, BC since 2019 and spend most of my free time travelling around BC. My goal is to explore as much of this beautiful province as possible. Along the way I'll be sharing travel tips with you!

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