Post Summary: A guide to what to wear in Idaho, whether you’ll be visiting in winter, spring, summer, or fall.
Planning a getaway to the gem state and wondering…what do people in Idaho wear? We wear potatoes. I’m joking. We only stay overnight in potatoes.
After living in Boise and in North Idaho, we’ve learned firsthand what to wear in Idaho so you’re comfortable, warm, and best able to enjoy your time in this beautiful state. We’ve done everything from summertime camping to wintertime hot springs in Boise, so believe us when we say this guide is based on our mistakes while living in Idaho.
Depending on which season you’ll be visiting, choosing clothes that protect you from the high desert heat or the frosty high-elevation temperatures is the most important thing. Overall, Idaho is a laid-back, outdoorsy state, so you’ll want to put away your heels and pack up your hiking boots for a true Idaho adventure.
Here’s our complete experience-based guide on what to pack for Idaho for all four seasons.
Want to learn more about Idaho? Check out these posts.
57 Fun Facts You Probably Didn’t Know About Idaho
The Ultimate List Of Adventures In North Idaho
The Best Breweries In Boise For Craft Beer Lovers
An Epic Weekend In Boise For Every Type Of Traveler
*This what to wear in Idaho post may contain affiliate links, which means we might earn a small commission if you purchase from them. This is at no extra cost to you. We only suggest what we think is helpful to you.
THE COMPLETE IDAHO PACKING LIST
I’ll start with a list of what to wear in Idaho, where I’ll break down what to bring for each season. Afterward, I’ll talk about what other kinds of things you’ll want to include on your Idaho packing list.
When breaking down what to wear for each season, it’s important to remember that Idaho is a long mountainous state, so there will be differences between Northern, Central, and Southern Idaho. Southern Idaho is a high desert climate with HOT summers and cold winters, and northern Idaho has hot summers and COLD winters. Central Idaho is all over the place.
These are, of course, generalizations, and mountain towns at a higher elevation (McCall, Idaho and Driggs, Idaho) will have a much colder climate. Use common sense and look up the area in Idaho you’re visiting to understand its unique climate best.
**To learn more about Idaho’s seasons, check out our in-depth article on the best time to visit Idaho.
WHAT TO WEAR IN IN IDAHO
1. Waterproof Hiking Boots
Summer, Fall, Spring
If you’re coming to Idaho, hopefully, you’ll be taking to the trails and exploring the epic hiking in Idaho. In spring and fall, you could be sloshing around on wet (or icy) trails, so bring a good pair of durable waterproof shoes or hiking boots. We love our Jag Hiking Boots from Danner because they are rugged, waterproof, and have a great retro design.
Shop Men’s Jag Hiking Boots and Women’s Jag Hiking Boots on Amazon.
2. Rain Boots
Mild Winter, Fall, Spring,
If you’re traveling to northern Idaho in the spring or fall, chances are you’ll encounter some rain, while southern Idaho is much drier and sees far less precipitation. To put it in perspective, Sandpoint in northern Idaho averages 34 inches of rain a year, while Boise in southern Idaho averages 12 inches a year. I am a huge fan of Xtratuff and Hunter rain boots, but they do rise to the knee, so it may be a bit much to pack in your travel bag.
A better option is duck boots that rise to the ankle. They are waterproof, durable, and great for easy hiking or walking around a city—a great all-purpose shoe for cooler weather. L.L. Bean is the originator of the duck boot, but I love Sperry Top Cider and their saltwater duck boots. I wear the classic women’s saltwater duck boot.
*TIP: If you wear duck boots in winter, you’ll need to wear wool socks to keep your feet warm since duck boots typically don’t offer insulation. However, you can buy insulated duck boots, an excellent winter boot choice.
Shop Men’s Duck Boots and Women’s Duck Boots on Sperry.
3. Snow Boots
A great pair of waterproof snow boots are a must if you’ll be visiting anywhere with snow. If you’re visiting an area with lots of snow, you might want to bring boots that sit above the ankle. We love Kamik shoes, a Canadian brand that specializes in winter gear. I wear the Sienna Boot, which has survived years of ferocious winter wear.
Shop Men’s Winter Boots and Women’s Winter Boots on Kamik.
4. Traction Footwear
Winter, Spring, Fall
A traction device like Yak-Trax slips onto the outside of your shoes and gives you traction and stability in icy conditions. A good choice for anyone who will be hiking in icy areas or even for someone who’s walking around town and slipping is a danger because of age or health reasons.
I included traction devices for spring and fall if you’ll be hiking in high-elevation areas where snow can last on the mountain until June or start in October.
5. Water Shoes
Here’s an Idaho fact coming at you…Idaho has over 2000 known lakes and thousands more without names. If you’re coming to Idaho in the summer, chances are you’ll be spending some time on a lake, river, or creek. That often means rocky waterbeds that can be tough on bare feet. Pack some water shoes so you can comfortably SUP, kayak, tube, raft, or swim in Idaho’s gorgeous waterways. We are DIEHARD fans of Native Shoes. We’ve been rocking out their classic Jefferson Shoe since 2008 with no plans to stop.
I like them because they are multipurpose shoes. I can wear them at the lake, in the water, or walking around town. Plus, they come in all kinds of fun, vibrant colors. You can also opt for classic water shoes or waterproof hiking sandals.
Shop Jefferson Shoe on Native.
Fall, Winter, Spring
If you’re visiting in cooler to cold temperatures, it’s best to come prepared with layers to peel off as you need. If you are visiting a blistering cold area of Idaho, layers are ESSENTIAL to enjoying your time in winter weather. Here is the basic formula for staying warm in winter: A base layer, a mid-insulating layer, and a waterproof outer layer. The layering system is most important for heavy winter but still works for spring and fall, especially for colder areas of Idaho that remain cool until April. I’ll explain the layers in detail below.
6a. Base Layer
Fall, Winter, Spring
A form-fitting, moisture-wicking base layer keeps you warm and dry on Idaho’s chilly days. They can also be anti-microbial, which means they won’t get smelly, so you can wear them several days in a row. Less to pack! I prefer a base layer made of Merino Wool, but a synthetic material works just as well and tends to be more affordable. Cotton is not a good choice as a base layer. While the base layer typically isn’t seen, if you want a stylish-looking one, Kari Traa offers fantastic base layers made of Merino Wool. A more utilitarian brand is the excellent Smartwool, a highly rated and trusted brand.
If you want something more affordable, you can always go with a synthetic base layer top.
Shop Smartwool Men’s Base Layers and Women’s Base Layers on REI.
Similar to above, a snug base layer to wear under your pants will keep you toasty warm. You want these to be snug but not so tight you don’t have a great range of motion. Again, I love the prints from Kari Traa for women and Smartwool for men.
6b. Mid Layer
Fall, Winter, Spring
The mid layer is the insulating layer that traps heat against your body, providing protection and warmth from cold temperatures. This can be many things, from a sweater, a hoodie, a fleece jacket, or a vest. If you are from a warm climate, you can find affordable sweaters and jackets on Amazon. I bought this sweater when we visited Arches National Park in, winter and it kept me warm! That being said, I have noticed that reputable brands like LL Bean and REI are of higher quality and last much longer.
For more winter recommendations you can check out my winter clothing gear page on Amazon.
6c. Outer Layer
A packable, water-resistant, lightweight outer layer is crucial to protecting you from harsh winter elements like rain, snow, and wind. For travel, we prefer down puffer jackets since they can pack down to the size of a water bottle and can be thrown in a daypack if a fleece sweater or jacket is enough. We love the Patagonia Nano Puff and L.L. Bean’s Ultralight 850 Jackets. You would be surprised at how well those small jackets keep you warm. I hiked through Glacier National Park in winter when the temperature was 20 degrees, and my puffer jacket kept me toasty warm.
When I’m not in a puffer, I love a long parka to keep me warm. I use the Mountain Classic Down Parka from L.L. Bean, and it has never done me wrong.
7. Rain Jacket
If you’re visiting an area of Idaho that gets a lot of rain (North Idaho and high-elevation towns), you’ll want to pack a lightweight rain jacket that you can stuff into your daypack. The Rainier rain jacket from REI is a great midtier jacket that will hold up to light hikes in the rain and casual walking around town. You could also opt for budget rain jackets from Amazon.
Shop Rainier Men’s Rain Jacket and Rainier Women’s Rain Jacket on REI.
8. Long Pants
Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer
Long pants that can go from walking around town to hiking in the backcountry can be a great way to cut down on things to pack. Jeans are a fine choice if you’re doing short, easy hiking trails, or you can opt for leggings that offer more breathability and mobility.
9. Flannel Shirt
Fall, Winter, Spring
When in Idaho…you flannel! My recurring joke with myself and no one else is…how many flannels can I count in a room? While Idaho is certainly not the only state to give some serious love to flannel, come fall and winter, you will undoubtedly find Idahoans donning some variation of the classic checkered or plaid shirt. You can always go with the iconic red and black lumberjack-style flannel or soften it up in pink plaid.
Shop Men’s Flannel Shirts and Women’s Flannel Shirts on Amazon.
Winter, Fall, Spring
Gaiters are a great choice if you have a winter snow boot that doesn’t offer enough coverage at your ankles and lower legs. It’s a waterproof layer that you wear around your boots and pants to keep water out. We use them when we don’t want to wear snow pants, but we want to stop snow from getting in our shoon our pants. It also adds an extra layer of warmth. They can also be helpful in spring and fall if you’re doing a lot of hiking and will be crossing streams or dealing with muddy terrain.
Shop Men’s Gaiters and Women’s Gaiters on Outdoor Research.
11. Merino Wool Socks
Fall, Winter, Spring, Summer
If visiting in the cooler months, bring a good pair of merino wool socks to keep your feet warm and dry. I like merino wool because you can wear it for all four seasons. Darn Tough has the best socks and a lifetime guarantee. If it gets a hole or wears down, they will replace it with no questions asked.
Shop Men’s Wool Socks and Women’s Wool Socks on Amazon.
12. Cold Weather Accessories
Fall, Winter, Spring
If visiting Idaho in the cooler months, at a bare minimum don’t forget to pack up a winter hat like a beanie and winter gloves. You can get away with not having a scarf, but you’ll regret not having your head covered! Neck gaiters or balaclavas are good choices in places with high wind or freezing temperatures.
13. Winter Recreation Clothing
If your time in Idaho includes visiting one of the many fabulous ski resorts or any other fun winter recreation like snowmobiling on Schweitzer, you’ll want to pack proper snow gear.
REI has excellent snow gear and you can find pretty good deals when they put stuff on clearance. If it’s too cost prohibitive, you can find more affordable options that won’t be as high quality. I bought this affordable snow bib off Amazon because I couldn’t justify dishing out $300 for a snow bib. It’s been great and always keeps me warm and dry when I’m tubing, skiing, or snowshoeing.
14. Sun Hat
Fall, Spring, Summer
Whether you’re going bucket hat, visor, baseball hat, straw hat, or foldable floppy hat, you’ll want something to protect your face while enjoying the views.
15. Summer Recreation Gear
For summer gear, anything goes! What makes you comfortable? Linen pants, cotton dresses, cargo shorts? As I mentioned before, Idaho is a laid-back town, but you should always wear and do what makes you happiest. If you want further inspiration, you can check out my Lake Essentials Packing List article.
16. SPF Clothing
Fall, Spring, Summer
If you’ll be visiting in the summer, save your skin by wearing an SPF shirt. We always wear SPF shirts in the summer (in particular, my pale redheaded husband) to protect our skin from burning and to not have to apply so much sunscreen. We always wear Vapor Apparel because we love that they’re lightweight, moisture-wicking (the shirt won’t get stinky!), and they’re not tight like a rash guard. We also like that they can pass for an everyday t-shirt. These SPF shirts are perfect for hiking days, tubing down the Boise River, or kayaking to Shoshone Falls.
Shop Men’s Vapor Apparel Shirts and Women’s Vapor Apparel Shirts on Amazon.
17. Bathing Suit
Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring
Yes, a bathing suit is an all-season event in Idaho! Whether you’ll be doing lake life in Sandpoint, winter hot springs, or at the very least enjoying an indoor/outdoor pool or hot tub at your hotel or cabin. We just recently did the outdoor infinity hot tub at the Coeur d’Alene resort, and it was pure ecstasy.
I collect bathing suits the way my husband collects winter jackets. You can check out this page for some of my favorite bathing suits.
Additional Items For Your Idaho Packing List
Let’s break down other items to add to a general Idaho packing list that are good for all four seasons.
While wheeled luggage is more convenient, a duffel bag can be a better choice for muddy, wet, or icy conditions. You’ll want a bag you can carry! We’re a duffel bag family and love the Big Haul Recycled Duffel Bag from REI. I’m also a big fan of the Herschel Duffel Bags and love the range of colors they offer, particularly the rose gold with faux leather accent pieces.
You’ll need one for carrying water, snacks, sunblock, and your layers if it’s cooler. If I don’t plan to bring a lot, the Raven backpack from Fjallraven is my first choice. It’s comfortable and compact, and I love the variety of color options. If we need more space because we’ll be carrying camera gear or 500 different snacks for our kid, we use the Borealis backpack from North Face.
If you want something even smaller that can easily stuff into your duffel or luggage, we also use the REI Co-op Flash 18 Pack. A great backpack for travel.
Packing cubes to help organize your duffel is the hallmark of a seasoned traveler. They save space, keep your clothes organized, and you can slide them out of your bag and right into the drawers of your hotel or home rental. A great tip is to pack an extra one and put all your dirty clothes in the empty one. Check out these highly-rated packing cubes here.
If you want your arms or back free of holding a bag and only have a few things to carry, a fanny pack is fantastic. Whether you’re hiking and want your phone easily accessible or your strolling Boise’s downtown farmers market with just your cell phone and some cash, a fanny pack is a great travel bag. You can go chic and simple or utilitarian with a standard hiking fanny pack.
Some sunblock for all four seasons is a must-do. Yes, you can get sunburned in the winter, especially if you’re skiing. I like Blue Lizard sunscreen because it’s a mineral sunscreen that’s fragrance-free, reef-safe, and paraben-free. It goes on white but blends in with a good rub.
No matter what part of Idaho you’re in, you’ll want some body moisturizer like La Roche Posay Body Cream for the dry winters and dry summers.
After you pack your moisturizer, bring some lip balm, like Evan Healy Shea Butter Lip Balm, to keep you from parched, dry lips.
Protect your eyes and pack up your favorite pair of sunglasses.
While most places you visit will accept credit cards, I have found that smaller towns and a lot of restaurants that are family owned are cash only. Bring some cash as a backup for places that don’t accept cards.
While smartphone cameras are getting more impressive, they still can’t beat a DSLR camera for their detail and color rendering. Our camera is overkill for the everyday traveler, but if you’re looking for a great starter camera, we suggest looking at the Canon EOS Rebel T8i.
A Go Pro Hero 11 is also fun to use when you’re doing action sports like rafting, skiing, or mountain biking and want to capture the experience.
A power bank for long days out hiking or white water rafting means you might drain your phone battery. Make sure you have a power bank to charge your phone. We use a power bank like this, but we also like to use a solar charger.
Bring a pair of binoculars if you’ll be spending time outdoors and want to get a closer look at animal life like bald eagles, osprey, moose, and elk. You can go top-notch and bring a Nikon 8252 Aculon or a step down with the 12 x 42 HD binoculars meant for the average birdwatcher and nature lover.
If you are doing days of backpacking or a long day hike and need extra support, hiking poles can significantly help alleviate stress on your knees and ankles. We brought our hiking poles when we hiked Scotchman Peak, and it saved our knees!
The mosquitos (and the ticks) can be fierce in Idaho, so if you’re traveling in peak mosquito season, you’ll want some bug spray. Peak season varies on what area of Idaho you’ll be visiting, but generally, it lasts from April to September. I prefer a DEET-free bug spray like this to keep the biting creatures away. I also like this bug bite soother in case you’re like me and prone to mosquito bites.
If you are hiking in areas where grizzly bears and black bears live, you’ll want to pack bear spray as a safety precaution. You can not bring bear spray in a carry-on, so pack it in your checked luggage or buy some once you are in the state.
A water bottle is a must when making an Idaho packing list. Why buy plastic water bottles when you can bring your own and refill water for free? We love Hydro Flask for its fun colors. We prefer metal over glass and love that in a Hydro Flask, drinks can stay ice cold for 24 hours or piping hot for 12 hours. You can price compare Hydro Flask on Hydro Flask and Amazon.
I think hand warmers are the best things ever, so if you’re like me and your hands get cold while you’re out playing in cold temperatures, bring a pack of hand warmers!
That’s our complete list of what to wear in Idaho and extra items to put on your Idaho packing list.
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