In general, Bend is a really casual town. This isn’t Aspen or Park City. The vibe here is understated and comfy.
If you’re moving to Bend for sporty stuff, you’ll have your own packing list, but for hanging out in town, here’s some general advice to help you figure out what to wear in Bend.
For a quick visual primer on what to wear in Bend, just browse through the latest Patagonia catalog. If you’re a little more style-y, then take a peek at Nau — perfect for the pairing with Helmet Lang and Ann Demeulemeester.
Most importantly, jeans are universally accepted. Bring a few pairs.
Ladies, you can wear fleece and yoga pants to almost any restaurant in town. You’ll see more Clarks clogs in a one-hour period than you’ve seen in your entire life. If you wear it camping, you’ll want to wear it here (you know that vintage oversized alpaca cardigan, yeah, bring it.) Sure, you can bring pretty tops for going out: pair with jeans, cute earrings, a scarf, a coat and you’re good to go.
Heels are kind of ridiculous here, unless you’re under 30 and going dancing at Astro or Seven, or attending some sort of formal event. If you can’t you can’t bear to leave your Jimmy Choos at home, I’d advise wedges.
Men, if you have a mountain-man beard and are wearing a work boots (or flip flops in spring/summer) and a plaid shirt under a puffy vest, other visitors will stop you for directions.
Oh, and even if the forecast says snow, you really don’t need Sorrels for in-town activities, only tourists who haven’t read Beginner’s Guide to Bend wear those. Just a good pair of boots with tread will do.
The most important wardrobe item in Bend isn’t a piece of clothing, it’s a smartphone app. You will religiously refer to your weather app when preparing for a day out-and-about. It’s often gorgeous here, but you can’t tell by looking out the window if it’s 27-degrees gorgeous or 51-degrees gorgeous, and let me tell you, you’ll need to know. You may wake up to early-morning temps in the mid-20s one day, and be greeted by balmy high-40s weather the very next day.
General Packing List for Bend Oregon:
Lotion and lip balm. It’s the high desert, people.
Comfy shoes with decent tread.
Day pack, or a crossbody messenger bag (you’ll want to explore, and that stylish handbag — whether it’s yours or your lady’s — will be an encumbrance).
An empty growler if you’re arriving by car, or pick one up when you arrive. You’ll want to fill it up and take it home with you. (For the unintiated, a growler is a 1/2 gallon jug you fill with beer , cider or kombucha, and there are dozens of places around town with “growler taps.”)
Items for layering. Since temps in Bend can vary widely, you’ll want layers you can peel off and put back on.
Sunglasses. Shades aren’t a de rigueur accessory here in Bend like they are in LA, but since Bend has more sunny days than Venice, California, practically speaking, you’ll want some eye-protection if you have sensitive eyes.
Baseball hat or other brimmed hat shield your face from sunburn if you’re going to be outdoors a lot, and if it’s sunny and nice, you will be.
Patience. If you’re a big-city dweller, the service in Bend may strike you as a bit, um, lackadaisical. Just know going in that most service staff mean well, but service isn’t as much of a focus in this little mountain town. Lower your expectations, be patient and enjoy the ride.
Moleskin or blister bandages if you’re not a big walker/hiker, or if you bought new shoes for the trip. You won’t be able to resist long walks/hiking in Bend, and if you don’t have calluses already, you’ll have to earn them the hard way. Yeah, you can buy these in town, but bring them with you so you can toss them in your daypack without any hassle.
Bend Winter Packing List:
Hat — you know, like a stocking cap that covers your ears, not a fedora.
Long underwear or wool tights if you plan to be outside for an extended length of time.
Boots. Stiletto boots don’t count.
Down coat (you may scoff at the puffy coat but you’ll be glad you have one if lows are in the 20s). If you have a stadium-length puffy, even better. If you’re cruising around outside, no matter how many layers you wear, your butt WILL get cold if you don’t have a down layer over it.
Gloves. If you’re addicted to your smartphone, get a pair of touchscreen gloves so you can text and snap photos without the on-off hassle.
Fleece jacket for layering, and trips to the bathroom at restaurants (I have no idea why most restaurant bathrooms in Bend are ice boxes, but they are).
If fleece isn’t your thing, bring a big cashmere wrap that can double as a comfy scarf. If you’re a dude, invest in one — if you’re traveling with someone who gets chilled easily, you can gallantly whip off your scarf and let them use it as a wrap or lap blanket.
Slippers. I never wore house slippers until I moved to Bend. If you have a slim pair you like, toss ’em in your suitcase. Especially if you’re coming from a warmer climate. Your toes will thank you for shielding them from cold flooring at day’s end and beginning.
To be continued…