California lifestyle

Beaches, Cities, and a west coast flair

From bohemian subcultures to elegant Rodeo Drive fashion, we’ve lived in California for decades, and we’ve mastered California style.

We know the best way to test a piece of gear is to simply buy it and try it. So, we do plenty of in-the-wild tests and controlled tests at home to compare products side-by-side in a consistent setting. After months of testing, we rate and score each product based on various metrics we deem the most important to that type of clothing or gear.

Use this page to curate your new California aesthetic, no matter where your adventures take you! Whether you’re new to California or just want a top-level look at our recommended clothing, gear, and tips, the articles below are for you.

Redwood Regional Park Photos
A female hiker stands on a dirt path through a dense grove of tall, thin, redwoods in Reinhardt Redwood Regional Park.
A woman standing on a wooden bridge over a creek on a Muir Woods Trail, surrounded by towering redwoods.

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Our Go-To California Packing List

If you’re just looking for a quick list of our must-have clothing and gear, these are the products we use the most as Californians.


Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
  1. Lightweight Jacket: The Charles River Pullover is excellent for layering and rain protection.
  2. Swimsuit: Cupshe swimsuits are trendy and affordable, with tons of style options.
  3. Leggings: Fabletics leggings fit perfectly into the laid-back California style and can transition from hiking trails to city streets.
  4. Flats: VIVAIA Shoes use a proprietary knit material and are stylish, sustainable, and comfortable.
  5. Walking Shoes: Hoka Shoes provide ample cushioning and good support for walking.
  6. Casual Wool Shoes: Wool Shoes are temperature-regulating and water-repellent, perfect for unpredictable California weather!


Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco
  1. Water Bottle: Cirkul water bottles can help you stay hydrated while on the go in hot weather.
  2. Solo Stove: Solo stoves make great camping gear because they produce a smokeless campfire.
  3. Lume Deodorant: If you’re traveling in California, you might be walking around in hot weather, so long-lasting natural deodorant is a smart move.
  4. Garmin Watch: Garmin watches provide satellite GPS even in the backcountry for exploring California’s parks, natural spaces, and wilderness.
  5. Sunglasses: Ray-Ban Wayfarers feature polarized lenses in stylish frames for exploring under the California sun.
  6. Sun Hat: The Tilley Airflo Broad Brim Hat is moisture-wicking and water-repellent.

California Lifestyle Clothing

California Lifestyle shoes

California Lifestyle Accessories

California Lifestyle FAQs


One of the most persistent stereotypes about California is that it’s all sunshine, surfing, and stars. While there’s truth to these characterizations, they’re really about Southern California. Northern California is a different animal.

The state’s upper region is defined as much by its landscape as it is by its cultural history. Chilly fog often shrouds San Francisco and the coastal redwoods.

Even in Southern California, it can get (occasionally) chilly and rainy. If you arrive for a California vacation with a suitcase full of shorts and tank tops with no hoodie in sight, you may regret it.


Of course, with a population of nearly 40 million people, California has infinite styles and fashions. That said, California has an overall laid-back vibe. Californians gravitate towards comfortable, soft fabrics that make it easy to move around. 

In SoCal, where health and fitness are a big part of the culture, you’ll see a lot of athleisure wear. Further north, light layers, jeans, and sneakers combine with moments of eclectic, offbeat details.


Your layering game needs to be impeccable in a land of constantly shifting, mildly chilly weather. The two essential wardrobe items to pack for a Northern California trip are a hoodie and a shell jacket to throw over it, such as a waterproof windbreaker or a jean jacket. 


Southern California lives up to some of the common preconceptions about it. The mild Mediterranean climate bestows year-round sunshine and warm temperatures. Southern Californians like to get outside, enjoy the sunshine, and stay active. Where it’s generally warm and fairly dry, it’s important to stay hydrated with a water bottle, such as one of these Hydro Flask Alternatives.


Cars are an undeniable part of the California lifestyle, and it’s how most residents get around. Depending on your specific destination, you may not need a car. If you plan to stay within city limits, there will usually be public transportation options, and you can supplement with rideshare apps like Lyft and Uber.

However, a car is almost certainly required to enjoy California’s stunning natural wonders and outdoor activities.

Our California Lifestyle Experts

Mimi McFadden
Founder & Editor-In-Chief

Mimi McFadden Headshot

Mimi grew up in Santa Cruz when it could still be called a small beach town. That vibe, mixed in with other influences from living in San Diego and San Francisco, describes Mimi’s fit. She loves to get new clothes and with her recent move finally has enough closet space. For now…

Elina Ansary

Elina Ansary with pink hair, wearing black.

Elina Ansary is a visual artist, writer, teacher, and avid traveler. She grew up in San Francisco, CA, and spent her childhood camping up and down Northern California. These days, Elina visits artist residencies in locations around the world, but never forgets her roots and always carries that California aesthetic with her.