What to Wear While Whale Watching on the West Coast

Our top tips on what to bring for a marine adventure with Eagle Wing

By Daphne Dilworth

When packing for a whale watching trip, every first-timer faces the same dilemma: pack too much and you could be stuck fumbling with extra jackets and sweaters at the exact moment a humpback whale jumps out of the water (hands need to be free to capture those beauties on camera!), but pack too little and you could end up under-dressed for the boat’s conditions and have to sit huddled under a blanket the whole time. With this article, we’ll tell you exactly what you can expect so you can pack and dress appropriately, and enjoy your whale watching trip to the max.

Spoiler Alert! It’s Going to Be Colder on the Water

Let us assure you, even if the sun is shining and you’re walking around on the mainland with a rapidly melting ice cream cone—it is going to be colder on the water. The temperatures dip on the Pacific Ocean, there will be wind-chill (as your boat is travelling at 30 knots, or 55 kilometres/hour), and even fog. West Coast Fog is wet and freezing (not unlike a Harry Potter Dementor) and it will chill you to the bone. Is it August? On the water, we call it “Fog-ust.” Fog can happen at any time.

What You Should Bring:

A Hat That Holds on For Dear Life

A lot of people don’t bother wearing a hat, because they don’t feel hot on the boat, but the sun can still be hot and bright, and a hat shield can come in handy/prevent sunstroke. The only thing is that the wind will try to steal it. So hats with straps and strings, hats that hug your head so tight they’re practically vacuum-sealed—these are the best boat hats.

Sunday Afternoons Solar Bucket Hat

Long Pants

Avoid skirts, dresses, shorts and jorts—instead wear long pants in thick, wind-blocking fabrics like denim or Gore-Tex. Linen pants may be easy and breezy on land, but the wind will whip right through them when the boat gets up to speed.

Patagonia Women’s Powder Bowl Pant


Dressing for a West Coast vacation is all about layers, people! Bring a sweater that you would be warm enough in on a crisp fall day. If you end up not needing it, Eagle Wing Tours has lots of room for you to stow it while not in use. But you’ll probably need it. We’re about 90% sure.

Lululemon turtleneck

Closed-Toe Shoes

This is as much about safety as it is about keeping feet happy. Sandals, Crocs and flip-flops should be avoided as the boat’s deck can be slippery and windy (bye-bye flip-flop!). And warm feet equal happy feet. Something with grip is ideal, vs. balded Ferrari-like shoe soles that have long lost their tread. Whatever you do, please leave the four-inch heels for your post boat tour night out.

Astral Brewer Water shoes

Astral Brewer water shoe

Light Waterproof Jacket

Windproof is fine, waterproof is better. You’re going to want to get as close to the orca pod as possible when they appear, so don’t let sneaky fog, rain showers and cold West Coast wind gusts keep you inside the boat because you only wore your banana-covered Hawaiian T-shirt. Our recommendation, and this is a local West Coast company to boot, is something like this lightweight, waterproof Gor-Tex shell from Arcteryx. It’s easy to pack, breathable, can fit over fleece layers in colder weather and will shield you from the elements all year long.

What’s Provided on Your Eagle Wing Tour

Eagle Wing Attire

When you’ve been in the business as long as Eagle Wing, you figure out exactly what your guests keep forgetting and prepare as such. This is why you’ll find toques, gloves, sunscreen, extra jackets, windproof/waterproof pants, blankets, binoculars, sunglasses and marine ID guides (that describe the difference between dolphins and porpoises) all on the boat, but of course, you might want to bring your own. Click here to out more about Eagle Wing’s available whale watching tours and rates.