Have you ever traveled to a destination when the weather is cold? I have and packing for cold weather is so much different compared to summer vacations. The most obvious difference is the temperature. There are a lot of things to consider and let me tell you, you definitely want to be prepared! Fortunately and unfortunately, living in Chicago has given me a step-up as to what to pack. When we traveled to Quebec City during the holidays, I was prepared. Next winter trip on our bucket list is hopefully Iceland and Banff!
Packing List For Cold Weather
Packing for cold weather can easily take up a lot of space in the luggage. A lot of that has to do with how bulky winter clothes can be, especially if you want to pack light. So here is a packing list for cold weather. I’ll be sharing some product recommendations that I think work really well with traveling.
Also, when it comes to picking out your clothes for your winter travel, I recommend choosing neutral colored stuff. That way you can easily mix and match and don’t even have to think about your outfit. A lot of my Winter outerwear and Winter boots are neutral colors like black, tan, white, etc.
Cold Weather Clothes
Packable Winter Coats
Winter coats are probably the bulkiest winter gear, especially parkas and puffer coats. Luckily, there are packable winter coats. I own a packable winter parka and it is seriously the best thing ever. They can roll up in a ball and take up little space in the luggage.
If you don’t want something long, I highly recommend a packable puffer jacket. I got mine from Amazon and it definitely keeps me warm. Not as warm as the longer packable puffer coat, but it does the job! These are great for milder winter temperatures.
A puffer vest is great as a base layer or standalone depending on the weather that day. Again, I recommend the packable puffer vest just so it doesn’t take up much luggage space.
A good base layer makes all the difference. They help regulate your body’s temperature and it’s a great piece to wear when you are ready to strip off some of the top layers. My favorite base layers are from Uniqlo’s Heattech collection. The Heattech collection has the technology to generate heat for your body without bulkiness. The fabric is thin and lightweight yet very effective. I recommend bringing 2-3 base layers. They take up a little space but you can also wear them a couple days in a row.
Over my base layer, I love to wear a good sweater to keep me warm. My go-to are the ones made with merino wool. They’re soft and not scratchy on the skin. If you do get a merino wool sweater, 2-3 sweaters are enough.
Sweatshirts / Pullovers
If you are into pullovers, I love wearing sherpa pullovers. Pullovers tend to be more bulky so maybe 1-2 of those.
Fleece Lined Leggings
In general, leggings are so much more convenient to wear during the Winter than pants or jeans. You can easily wear Winter boots with them! However, not all leggings are made for Winter and I highly recommend wearing leggings with fleece lining to stay warm. They’re also a great base layer if you plan on wearing them with snow pants. I recommend bringing about 3-4 fleece lined leggings. That way if one is wet, you always have another ready to wear.
Water Resistant Pants
Water resistant pants or snow pants (they’re basically the same thing) if you are traveling somewhere with lots of snow or you are doing outdoor activities with snow (i.e. skiing, snowboarding, tubing, etc). If you do not wear water resistant pants, you will regret it. When the snow melts, you’ll end up all wet and that is an extremely uncomfortable feeling. This happened to a couple friends of mine. We went skiing and they decided to wear sweatpants. They ended up being cold and miserable.
Cold Weather Toiletries
When the temperature drops, the toiletries you bring make a difference. The air is so much dryer and can cause your skin to react. Primarily it will make your skin very dry and that can lead to cracking of the skin, rashes, and/or itchy skin.
Chapstick is pretty self explanatory but yet they tend to be the one thing that gets forgotten easily!
Naturally your face is going to get much more dry. I typically use a thicker face moisturizer cream that provides more hydration. I also like to use one that can help with environmental stressors.
Since our hands pretty much touch everything, they get really dry quickly. You’d be surprised how dry your skin feels right after you wash it. Hand cream focuses on moisturizing your hands and trust me, you’ll be relieved to have it with you. Plus, they take up little space!
Sunscreen is usually associated with warmer trips but the sun is still strong when the temperature drops. I’m very picky with the type of face sunscreen to use and the ones I’m sharing below are my top favorites! They are invisible, lightweight, and the best part is that they’re not greasy.
I also created a toiletry checklist for traveling and I breakdown all the necessities.
Cold Weather Accessories
Along with your winter clothes, these accessories are essential to your winter packing list.
I’m almost always wearing earmuffs instead of a winter hat. I definitely recommend picking a hat or earmuffs when it comes to packing light.
My go-to socks are the Smartwool socks. They’re not as chunky but they really do a good job keeping your feet warm!
I almost always go for gloves that have the smart touch feature. That way I don’t ever have to take my gloves off when I use my phone. If you lose gloves all the time like me, I recommend bringing an extra pair of gloves.
Hand & Toe Warmers
These hand and toe warmers are the best things ever. I recommend using these only if you’ve been outside for a while. They just provide extra warmth especially if you don’t have a place to go indoors. These warmers are the same kind that are used in football games.
You want boots that can stand the winter conditions so that means wet, snow, and cold temperatures. Definitely make sure they’re water resistant because you never want your feet to end up freezing! My go-to for winter boots are Sorel, Sperry, and Uggs. Make sure there’s traction because the last thing you want is slipping and falling while you explore.
Always bring medicine when traveling. You never know what your location has available and you never want to end up being super sick. For me, I almost always get a cold when the weather drops and it is so handy to have cold medicine with me.
Cold Weather Packing Tips
Here are some travel tips that I find very helpful when traveling to a cold weather location and the keys to packing light.
Wear Heaviest Clothes On The Plane
To avoid getting excess baggage, wear your heaviest and bulkiest items on the plane. Chances are you will want them since planes are always cold and it will leave you with more room in your carry-on luggage.
I swear by my packing cubes. They keep your things organized. I noticed that when my packing is organized, I can easily find more room to fit more things in my luggage. They even have compression packing cubes!
There’s no point in bringing a full size bottle. Chances are you do not need all of that product. So getting anything in travel-sized containers as much as possible. I love the Palette by Pak. They’re known to be leakproof and it’s the right size for traveling.
Always alway always follow the TSA 3-1-1- Rule. All liquids must be under 3.4 oz including the container size. All containers must fit in 1 clear quart sized plastic bag and each passenger is allowed 1 bag only. Europe is especially strict about making sure your liquids fit in one plastic bag. If you want to be environmentally friendly, I love using the Stasher bags!
I hope this packing list for cold weather helps if you are heading towards some type of Winter travel or Winter trip. The key thing to remember is it is about being smart with what you bring versus packing everything to stay warm. Like I said, things like wearing merino wool sweaters and Heattech base layers barely take up room in the luggage!