- Must-Packs for Cold Weather Travel
- Cold Weather Travel Clothing
- Base Layers
- Other Necessities
- How to Pack for a Cold Weather Trip | Tortuga
- Base Layers for Cold Weather
- Socks for Cold Weather
- Boots for Cold Weather Trips
- Coats for Winter Travel
- Accessories for Cold Weather Travel
- The Wrap Up
- We don’t know when we’ll be able to travel again. But let’s get ready anyway. Join the newsletter for weekly gear reviews, packing tips, and travel hacks. As an added bonus, we’ll send you a carry on packing list for your next trip
- 7 Must-Have Travel Toiletries for Dry Winter Weather
- Travel Toiletries for Dry Weather
- Travel-Sized Oil
- Petroleum Jelly
- (Photo: Amazon)
- Natural Makeup with SPF
- Saline Solutions
- A Post-Shower Moisturizer
- Warm Accessories
- More from SmarterTravel:
- 10 Step Packing Guide for Trips with Different Climates
- STEP 1
- STEP 2
- STEP 3
- STEP 4
- STEP 5
- STEP 6
- STEP 7
- STEP 8
- STEP 9
- STEP 10
Must-Packs for Cold Weather Travel
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One of the most stressful times in a traveler’s life is preparing for the winter holiday season and packing for cold weather travel. It seems almost impossible to travel light under these circumstances since our initial response is to pack and wear as many heavy things as possible.
But a little extra planning and research can help you decide what’s actually necessary for keeping you warm and not packing everything in your winter wardrobe.
Cold Weather Travel Clothing
We’ve covered how to layer properly to keep warm and wear items multiple ways in the past, so this post will mostly cover what types of items to pack rather than how to dress warmly.
As someone who frequently travels during the winter, either for work or to save money by traveling in the off-season, it can be difficult to pack a coat for travel. It’s difficult to choose one, as you’ll ly be wearing it every day, in every photo. Plus it’s bulky and takes up a lot of room.
Caroline showing off her pea coat as her outer, warmer layer in England. This is great for looking nicer while traveling, but keep in mind that you will probably be carrying this coat onto the plane always. A super light/thin model might be best for travel.
For casual trips, I recommend packing a classic looking coat, a pea coat, in a solid color black. Carry it onto the plane with you so that you don’t have to save room in your bag.
Look for one that covers your neck and torso as well as down to your calves for full warmth. Lined pockets and water resistant fabric are also great features, especially in case of snow.
When dressing for the day, you can switch up your accessories to make each outfit different.
You can also skip the winter coat entirely and opt for a sports windbreaker with fleece or wool layers underneath. This option is great for people who are traveling to several climates on one trip, or for those packing extra light.
The Columbia Mighty Lite Hooded Plush Jacket is made with Omni-Heat Reflective Insulation. Lightweight, but once layered can keep you toasty. See it on Amazon*.
A lot of people are really enjoying the Omni-Heat Reflective gear* that Columbia makes, for example. The reflective layer locks in your body heat, so these light jackets and coats can be excellent additions to a layered winter packing list.
Pack tops that can be layered, including tee shirts and long sleeved shirts. Bulky sweaters can also be cozy, but take up precious space in your bag. Look for technical travel gear items fleece vests, Merino wool tops or light jackets to put on top of one another to keep your core warm. Wear underneath your coat or main layer to seal in your body heat.
While many travelers advocate against packing jeans for travel, you can’t deny their ability to keep your legs warm, especially when paired with tights or leggings.
Corduroys and wool pants are another good alternative, as they have more substance than a thin pair of pants. Bring something to wear underneath such as wool tights, fleece leggings or thermal underwear.
I travel with Cuddl Duds, which makes base layers for cold weather travel.
>> You might also be interested in our post dissecting what makes great travel pants.
Cuddl Duds leggings: Left = Thermal Leggings (on Amazon*); Right = Softwear Base Layer Leggings With Stretch (on Amazon*)
We mention it briefly above, but having some good base layer gear will make a huge difference in keeping warm. Think things “long johns”, leggings, and tights for bottoms, and long sleeve or tank tops made of a good, warming fabric.
Karina, an #HPLWorld member, recommended the following when it comes to cold weather base layers:
Merino, bamboo or polypropolene are all good. Bamboo feels gorgeous on your skin. Silk is good too but they dont hold up to rough travel or hand washing – mine got holes super fast – whereas the bamboo has lasted many trips.
Another #HPLWorld member, Leanne, also commented on the matter:
Bamboo is amazing! And not that expensive compared to silk. I find polypropylene gets whiffy quicker than the others but is very light and warm though.
- Hats or some sort of head coverage is the most important, as you lose most body heat through your head. I tend to wear more headband-style hats and ear muffs because of my short hair.
- Scarves fill in the extra spaces between your neck and face and are also a chance to change up your look. Infinity scarves can be worn many ways and wool versions keep you cozy. Pashminas can cover your head and neck.
- Last but not least is gloves and mittens, which you shouldn’t forget if you want to avoid frostbite.
A good hat and scarf can do wonders in the cold.
When it comes to cold weather shoes, I don’t pack many pairs since I’m not wearing enough outfits for it to matter. Tall boots are nice to have, but take up a lot of room. I recommend bringing them only if you wear them every day of your trip.
Otherwise, ankle-length boots and water resistant athletic shoes should be sufficient. Pair with your shoes thick socks or tights that will keep your feet warm. I’m a fan of Smartwool socks, but compression socks can also do the job.
Hand Warmers, Travel Mug (on Amazon*), Lotion
- Hand Warmers: After spending three winters working in New York City, not to mention traveling to Ireland and France in January, I have come to love hand warmers, which you can pick up at any outdoors store and also on Amazon. The small packets are rubbed to become warmer. I to stick one in each pocket and sometimes even put them in my shoes as they last for a few hours.
- Travel Mug: Another item I pack is a travel mug so that I can fill it with my favorite hot beverage (tea, in my case) and walk around with it. Any travel water bottle that holds hot beverages is a bonus in cold weather.
- Lotion: Last but not least is lotion to keep my skin from getting chafed by the wind. Lip balm goes hand in hand with this.
What do you pack for cold weather travel?
How to Pack for a Cold Weather Trip | Tortuga
It’s possible to pack in a carry on sized travel backpack even if you’re taking a trip to a cold destination. Pack layers and choose fabrics wisely. Wear your bulkiest things on the plane.
One of the reasons that I live in Northern California is the weather. San Francisco’s weather is inconsistent, but temperate. Most importantly, we don’t have winter.
We don’t have a winter back home in Pittsburgh. At home, the temperatures drop below freezing, and the snow piles up so high that our dog can barely walk through it.
That weather isn’t for me. I’m already dreading every walk from the house to the car.
I may not winter, but many attractive destinations are cold. Traveling in the shoulder season or off-season, when a country’s weather may be colder, is also a great way to save money.
If cold weather travel is inevitable, what do you pack? And how do you pack it in just a carry on bag? All those layers and sweaters and coats take up a lot of space.
Let’s start with two basic principles then cover the details.
First, pack in layers, not bulk. Heavy sweaters and sweatshirts eat up a ton of space in your luggage.
Second, when picking clothes, wear wool. Wool is natural and versatile. A wool layer will help regulate your body temperature in any weather.
If the temperature heats up, you can still wear a thin wool shirt. It will help keep you cool. If you had packed a heavy sweater, it would be sitting uselessly in your bag.
If you follow these rules, you’ll be able to pack for a cold weather trip in a carry on. Yes, even with a bulky parka and snow boots. Remember: wear, don’t pack them.
Of course the bag you choose is important. The Outbreaker 45 is perfect for a cold weather trip. Because it’s the maximum allowable carry on size there is plenty of room for bigger, bulkier winter clothing.
Now, let’s talk specifics.
Base Layers for Cold Weather
Despite being thin, a good base layer can add as much warmth as a bulky sweater. Paired with a shirt or pants, a base layer will insulate you from the cold without adding much volume to your luggage.
Base layer shirts can be short or long-sleeved, deepening on how cold your destination will be and what works best with your wardrobe.
You can wear a short-sleeved layer under a button down shirt or hide a long-sleeved layer under a blouse.
A base layer shirt is the first thing you should pack when traveling to a cold climate.
Merino wool is the ideal fabric for a base layer but can be very expensive. For longer winter trips, invest in one wool base layer and supplement it with cheaper, polyester ones.
For a cheaper option, check out Under Armour Cold Gear. Under Armour’s layers are made of polyester, hence the cheaper price. Designed for athletes playing in cold weather, an Under Armour layer will do a decent job of keeping you warm.
Socks for Cold Weather
Socks can be tricky. In cold weather, you want big thick socks to keep your toes warm. But you don’t want to use half of your packing space on socks.
The best compromise is to choose thinner socks that can still keep you warm. They will take up less space in your bag and dry faster.
The latter is important so that you can hand wash them every few days. By hand washing your socks, you can wear them again between laundry cycles and avoid packing seven to ten pairs.
When space is a concern, I pack three pairs of socks or less.
My favorite brand, as previously mentioned on the blog, is Smartwool.
Smartwool hiking socks are thinner than most winter socks, made of wool to keep you warm, and reinforced in all the right spots to stay snug and not slouch.
Wigwam socks are also good and made in the USA.
Both brands are expensive but durable.
Boots for Cold Weather Trips
With your socks taken care of, let’s focus on shoes.
Menswear site Put This On says, “For minimum slippage on snow and ice, you want an outsole that is relatively soft with maximum tread.”
In other words, no leather-soled shoes in inclement weather.
You can read more about which brands of boots will keep you the warmest at the link in the last paragraph.
Whether you wear boots or shoes, choose footwear that will be comfortable for whatever activities you’ll be enjoying on your trip.
Of course, boots are often the warmest choice. Hiking boots are great if you’ll be doing a lot of walking or hiking.
Blundstone, an Australian brand, have a line of insulated boots and are highly recommended by travel writer Rolf Potts.
For day-to-day wear, I have a pair of Clarks Desert Boots. They aren’t ideal on ice but are fine for the two wintry weeks per year I spend in western Pennsylvania.
Regardless of your choice of shoes, never pack your boots. Always wear them while in transit. Even a compact pair of boots will take up one third of your carry on luggage.
Wear, don’t pack, your bulkiest items.
Coats for Winter Travel
The same rule applies to coats and jackets. Wear, don’t pack them.
If you’re hot on the plane, just stuff your jacket in the overhead bin or under the seat in front of you or use it as a pillow.
By dressing in layers as described earlier, you can stay warm without wearing an enormous coat.
My warmest coat is a vintage US Navy peacoat. It’s tough and warm but absurdly heavy. I love it but would never travel with it.
North Face and other outdoor brands also make jackets with a high warmth to weight ratio. If you’re unsure what to buy, stop at a local outdoors store and tell them that you want something as warm but light as possible.
Accessories for Cold Weather Travel
For the coldest climates, you’ll need accessories gloves, a scarf, and a hat. Don’t pack these in your luggage. Stuff them in your jacket to conserve space in your luggage without sweating through your flight.
For cold weather accessories, go with wool. I to shop at L.L. Bean for high-quality commodities these. They sell ragg wool gloves and hats for under $30 each. Most of the brands mentioned earlier, Smartwool, also make accessories.
The Wrap Up
Buying everything listed above would be prohibitively expensive. I don’t recommend it.
The items listed above are the ideal. Look at your current wardrobe, find the weak points, and invest in high-quality pieces that you can wear for years. A warm base layer and good socks are a great place to start. I will be wearing my Patagonia fleece for years to come.
My strategy when buying new gear is to buy either the best or the cheapest depending on how important it is and my budget.
If you won’t use your cold-weather gear again after your trip, buy cheap versions of the above and sell or donate them when you get home. If you will be taking many similar trips, invest in one new item each trip. You’ll slowly build up an arsenal of cold-weather gear without bankrupting yourself.
You can read more packing advice here.
We don’t know when we’ll be able to travel again. But let’s get ready anyway. Join the newsletter for weekly gear reviews, packing tips, and travel hacks. As an added bonus, we’ll send you a carry on packing list for your next trip
7 Must-Have Travel Toiletries for Dry Winter Weather
Skiing, snowboarding, and heading to winter wonderlands are great ways to spend those long months that separate the holidays and spring. But cold-weather travel is hard on skin and hair, and calls for the right travel toiletries.
Travel Toiletries for Dry Weather
If you’re prepared, it’s easy to keep skin hydrated and hair shiny with a few no-frills travel products. Here are the travel toiletries that defend against winter weather, plus some easy tips for better winter skin.
Don’t let the TSA’s 3-1-1 rule scare you away from packing liquid travel toiletries. Oils, a trusty argan, jojoba, or tea-tree oil, are a must-have for hair and skin. Essential oils are a dry-weather lifesaver for men and women a.
For both dry hair and dry skin, I always have a vial of Hask Argan Oil in my travel bag. Just a dab is perfect for taming frizz or soothing itchy skin—men can also use it as a beard oil or to calm razor burn. I use Hask because it has an easy-seal cap that won’t leak—but it’s not a bad idea to keep all oil-based travel toiletries in a sealed plastic bag, just in case.
First-aid petroleum jelly is one of the best travel toiletries for dry, cracked skin—and applying it daily is a good habit to have if you want to prevent those problems.
Vaseline jelly comes in tiny travel sizes that will last you all winter. Keep a small jar in your purse, carry-on, and toiletry bag to smear on lips in transit, before bed, or at the start of each day.
A tiny bit also goes a long way on dry hands, elbows, and even in frizzy hair.
A face moisturizer tailored to your needs is better than using a general body cream on your face, especially if you have sensitive skin.
To protect against wind burn or general flaking, travel with a healing face cream, First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Cream.
People who don’t wear makeup should opt for SPF travel toiletries face cream with some added sun protection: Yes to Grapefruit Correct & Repair with SPF 15 protects, moisturizes, and brightens skin.
Natural Makeup with SPF
Don’t skimp on sun protection just because you won’t be lying on a beach. Travelers with a regular makeup regimen should invest in a brand of travel toiletries that’s comfortable and packs SPF.
I use an all-natural tinted moisturizer that’s lightweight (so it won’t flake) and also protects me from the sun: Tarte’s Amazonian Clay BB Cream includes SPF 20, and a little bit goes a long way for even, fresh-faced skin.
Plus, it’s a packable size.
Dry eyes and nasal passages are often an air travel issue, and in winter, dryness is compounded by chilly destinations. Pack saline-based travel toiletries a small bottle of eyedrops—or simple contact solution if you’re a contact lens wearer—and a saline nasal spray in a travel-friendly size.
A Post-Shower Moisturizer
Use an unscented body moisturizer after you shower to prevent dry and sensitive skin. Showering in hot water can strip your skin of oils that prevent dryness. Restore what you lose in steamy showers with a natural, unscented moisturizer, a travel-sized tube of Aveeno Daily Moisturizing Lotion. It’ll also come in handy for your dry hands on long plane journeys.
(Photo: Land's End)
All the creams and oils in the world won’t work if you’re not protecting yourself from the elements while outdoors.
A hat, cozy gloves, and a thick scarf that can double as facial protection in strong wind will be your best defense against damaged skin.
Don’t forget to use smartphone-friendly gloves so you won’t have to peel them off for every photo op: Acdyion offers sleek leather ones with discrete screen-compatible fingertips.
More from SmarterTravel:
Associate Editor Shannon McMahon writes about all things travel. Follow her on and Instagram.
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2017. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.
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10 Step Packing Guide for Trips with Different Climates
One of the most popular topics on the Travel Fashion Girl Group is about traveling in mixed weather. How does someone pack for both hot AND cold destinations on the same trip?
Traveling in between two climates on the same trip happens more frequently than we think. Sometimes we visit two different countries or even varying elevations in the same destination. Another example is when your home country is warm but the destination where you’re traveling is cold.
To help you with this challenging topic, I’ve put together a few tricks on how to pack for unpredictable weather. Follow my steps:
Keep fabrics in mind – they’re key to helping you stay warm or fresh while also packing light.
Avoid choosing clothing items with bulky fabric. For example, you don’t want to pack a heavy maxi dress with layers of fabric for your warm weather clothing because you’ll take up much needed space. Instead, choose a lightweight airy dress or maxi skirt.
wise, for cold climates avoid thick sweaters and purchase light long sleeves in merino wool and synthetic blends that offer maximum warmth yet take up minimal space. By choosing quality items for cold climates, you can avoid packing bulky clothing and pack light. Avoid bringing a thick heavy coat when possible and opt for a packable down jacket instead.
For warm climates, choose light and airy materials that dry easily and will keep you cool. Check out the easy packing solution for trips with both cold and hot climates and plan to layer your clothing as needed.
You can always layer your clothing in mid-season locations which is another reason why it’s a good idea to make sure each item can mix and match with the rest. Add leggings and long sleeve tops under shorts and dresses. This also works well when traveling in conservative areas that require that you cover up.
Knowing how to pack for cold weather travel can be quite daunting especially if you want to pack light. To help you make the most of your winter gear and limited luggage space, I’ve created this easy three part guide on how to pack for cold weather.
There is one major difference between being at home in the winter and traveling when it’s cold: the amount of time you’ll spend outdoors. When you’re traveling, you’ll ly spend extended periods of time outdoors sightseeing. Don’t be unprepared. Consider layering lightweight clothing such as the ones featured in this winter packing list to minimize the need for bulky sweaters and coats.
Thermals are also key to keeping you warm without having to pack thick sweaters. Don’t skip these! You can even wear leggings or tights under jeans or pants for extra warmth. If you’re not used to the climate, add additional layers until you feel warm. Don’t forget essential winter accessories a scarf, hat, and gloves!
No matter what, always carry two quality outerwear items that can be worn together in the cold. Depending on your trip, this should consist of one piece that acts as an outer layer to offer protection from wind and rain and one middle layer to insulate and provide warmth.
Merino wool thermals are the perfect inner layer – they’re light, thin, and pack in maximum warmth. If you choose selectively, you can find styles that don’t look thermals and can be worn on their own as leggings and long sleeves. These are thermals our readers recommend the most!
Tip: If you find that will need warmer clothing as you travel, you can just buy a few pieces at your destination including hat and gloves.
For example, it’s common to see many backpackers in Peru wearing traditional Alpaca sweaters/hoodies/gloves/hats because they may not have had enough warm clothing.
However, it’s inexpensive to buy a few items that you’ll use daily and will also make a great souvenir!
The key to packing for multi-season trips is to pack a travel wardrobe that coordinates so you can layer as needed. Review this Round the World Packing List and this Travel Wardrobe for Mixed Weather for an interchangeable capsule wardrobe that will take you from cold to hot with ease.
To learn more about how to create a capsule wardrobe, read this packing ebook, which explains everything. If you find that you still need help, review this packing course which shows you specific packing modules on traveling in different climates.
Don’t overpack shoes. Choose ones that match all your clothing sticking to one pair of shoes for sightseeing in the cold and then one pair of shoes for sightseeing in the heat. Ankle boots these are particularly good for this type of trip since they take up less space than tall boots.
For more ideas, these are the most cute and comfortable walking shoes as recommended by our readers!
Read this 10 step guide to packing the best travel shoes for any trip.
Check weather.com’s extended forecast in advance and 3 days before you leave. Think about how many days you will be in warm vs cold weather.
If you have a 10 day trip to Europe and will be spending 7 days in the cold and 3 days in warm weather, plan for 70% of your travel wardrobe to be for the cold and 30% to be for the heat.
If you are only spending a short amount of time in cold weather or if you’re unsure if you will encounter cold weather on your trip, pack only the essentials: two outerwear PLUS two additional items: long sleeve top and leggings.
Use one of these international packing lists to find clothing ideas to dress appropriately for your destination then use the guidelines from TFG’s Signature Packing Lists to help you customize your travel wardrobe.
If you don’t see your destination listed, post a question on TFG’s Group.
One of the most important aspects about packing efficiently is using luggage organizers.
Watch this packing video to learn how to use packing cubes to maximize space and never check a bag again. These are the top 12 reasons why I prefer packing cubes to other organizers. We recommend these packing cubes – they’re ours!
Start with luggage. If you don’t already own a suitcase, choose one wisely. Read these tips on how to pick a suitcase and consider one of these top brands. Make your life easy with our best suitcase recommendations.
There are times when backpacks are better than wheeled bags. If you’re going on an adventurous trip, learn how to choose the best travel backpack.
Use packing organizers. Do you want to know the ultimate tool to travel in a carryon? PACKING CUBES! They changed everything for me and thousands of other travelers. See my packing tutorial on how to use them! Trust me, they are a must!
Use tried and tested packing strategies. For a summary, read our top 75 packing tips.
I’ve recently taken on a few extreme packing challenges to show you that packing carry-on only is possible for any trip. If I can pack an ultra-minimalist (with style of course) then you can pack more comfortably in a regular carry-on. Watch these packing videos to learn more:
Watch all my packing videos here!
The biggest mistake travelers make with toiletries is not considering how much product they actually use. There are five key steps when it comes to downsizing your toiletries properly for a trip:
- Find combination items. You can find two-in-one shampoos and conditioners, body cleanser that can double as shave gel, a foldable brush with a mirror attached on the handle, and multi-use makeup products.
- Purchase empty containers of various shapes and sizes and DO NOT default to choosing “travel size 100ml or 3oz” options. These are the best travel containers.
- Stick to the basics. Simplify your skincare and pampering routine and bring a capsule makeup collection. It’s only temporary.
For useful tips such as downsizing toiletries and choosing the best travel makeup, read our Ultimate Guide to Packing Toiletries. It includes a free printable checklist!
Don’t forget about safety: Be cautious about where you stash your cash. The safest place for your passport is locked in your accommodation. Carry a photocopy or other ID when you’re sightseeing or are out at night.
Keep your valuables safe with these anti-theft products:
Read these tips on how to keep your passport safe when you travel!
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