Packing for cold climates can be a real nightmare, especially if you’re travelling with a backpack. Warm clothing are thicker and heavier, which definitely fills your backpack in no time, unlike packing for warmer climates. Where you can throw in a bikini, flip flops, light clothing and you’re good to go.
This can really make for complicated, undecided and difficult decisions on what to pack and what to leave behind. You don’t want to pack clothes you simply won’t need, and you don’t want to leave behind essential clothing.
We’ve travelled during winter and throughout cold climates a lot in the past, as Emma is a qualified ski instructor. As a result we’ve trialled and tested whats essential and whats simply not needed.
Here is our ideal list for packing for cold climates if anyone is wanting to travel in cold climates/winter:
Layers are key
Base Layers – These are the secret to keeping you warm. Start off with 2 pairs of basic cotton shirts/vests and leggings. You can get these super cheap from stores like Primark and Target. Don’t worry if they’re super ugly they’ll be kept well hidden 😉
Mid Layers – Make sure to pack a few fleece jumpers to layer over your cotton shirts. Aim for something lightweight and breathable but warm enough to wear on its own when you’re in a bar/club.
Jeans may do the trick with leggings underneath. However, in really cold weather, jeans just won’t keep you warm. You’ll need lightweight, again breathable but warm cargo pants/ski trousers. We love the Spyder ski range, they may be a little pricey but we’ve had them for years and they’re still good as new.
Outer Layers – Make sure to pack your coat according to the coldest place you’ll visit. The last thing you want happen is the coat you bring isn’t enough to keep you warm. Choose one that is waterproof instead of taking a smaller rain coat in addition. As you’ll most likely wear this coat when on the move, it won’t matter too much if its bulky and thick as it won’t be getting packed in your backpack/suitcase.
We love the Canada Goose Range and the Killy Ski Range as they’re perfect for skiing, city breaks, chilling at a bar or just exploring cold climates.
For girls having a couple of thick wool dresses is a great option for walking round cities, going to bars or just chilling. Add some thick leggings/tights, some base layers and you’re good to go!
Pack a few fairly nice jumpers if you’re heading to a city or ski resort for the aprés ski and bars. Nothing too fancy as most people will just wear their ski gear, as they head straight there once at the bottom of the mountain.
Bikinis/Trunks are great if you’re staying in a chalet with a pool or hotel with a spa/jacuzzi. Theres nothing better than being out in the cold all day and returning to a nice warm spa after a long day. So remember to bring a bikini or a pair of trunks!
A small clutch bag for daily use that can easily fit inside your suitcase/backpack.
Accessories are an easy way to change up outfits while traveling and are generally small and easy to fit in your bag. When you’re packing for cold climates, its easy to forget this. They’re also a great way to add colour to an otherwise neutrals-heavy winter travel packing list. Make sure to bring:
– Gloves: Make sure they’re lined well and suitable for the temperatures you’re expected to encounter on your travels.
– A warm hat/beanie: Keeping your head and ears warm is so important, try to buy a waterproof hat and a stylish beanie for the evenings.
– Scarf: A wool scarf should do the trick!
– Balaclava: Try to get one that has a hole round the mouth so you can breath. These are especially useful when skiing/boarding, and is really needed for extreme conditions.
– Buffs/Bandanas: We always bring buffs on our winter travels. They can be great for keeping the neck warm and to be used as a light hat or headband.
– Long socks: Thick and long socks is essential, trainer socks won’t be good enough, so invest in a good few pair of socks depending on the length of your stay.
– Goggles: If you’re off skiing/boarding these are a must. Don’t wear sunglasses as once it starts snowing they’ll go misty and you won’t be able to see. In addition, with goggles your face stays so much warmer when it is covered and googles keep your eyes away from the snow and sunlight.
Boots not shoes, always. Besides your ski boots/snow board boots, you’ll only need one pair of boots. We recommend buying slip on boots, as they’re easily to take on and off quickly at airports etc. Try to buy stylish boots that are both warm, waterproof and sturdy but can be worn during the day, in bars and in fancier places.
If you do have to bring a second pair of shoes, like a pair of trainers for hiking, plan on wearing your boots while traveling since they’d take up too much precious space in your backpack/suitcase, otherwise.
The three most important toiletaries when in cold climates are: suncream (people don’t realise how strong the sun is even when its freezing), lip balm (you’re lips will become chapped very easily) and moisturiser for your skin (same thing as your lips).
You’ll also need all the other basic toiletaries such as toothbrush and toothpaste, hairbrush, shampoo & conditioner, contact lenses (if needed) and some makeup (don’t go overboard). However, most of this you can buy once you reach your destination.
The secret to packing effectively for winter travel is quality packing cubes, even with thicker clothing like the ones listed above. Our favourite are the Eagle Creek Set of 3 Packing Cubes. We swear by them, and winter items are bulky so this really helps to compress them into smaller cubes. If you’re a couple make sure to have different colours so you don’t get mixed up!
We’d love to know what you pack during your winter travels, and what works for you!
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