Packing Advice for Cold Climates

Packing Advice for Cold Climates

We’ve written about how B and I scored a great deal on a trip to Europe this Christmas. It’s going to be a fantastic winter trip…emphasis on winter. Since we will be taking a trip during cold weather, our packing list is going to be very different than what we packed for our trip to Australia during the heat of summer. This post will highlight some key pieces of clothing that will be important to pack for a week-long trip to a cold climate. *

*I’m not going to include incidentals like undies and pjs since you’ll have to bring that for every trip anyway and everyone has their own preference for how much to pack.

I really enjoy traveling during the winter months, probably because I like being cold more than I like being hot. Pros of this season of travel include wearing all your totes adorbs mittens, scarfs and hats; cons include trying to figure out how to get all of these bulky items in your small suitcase.


Since our upcoming trip is only one week long, I won’t need more than one pair of shoes. (B prefers to also pack a pair of comfy slip-ons for the plane.) Winter often brings wet weather, so you’ll need something waterproof on your feet. They’ll also need to be warm. For a one-week trip, a good option for footwear is a pair of tall boots. They’ll keep you warm and look cute while doing so.

Since you’ll be wearing one pair of boots and walking a lot of miles, you’ll need some good support. It is best to go with a well-broken-in pair from a reputable company. For our Christmas trip, I got a little excited and bought a pair of tall Sylva Merrells in March, which I then put under my bed and forgot about. It was fine until I bought a second pair and tried to return the first pair to a store where I didn’t purchase them (embarrassing much?). My second pair I purchased are Merrell Eventyr Cuff boots. I recently took a weekend trip to California and brought only these boots to help me kick start the wearing-in process. B’s pair of waterproof Teva Jade Cove boots have treated her right during several winter trips over the past five years. For this trip, she will be trying out the Keen Bern boots. A couple of test runs so far have been quit successful.

Here is a little review we put together about our tall boots:

Along with shoes, it is important to think about socks. Wool is our go-to. It’s warm, dries fast and keeps the stink away. You’ll want to pack two-three pairs. You might also want to pack a pair to wear at night.

Winter boots and the Alps
Proper winter boots for the Alps


If you alternate your bottoms, you can wear each item a few times. Even though it is winter, you still can wear skirts or a dress if you pair them with nice warm tights. For a week-long trip, three bottoms will do. B’s mom just made her a really cool reversible skirt so she can even narrow down packing to two items if she wants.

If it is going to be really cold where you are or if you just get cold easily, you’ll want to bring some long johns to go under your pants. Alternatively, you can wear lined pants. For a trip to Iceland, I purchased a pair of fleece-lined pants from Mountain Hardware that turned out to be a little slice of heaven. There seems to be two differing stances on whether or not you should pack jeans when you travel; if you decide to pack them for winter travel, some sort of liner or long underwear should also come along because jeans are rubbish in the cold weather.

If you think you’ll experience a lot of rain, it is a good idea to pack rain pants just in case. Very few things are as uncomfortable as being cold and wet. If your jeans get wet, the last thing you will want to do is put them back on. And it may take them a couple of days to dry out.

Dressed for cold in Europe
Properly attired women


My favorite part about winter attire is all the wonderful sweaters and coats. For winter travel, you’ll definitely want to bring some sweaters. However, sweaters can be bulky so you’ll want to invest in high performance material, such as merino wool. This will keep you warm without overfilling your bag. Vests also make for a warm + cute choice. If you go with a down-filled vest, make sure it packs down. You don’t want your entire suitcase filled with one puffy vest! A fleece vest is also a good option.

For a week-long trip, three tops should do the trick. You can alternate with your bottoms and come up with new outfits.

Enjoying hot chocolate in Iceland
Synthetic fabrics and vests will keep you warm in the winter.


You’ll need to bring a good coat, gloves, a scarf and a hat. For coats, you can go for one of two strategies: a thicker waterproof or wool coat, or a thinner coat with an additional rain jacket to go over the top. I’ve used both successfully and the main rationale for deciding what would be best for a particular trip is how much space you have. A puffer coat plus a rain jacket will generally take up less space than a full-on coat (plus you get two looks if the temperature happens to be more mild). For our Christmas trip, I found a new Lole waterproof coat that will be bulkier than the 1-2 combo. However, it is reversible so I’ll get two looks for the space of one. B is going with a long wool coat. Although it will be bulkier to pack, it will also be very warm.

For your winter accessories, you’ll want to make sure they are high performance. Cotton yarn scarves are cute, but if they get wet they’ll take a lot longer to dry than wool or fleece. Hats can be a challenge. A beanie is easy to pack and keeps your head warm, but they are not very cute. And cute hats are generally harder to pack. However, it’s a good idea to protect your head so you will want to pack something. B has an old standby–a gray hat that is easy to fold. She has messed with it so that she can attach different colored embellishments to it to spruce it up.

Hat blowing off in front of the Harpa, Iceland
B losing her winter hat in the Icelandic wind

Additional Tips

  • Beyond the number of items you bring, it’s also important to bring quality things. Unfortunately, quality items cost more than cheap ones, so prepare yourself to shell out some dough while building your travel wardrobe. For example: Icebreaker. This brand rocks. Made in New Zealand out of merino wool, you can get all sorts of thickness to kit you out in cold and warm temps. And most of their stuff is adorable, to boot.
  • Shop thrift stores. Instead of paying tons for top quality, sometimes you can score and find great things at second hand prices. Most thrift stores don’t pay that much attention to brand names so they have no idea that shirt you’re paying $4 for would cost $120 retail.
  • Wash as you go. You can buy dehydrated clothes detergent and wash out your items on the road. This will keep the number of things you have to take down, especially socks and underwear.
  • Only wear your travel gear for travel. Most days you don’t need high performance gear and the days that you do probably won’t be back to back to back. Save your good stuff for the road. As a bonus, it will get you excited to wear your travel gear if you only get to do it a few times a year.
Funny sign in Iceland
Make sure you don’t leave one of your gloves behind!


Packing for winter travel brings with it certain challenge. But following the guidance above will help you to bring the items you need and not bring too much other stuff, thus leaving more room in your bag for souvenirs. Naturally.

4 thoughts on “Packing Advice for Cold Climates”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *