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Knowing what to wear in 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 put together this guide on how to pack for cold weather!
How to Pack for Cold Weather
Table Of Contents
Start by reading these general tips on packing for winter travel:
- Capsule Wardrobe for Winter
- Cold Weather Winter Packing List
- How to Stay Warm in Cold Weather (without the bulk)
- The Best Travel Shoes for Winter
Use a Packing List
Refer to one of our international packing lists to determine how to pack for cold weather and what type of clothing you’ll need for your destination. Make sure all pieces work well for the weather and the activities you plan to be doing.
Below you’ll find a sample packing list for cold weather travel featuring clothes, shoes, and accessories.
Please note that the items shown in all of our visuals are meant to act as inspiration. We know now at women share the same body type, style preferences, or fall into the same age group so it’s up to you to tailor each guide to your specific needs. Learn more.
Packing List for One-Week Vacation in a Carry-On Only
It can be daunting to figure out what to pack for cold-weather and not end up with bulky suitcase. Without further ado, below is a packing list that can cover all your possible activities!
- Four long sleeve tops
- Three long sleeve sweaters
- One pair of jeans
- One pair of leggings
- One skirt
- One winter jacket
- One cardigan sweater
- One scarf
- One hat
- One pair of socks
- One pair of gloves
To offer more help, we put together a video on how to prepare for winter travel, which you can watch below.
Learn how to travel light and efficiently for winter travel in this video!
Below you’ll see how we mixed and matched the pieces from the above 10-piece packing list:
Our packing lists don’t count outerwear (jackets/coats), thermal underwear, or pajamas so these would be additional items in your total. However, even with these pieces you should still be able to pack carry-on only.
Learn how to pack carry-on only for every single trip!
Mix and Match
As with any travel capsule wardrobe, it’s important that all items can mix and match to make the most of your clothing. Dresses are surprisingly versatile in the winter for moderate temperatures and can be worn over tights or leggings.
Read these posts for the best clothing for winter:
- Warm Merino Wool Dresses
- Cozy Fleece Lined Leggings
- Best Winter Jackets to Tackle the Outdoors
- Readers Choice: Best Waterproof Boots for Rain and Snow
Here’s a step by step breakdown of how to choose each item of clothing. Remember, this capsule wardrobe can be used for a one week vacation or more!
7 Tops + 3 Bottoms
Tops that fall below your hips are best paired with leggings and can also be tucked into jeans. Choose tops you can layer if needed. Pack a dressier top to pair with a skirt for formal events.
For a one-week trips, pack different tops for each day of the week. Mix and match with three bottoms to create seven unique looks or a total of twenty-on different outfits!
I like a nice, classic sweater in an ultra-warm yet travel-friendly fabric such as merino wool or cashmere. Since these items are on the pricey side, I stock up during sales and re-wear them over the years. Other fabrics can keep you warm, too. However, merino wool tends to be the best travel fabric because it’s the most functional yet it’s so lightweight and packable!
I’m obsessed with merino wool sweaters because they’re light yet incredibly warm. I’ve had them for years and they remain in good quality even though I’ve worn them repeatedly. Depending on how cold it is, I’ll layer two of them to keep me warm. Made of 100% merino wool, it regulates body temperature to keep you warm but also keeps you dry and comfy. To get a full list of choices, check out the best merino wool sweaters for women!
While merino wool reigns supreme for many travelers, some are allergic or don’t like wool; cashmere has always been a suitable replacement but a costly option in comparison. It seems things have now changed with new brands emerging and offering products with these natural fibers at relatively affordable price points. Readers love these cashmere sweaters for their polished and timeless look, incredible warmth, and versatility.
A merino wool sweater I’ve loved for years is the J.Crew Tippi sweater (sadly no longer available) but read our complete review and watch the video below to find out why this merino wool sweater is amazing for winter!
Learn why the J. Crew Tippi sweater works well for winter travel in this video review!
2 Pairs of Shoes
Avoid items that look overly casual. Choose a basic pair that can be dressed up or down. Choose neutral colors such as tan, brown, or black because they need to mix and match with everything and comfort is key. Three pairs is also okay if you need a little more versatility.
A sample set of travel shoes for winter would include one pair of waterproof mid-calf or tall boots (wear on plane and on travel days), one pair of ankle boots, and one pair of ballet flats. The video below gives an overview of the right shoes to help carry you through winter.
Figure out how to choose winter shoes in this video!
Struggling to choose shoes? Read our guide on how to choose the best travel shoes!
2 Outer Layers (Warm Cardigan + Coat)
When deciding how to pack for cold weather, choose items that you can layer or wear separately, and are not too bulky. Remember thicker fabric doesn’t mean it’s warmer fabric. Find out why here. Choose a statement jacket or classic coat you love- it will be in all your trip photos!
Here’s a guide on how to choose the best travel coat!
One Set of Thermals
Invest in one (or two) sets of thermals to wear underneath all your clothing. Here’s a list of our favorite thermal underwear for women. One set should do but if you’re going to an extreme cold weather destination then you can wear two sets if you plan to spend a large amount of time outside.
Wear your thermals underneath everything!
Merino wool or silk thermal underwear is the best. Find out why here!
Last but certainly not least are your stylish winter accessories. These are essential and can save you even if your clothes don’t keep you warm! Bring a warm hat, gloves, and scarf to avoid the harsh cold winter weather
Tip: The sun might set as early as 4pm in some European destinations in the winter. Keep this in mind when you leave your accommodation for the day. Bring layers if you plan to stay out until the evening time.
Overall, it’s important to note that bulky fabrics won’t necessarily make you feel warmer! You have to choose the right cold-weather fabrics and layer your items strategically as explained in the video below.
Choosing clothing for winter just got easier—watch this video to learn more!
How to Pack for Cold Weather Travel
The best way to organize a winter wardrobe is to utilize packing cubes. While I’ve tried many brands over the years, I decided to create my own version that will take your packing to the next level: the Compass Rose Compression Packing Cubes shown above!
The 4-Piece Set of Carryon Packing Cubes are sized to fit the exact width of a carry-on suitcase and they also have a unique color-coded and numbered organization system.
We put together a five-part YouTube series showing you the different methods to use packing cubes. If you use this specific packing strategy, they can also compress your belongings. This is the secret to traveling carry-on only!
What are your tips on how to pack for cold weather travel? Share and comment below!
For more packing strategies, please read:
- Arctic Clothing: Extreme Cold Weather Gear for Women
- Long Term Travel Tips: Transitioning from Hot to Cold Weather
- The Easy Packing Solution for Trips with Cold and Warm Destinations
- Traveling from Cold to Hot Climates: My Layering Strategy
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