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It was unusually cold in LA one winter and even hit 35F during the day, which is unheard of. I noticed all my friends on Facebook wrapped up in inches upon inches of bulky sweaters to stay warm, which inspired me to write this post on how to stay warm in cold weather…and not look like a snowman!
Please note: these tips are most useful for those not used to the cold weather
How to Stay Warm in Cold Weather
Instinctively, as the temperature drops we find the thickest clothing in hopes of achieving warmth. However, as our friend Anubha shows you in what to wear in sub zero temperatures, that’s not always the case.
It’s not about the size of your clothing; it’s about how you use it.
If you’re familiar with TFG and you’ve taken my Stop Overpacking ecourse, you’ll know that the key to packing light is all in the fabric.
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 for your travel capsule wardrobe as explained in this article.
You can still pack in a small suitcase even when you travel in cold weather by using packing cubes to compress your clothing as shown in this video.
By choosing special fabrics like merino wool, cashmere, technical polyester synthetics, and silk and you’ll know how to stay warm in cold weather.
Avoid cotton thermals. They’re just not as good plus they look bulky under your clothing.
This is the same for staying warm at home or on the road.
When traveling in cold weather you choose these fabrics because they take up less space in your suitcase yet offer you optimal warmth. Likewise, they’ll also help you stay warm in cold weather without looking like a snowman.
Start by reading these general tips on packing for winter travel:
- Capsule Wardrobe for Winter
- How to Pack for Cold Weather
- The Best Waterproof Winter Jackets
- The Best Travel Shoes for Winter
Here are a few layering tips to help solve the dilemma about staying warm in cold weather. Please note that the images are to show an idea not an exact wardrobe suggestion. Adding warm boots is a must!
Thermal Top | Sweater | Beanie | Backpack | Thermal Bottom | Earrings | Jeans | Longsleeve | Boots | Coat
When it’s cold:
One set of merino wool or silk thermals ✚ a top ✚ sweater ✚ jacket on top.
Thermal Top | Crewe Top | Sweater | Jacket | Pants | Bottoms | Jeans | Scarf | Boots | Longsleeve
When it’s really cold:
Two sets of merino wool or silk thermals ✚ top ✚ sweater ✚ jacket on top
Outfit 1: Click here. | Outfit 2: Click here.
When it’s arctic cold:
This depends on the climate, temperature, and activity, but for our coldest days, my setup is as follows:
- Merino wool socks
- Merino wool base layers, top and bottom
- Fleece pants and sweatshirt
- Warm parka
- Winter boots
Read these tips on how to choose the best arctic clothing to find out the best extreme cold weather gear for women!
This is my favorite outfit to stay warm while living in England’s icy winter – I’ve doubled up on merino wool!
Thermal Top | Sweater | Fleece Jacket | Long Sleeve | Thermal Bottom | Winter Jacket | Turtleneck Top | Pants | Gloves | Beanie | Ankle Boots | Tall Boots
I’ve found the double merino wool combo to be absolute perfection. It even kept me warm on Christmas Eve when I spent the morning outside and everyone (locals) were complaining about the cold while I was toasty warm!
Boy I couldn’t help but feel a bit smug – I even had my jacket unzipped!
In a perfect world, I’d also have a set of silk thermals to go under these clothes on colder days which would make be super warm and take up no space in my suitcase or my body!
Ladies, as the temperature drops layer smart! Check out this list of companies that make the best women’s thermals for home or travel.
What are your best tips for how to stay warm in cold weather?
For more ideas on staying warm in cold weather, please read:
- Arctic Clothing: Extreme Cold Weather Gear for Women
- How to Pack for Cold Weather Like a Boss
- Best Thermal Underwear for Women
- Waterproof Boots you Won’t be Embarrassed to Wear this Winter
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Looking for advise with coat selection for traveling to Spain; Barcelona, San Sebastián and Madrid in December. I have a black Patagonia Tres 3-in-1 Parka. There is waterproof outer layer and a down coat. Would you recommend I bring the entire coat, it’s bulky or the outside layer and wear warm layers, or just down coat and rely on an umbrella. I would appreciate your feedback.
Hi Kelly, Spain is definitely one of the more pleasant European countries to visit in winter, but that doesn’t mean you should expect sunbathing weather. The temperatures will vary depending on where you go, but from December through March, you should expect a mix of warm and cold days, with plenty of rain in the north. So I would definitely recommend packing a waterproof jacket! Make sure to check the weather forecast for each city because you might experience sun in one place and snow in the other.
Have a look at this guide for tips to help you pack for the weather in Spain: https://www.travelfashiongirl.com/what-to-pack-for-spain-vacations-a-seasonal-guide/
Here are some tips to help you choose the best jacket for your trip: https://www.travelfashiongirl.com/best-winter-coats/
Have brilliant time on your travels!
Can’t wait to try the double merino wool tip! Great article, as always
Hi Kathy, so pleased you enjoyed the post! ? Enjoy your cold weather adventures!
Love your site, but very frustrated, in general, by lack of true “plus sized” options. To vent a bit, it seems that people who manufacture things to be used by what might be deemed a more adventurous group because of a smaller body size, have really missed the mark. I am heavy, have been big all my life, snow skied using men’s sizing for coats and long johns, which do not fit the female form.
With your creativity, attention to detail and all the other things that makes this website stand out, I hope you can come up with options for us big girls as well!
Thanks for the ear!
Hi Julie, thank you for reaching out! We are currently working on updating many of our articles to feature clothing for a range of sizes. We also have a selection of articles featuring the best womens plus size clothing: https://www.travelfashiongirl.com/travel-clothes-extended-sizing/ If you have any specific questions, then I would recommend that you join the TFG Facebook Group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/travelfashiongirls/ Here you have the opportunity to ask for specific recommendations based on your requirements. With over 20,000 members, there are women of all ages, shapes, and sizes. Hope this helps! Thank you for reading TFG ? Happy travels!
it would be much appreciated if the links just didn’t go to Amazon’s home page, and went to the actual item. Any possibility of including the item name so that could used in Amazon’s search engine??? cheers
Hi Judith, I am really sorry about this, I will look into it for you. Sometimes this happens when an item is not available outside the US and it’s challenging to dictate how Amazon deals with global USA requests. Sorry for any inconvenience. Thank you for sharing your suggestion with us, thats a great idea. Which item from the article were you looking at, if you let me know, I will send you the details?
Can you really layer thermals under leggings or jeans without them feeling too tight? I like skinny fit and don’t like feeling stuffed
Hi Monica, my go to cold weather outfit is wearing leggings under my jeans and many of our readers also like to wear leggings or thermals beneath their jeans as another layer to keep warm. But it is a personal preference, wear what works best for you! 🙂
How do you make a Homemade Parka?
Hi Lynn, thanks for your question! We’ll share your question here so the author of the article can reply!! 🙂
I’ll be traveling to Iceland and Paris in March, so it’s going to be chilly! Thanks for the great tips – I’ve been thinking about my wardrobe/packing and looking for lightweight but warm items!
Sounds like a great trip Cat! Thanks for sharing! Glad to help in your packing plans!
Hi Alex – I also have the JCrew merino wool sweaters like the one in your photo above and I was curious, do you hand wash it? I want to bring mine on a trip this winter but I am hesitating due to the ‘dry clean only’ tag…but it seems like it would be okay with woolite and cold water.
Hi Loelle! I think I used the handwash setting on the washing machine. I have a tendency to purposely try to push all garments to their limits in order to be as functional as possible. Silks and wool still get machine washed in a delicate/hand wash setting. If they can’t make it in a machine wash then they aren’t travel worthy in my mind 😉
Wow you are so flagrantly violating FTC regulations by not disclosing that your site is STUFFED with affiliate links. You are required to have a clear and obvious disclosure on EACH and EVERY post (a hidden “blanket” disclosure is not sufficient) so your readers will clearly know that you are profiting from the links from your “recommendations.”
Hi Sandra, you can review my disclosure in my disclosure page: https://travelfashiongirl.com/disclosure/
You also might find helpful information on my Terms and Conditions page as well: https://travelfashiongirl.com/terms-and-conditions/
Please let me know if you have any further questions and I’ll be happy to help. Thanks!
What if you go shopping? Or eat in a restaurant? Often it’s really cold outside but very warm inside. Don’t you get too hot? That’s mainly why I add my layers on top, so I can take them off if needed. I do like a silk shirt as underwear though.
Surely you can take off any layer of preference if you get too warm?
Also merino is excellent at regulating body temperature. I never overheat indoors when wearing merino (as opposed to cotton or polyester).
Awesome point! Thanks for sharing 🙂
Your advice is 100% correct. I was just in Paris and London. I wore jeans, smartwool socks and boots on my lower half. For the top I layered lots of wool ( a tank and t-shirt in merino and a cashmere sweater) under my jacket. It was perfect for lots of walking, or about 30 minutes standing still outside.
I also packed wool long underwear that I would have worn if I was going to be standing still outside for more than 30 minutes.
Thanks Mary! Standing still definitely requires a bit more warmth. Hope you had a great trip!