Support TFG by using the links in our articles to shop. We receive a small commission (at no extra cost to you) so we can continue to create helpful free content. As an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases made on Amazon in addition to other retailers featured on the blog. Thank you, we appreciate your support!
TFG’s backpacking guru Tammy Lowe helps you pack for winter travel with her step by step onion strategy. Read on to find out what to wear in cold weather, clothing and gear and how to use it!
What to Wear in Cold Weather
Written by: Tammy Lowe
I am what Germans call a “Frostbeule” (frost bite), which means I am one of those people that feels the cold really easily. If the temperature is anything below 25 degrees Celsius I basically need a cardigan.
If it is anything below 20 degrees I need a fleece and anything below 10 I need a down jacket.
Start by reading these general tips on packing for winter travel:
- Capsule Wardrobe for Winter
- How to Pack for Cold Weather
- How to Stay Warm in Cold Weather (without the bulk)
- The Best Travel Shoes for Winter
Thermal Top | Sweater | Fleece Jacket | Long Sleeve | Thermal Bottom | Winter Jacket | Turtleneck Top | Pants | Gloves | Beanie | Ankle Boots | Tall Boots
What to Wear in Cold Weather
My hands, feet, nose and stomach get cold first and once I am cold it takes a lot of effort to get warm again (think hot water bottles, wooly blankets and cups of tea).
So in order to avoid freezing in the first place, carefully planning what to wear in cold weather is absolutely essential in my travels.
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 below (and also check out the preparation video below too!).
Watch this video to learn what to pack and prepare for winter travel!
Thermal Top | Thermal Bottoms | Down Sweater
The Onion Look
Sometimes I wear a wooly jumper and still feel cold. Why? Because although wool is warm, if that’s the only layer of clothing you wear your body won’t be able to retain the heat underneath as well.
When I add a tank top underneath it feels less cold, and when I add a coat on top of it, it feels even less cold. This is called the onion look.
Thermal Top | Thermal Bottoms | Vest
Basically the more layers you wear the more warmth can your body retain. Outdoor outfitters like to refer to these layers as base-layer, mid-layer and outer-layer, and ideally that’s what you should be aiming for to stay nice and toasty.
In terms of what types of fabrics to choose, the video below can help you select smart fabrics or brands that work well in winter so you can layer properly!
Watch this video to find out the right fabrics to layer for winter!
As a base-layer I cannot recommend clothes from Icebreaker enough. If you’re wondering what to wear in cold weather, this is the first place you should look. They’re amazing!
They are made out of merino wool, which is wool from a sheep. Even though the tops and leggings they do look like cotton clothes, they are incredibly warm. And the best thing is that the material is anti-bacterial, which means it won’t smell.
If you go somewhere really cold then you may need to wear two base layers, i.e. a vest top and a long sleeve top underneath a fleece or wooly jumper. Try it out. You will be amazed how much warmer just a couple of base-layers will make you feel.
Minx Mid II Omni-Heat Winter Boot
Cold Weather Clothing
If you are planning on going to a really cold climate with snow, the onion look alone might not cut it. It will definitely help, but you should also invest in some proper outdoor clothing that are suitable for cold weather.
If there is going to be snow, then snow boots that are waterproof and have some kind of warm lining are a must to keep those feet from becoming ice blocks. To get more ideas on the right winter footwear to brave the conditions, check out the video below.
This video can help you select reliable, warm winter shoes!
Ankle High Tights | Merino Wool Socks
You might even have to wear two pairs of socks, one pair of lining socks and then some wooly socks on top.
Pair a long coat with versatile, warm winter snow boots!
Hands also get cold very easily, which is why gloves are vital. Sometimes it is enough to wear some bog standard wooly or fleece gloves, but when you go to a really icy climate then some windproof ski gloves will be much better to keep you warm.
Depending on the temperature you may even want to wear some lined gloves underneath for double protection.
These are the six fashionable winter accessories for women!
The North Face Waist Jacket | Down Sweater
Proper down jackets (not the cheap synthetic one; you need actual feathers in the jacket) are the only jackets that actually keep me warm when it is really cold outside.
I have tried wooly coats and fleece lined ski jackets, but none of them are as effective as down jackets in my opinion.
If you can get one with a large hood that’s even better, as you can wear it on top of a wooly hat to keep your head warm, which brings me to my next point.
Find out the most stylish and practical down jacket for your cold weather travels!
Keep Your Head Warm
The majority of your body warmth gets lost via your head. When planning what to wear in cold weather pack a warm hat in order to retain your body.
I like hats that also cover my ears, because they always get freezing cold too. When I went trekking in the Himalayas I even slept in my wooly hat, as it was so bitterly cold at night.
When I got above 5,000 meters I even had to wear a Balaclava to cover my face, as the wind was so icy that it was actually painful.
How to Pack Cold Weather Clothing
Packing cubes can help organize all the layers you have in mind for winter travels. We designed our own brand of slim packing cubes, with a unique color and numbering system, so it’s easy to remember where you’ve packed everything. See the video below for more.
Learn our hacks with packing cubes in the video!
We also put together a five-part YouTube series showing the different methods to use packing cubes for travel. If you use this specific packing strategy, packing cubes can also compress your belongings. This is the secret to traveling carry-on only!
What are your suggestions for what to wear in cold weather? Share in the comments!
For more ideas on what to wear in cold weather, please read:
- How to Pack for Cold Weather like a Boss
- Must Have Boots for Fall and Winter Travel
- Arctic Clothing: Extreme Cold Weather Gear for Women
- Shoe Care Tips for Winter Travel
LIKE THIS POST? PIN IT TO SAVE IT!
I love Tammy’s onion strategy for what to wear in cold weather. Please share this post with your friends on Facebook, Twitter, or Pinterest. Thanks for reading!
Author Bio: Tammy is a travel blogger and adventure junkie. She has endured the Everest Base Camp trek, abseiled down a skyscraper, cycled down the world’s most dangerous road, and trekked through the mosquito infested Amazon jungle. You can follow her adventures on her blog Tammy & Chris on the move or on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram or Pinterest.
This is very useful. I am planning a trip to cold destination where temperature is going to vary between 5 degrees to 18 degrees. I guess it will be around 10-18 through the day and was wondering what clothing I should take along when I stumbled upon your post
Hi – a scientific factoid for you- you don’t “lose 90% of your body’s heat through your head”. You lose heat in cold climates from whatever part of your body is uncovered. For most of us, that tends to be our head,because we don’t often wear hats. But if we covered our head but had our legs uncovered, then the heat would be lost from our legs. Makes more sense now I hope?