Packing for a beach vacation is easy. Throw in a couple of bathing suits, flip-flops, a sarong and a few other essentials and you are ready to go. Packing for winter travels is a whole new ball game. These winter travel tips will help you pack smart and prepare for outdoor adventures around the world.
When packing for winter travels, clothes are heavier and bulkier, and it can be difficult to know what travel gear to bring?
How much is too much? You don’t want to freeze, but you also don’t want the frustration of carrying too much with you.
We’ve done a lot of winter travels and after a lot of trial and error, I think we’ve figured it out.
Essential Winter Packing Tips
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When hitting the ski lodge or any winter destination, you don’t have to worry about dressing up too much. So leave the formal attire at home, and dress in chic layers and casual comfy clothing. Most people sit in the bars Après-sk in their ski pants and jackets. We found that packing the bare minimum is all you’ll need. You’ll discover that you’ll end up wearing the same long johns and an insulating layer for the entire week under your outer shells.
Note: This packing list is good for Skiing, Snowshoeing, and any winter adventure that will take you outdoors for hours on end.
Airline Baggage Allowance
If you pack your own snowboards or skis, check with the airline to see if they allow winter sporting gear in cargo for free. Do ski bags take up your luggage count? If you are only allowed one piece of luggage to check in, pack your winter gear around your skis or snowboards for extra padding.
And then you can pack the rest of your clothes in your carry-on bags. Regardless, winter clothing weighs a lot more than summer clothes, so be sure to pack smart. All you need are a few choice items that you can mix and match when you are in the lodge.
We pack 2 pair of Icebreaker leggings to wear as a base layer. Icebreaker is made of Merino Wool from New Zealand and you can wear it day in day out without odor.
We bought the 260 weight for extreme cold temperature and the reason we bring two is so that we can change it up if one gets damp one day. I (Deb) even wear my base layer as leggings and throw on a skirt over top when going out a night. They can easily be dressed up.
Mereno Wool Base Shirts
It’s important to have a base layer that wicks away moisture and we like having two pairs with us because we can change if anything is damp, if it needs to be cleaned or if we just want to change it up. When going outdoors, you’ll want to wera a base layer shirt under your sweater or jackets.
Liner socks are lightweight and small, but perfect for wicking away moisture. It’s important to keep feet dry to keep them warm. Put these on before your wool socks and boots and your feet will stay much warmer.
A mid layer is a good fleece or wool sweater to add warmth. It goes on over your base layer between your water and windproof outer layer. We wear our Canada Goose Hybridge light jacket when it is really cold. It has replaced our fleece layer when we are traveling in extremely cold climates.
The Hybridge light jacket is breathable and lightweight and is perfect for layering. It has become our most versatile jacket. When it’s really cold we even wear it under our parka for extra warmth. When we are doing lighter outdoor adventures it is also perfect to wear under our shell.
We have skipped the heavier fleece mid-layer on our bottoms because we have found that our Canada Goose Tundra cargo pants are perfect. We have spent a lot of time in the city of Ottawa during the winter and even the locals say, wear snow pants. Don’t try to be fashionable and walk around in jeans in sub zero temperatures.
Do yourself a favour, put on insulated pants, and get comfortable. It makes winter travel a lot more fun! They are warm and breathable and all we need in the cold. If we find ourselves out on a milder day, we just wear our Icebreaker Leggings with an outer shell and that is fine.
Mid Layer Socks
When going to extreme cold weather like on a polar bear safari in Manitoba, we wear three layers of socks. A mid-layer socks are thick warm wool socks that insulate the feet. The mid layer socks are thick warm wool socks that insulate our feet. Usually, this is enough and we don’t have to add any more, but when the temperatures get really cold, another outer layer is great.
These are our waterproof lightweight gortex pants that are perfect for high activity in wet snow, freezing rain. As I said above, we now mostly wear our Goose Down Cargo Pants, but we still bring our lightweight gortex to be ready for any situation.
Outer Shell Jacket
A windproof and waterproof outer shell jacket is perfect for outdoor activity. When put over the Hybridge light down jacket, it insulates from wind and rain and keeps the core warm.
Wearing an outer shell lets you layer for different temperatures and you can peel a layer off as you warm up or add more underneath if it gets cold. We wear gortex outer shells for winter activities such as ice climbing, snowboarding snowshoeing and, skijoring.
Sometimes, it’s just too cold outside and you have to bring along a winter parka. If you are going to be spending a lot of time outdoors such as at a winter festival like Winterlude, or to go shopping or watching a winter sporting event, a parka really makes things more comfortable.
When standing out on a cold lake or even going on an easy hike through caverns to look at ice waterfalls, our parkas kept us toasty warm. In Alberta over the holidays, we reached temperatures of 29 below zero not including the windchill. The parkas kept us from freezing. Check out: Triple F.A.T Goose, America’s Original Urban Outdoors Brand. (They are much more affordable than Canada Goose, and I think way more stylish.
Smartphone Friendly Liner Gloves
We have just bought new liner gloves that are smartphone friendly. When out in temperatures below zero, fingers freeze quickly when you take your gloves off. In the days of Instagram and Twitter, we all want to take photos with our touch-sensitive iPhones and share them with our friends. So having gloves that will swipe the screen without having to expose our skin is a lifesaver.
We prefer mittens over fingered gloves. The hand stays warmer and it’s easy to whip the mitten off if you have to take a photo or do anything that requires a little dexterity. With the liner glove protecting our skin, our hands stay warm.
Back up Gloves or Mittens
We always take at least two pairs of warm mittens as if one gets wet, you can wear another. There is nothing worse than cold fingers. Plus, we have lost mittens on the trail. And needed that second pair.
All these loose odds and ends can be difficult to organize. We now pack everything into our packing cubes and compression cubes to keep things organized. Winter items are bulky and filled with air and the compression cubes help a lot here.
We stuff them into the cubes and then use the zipper to compress it down even more for extra space. We’ve become big fans. The only thing we wish we did was to buy two different colours. We keep mixing up our cubes!
Head and Face
We bring two hats with us. One ultra warm to put on when resting at camp or lunch and a light hat to wear when doing activity. These have been our go to hats this winter. Merino Cable Knit Beanie and an Arctic Tech Shearling Pilot Hat
These two hats are perfect. The merino beanie breathes and dries quickly while keeping the head warm and the pilot hat keeps everything toasty warm when not doing any activity or in extremely cold weather.
We always bring two sets of buffs. They can be great for keeping the next warm and to be used as a light hat or headband.
We just added a balaclava to our packing list. We like the Multitask pro from MEC because it has a screen for breathing. Often the hot air when wearing a buff or scarf fogs up our sunglasses or goggles and the balaclava instead lets the air out the nose screen. This is really needed for extreme conditions.
Goggles are a must for snowboarding or skiing and other winter adventures, but we’ve found them to be excellent for skijoring and even snowshoeing. Your face stays so much warmer when it is covered and googles keep the eyes from water. We highly recommend having them in your cold weather kit for everything.
Besides your snowboarding or ski boots, all you need are two sets of boots. Hiking boots and something stylish to wear around the chalet.
Winter Hiking Boots
For trekking and other activities, a good set of Gortex hiking boots will fit all your needs. Look for boots that have a thick rubber sole. The more insulation you have between you and the ground the warmer your feet will be. Have boots that go up over your ankles and that are rated for cold weather.
Gaiters are waterproof boot leggings that go over your boots and up your calf are also a great idea for walking in deep snow or slush. They will keep water from sinking into your pants. If you are ice climbing, they will protect your expensive Gortex pants. Instead of kicking your pants, you’ll be kicking your gaiters with those sharp spikes.
Clothing for the Chalet
You really don’t need to bring much with you. As we said above, you will most likely find yourself in your base layers and shells most of the time and you will only need some clothes for a dinner out. At ski resorts and Northern holiday destinations, you never really have to worry about going glam. Everyone is relaxed and you can go out to eat in a pair of jeans.
We suggest packing two or three nice tops and two pairs of pants. It’s really all you will need to add to your winter packing list. You’ll be eating breakfast and lunch in your ski/hiking clothes and you can mix up your shirts for every other day the rest of the time. Nobody will be judging you. I promise.
Swimsuits and Flip Flops
Everywhere you go in cold weather vacation destinations, you’ll find the opportunity to sit in hot springs or hot tubs. Be sure to bring along your bathing suit so that you can enjoy sitting outside while basking in hot mineral water. And you’ll want some flipflops to be able to walk from indoors to outdoors.
Stock up on chapstick, moisturizer and sunscreen. Winter cold is hard on the skin and your face will get chapped from the wind and cold. Have some soothing creams to keep you comfortable.