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How to pack for a cold destination

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So you’re going to start to pack for a cold destination? Read this first!

For those of us who live in places with temperatures that aren’t too extreme, traveling to cold places can be daunting (or even to very hot destinations). You’ll probably have to buy a new set of clothes just to be sure you’ll be able to enjoy your vacation without worrying about getting cold. And maybe, you don’t even know where to start.

Enjoy our post on how to pack for cold destinations!

1) Before you travel

We covered all the most important questions you have to answer yourself in this post before packing. Reading that post will give you a great start into how to pack for a cold destination. Especially, be sure about these:

  • We mention it in the post but be very sure to research ahead about the place you’re going to
  • Also, be aware of what activities you’ll be participating in. You wouldn’t pack the same if you were going to ski than museum hopping, would you?
  • Try to use your heavier or bulkier garments on the trip, that way they won’t take up too much space in your suitcase
  • Overall, don’t be afraid of going to a cold destination, it’s a great experience!

2) Jacket/coat

Patagonia Jacket

Picking a jacket or coat is one of the most important decisions when it comes when you’re thinking about how to pack for a cold destination. A jacket or coat can be a liabilities or savior, you just need to choose wisely. My tips for picking a jacket:

  • Try to pick the lightest one that will protect you from the cold in your destination
  • If you’re going to different destinations, check which one will be the coldest and pick a jacket according to that
  • The smartest thing to do is to have a waterproof one, that way, you don’t have to pack a rain jacket also
  • Buy one that’s a little oversized for you. That way, you’ll be able to wear layers underneath
  • For those going to very cold destinations, go for a long coat or jacket, it’ll protect you more from the cold!
  • Patagonia is a great brand if you’re looking for a light and warm jacket you can pack, like this one
  • Another good brand you can trust is Mountain Hardwear, jackets like this one are reliable and waterproof

3) Thermal clothing

Thermals are basic when packing for cold weather

I’ve used these even if I’m not going to very cold destinations just to save up space in my suitcase, so they’re a good investment. You have to have a thermal long sleeve top and some leggings. Even better, try to buy a pair of both. Also, if it won’t be that cold and you plan to use a dress or skirt, you can buy some thermal tights. That way, you’ll be able to clean a pair if you need to (unlike my friend that abandoned his thermal clothes in Venice because they were already too dirty). Some tips to buy thermal clothing:

  • Wanna invest on the best? Go for brands like Patagonia or Icebreaker. Icebreaker, especially, has a great selection of long-sleeved shirts for men and women.
  • Wanna buy something good but not as expensive? Go for Uniqlo (I own some of the extra warm Heattech thermals and they worked perfectly for a European winter) or Underarmour, which is a cheaper brand but offers durable thermal leggings, for example
  • Normally, thermals come in neutral colors. If I can give you some gross advice, go for dark neutral colors so you don’t have to wash them as you would with lighter colors that might get stained. Is it gross? Yes. Do I regret not having to wash them that often? No

4) Basics

A fleece jacket is a must when going to a cold weather
Columbia fleece hoodie

Here are all the basic pieces of clothing you need to bring if you’re thinking on how to pack for a cold destination:

  • Fleece hoodie: these are not heavy and can keep you super warm when combined with other clothes. This Columbia fleece hoodie is super warm, comfy and stylish, for example
  • Basic long-sleeved shirts: pick two or three and re-use them, they won’t be as super sweaty or dirty since you’ll be wearing thermal clothing underneath. Prefer cotton ones
  • Underwear: if you think you can bring any underwear to your travels, think again. ExOfficio has some amazing underwear that gets dry super fast. They’re super durable even if you wash them every day. This is a great addition to your packing if you want to save some space
  • Sweaters: I know, maybe these are bulkier but they can help you have a more “formal” look if you need to. Try to bring one that you can combine with the rest of your clothes or even a cardigan. And, if you’re thinking to put another shirt in your luggage, better make it a sweater… the shirt won’t even be visible!
  • Swimsuit! I know, seems like a bad idea but many cold places have amazing spas or thermal waters where you can warm yourself a little bit

5) Pants

PrAna Halle Pants

Pants are an essential part to think about if you want to keep warm. Although you’ll have thermal clothing, consider these:

  • Jeans are always a good idea. If you’re bringing some consider that a) they’re comfortable enough to wear with leggings underneath, b) they can combine with your other garments
  • Looking for something more practical than jeans? Try corduroy pants! These have a looser fit than jeans, making them more comfortable
  • A safe bet when it comes to pants is to try some PrAna ones. These are made specifically for the outdoors, dry super fast and come in different neutral colors. We’d recommend the Halle or the Zion ones

6) Shoes and socks

VivaBarefoot Gobi boots for adventure

Has your evening ever been ruined because you were wearing new shoes and even though they looked cute they were super uncomfortable? I know I’m not the only one that has experienced this. Now, imagine you’re on vacation and the same happens… this could potentially ruin your whole trip! Think about this when choosing which shoes to bring:

  • Invest in a good pair of shoes, if you choose correctly you’ll be able to use them on several trips
  • Always, always, always use the shoes you’re bringing at least a week before going into your trip to make sure they’re comfy enough and appropriate for your travels
  • Warm and dry feet are the most important thing when you’re in the cold
  • Avoid athletic breathable shoes since they won’t be able to keep you dry or warm. If you’re bringing sneakers, make sure they will be water-resistant
  • Boots can be both warm and water-resistant (also they look good!). If you’re bringing them, try to use them for the flight since they can use up valuable space and weight in your luggage
  • If you’re looking for stylish yet super durable/weatherproof boots, check these Gobi II VivoBarefoot ones for women and men
  • Complete the warmness with appropriate socks. Smartwool is a great brand if you’re looking for either everyday socks or more specialized socks

7) Scarfs, gloves, and hats

The North Face beanie for cold destinations
The North Face

When thinking about how to pack for cold destinations, accessories must be on your list! Also, they can make you look better and different every day if you’re using the same jacket or coat. But let’s stick with keeping warm, right?

  • For gloves choose some with wool linings. Also, a good idea is to have some that you don’t have to take off to use your smartphone like these
  • Chunky scarfs are a great accessory, not only do they keep you super warm, they make you look great!
  • As my dad said, if you can keep your head warm, the rest is easier! Knitted beanies are one of my favorite accessories, they come in all sorts of colors and models and you can bring at least 3 of them without taking up too much space in your luggage. Wool or fleece ones can keep you warm. The North Face has great options like this one. Make sure these hats cover your ears!

8) Skincare

Pack sunscreen for cold destinations
Aveeno Moisturizing Sunscreen Lotion

Cold weather makes your skin go super dry, especially if you come from warm weather. Even if you think the snow will keep the weather humid, don’t rely on that!

  • Bring sunscreen. YES, sunscreen. Never forget the sunscreen. Especially, if you’re going to a snowy destination IT IS ESSENTIAL. Do you know how the snow reflects the sun and burns your face? No? Don’t wait to know it, prevent it using a good sunscreen. Prefer one that will also be moisturizing like this Aveeno one
  • Lip balm will keep your lips soft and kissable. I know kissable is not a required thing to enjoy your trip but you get the idea, nobody likes having dry lips. Also, get one that has sun protection like these Sun Bum lip balms
  • Lotion, lotion, lotion. Use lotion especially in your hands and feet, since the cold can make them very dry. Also, use it in your face every night to keep it healthy!
  • And, last but not least, here’s a PSA directly from your hair: bring intensive moisturizer for it too if you’re going to be in cold weather for more than 2 weeks

9) For specialized sports or activities

Snowboarding in cold destinations
Snowboarding in cold destinations

If you’re going for some more specialized activities like skiing, making ascents, snowshoeing or even snowboarding you might be wondering about this. Several places have specialized clothes in rent. This is super useful because these will probably be clothes you won’t use in your “normal life” or ever again. Be sure to know if the place you’re visiting provides this service. If you’re not sure about it, you want to save the rental cash or you want to buy them, consider:

  • Goggles are basic to protect your eyes during activities like snowboarding, these are great
  • Crampons can help if the snow is hard and you’re going snowshoeing. You can buy some travel-friendly ones like these
  • Rain pants can be used for several outdoor activities and can be layered
  • Depending on the temperature and activity you’ll be involved in, you’ll probably need a special jacket. For example, if you’re doing high-altitude ascents, a jacket like this one is essential

10) Final thoughts

How to pack for cold destinations
Final thoughts on how to pack for cold destinations

To finish with our list on how to pack for a cold destination, think also about these:

  • Polarized sunglasses: remember snow reflects the “weak” winter sun. This can be hurtful for your eyes! Bring polarized sunglasses and protect them
  • Know thyself: you’re the one that knows yourself better. If you get cold super easily (like me) don’t hold back on packing things that will keep you warm, even if it feels exaggerated at times. It’s better to be warm than sorry
  • Mentally prepare: also be aware that in some destinations, with snow and cold, come shorter days. Don’t let short and dark days keep you away from the activities you want to make (that’s if they’re open hehe)
  • Worst case scenario: have some extra money for emergency garments in case you’re cold. Maybe it’ll be overpriced but that’s better than not enjoying your once-in-a-lifetime vacation or experience
  • If everything else fails: don’t feel pressured to be outside, there are also a lot of activities you can enjoy inside like museums and coffee shops

Did you enjoy our post on how to pack for a cold destination? Tell us in the comments all your tips!

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