Cold Weather Travel Series : A series of posts about the particular challenges of traveling during cold weather and how to address them while still packing light and looking fabulous.
This recent bout of cold weather has inspired me to put together a cold weather travel packing capsule. The Travelista goal is always to pack light and look fabulous, which means a smart capsule wardrobe that fits in a carry-on bag or travel backpack. Packing for cold weather doesn’t have to mean big bulky layers which hog up suitcase space. Understanding the techniques and principles of functional layering you will learn how to keep warm without the bulk. Check out my Guide to Cold Weather Layering for a super long explanation of layering.
Weatherproof Outer Layer
Your outerwear provides you the most protection against the elements and is your most visible layer so consider making an investment in outer wear that you love and is suitable for your travel needs.
Your outer layer can be a classic or fashion forward coat or you can go the functional route with a lightweight technical jacket that can repel water and wind and insulate you against cold weather. The choice is up to you depending on your travel needs and destination. My feeling is that outerwear should be determined first by the weather of your destination and secondly the style of your destination.
Those traveling through multiple climates or long-term travelers may want to consider going the functional route, check out my guide to Cold Weather Layering for more detailed recommendations.
Shown above the LL Bean Classic Lambswool 3/4 coat provides plenty of warmth for cold weather, urban excursions in big cities where stylish dressing is the norm. If classic is not your thing, go for something edgier just make sure it will keep you warm. The disadvantage of wool coats is that they are bulky and will not protect you from all the elements. If you are only expecting cold weather and doing short term travel then a wool coat should suit your needs.
The Marmot Precip Jacket shown above provides breathable protection from rain and wind and can be layered over insulating, mid or even base layers. Another outdoor technical jacket (shown above) that also serves as great weatherproof outer layer or insulating layer is the Patagonia Nano Puff. Its ability to withstand getting wet combined with its lightweight compressibility make it a versatile option for those needing to pack light. The fit is also flatteringly cut close to the body while still allowing lightweight layers underneath. With technical outerwear stick with dark neutrals to downplay their sporty vibe. If you value function over fashion, a technical outer layer is the way to go. Travel backpackers and long term travelers will also benefit from the lightweight functionality of outdoor technical outerwear.
Insulating layers are your next level of protection against cold weather. Breathable materials like wool provide the most lightweight possible insulating layer. With proper layering you are layering light, thin knits over each other as opposed to bulky thick layers. In extreme cold weather you could add an additional insulating layer like the Patagonia Nano Puff jacket for further warmth. The J.Crew Relaxed Merino Sweater provides a versatile, lightweight merino wool layer that goes from day to night in a timeless style. For a casual, comfortable travel look the Athleta Merino Soma sweater can comfortably take you from the plane directly to casually chic sightseeing.
Mid and Base Layers
Your mid-layers as far as travel is concerned will be will be tees, tops, blouses or buttondowns that are layered over your base layers. If you’re trying to get the most effectiveness out of your layers it’s best to stay away from cotton materials and go with breathable synthetic materials instead. The air released from your mid layer is captured by your insulating layer. Shown above is a long sleeve H&M blouse that is 100% rayon which is breathable and can be part of a day to night travel outfit. A more casual top option is the Zara Striped Boat neck top. A dress like the Athleta Solitude Sweater Dress gives you a nice option if need to look a little more dressed up during travel, the merino wool material will provide a cozy warm layer. When planning mid-layers a casual and a dressed up option give you plenty of travel outfit combinations especially considering you are adding sweaters and coats to the mix.
The final and most hardest working layer will be your base layer. It will be your first layer and it’s job is to help regulate your body temperature by keeping your skin dry. The type of base layer I recommend is a lightweight wool base layer. Refer to my Guide to Cold Weather Layering for more on the different types of base layers. Shown above are the Icebreaker Siren Sweetheart Top and the Icebreaker Everyday Leggings.
Choose footwear that not only looks good but that can withstand winter elements like getting wet. Shoes like the Sorel Toronto Lace look great with jeans with a wedge heel that is comfortable yet can easily take you from day to night. They have the added benefit of being waterproof so you’ll be prepared for whatever the weather brings. The Merrel Captiva Boots shown above are waterproof and look great tucked into skinny jeans or worn with leggings and a dress. I really like a sneaker for travel and these simple Nikes provide a sporty chic option for cold weather outfits.
A simple black tote that can carry your daily necessities and an Ipad will serve your travel needs. The SmartWool Copper Basin Slouch hat made of merino wool will help you retain heat in cold weather. If you’re not wanting to give yourself hat head to keep warm, try some ear warmers like these. The Brixton Dakota Scarf and the Athleta Boucle Scarf add texture and warmth to your cold weather travel ensemble. In cold weather I like gloves that are tech compatible and these SmartWool Stella Ridge gloves fit the bill. Just as with your base layer, you want wicking materials for your socks and SmartWool socks keep your tootsies warm.
What’s your favorite way to stay warm and still look good?