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How to Pack for Cold-Weather Travel

Packing for summertime travel is pretty easy—some comfortable and versatile options, and a long-sleeved layer or two for chilly nights or air-conditioned atmospheres—and you are all set.

However, packing for travel to cold climates, where you may be outdoors for either part or all of the time, can present a few challenges. By planning ahead and packing thoughtfully, you will be well-prepared to have a warm, comfortable, and enjoyable adventure.

Here are some helpful tips:

Pay close attention to your itinerary—not just day by day, but also hour by hour, taking note when you will be outside or in.

Remember, you are not just dressing for cold weather outside (and possible wind, rain, ice or snow), but also for time spent in warm buses, museums, landmark sites and other indoor locations you will visit.

During any given day, you may experience temperatures ranging between 20-75 degrees, so it's important to plan accordingly for optimal comfort throughout the day.

Layering is a given—and you should pack a variety of options. Plan clothing layers so you can add or remove items easily as needed.

A day pack or tote can be very helpful to carry clothing layers or accessories, so you don’t leave items behind as you move through your day.

Packing basics:

Base layer—we used to call it long underwear, now it’s a “base layer." And not just the name has changed. Innovative new fabrics and styles have drastically improved performance, durability, and comfort.

Cotton, silk or versatile synthetic fabrics that are warm yet lightweight, wick away moisture, and can be hand washed on-the-go are a traveler’s best friend. Some are compression style, consisting of a tight-fitting material that molds to the body to build a layer of warmth and allow for easy layering.

Look for options from companies like Under Armour, REI, and Eddie Bauer, or visit your local sports outfitter to peruse the many options available for any travel need or budget.

Waterproof outer layers—if there will be rain, ice or snow in the areas you will visit, an outer layer designed to keep you dry is essential, including a waterproof or water-resistant jacket or parka and pants (because sitting on something wet can really ruin your day if you are not prepared).

Select outer layers that are easy to put on and remove—with zippers, Velcro or snaps, which means you won’t have a wrestling match every time you board a bus or enter a building.

Versatile separates that mix and match—depending on how much protection you need. A wool sweater over a thin turtleneck is an ideal combination, giving you additional layering options.

Head and hands—don’t forget a warm hat or headband that covers your ears, waterproof gloves or mittens, and something to keep your neck warm.

There are many well-performing yet stylish options, and rest assured that everyone in your group will have “hat hair” along with you.

Boots and/or shoes—make sure to break in new footwear before your trip.

Look for waterproof or water-resistant varieties with insulation, a “lug” sole for good traction, and a snug, yet comfortable fit—especially when wearing thicker socks.

Boots or hiking shoes are vitally important if you will be trekking around in snow or ice. Don’t let a slip or fall seriously impact your travel plans.

Don’t forget:
Sunglasses to protect your eyes from winter glare, or reflection off water, snow, and ice.

Sunscreen—it's just as important in the winter as in the summer. Exposed skin needs protection from wind and sun.

Hand warmers are a great accessory if your hands get cold.

Plan ahead, stay warm and have a wonderful adventure!