5 Winter Travel Essentials: Must-Have Items For Cold Weather Travel

December 4, 2022
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As a person who is miserable being cold, it’s crazy how much winter travel I’ve ended up doing over the years.  And that’s because I learned early on which winter travel essentials were going to keep me warm and toasty.

So here are five items that need to be on your cold weather clothes list, the starting point for every amazing winter vacation.  Mind, it’s not literally everything you’ll need (I have links to fully comprehensive winter packing lists at the end), but you definitely need to start here!

5 Winter Travel Essentials: Winter Clothing Packing List | These five clothing items are a solid foundation for any cold weather trip or packing list for winter vacation. No matter the type of cold weather trip, this cold weather clothes list won't let you down! #packinglist #wintertravel #coldweather

Going somewhere super intense? Check out my Ultimate Arctic Winter Packing List!

I’m focused more on a cold weather clothes list here, from looking cute in the bone-chilling wind that whips down Chicago’s riverfront, to tramping through two feet of snow in Norway’s Arctic Circle.

These five items are a critical starting point for your winter vacation packing list, and then you can complement with additional items based on your final destination.

5 Winter Travel Essentials: Winter Clothing Packing List | These five clothing items are a solid foundation for any cold weather trip or packing list for winter vacation. No matter the type of cold weather trip, this cold weather clothes list won't let you down! #packinglist #wintertravel #coldweather

Just a note before we dive in—I don’t work directly with any of these brands, but I may make a small affiliate commission from any Amazon sales that come through clicks from my links (which I greatly appreciate, and at no extra cost to you).  All opinions are, as always, completely my own!

#1 – Fleece-lined leggings

I first discovered fleece-lined leggings preparing for my first winter trip to the Arctic Circle, and immediately fell in love.  In super cold places where I’d be trudging through snow (like Tromso), I layered them under windproof or waterproof pants for warmth.  For more of a cold, rainy, windy urban exploration (like Bergen or Tallinn in winter), I often wore them with a sweater and booties, and then my big coat over it.

But they’re not ONLY for super hardcore winter travel.  They’ve actually become a chilly or cold weather staple in many areas of my life.  I use them for my walks and runs throughout the fall and winter, and they come on almost every trip that will bring chilly or legit cold—from Chicago to Lisbon to Prague.

They’re also pretty lightweight and have synthetic materials so they pack easily, don’t take up too much space, and dry quickly even when they get wet.  I have a more detailed post about fleece-lined leggings, why I prefer them to merino wool, and which ones are my favorite, if you’re interested.

This pair is my go-to for more everyday travel and life, from walking around cities to being on a boat in the middle of winter in Norway.cold weather packing list,packing list for winter vacation,cold weather packing,cold weather clothes list,winter travel essentials

These ones give (I think) even a bit more warmth, and I used them on my recent trip to Finnish Lapland in February.

For hiking, running, and other active pursuits, this pair is a total staple, one I use almost every day during winter even when I’m not traveling.  You can see from the pic that they feel a bit more activewear vs. super cute (mostly from the silver line that runs along the calf).  I’ve taken them hiking in Iceland, on a Northern Lights excursion, and running in the snow in downtown Chicago.

For true cold weather travel, you might be wise to upgrade to merino wool leggings…these (love the different color options!) and these are great options (I have both).cold weather packing list,packing list for winter vacation,cold weather packing,cold weather clothes list,winter travel essentials

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You might also like:  The Only Carry-On Suitcase You’ll Need

#2 – A good coat (that’s appropriate to the weather)

What’s appropriate is going to depend on where you are and the conditions.  For legit winter travel—like Arctic, Toronto during the Polar Vortex, etc.—I have what I affectionately call my “Norway coat”, which is this Helly Hansen that is AMAZING (you can find it directly on the HH site too).

I have it in bright red (though this burgundy is gorgeous), and it’s kept me warm for years on all manner of adventures, from Northern Light hunting in the Arctic Circle to a winter Norwegian fjord boat trip.  I recommend it unreservedly!  I’ve talked about it more in-depth in this Arctic packing list post.

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Alternatively, I have this beautiful lightweight (and affordable!) puffer coat that that does AMAZINGLY in cold weather, including keeping me warm in Tallinn and Helsinki in February.  It ways very little and doesn’t take up much space when packing.

This coat (or the shorter version) is perfect for Iceland in spring/summer/fall, lower Norway in winter, most urban winter destinations, and a lot more.  And again, it comes in a number of colors though apparently I’m enamored of this “cabernet” color right now…

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You might also like:  20+ Tips to Survive (& Thrive) on a Long Flight

#3 – Merino wool (or silk) thermal tops

For REAL cold weather travel, good merino wool thermals are non-negotiable (this one is a bit heavier-weight, while this one is lighter).  What I’ve found through trial and error, though, is that having really good merino wool versions was much more important for my top vs. bottom (where fleece-lined worked about as well and was more cost-effective).

Stylistically these aren’t my favorite thing to wear—I hate high necklines and wool tends to make me itch and irritates my skin.  Thankfully high-quality merino wool doesn’t make me itch as much, and these have become a total staple in my cold weather packing wardrobe!

They’re lightweight, layer well, and I’ve worn one of them for three days/nights straight and it never got gross or stinky.  They keep warmth in and wick away any sweat or other moisture so it doesn’t become an issue.

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You might also like:  11 of My Best Tips for ANY Trip

#4 – Merino wool neck gaiter

A neck gaiter (pronounced like alligator), or neck warmer, is a tube of fabric that you can pull over your head and sits loosely (and kind of scrunched up) on your neck. It can be worn around the neck to protect the neck and upper chest area (like a looser top of a turtleneck), or can be pulled up over the mouth and/or nose for extra protection from the cold (a bit like a ski mask).

I’ve got a deeper post on neck gaiters and what you’re looking for, the best fabrics, etc., so check that out.  This is hands-down my favorite neck gaiter, from a brand I trust and use for many merino wool items.

It’s completely made from merino wool, which is lightweight, breathes well (doesn’t trap moisture), keeps warmth in, and is soft and comfortable.  It’s not bulky, is easy to care for (machine washable!) and I’ve had mine for years and it still looks brand-new.  I run in this in the winter, so don’t only use it for travel.

Merino wool neck gaiter - 5 winter travel essentials for your cold weather clothing packing list

You might also like:  15+ Of The Best Tips For Avoiding (& Surviving) Air Travel Woes

#5 – Warm but not bulky touchscreen gloves

I accidentally discovered these merino wool Icebreakers a while back and they’re my everyday cold weather running gloves back home.  They’re fairly thin, so you can still use your hands well, including quite impressive touchscreen technology for using a phone or other touchscreen device.

You can get them directly from Icebreakers here since they often go in and out of stock on Amazon (and the price is consistently good on Icebreakers website).

Now don’t get me wrong, these gloves may not be ALL you ever need (they’re thin, so you may need a pair of mittens on top at times), but for using a phone, camera, etc. and not losing fingers to frostbite, they’re awesome.  I wear them running in the winter at home all the time as well.

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You might also like:  My Favorite Cross-Body Purse for Travel

cold weather packing list,packing list for winter vacation,cold weather packing,cold weather clothes list,winter travel essentialsBonus item that’s NOT clothing:  An external battery

This always gets forgotten, so want to mention here…cold weather is a super drain on your batteries (whether phone, camera, etc.).  An external battery charger is a must on any winter travel packing list, and this specific Anker one is the best I’ve found after a lot of trial and error.

It’s compact and light, charges things very quickly, and allows you to charge two devices at once.  I actually have it with me 24/7 even outside of travel, for when my phone battery decides to give up the ghost midday.  I also recently discovered this cordless version that I’m obsessed with.

This has saved my bacon multiple times on trips, as using your phone camera all the time really drains the battery and cold temps exacerbate that.cold weather packing list,packing list for winter vacation,cold weather packing,cold weather clothes list,winter travel essentials

Of course these five (okay, six) items aren’t the only things that should be on your cold weather packing list, but they form a solid foundation for any winter trip.

  • If you’re planning a super hardcore winter trip (e.g. Arctic Circle, Northern Lights, etc.) then I’ve got the ultimate Arctic packing guide for you.
  • If it’s more of a normal cold (most cities in winter, places like Iceland in spring/summer/fall, etc.), then this packing guide has got your back.
  • If you’re going somewhere cold but also more on the windy/rainy side, my Bergen in winter list is a helpful place to start.
  • No matter where you’re going in cold weather, don’t forget to pack good face and skin moisturizers!  And I always have my go-to clean makeup (which also protects and moisturizes).

5 Winter Travel Essentials: Winter Clothing Packing List | These five clothing items are a solid foundation for any cold weather trip or packing list for winter vacation. No matter the type of cold weather trip, this cold weather clothes list won't let you down!

The great thing about these winter travel essentials is that they make great investments—for the most part they’re high-quality items that will last you YEARS.

And here are some cold weather trips to inspire you!

Pin for later!

5 Winter Travel Essentials: Winter Clothing Packing List | These five clothing items are a solid foundation for any cold weather trip or packing list for winter vacation. No matter the type of cold weather trip, this cold weather clothes list won't let you down! #packinglist #wintertravel #coldweather

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