Winter Packing Tips: A Guide

how to pack for a winter trip

I’m not going to lie, I’m probably not the best person to be handing out packing advice. Every trip I take starts the same- filled with optimism that I will ONLY pack what I actually need. Does that happen? Of course not. By the time I reach the airport my suitcase is bursting with impractical outfits and I have no other option than to stuff things into my over-sized carry-on in a feeble attempt to try keep under the 23 kg limit.

For the past three years, I’ve somehow managed to continent-hop my way through eight consecutive summers. As a result, packing for the cold is a WHOLE new ball game for me. As I start preparing for my upcoming winter adventures, I thought I would create a guide on HOW TO pack for a winter holiday (to help you as much as to help myself!)

Step One: Find the Right Bag

I don’t know about you, but I always seem to have the same struggle when I go away on a trip- what type of bag do I take away with me? Suitcases and backpacks both have major pros and cons, so it’s important to really consider which will best suit your travel plans!

Suitcase

Pros- Spacious, easy to access, durable in transit, keeps valuables safe

Cons- Easy to over-pack, hard to transport (particularly up stairs and long distances)

Best for-  Visiting one or two destination, organized tours, staying in hotels

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Which suitcase to go for?

With so many different types of suitcases on the market, it’s hard to know which suitcase will do you the most justice. Speaking from personal experience, I’ve had many a disaster travelling with a soft suitcase. First, there was the episode where I had a Japanese man chasing me to hand over a pair of my stripey pajama bottoms after the zipper on my case had burst open and personal items started spilling out. Then, the horror of watching my rickety suitcase topple down the stairs of a subway in London and hit an elderly man. After this last episode, I’ve drawn the line and finally bought a new and improved suitcase for my next trip! After extensive research, I went with a hard-shelled suitcase from the Lojel Lumo collection. It is super light-weight, durable and easy to manoeuvre- ticking a lot of boxes for me! If you are on the suitcase hunt, Luggage Direct is a good place to search and compare different luggage brands.

Pros- Forced to limit your packing, much more mobile, easier to store

Cons- A strain on your back, difficult to get on and off, restrictive in space/ weight you want to carry

Best for- Visiting many destinations, self-travel, staying in hostels

IMG_3088

Which backpack to go for?

Unlike suitcase shopping, I would highly recommend selecting a backpack in an actual store so you can try the pack on. If you are going to use a backpack, its important to get one that fits you correctly and comfortably. You also want to consider what size and features on a pack are suitable for you. I recently found out Kathmandu have released a hybrid pack, the Terrane Adapt Pack, which can transform from a backpack into a wheeled trolley bag. I seriously wish I knew such a thing existed last time I was backpacking for three months! Having the versatility to wheel a pack through an airport but sling it on your back once you reach your destination is seriously ideal- call me lazy, but carrying a pack 24/7 can get pretty exhausting!

Step Two: Pack the Right Things

The Essentials

Now you’ve got your bag sorted, it’s time to fill it with clothes to take on your winter adventures! The most logical way to pack is starting with the ABSOLUTE essentials (aka the warmest, most bulky items) and build from there.

  • Baselayers- Don’t underestimate the power of layering up in the winter weather! Stick to materials such as merino wool as it will keep you the warmest and most comfortable. Outdoor brands such as Patagonia have an extensive range of baselayers to choose from.
  • Warm Coat- I would recommend going for a longer, slightly oversized coat in a neutral color such as the Delphine Coat from Mountain Designs. That way, you can easily layer up underneath.
  • Weatherproof Jacket– invest in a really good waterproof/ windproof jacket so you are ready to face the elements. I would recommend getting a high-quality one made of a material such as Gore-tex, the quality will make a massive difference.

Accessories

Winter clothing can be a little drab and boring, especially when practically has to trump aesthetics. Luckily, accessories such as colorful beanies, scarves and mittens and a cute pair of boots are the perfect way to make dressing for winter a little more fun (and keep you warmer in the process!)

  • Scarves- Not only are they great for dressing up an outfit, scarves can be super multi-purpose and make for a great blanket during transit!
  • Gloves- For keeping warm and adding a little class to an outfit, leather gloves (or vegan leather gloves) are the perfect go-to.
  • Beanie- Wearing a cute beanie or a stylish wool hat will keep you head warm AND can hide your bad hair day. Double-win.
  • Socks-  3-4 pairs of thick, woolen socks are an absolute essential to keep your feet cozy and warm.

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 Shoes

Shoes are always the heaviest and bulkiest items you’ll need to pack, so make sure you carefully consider how many pairs you actually need. For a winter trip, the most practical shoes you could wear are a pair of quality boots. Most the time, boots are easy to slip on and off (perfect for wearing through the airport), match virtually everything, super comfortable and will keep your feet warm and dry.  Steve Madden or Windsor Smith are my top two picks for brands of boots.

Photo opportunities galore at Fox Glacier | New Zealand Photos
Photo opportunities galore at Fox Glacier

Step Three: Pack Smart

Use Packing Cubes

Want to know the one travel accessory that has changed my life? Packing Cubes. Winter clothes can be especially bulky and quickly fill up a suitcase or backpack, meaning you have to pull everything out anytime you just need the sock tucked away at the bottom of your bag. Buying different sized packing squares allows you to compartmentalize your clothing, shoes, underwear and gadgets, making everything so much easier to find. This basically forces you to be more organized when traveling!

how to pack for a winter trip

Other Handy Packing Tips

  • Roll your clothes instead of folding them- it will save you so much space!
  • If you are packing a hat, stuff a scarf inside the middle of the hat and then pack around it
  • When packing a backpack, make sure weight is evenly distributed by packing the heaviest items in the middle and lighter items at the top and bottom to keep

Step Four: Pack Safe

Use locks on your bags

Once you’ve got your bags packed, I would highly recommend locking them up- it’s always better to be safe than sorry. Make sure you use TSA locks on your check-in luggage. These are locks approved by Travel Sentry and can be opened by authorities using a master key. If you don’t use TSA locks, authorities may well break your locks if they need to check your bags for any reason.

Insure your belongings

Now your bags are all locked up, there is only one step left to take- insure all your belongings! You never know what may get lost, stolen or broken during your winter adventures so its best to make sure you are covered before you leave (rather than living in regret). If you are travelling with very expensive ski gear or camera gear, be sure to get an insurance policy that can cover these high value items. Often, you have to list these items separately and pay a premium on each. I personally use Southern Cross Travel Insurance, as I found they offered the most comprehensive cover for my camera gear. They also offer yearly cover, which works out so much cheaper as I only have to pay a premium on my high value items once, rather than every time I travel.

Lake Wanaka (129)

Now, I think it’s time for some magical winter adventures!

For more packing tips, read these next

This post has been sponsored thanks to SCTI. As always, all opinions are my own.

Nicola Easterby Bio Image

HEY THERE, I'M NICOLA!

I am on a mission to discover the BEST destinations & dishes from around the world. Whether it’s hopping on a plane or into the kitchen, come join the adventure!

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