Packing for a Cooler Climate

Solo Traveller Club Host, Tina Richardson, shares her cooler climate packing strategy.

by Tina Richardson

Often times when we are heading off on holiday, it’s to a warmer climate. That just seems to be a factor of life here in the great white north.  However, there is many an adventure to be had that does not involve wiggling your toes in the sand.  Think awe inspiring icebergs, majestic mountains, and in the case of our Solo Traveller club this month, the ever elusive Northern Lights.

Gearing up for a cooler climate means packing with even more finesse than you usually do. Why?  Because some articles of clothing can be bulkier such as parkas, hats, scarves and mitts. The key to packing light for cooler weather (or any weather for that matter) is layers.  You don’t need one massive, puffy jacket to keep you warm when you can bring smaller pieces that can be worm multiple ways.  Think items that can all be worn together when cold, but can also be mixed and matched or worn individually for varying temperature and weather conditions. 

Re-considering that heavy coat at this point?  You should be – really, it can only be worn in one condition. Really, super cold!  Any other condition will render it useless, not to mention bulky and cumbersome to carry around. Choose layers instead, you will have less bulk and more options.

So, layer up!  It’s an easy 3-step process:

  1. Base layer. Camisoles and tank tops are great because they can go under virtually anything for a little extra warmth.  Always bring a few, they take up virtually no space and can double as sleepwear in a pinch.  Not to mention, you will be the only one ready should warmer weather hit!  Another base layer option is a short or long sleeved shirt.  Preferably made of a quick-drying fabric or natural wool such as Merino.  Always choose your base layers in solid, neutral colours that can be easily combined with anything or worn all on their own.
  2. Top layer. This is the one everyone will see, so think cute sweater, cardigan, or tunic.
  3. Jacket it up!  Consider a jacket or coat that is lightweight, breathable, water and wind resistant.  There are options out there these days that have a zip out inner liner.  A little extra something you don’t need to keep in every day, but a nice to have for those extra chilly days.

So, that’s your top half covered!  Layering works on the bottom too!  Consider pants that you feel comfortable in and that are loose enough that you can add a thermal layer underneath if need be. Myself, I don’t care for jeans in cold weather but it’s a matter of opinion.  Having a pair of jeans in a suitcase is always a must. They can be dressed up for the evenings or down for the day.  Leggings are another item to add to your cold weather arsenal.  They can be worn on their own with a longer top over, or can also double as an inner layer for added warmth.

Your feet also need to be warm and dry.  I can’t think of anything worse than having cold feet when I’m on them all day for a full bout of exploring.  For the colder weather, you will want to ensure that your footwear is wind and water resistant since those temperatures are prone to precipitation.  Boots or weatherized walking shoes will suit you best.  Choose socks made for the winter climate, they absorb moisture very differently than regular cotton socks.

Need a punch of fashion?  Me too!  And this can easily be accomplished with a lively scarf, mitts or socks.  These don’t take up much room in your suitcase at all, so you can feel free to splurge a little and bring a few options!

Sounds simple, doesn’t it?  You have it all laid out, colour-coordinated, layers all present , but how does this all fit into one suitcase?  Especially with winterized footwear, winter coat, winter boots?

Easy – another 1, 2, 3 process!

  1. Wear your bulkiest items on the plane, don’t pack them!  Hiking boots, winter boots, coats, heavy sweater. You name it, put it on!
  2. In the suitcase, heaviest items go at the bottom.  Travel with the smallest toiletries possible.
  3. To save space, use compression packers or packing cubes.  These things are worth their weight in gold (actually much more).  Ideally you want your suitcase no more than ¾ full when you leave.  That will allow space for souvenirs, etc.

Cooler temperatures are not all about outerwear and fashion.  You’ll have to be prepared to deal with your electronics as well.  Colder weather is more draining on battery power than warmer weather, and lenses tend to fog up.  Be prepared with extra battery packs and cleaning cloths.  Keeping your spare parts closer to your body is also a great trick to keeping them warm.

Wherever your travels take you, you will rest easy knowing you are well prepared.  Remember, you are packing for the elements.  Stay away from fabrics that retain moisture or don’t dry easily, and if it’s too heavy or bulky – leave it at home!

Our Solo Traveller Club will be doing just this in January as we head to Iceland for our next adventure. To learn more about our upcoming departures, call 1.855.402.4646, email us or visit