Packable Winter Layers Perfect for Travel

Pack well. Stay warm. These brands have you covered.
people walking through the forest wearing rust-colored Kora brand Yardang baselayers, which are warm and packable.
Kora Yardang layers (Photo: Lena Drapella/Kora)

Packing for winter trips is tricky because on the one hand, it’s nice to pack light and on the other, being cold on vacation can really put a damper on fun. But with plenty of great packable winter layer options that happen to also be lightweight, compressible, and remarkably thin (thanks technical fabrics!), you can pack light and stay warm on your travels to cold climates.

Packable Winter Layers

Here are some of our favorite packable winter layers. These brands’ gear span the spectrum from natural fabrics (looking at you, yak wool) to synthetic performance options. For men and women (and kids, in many cases), these packable layers are the ultimate winter travel accessory. 

Kora 

Two people standing in a field wearing Kora brand Yardang base layers
Kora Yardang yak and wool jersey (Photo: ©Lena Drapella/Kora)

For nearly a decade, I’ve been packing Kora gear on my travels, and recommend the brand wholeheartedly. After thousands of miles and many years, my Stratam Hooded Jacket (for women and men) is still in great shape and keeps me warm. More recently, I added the lighter-weight Yardang Jersey (for women and men) to my collection. Both are made with Kora’s unique blend of yak and merino wools, and are soft and remarkably thin for the warmth they offer, and take up very little suitcase space.

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They’re easy to layer–one of my favorite things to do in really chilly spots is to do a smartwool base layer, then the Kora, and then a puffer jacket. It’s a wicking but cozy and easy-to-move-in combo. Not only are they good for travel (and for the plane), they’re also great for cold weather hiking, running, and other sorts of exercise. 

Patagonia

Blue Women's Capilene® Midweight Bottoms front and back view
Patagonia’s Capilene baselayer bottoms are packable and thin but warm (Photo: Patagonia)

Patagonia has a whole slew of wool-alternative base layers for women, men, and kids that fold up small for packing but still protect effectively against cold. The brand’s Capilene line of base layer tops and bottoms is made with recycled polyester hollow-core yarns and diamond-grid backs that trap warm air while wicking moisture (let’s hear it for warm but not sweaty!). The flatlock seams make them extra comfy to wear underneath clothing (no rubbing or chafing).

And because it’s Patagonia making the clothing, you know it’s Fair Trade Certified and that the company is dedicated to making the manufacturing process ethical and sustainable. 

Smartwool

Smartwool Men's Classic Thermal Merino Base Layer Crew
Smartwool’s Men’s Classic Thermal Merino Base Layer Crew is super warm without the bulk (Photo: Smartwool)

I don’t travel in winter without three key Smartwool components: a baselayer crew (women | men), merino wool baselayer bottoms (women | men), and Smartwool’s last-nearly-forever soft-and-comfy socks. This combination offers easy-to-pack, sleek-to-wear protection against the cold, so whether you’re sightseeing in Paris in January or watching the Northern Lights in Alaska, you’re covered.

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Smartwool also makes jackets, pants, shirts, hats, and a host of other naturally temperature-regulating merino wool that comes from sources that “ensure environmental, social, and economic sustainability while safeguarding animal welfare.”

Lands End

Lands End packable vest and down jacket in black and green
Each item in Lands End’s line of Packable down jackets and vests fits into a little stuff sack (Photo: Lands End)

Lands End knows its way around a packable down jacket. And it’s not a one-option party on the packable layers, either: Different lengths and cuts hit below the hip (women | men), above the knee (women), and come in maxi (women)  and vest (women | men) styles as well. What unites all of the options (aside from flattering cuts and great colors) is the fact that they come with a little stuff sack that makes compressing them for travel (or tossing them into a day pack or bag when you’re out and about) easy.

The company also has rain jackets (women | men | kids) that come with the little stuff sack. Bonus: Lands End regularly has good sales, with significant temporary price drops on its puffer jackets. 

Craghoppers

Craghoppers packable puffer jacket and a close-up of the stuff sack for carrying.
Craghoppers’ CompressLite Hooded jacket is a layer that packs up small.

I’ve had the same packable Compresslite Hooded Jacket (women | unisex) from Craghoppers for years, and it’s still in good enough shape to pack on my travels. It’s both lightweight and warm, and the shape of the stuff-sack makes it not just easy to pack but the perfect travel pillow alternative for long flights. It’s water repellent, wind resistant, insulating (using a combination of fabrics designed to lock in body heat), and made of recycled materials.

Craghoppers has a bunch of other packable outdoor wear for women, men, and kids, and also has a nice line of travel daypacks.

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Christine Sarkis
Christine Sarkis is a traveling parent and longtime travel writer and editor. The former executive editor for TripAdvisor travel magazine SmarterTravel.com, Sarkis has spent nearly two decades finding and sharing the best places to go with an audience of enthusiastic travelers. Her stories have appeared on USA Today, Conde Nast Traveler, Huffington Post, and Business Insider. Her expert advice has been quoted in dozens of print and online publications including The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, and People magazine. She has also shared travel tips on television and radio shows including Good Morning America, Marketplace, and Here & Now. Her stories have been published in the anthologies Spain from a Backpack and The Best Women's Travel Writing 2008, and she is working on a travel memoir.

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