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.
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 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).
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 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.
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.
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