Simply getting dressed in winter can feel like a test of will, so it’s no surprise that packing for a cold-weather destination isn’t easy. But just like packing for autumn, spring and summer, my goal is a well-edited, remixable selection of clothes to see me through my trip – known around the internet as a capsule wardrobe. Though I’m usually team carry-on only, all the bulk and layers of chilly weather might mean you need to break out a checked bag.
But don’t get carried away with all the extra space by filling it with things you won’t wear! Too much stuff can be a big drag on your trip, and not just in the “ugh, this bag is so heavy” way. Those cigarette pants might seem like a great idea – so chic and versatile! – but if you already think they’ll end up languishing in the corner of your bag, leave them at home from the start. My other best space-saving tip? Use packing cubes (bonus points if they are adorably designed).
The first step of packing is always this: look at what you have planned, and choose accordingly. The clothes you’d wear for shopping holiday markets in Cologne might be different than what you’d want for a cozy weekend in the Cotswolds. Look through your closet and pick the winter pieces you love the most, and what you think will work best (lay them out as you go or use this app). You’ll probably start to see a nice collection coming together – different things that work together, a color that pops up in a few different places. Keep adding and editing until you’re feeling confident in your capsule. Finally, fill in any gaps if you realize you need another sweater, your well-loved mittens might not last the trip, or you must borrow your sister’s perfect green purse.
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Here’s a shoppable version of my winter travel capsule:
When everything is packed away, you should have about 20 outfits for your upcoming adventure (I count 24 above, and that doesn’t include switching up the shoes!). For me, this size capsule works well for anywhere from a week to a couple months of travel. If your trip is shorter, or you’ll have easy access to laundry, go ahead and pack less! If you’re headed somewhere truly cold, you might want to add a base layer and refer to my guide on surviving super-cold winters in style.
Tops: Prepare to layer by keeping these pretty lightweight. Choosing natural fabrics like cotton, wool, and silk is always a good idea. Also, Paris.
Shoes: I tend to pack more shoes in winter, because I don’t know what I’ll need each day. Wellies for lots of snow, rain, or slush? Tall boots for a dry, windy day? Can I get away with ankle boots or loafers – or do I need the traction of sneakers? I pack them all. #notactuallyaminimalist
Accessories: A hat, scarf, and mittens are highly underrated for how warm they can keep you. For bags, I stick by my standard policy: a smaller crossbody for most days and a big tote for travel, market shopping or day trips. Don’t forget to add a little flair among all your layers – and I can’t believe I forgot tights in the capsule above!
my free printable five-step
guide to packing light &
traveling in style