Six Tips for Packing for the Cold When You Live Where It’s Hot

December 12, 2019 by · Leave a Comment 

If you’ve lived your whole life in a place with all four seasons, you learned at a very early age how to dress for the weather. You’ve nailed what’s the bare minimum and comfortable maximum for keeping warm in sub-zero temperatures. But if you’ve spent your entire life in warm or tropical areas, it’s hard to imagine what real cold is like.

If you’re heading to a cold destination for winter vacation, you probably don’t know what to expect or what you should be packing. Your temptation might be to shove a giant parka and a Snuggie into its own suitcase and live in that for your entire trip.

That’s the wrong way to pack for the cold, because you’ll end up being too hot or too cold, and won’t be able to find that happy medium. So here are six tips on how to pack for cold weather when you live where it’s warm.

A woman walking in a snowstorm. Packing for the cold means anticipating but not overpreparing.

  1. Skip the parkas and puffy coats. People who aren’t used to cold weather often dress for extreme weather, and burrow into a heavy winter parka. The problem is those things will heat up eventually, and you’ll be too uncomfortable to stay in it. Except it’s too cold outside so you can’t take it off. As warm as they may be, you don’t want them overfilling your suitcase, so skip them entirely. If you insist on taking one, carry it and wear it on the plane; don’t pack it at all.
  2. Everything is about layers. To truly dress for warmth, you need to dress in layers. I could survive an Indiana winter to about 15 degrees with just a long sleeve t-shirt, a short sleeve t-shirt, and a fleece pull-over. With that, I could walk a few blocks before I started to feel the chill. If I really wanted to warm up, or if it got below 15 degrees, I wore a second long-sleeve t-shirt. If you’re going to be spending a lot of time outside, put on an additional under layer, rather than a thicker coat or sweater, or replace the fleece with a lined windbreaker.
  3. Pack only one or two bulky items. The temptation might be to take one sweater or sweatshirt for every day of your trip. Avoid this! You shouldn’t take any more than one or two bulky sweaters, pullovers, or sweatshirts. That’s because you’re going to layer up, and so your undershirt is the only thing you need to change every day. Do you change coats every day when you get cold? Of course not! The clothes underneath keep you from getting your coat stinky and dirty. If you pack in layers, you’re pretty much keeping your outer clothes safe with the inner-most layer of your layered look, so you really only need enough undershirts to get you through the vacation. Pack a few outer shirts for different looks, but only one or two bulky items. It also helps if you wear one of those on the plane. In fact, just. . .
  4. Wear your heaviest items. If you’re going to take heavy boots with you, wear them on the plane. For one thing, they’ll add a lot of unnecessary weight to your luggage, which could mean getting hit with overage charges. For another, they’ll take up a lot of extra room in your luggage. This is true for big sweaters or jackets. If you wear your heavier items, you’ll save yourself all kinds of space and money. And if the thought of carrying these for several hours sounds unappealing, then just leave them behind and pack a couple extra light layers.
  5. Wear your summer sweater indoors. It was a little disconcerting when I first got to Florida and saw people wearing sweaters in 90 degree weather. I could never figure out why, then I spent a few days in places where the air conditioner was set to Arctic Blast, and I understood. It really does get cold inside in July and August, and so it’s easier to just wear a light sweater indoors. Winter indoors in the north is like an air conditioned movie theater in the South: You will get cold, so wear something light to keep warm.
  6. Layer your socks too.Two pairs of thin socks are definitely better than one thick pair of socks. But layering socks can be a bit difficult if you’re not sure what you’re going to be doing during the day. Even in the winter, your feet can get sweaty, and if you’re doing a lot of walking around, you can still get blisters. So layer your socks with a thin nylon sock first, to help wick away any sweat. Then a thicker cotton layer on the outside for warmth. You could also wear wool socks, but they get super warm if you’re doing a lot of walking, so you may want to save them for when you’re inside. And wear a thin sock under those too, because wool is itchy!

How do you keep warm when you’re in a northern winter climate? Do you have any special tips for people packing for the cold? Share them with us on our Facebook page, or in our Twitter stream.

Photo credit: Statschew (Flickr, Public Domain)

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