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How to Pack a Light Winter Bag

How to pack a ligth winter bag

Light packing is part of sustainable travel. And I know that packing light in the winter can be more of a challenge than in the summer, but totally possible.

The thought of putting coats, sweaters, boots in your suitcase even makes your stomach chill, yet you can still pack light for winter travel and still have everything you need. It’s all about having the right winter clothes for travel, being focused, and practical.

There is no need to carry a bigger suitcase or an extra bag just because you want to have more varieties of sweaters or coats.

You just need to think and plan wisely about what you bring and how you pack it. Let’s pack light and wonderful. I’m sure your trip will be much happier!

Reduce the size of your suitcase

The time of the giant super suitcase is over. If you have one and love it, use it to help organize things in your home, but forget about it when it’s time to travel. 

Yes, the first step to a lightweight suitcase is the suitcase itself. If you have a giant suitcase, you will probably want to take up all the spaces in it.

top tip

The backpack can replace the suitcase

Once you discover the practicality of travelling with a backpack, you may no longer want to pull wheeled suitcases through the places you visit. Especially in the snow. 

Pack for a week

It doesn’t matter how long your trip is. Pack the same suitcase for a month as for a week. 

After a week, you can do laundry, either in the sink of your hotel or at a laundromat.

Cold weather trips are actually easier because the same clothes can be worn more often than in hot, sweaty weather. We repeat more clothes in winter and wash them less.

Plan the layers of clothing

When it comes to packing a light winter suitcase you have to take a deep breath, face reality and detach. The reality is that you will need several layers of clothes, so let’s let go of the fantasy of carrying that tight white shirt that makes you look like the hottest guy in the summer or that dress with a neckline that makes you the most irresistible of women. Probably if you pack these things, they will come home without ever being worn. 

So let’s focus on what we really need in winter. Layers.

By packing layers instead of a heavy jacket, you can adapt to changing weather conditions and your luggage will be lighter.

You can also wash your base layers more often – it is easier to wash a thermal t-shirt than a thick wool pullover.

First layer

So start thinking about the first layer. It is very important. The purpose of this first layer is to keep your body heat in, so it needs to be well attached to seal out the cold.  Consider investing in thermal clothing. Merino wool also works very well, as this magical fabric is naturally temperature regulating, softer than traditional wool, and dries quickly. 

If you don’t have these pieces, pack long-sleeved t-shirts to play that role of the first layer. Think of something in a neutral colour – I always wear black, so I know I’ll be ready for both a full day of hiking in freezing temperatures and an evening by a cosy fireplace.

4 t-shirts for the first layer are enough for your light winter suitcase. Remember that you can wash them whenever necessary. 

Second layer

Take a sweater with you and an extra one in your luggage. You won’t need more than this, so pick your favourites and preferably warm ones that aren’t super thick at the same time. Keep in mind that these are what you will be in when you take off your jacket. 

I always take a fleece. It can replace the pullover, or be worn over it if it gets colder. 

What to bring for the legs

For cold weather travel in urban areas, I will usually pack a pair of thermal leggings, a wool-lined pantyhose, and a mid-length skirt.

For those who like long pants more than skirts, replace them with your most comfortable jeans. Just be aware that it’s not something super tight, because if so, you won’t be able to do the layers, or you’ll look like you’re close to bursting at any moment. 

For the guys an extra pair of long pants or jeans and two thermal underpants.  

If the trip is to a ski area take ski pants as well, or if the trip is once in a lifetime, consider renting the gear. 


Go with a winter boot on your feet – make it as comfortable as possible and take only one pair of shoes in your luggage. Something that you can wear comfortably during the day and feel good at night in a restaurant, for example. 

Choose well your jacket

If you are travelling only to cold weather, you can take a heavier jacket, as long as you can wear it during the trip. In other words, it will not be an item in your suitcase at all. 

If you are travelling to multiple climates, leave it behind and opt for a light, fluffy jacket with insulation that is warm, ultra-light and highly compressible.  Thus, easy to pack. They usually have a nylon outer shell that is windproof and water-resistant.

If you are going to a destination with a lot of rain, it is best to take a waterproof rain jacket. Choose one that also blocks the wind. 

top tip

If you live in a city that doesn’t have winter, consider borrowing or renting a coat at your destination. There is no sense in buying winter clothes that you will not wear often. 

Wear your heaviest clothes on the train or plane

Wear your heavier, bulkier clothes and shoes on the plane to save space and weight in your luggage. 

You can also save space by stuffing your gloves and beanie into your jacket pockets.

Keep your extremities warm

Make sure you pack thick socks, a wool hat or cap, scarf, and gloves, as these don’t take up much space, but they make a big difference, because your head, feet, hands, and neck when they are warm, it’s all good. You feel more comfortable. 

Use compression bags or packing cubes

The way you pack is just as important as what you pack in saving space. Using packing cubes and compression bags makes it easy to organize your winter clothes in a lightweight or carry-on bag.

Don't pack too many toiletries and underwear

Take a piece of shampoo bar and also a soap bar. With it, you can also wash your clothes. 

A small package of moisturizer, sunscreen and deodorant. 

Take your toothbrush and tooth tabs. 

Choose underwear that is lighter and quick-drying. 

If you usually sleep in your pyjamas, don’t forget to pack yours! If you prefer, replace them with a comfortable t-shirt. 

That’s it! Now all you have to do is enjoy your sustainable travel lightly!

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