Packing Strategy 6: Winter Gear

Updated June 22, 2020.

It’s another edition of Packing Week! A while back I asked my readers on Facebook what they wanted to read about in an upcoming blog post. One of the responses was “tips for packing winter clothes.” I am passionate about never checking a bag, so packing efficiently is very important to me. Now that the weather is getting cooler, it’s time to address that request! So here are my strategies and tips for packing those bulky winter clothes and gear. You got this!

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Packing Strategy 6: Winter Packing

1. Wear Your Heaviest Items

The easiest way to pack winter clothes efficiently is to wear them. Planes are usually pretty chilly, especially in winter with the boarding door wide open first thing, so wearing your bulkier clothes will help if you are cold-natured.

When thinking of what you’re planning to pack, remember to save room by wearing:

  • your coat
  • your boots
  • your scarf
  • your jeans or snow pants
  • anything else you can wear that you think might take up a lot of precious space in your bag
What he gets too warm to wear, he can put in his pockets instead of his luggage!

2. Use Your Small Spaces

Sometimes it’s not practical to wear your bulkier shoes, such as boots or hiking shoes. If you have to pack them, please use the space inside! The space where your feet and ankles usually go is perfect for stuffing socks, underwear, gloves, knit hats, rolled up t-shirts, chargers, cords, dry toiletries, and anything else that will fit!

Some things to remember:

  • If you fear stinkiness from your shoes, put items in a plastic bag before placing inside your shoes; also stuff a dryer sheet in there
  • Keep everything else in your bag clean by putting your (filled) shoes in plastic grocery bags before putting them into your luggage
Cute boots!
Full of socks!

3. Choose Wisely

When choosing what to pack, of course you have to think of what you’ll be doing and how long you’ll be in the cold weather. Are you going to be hiking around or waiting under an open sky for the Northern Lights? Or will you be taking in the museums and indoor historic sites in a large city?

If you’re planning to be in the cold for a couple of hours or even all day, here are some recommendations to keep you warm while helping you travel light:

  • a good base layer for top and bottom; Cuddl Duds are a great brand
  • down coats are very packable and incredible warm for how light they are; they can often be backed into their own pockets
  • fleece-lined leggings are comfortable, take up less space than jeans or other bulky pants, and are warm, so I recommend including them in your winter travel wardrobe
  • wool is warm but itchy, requiring a good base layer; this means you can wear that wool sweater more than once on your trip and only change the base layer (the thinner, easier to pack layer)

4. To Roll or To Fold?

If you’ve read my other 6 Packing Strategies, you know I am typically a rolling packer. But sometimes bigger, bulkier items like sweaters and coats don’t roll very well. Just remember that if you do have to pack those things, make them as flat and square as possible, and use them to cushion other things like your laptop or breakable souvenirs on your return flight! Here is a quick tutorial for those bulkier items:


You have two options!

1. Puffy down coats are easy because they can squish down to practically nothing. They are usually designed to be squeezed into a bag that comes with it or into its own pocket.

2. For all other coats, this folding technique works well for me. When we went to Iceland, I took three coats and used them all! It was tough to pack everything into my carry-on, but this technique helped:

Full-size rain coat, laid flat.
Fold the bottom third inside out.
Fold in the sleeves and hood.
Fold into thirds.
Fold the top half over the bottom.
Fold up the portion you previously folded inside out; it should make a pocket that you can fold the coat into!

Sweaters can be so bulky. You can fold this similarly to the coat method above. This is one of the rare instances where rolling can take up more room than folding!

Full-size sweater.
Fold up the bottom half inside-out.
Cross the arms in front.
Fold into thirds.
Fold over and pull the inside-out portion over like a pocket!
Long-sleeved Shirts

I take more things like this than sweaters whenever possible. They take up less space, they can be layered, and if I need to wash them, they will dry faster than a sweater.

Long-sleeve shirt.
Fold in half, lining up the arms.
Fold the sleeves over to make the shirt a rectangle, but leave one sleeve out.
Roll the rectangle all the way down.
Now fold the sleeve over so the shirt will not unravel!
Long Pants

This technique works for jeans, leggings, long johns, and pants of every material!

Fold in half.
Make it a rectangle.
Leave out one leg.
Roll from the top to the bottom.
Pull that leg over so it won’t come unraveled!
Want more? Check out Gear Up for Winter Travel!

Want more packing strategies? Check out my Packing Page!

Does this help you in your upcoming winter packing ventures? I hope so! Do you already do some of these things? Did you learn something new you’ll want to try? Tell me in the comments section below!

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Published by quickwhittravel

Welcome to the blog! We do things a little differently around here: no ads, no negativity, and no checked luggage, y'all. My name is Whitney, and Quick Whit Travel Blog is your one-stop shop for all the best travel tips, packing advice, and destination information. Click around or message me on social media @quickwhittravel for more!

10 thoughts on “Packing Strategy 6: Winter Gear

  1. Nice and useful tips, thanks! I also always managed to wear my heaviest jacket and boots every time winter packing. Trying to pack the lightest as well!

  2. Good ideas. My favorite thing to do when visiting family in Michigan over the winter is to plan on borrowing clothes from my mom and sister! Haha!

  3. These are phenomenal tips! I actually just discovered cudleduds a couple of weeks ago! We are planning Iceland for Northern Lights this year, so we have to be warm, but light!

    1. That’s awesome! Yeah, cuddl duds are the best! I have some Iceland resources under “Travel Inspiration,” including some tips for the Northern Lights and things to know before you go, so I hope you’ll find those helpful, too!

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