How to Pack Light for Winter

You’ve just booked a winter getaway. Your main piece of luggage? Your trusty backpack. Product Expert Daan Dijkstra shares his top tips for packing warm and light.

It doesn't matter if you're a backpacker, travelling for work, or even packing for two different seasons; packing warm and light can be a challenge.

But when it comes to packing a bag, Daan knows. His 25 years in the outdoor industry means he’s been asked how to pack countless times for every weather condition and activity.

So how do you pack a bag that won’t break the zips, backs and the spirits of even the most well-intentioned travellers? Daan shares his must-do’s:

1) Select smart travel gear

  • Choose clothing that will give you excellent ‘warmth for weight’. That is, clothes that are made out of lightweight fabric that give you excellent warmth and insulation. Look for materials like downfleece or merino. This will help keep your suitcase/backpack nice and light without skimping on the essentials.

  • Keep your eyes peeled for adaptable travel clothes. Items that are reversible or can be worn in more than one way make packing that much easier. This means that even though you’ll pack less, you’ll still take more. For example, a jacket that turns into a travel pillow, or warm t-shirts that can easily be worn inside out or back-to-front are excellent examples.

Whatever your trip, whatever your preferences, there is one tip to rule them all — layering. Wind, rain and cold are three things that Mother Nature will throw at you on a winter trip so be sure you’ve got those covered. Don’t forget your feet, hands and head! For a week or two of casual sight-seeing, you can probably get away with three base layers, two mid-layers and one trusty outer layer. This is going to depend on things like ... if you can wash, and if you're using merino, but more on that later.

For winter, it's important to make sure your outer layer has some wind resistance and is preferably waterproof.

2) Get a look at the bigger picture

Once you’ve chosen some hard-working travel garments that tick the layering boxes, it’s time to check yourself. Lay out everything you want to bring and put like items together. You’ll soon see glaring excesses — four shirts? Maybe you can get away with three. If you pack by loading everything straight into your bag, you miss this opportunity to assess what you’re taking, and it’s easy to let unnecessary stuff slip in.

If you're backpacking, or keeping most of your kit on your back during an adventure, it's even more important to keep things light. If you can't go without something, see if you can replace it with a lighter version or model. This may mean you need to upgrade to a down sleeping bag, or opt for a smaller sleeping mat.

3) Strike the right balance with “just in case”

Just in case happens only rarely, and if you’re notorious for packing half your wardrobe, it’s time to challenge your mindset. Assess your particular trip and situation and strike the right balance. For instance, you probably don't need five pairs of pants to cover every possible occasion. But you might need a First Aid kit if you're travelling with the kids or hitting the slopes. You see? Balance.

Lache wears the waterproof Bealey GORE-TEX® jacket
Lache wears the waterproof Bealey GORE-TEX® jacket

Daan’s gear recommendations:

Merino Layers

Merino wool is the perfect, breathable, all season fabric. You won't sweat in the heat, but you do retain warmth when the temperature drops.

Merino long-sleeved shirts and t-shirts are a long favourite in our travel bag because they've got great warmth for weight — and because it’s odour-resistant, it doesn’t need much washing.

I’d even go as far to say less washing; more use. You can bring fewer of these and wear them longer.

The Down Jacket

Like merino, down offers fantastic warmth to weight. You need to be aware of how fill power can affect weight, so learn how to choose the right down jacketfor your travels.

Down is great if you need your jacket in your bag, because it has excellent compressibility. In short, you can squish them good and they’ll take up less room in your luggage.

The Benmore 5-in-1 Jacket is an awesome travel buddy as it’s adaptable, includes down, and works as a multi-layer item. Skin it down to just the down vest or go full winter warmth with a waterproof outer and a long-sleeve down bomber jacket zipped in.

Remember that you don't always have to pack a jacket. You can bring them in the cabin with you and save on precious pack space.

Packing Cells

If you’re aiming to pack small for winter, I reckon packing cells are a given. They help you to stay organised, and secondly they can help compress bulky items and allow you to maximise available space.

They’re also helpful for separating smelly or wet stuff when you’re in the thick of your adventures. My picks are our new Ultralight CORDURA packing cells — the lightest ones we have.

Pack like a pro with our range of travel essentials.

Shop Kathmandu for winter travel
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    Benmore Men's ngx 5-in-1 Travel Rain Jacket
    Members Price £251.99