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Essential Winter Travel Packing List (For Subfreezing Temperatures!)

Essential Winter Travel Packing List for Subfreezing Temperatures: Everything you need to stay warm when traveling in cold weather!

Ice-coated glories and snow-dusted dreams will inspire you to plan your own winter travel to one of the many top winter travel destinations. A far cry from the cute excuses for winter travel offered by our Los Angeles hometown, true winter travel can take you to anywhere from the snow-dusted palm trees of a Jeju Island winter to the largest ice sculptures in the world at the Harbin Ice Festival in China. And here’s the thing: just because it’s below freezing outside doesn’t mean you can’t have a good time. But if you do want to have the best time during winter travel, especially for those destinations with subfreezing temperatures, you’ve got to be prepared with a thorough winter travel packing list. After all, what good is an essential winter travel packing list if it’s only good for kinda cold weather?  

Screw that noise. I don’t like being cold, so I know damn well the importance of a good winter travel packing list to prevent cold-induced misery. And how do I know? On our recent trip to the Harbin Ice Festival, temperatures ranged from -17 °F (-27 °C) to a high of 15 °F (-9 °C). Having never really experienced those kinds of temperatures, I did a ton of research on the proper clothes to pack for the kinds of subfreezing temperatures that would allow for an ice festival on that scale (incidentally, the Harbin Ice Festival is the largest ice festival in the world). To my dismay, most of the winter travel packing lists I found simply weren’t sufficient for the kind of cold we encountered. That just doesn’t fly with me, and I’m here to offer a helping hand. In truth, my own essential winter travel packing list allowed my LA booty to walk around rather toastily at the Harbin Ice Festival in the coldest major city in China for a whopping 8 hours. And the best part? I was able to fit everything in my carry-on luggage! If you want to stay warm for winter travel, look no further than this essential winter travel packing list.

Essential Winter Travel Packing List

There are 5 main categories this winter travel packing list will target: your top half, your bottom half, your extremities, your electronics, and your face.

 

YOUR TOP HALF

Upper Base Layer

Word to the wise: invest in a good base layer. A base layer is one of the most important parts of this winter travel packing list, so make sure you don’t leave it out!

To give your top half some incredible warmth in a base layer, we love:

Warm, breathable, comfortable, and incredibly insulating, these top-notch wool base layers are essential for any cold temperatures, whether you’re visiting Paris in the winter, or going skiing in Japan.

For a cheaper option yet less effective option, a good pair of thermal long underwear make a great base layer. Make sure your pair is sufficiently warm for where you’re going! Also, it’s important that they fit pretty snugly, so that they will more easily fit under your other layers.

For thick, warm, and soft thermal long underwear that will take care of your top and bottom, we recommend:

Lauren at Harbin Ice Castle, China Ice Sculpture

3-4 Thin Sweaters for Layering

When you’re layering, it’s important that you don’t wear too many thick layers. You might not be able to adequately layer if you fill up your space with thick layers. Instead, opt for 3 or 4 layers of thinner but still warm sweaters, sweatshirtsturtlenecks, fleece layers and jackets

For our fleece recommendations:

Just make sure that your outer shell coat can fit over everything!

Oh winter glory ❄️ @thisbennypoo

A post shared by L A U R E N + B E N 🌏TRAVELERS (@televisionofnomads) on

Outer Shell

For your winter travel packing list, the best outer shells are microdown jackets that can fold up very compactly and are not very bulky compared to other jackets. If you’re going somewhere very cold a puffier down jacket is a good choice.

I used my old ski jacket in Harbin, but for winter travel packing in subfreezing temperatures, I highly recommend this Columbia Men’s Crested Butte Omni-Heat Jacket. It packs down nicely, and can work for a variety of different winter travel temperatures, including your double negatives. The jacket does an incredible job at trapping in the heat your body creates, making it effective for withstanding cold temperatures for longer periods of time. Just do a few jumping jacks and you’re all set! For women, Lauren is a fan of longer jackets, and she’s gaga for this Columbia Women’s Polar Freeze Long Down Jacket Omni Heat Warm Winter Coat and she also used this North Face Women’s Metropolis Down Insulated Parka Jacket for South Korean and Prague winters.

 

YOUR BOTTOM HALF

Bottom Base Layer

Keep them legs nice and toasty as well with a good base layer for your bottom half! Smartwool makes some killer wool base layers for your legs as well. We like:

But if you chose the budget option of thermal fleece-lined underwear, the Ekouaer sets we recommended above will keep your legs warm as well.


The Secret to Cheap Flights
 

2 Lined Pants

Just as you should for your top half, it’s also important to layer on your bottoms. For the Harbin Ice Festival, I wore a pair of fleece-lined sweatpants, with a high-quality pair of waterproof, seam-sealed ski pants.

For ski pants, we highly recommend:

Female Travel to Harbin Ice Festival in China

PROTECT YOUR EXTREMITIES

A major pet peeve of mine in cold weather is cold hands and feet. Of everything on my winter travel packing list, I always pay close attention to my extremities! 

Remember, if you wear too many socks, or your shoes are too tight, you can constrict the blood flow to your feet and actually make them feel colder!

2-3 Pairs of Wool Socks

Layering wool socks is great to keep your feet warm. Wear 2 or more pairs if you can. Try out:

Waterproof Winter Boots

A decent pair of fleece or fur-lined waterproof boots is essential to keep your feet warm. The Harbin Ice Festival had us walking on ice for 8 hours, and with the right pair of footwear, we were set! Here’s what we recommend:

Some frozen river shenanigans in China ☄❄️

A post shared by L A U R E N + B E N 🌏TRAVELERS (@televisionofnomads) on

Hand Gear

To keep your hands warm, you can wear a pair of tight-fitting glove liners under your gloves or mittens. The kind of hand gear you want to wear on top of the glove liners depends on what kind of activities you will be doing.

Mittens

If you don’t need to hold or do much with your hands, a pair of down-filled mittens are great and usually quite toasty. We suggest:

Gloves

If you will be performing more delicate actions (such as taking pictures), leather gloves with Thinsulate, like what I wore to Harbin, can be a good choice. We like:

For using touch-screen electronics or flying a drone in cold weather, make sure to get yourself a pair of skin-tight touch-screen gloves.

 

The Best Travel Deal App Download
 

A Warm Hat

Lots of heat escapes from your head when it’s cold out! A warm hat will go a long way in helping you stay comfortable. If you’re visiting a place that’s not too cold, you’ll be fine with a beanie such as this Daily Knit Ribbed Beanie by Tough Headwear or this Womens Chunky Cable Knit Beanie by Tough Headwear.

For winter temperatures that are more extreme, this Mysuntown Unisex Winter Trapper Trooper Hat is a fantastic option for both men and women. Durable and windproof, this adjustable lined trapper hat offers full coverage, keeping your  face, ears, nose, mouth, and even eyebrows nice and warm. My favorite feature is the removable face flap!

 

Winter Travel Packing List, Balaclava in Harbin

Balaclava

You can also get combination balaclava pieces that warm your head as well as your face and neck. These will be even more effective at keeping your warm than just a hat. Lauren loved this super soft plush-lined Connectyle Balaclava for Harbin, which can be worn in a variety of ways and is great for both men and women!

If you don’t have a balaclava, you can wrap a scarf around your neck and face, which is nearly as effective, but will requite constant readjustment if you’ll be outside for long periods of time.

 

PROTECT YOUR ELECTRONICS

Cold weather is nasty for electronics, both for their performance and their battery life. Batteries drain much quicker (especially LiPo batteries) in cold temperatures. You can learn more in our guide about what cold temperatures do to LiPo batteries! You can combat this by keeping cameras and other as warm as you can. Here are the things we added to our winter travel packing list to take care of our electronics:

Hot Packs

Something that is very handy for keeping electronics warm enough are attachable hot packs that you can place directly on your camera and gadgets that will pretty much guarantee the battery is kept warm.

If your smartphone is having trouble with its battery in the cold, these hot packs are also perfectly sized to attach to them, as well. Try out these HotHands Hand Warmers!

Power Bank

A power bank with a usb plugin is very handy to charge up your phone if it’s lost battery because of the cold. We use this Anker Astro Ultra Compact Portable Charger.

 

Travel with a drone in winter cold temperatures

Water-Resistant Bags

Think Tank makes a line of high-quality, water-resistant bags that are perfect for keeping your gear safe from the cold weather and snow. Whether you’re packing one camera and looking for a small messenger bag, or packing a few cameras and looking for a backpack, or even bringing something as big as a drone, Think Tank has something that will work for your needs. For us, we’re obsessed with the Think Tank Airport Helipak for our DJI Phantom, and use it everywhere we go (read our review of the Think Tank Drone Bag as the Best Travel Drone Bag). Big plus? If you use our links, Think Tank will give you free shipping plus a free gift!

 

PROTECT YOUR FACE

I’m not much of a fancy-product -kind-of-traveler, but when I travel to a cold place I add a few products on my winter travel packing list.

Moisturize Your Face

First, a travel-size jar of Vaseline 100% Pure Petroleum will sooth any dry lips or skin you suffer from when traveling in cold temperatures.

Additionally, I highly recommend a facial moisturizer for relieving your skin from the drying effects of winter temperatures. Lauren got me this Clinique Maximum Hydrator for Men which works fantastically, but you can try out this NIVEA Men Maximum Hydration 3 in 1 Nourishing Lotion for a cheaper option.

For women, Lauren loves Fresh Rose Deep Hydration Face Cream or First Aid Beauty Ultra Repair Face Moisturizer.

 

For Bearded Men: Take Care of Your Facial Hair

In addition to my face, I have to take extra care of my beard in cold and dry weather, as the skin can get super dry and flaky and wind can make it look like a hot mess. These are the beard products I add to my winter travel packing list. If you don’t have a beard, feel free to skip ahead!

Beard Oil

Using beard oil can help moisturize the skin and prevent your beard from becoming dandruff-ridden. This certified USDA Organic cinnamon bark-scented oil from Babel Alchemy is what I used in Harbin—it smells so good!

Beard Balm

Beard balm can help your beard stay tame in crazy winter winds. This tea tree oil infused balm from Babel Alchemy with organic and all-natural ingredients is the perfect partner for the cinnamon beard oil.

Beard Comb

To complete my beard-care regimen, I love this Babel Alchemy Handcrafted Pear Wood Beard Comb. A beard comb is built a bit differently than regular plastic combs, and is designed to not scratch the skin and pull too much at your beard hair. I use the comb to evenly distribute beard oil throughout my beard, ensuring that it’s all protected from the cold.

Harbin Ice Festival, Couples Travel

So that wraps up my essential winter travel packing list. Remember, don’t be afraid of cold weather travel! If you prepare yourself properly you can get out there and enjoy some of the amazing winter wonderlands that the world has to offer. Layering several thinner socks or tops will be more effective at trapping heat, and can provide you more outfit options for those times when you don’t need to be wearing everything in your bag! Here are the most important things to remember when packing for winter travel in your carry-on luggage:

  • Wear your bulky items on the plane (over-coat, winter boots, etc.)
  • Invest in a good base layer
  • Layer, layer, layer your sweaters and pants!
  • Slightly big winter boots are better than slightly small boots
  • Never forget your head and your extremities
  • Bring a balaclava for very cold temperatures
  • Moisturize your face, skin, and lips
  • Get some hot packs!
  • Electronics are also affected by the cold, so bring a portable power bank

 

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Essential Winter Travel Packing List for Subfreezing Temperatures Pack for Winter Travel in Your Carry On Luggage: The Essential Winter Travel Packing List!

 


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What would you put on your winter travel packing list?

Share in a comment below!

 

 

 

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12 Comments

  • Reply
    Emily
    February 21, 2017 at 8:41 am

    I have always wanted to visit the Harbin Ice fest. I’ve planned trips there like 3 different times, but then I always wimp out over the cold! I feel like I would have to buy so much stuff to wear just on this one trip, too. Your packing list is fantastic. If I ever make the trip, I’ll be prepared.

  • Reply
    Carina
    February 21, 2017 at 8:52 am

    Great post and beautiful photos! I had never heard of Harbin before, looking forward to making it to this Winter Wonderland one day soon!

  • Reply
    Alexandra
    February 21, 2017 at 9:34 am

    FLEECE! You mention it several times, but I gotta back you up on that. Best material EVER for keeping warm.
    I would have to add, for those who wear glasses, it may be a good idea to start practicing using contact lenses. I remember on a particularly cold day in Ottawa, Canada, suited up snug as a bug walking to uni that my breath snuck out from the top of my balaclava and froze on my glasses. I kid you not, freaking ICE on my glasses. And no, it would not come off. So off I went like a squinty little idiot to school. Honestly would not believe it if it hadn’t happened to me. lol

  • Reply
    Prerna Garg
    February 21, 2017 at 12:52 pm

    Thank you for these amazing tips. They are going to be really helpful for our travel!

  • Reply
    Jen Morrow
    February 21, 2017 at 9:04 pm

    Yes, layer upon layer is the only option for the bitter cold. Fleece, wool, and more layers. A good pair of gloves and the right scarf/hat make such a huge difference for comfort.

  • Reply
    Soumya Nambiar
    February 21, 2017 at 11:39 pm

    I am so used to Indian weather that I prefer not going anywhere too cold. But looking at you and Lauren from the photos, it is impossible to tell that you have got so many layers on you in Harbin. I always struggle with gloves while taking photos. So I will definitely check out the gloves you have recommended.

  • Reply
    Only By Land
    February 22, 2017 at 3:46 am

    Some great tips here, I’ve been traveling all winter so agree with them. One thing you included which I needed was the beard oil, the cold weather does effect under my beard and it looks especially bad after a shave. I’ll definitely give the oil a try, probably tomorrow! The portable charger is important too as the battery dies quicker in cold weather.

  • Reply
    Michaela Terese Harrison
    February 22, 2017 at 5:57 am

    Interested read. Great tips. I have not had many winter holidays but I have done the 3 three layers clothes. Have not heard of Harbin Ice fest, looks amazing.

  • Reply
    Jean
    February 22, 2017 at 12:16 pm

    This is a great list. People so often forget about waterproof bags for the snow. Snow is frozen water folks!

  • Reply
    Diana - MVMT Blog
    February 22, 2017 at 11:53 pm

    I love that you included specific recommendations for men and women! Having grown up in the northern parts of the US and Canada, winter clothes have always been part of my wardrobe, so I’ve never really thought about what to wear in the winter. Great guide though for people who are accustomed to warmer weather and traveling to a cold place for the first time!

  • Reply
    Natalie
    February 27, 2017 at 2:43 am

    This south Texas girl thinks this is the most valuable list I have ever seen!! I guess you have to try on your shoes with 3 pairs of socks when you buy them??

  • Reply
    Michelle
    February 27, 2017 at 10:19 pm

    Wow great post. I’ve been wanting to go to Iceland so this info will come in handy, thanks

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