Packing for cold weather is a highly scientific art form. You need winter clothes that are breathable, moisture-wicking, and warming—but also lightweight and highly packable.
Warm Winter Clothes That Pack Thin
Here are essential foundation pieces for your winter travel wardrobe—they’re warm, sleek, and easy to pack.
All of the products featured in this story were hand-selected by our travel editors. Some of the links featured in this story are affiliate links, and SmarterTravel may collect a commission (at no cost to you) if you shop through them.
Helly Hansen Verglas Infinity Outdoor Shell Pants
It’s important that shell pants be both warm and waterproof (but not too warm, as you don’t want to overheat when you’re moving.) Helly Hansen’s Verglas Infinity Shell Pants are designed to perform on the mountain, offering extreme waterproofing combined with breathability, for pants that can handle even the most extreme weather. If conditions change quickly, full side zippers allow you to take the pants off (or put them on) without removing your boots.
Made from a 50 percent recycled face fabric and a PFC-free durable water repellent treatment, these pants are lightweight and good for the environment.
Jack Victor Konnor Safari Jacket
You don’t have to choose between warmth and style with Jack Victor’s Konnor Safari Jacket. This vintage-inspired piece is made from a fully-lined modern stretch cotton fabric that’s lightweight but still warm and water-repellent. The stand-up collar features a stow-able hood that’s undetectable when tucked away.
Plenty of pockets will keep your valuables close by and secure.
Biofleece by ADAY
Although fleece is one of the warmest fabrics for winter, it can come at a high environmental cost. Many fleeces are made from plastic polyester, which sheds microplastic pollution when washed. ADAY has set out to change this with their new eco-friendly biofleece. This line uses a biodegradable material for its soft fleece fabric. The biofleece line is available in a Zoom-call appropriate high-neck sweatshirt and active pullover.
Duofold’s Thermal Clothing
Champion’s Duofold clothing line is an inexpensive, high-performing collection for men and women. Its fabric is designed to trap your body heat while wicking away moisture, creating a thermal layer between the clothes and your skin to keep you warm without adding bulk. Duofold can outfit you from top to bottom, with shirts and long johns.
NAVISKIN Fleece Lined Leggings
Leggings are the perfect layer under your winter clothes, and the NAVISKIN Fleece Lined Leggings have side pockets big enough to hold your phone or wallet and a zippered back pocket for small valuables. The moisture-wicking fleece lining also provides warmth without weighing you down.
Heat Holders’ Thermal Socks
Warm socks are key to winter comfort, but if you try to wear bulky ski socks with your regular boots, you’re basically asking for blisters. Heat Holders’ Thermal Socks claim to be “seven times warmer than a basic cotton sock” but aren’t stiff or too thick. They look like regular socks on the outside but have a plush lining to help you stay warm.
Berkshire’s Fleece-Lined Tights
One way to keep warm on a frigid day is by wearing fleece-lined tights, like Berkshire’s Cozy Tights, under your winter clothes. They look like normal black tights but have a nice, cozy fleece lining, which makes them feel like pajamas. And they’re way warmer than jeans, especially when paired with tall boots.
Terramar’s Thermalsilk Line
Though silk doesn’t sound super warm, it can be, especially when it’s combined with thermal fabric, as it is in Terramar’s Thermalsilk line. This engineered fabric is designed to adjust to your body temperature and lock in warmth, while preventing odors and offering four-way stretch comfort. Plus, it’s incredibly lightweight and thin for the level of warmth it provides.
ColdPruf’s Base Layers
ColdPruf is a great line for warmth on a budget. The company makes reasonably priced shirts, leggings, and long johns that perform just as well as some of the high-end brands, thanks to a unique blend of polyester and merino wool. Its Thermachoice Rating System lets you know exactly what type of weather and activity each piece is designed for.
Helly Hansen Verglas 3 Layer 2.0 Shell Jacket
Designed for backcountry activities like skiing, hiking, and mountaineering, Helly Hansen’s Verglas Shell Jacket will keep you warm (but not sweaty). The PFC-free water repellent treatment on the hard shell exterior can withstand even heavy snow or rain. Layer underneath for colder days or wear the shell solo when it’s warmer.
Outdoor adventurers will appreciate thoughtful design touches like helmet/backpack/harness compatibility, extra wind protection in the front, and a waist draw cord for a custom fit.
Under Armour’s UA Storm Fleece Gloves
Keep your hands warm but nimble with a thin glove that lets you easily grasp things with your fingers, like Under Armour’s Storm Fleece Gloves (available in men’s and women’s sizes). These water-repellent gloves provide a layer of insulation from the cold and the wet winter weather, plus feature suede tips on the thumb and index finger so you can use your phone without removing the gloves.
Arcteryx’s Atom LT Hoody
Arcteryx’s Atom LT Hoody is one of the warmest packable jackets out there, thanks to its Coreloft insulation. It’s a lightweight outer layer that’s great for outdoor activities like hiking or snowshoeing. Best of all, it has a sleek look rather than the “puffy” design of most other packable parkas. Available in men’s and women’s sizes.
Smartwool’s Merino Wool Line
If you’re looking for an all-around great base layer to throw on under your winter clothes, you can’t go wrong with Smartwool’s entire line. This is wool redesigned—Smartwool lost the itch and heaviness of traditional sheep’s wool and replaced it with stretch, moisture-wicking power, and wind resistance, thanks to its nylon facing.
Caroline Morse Teel doesn’t let cold weather stop her travels. Follow her on Instagram TravelWithCaroline.
Some review products are sent to us free of charge and with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions, positive and negative, and will never accept compensation to review a product.
Editor’s note: This story was originally published in 2016. It has been updated to reflect the most current information.
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We hand-pick everything we recommend and select items through testing and reviews. Some products are sent to us free of charge with no incentive to offer a favorable review. We offer our unbiased opinions and do not accept compensation to review products. All items are in stock and prices are accurate at the time of publication. If you buy something through our links, we may earn a commission.