Packing for cold weather is a highly scientific art form. You need layers that are breathable, moisture-wicking, and warming, but also lightweight and packable.
Winter Clothes That’s Warm, Yet Packs Thin
Here are essential foundation pieces for your winter wardrobe—they’re warm, sleek, and easy to pack.
North Face Thermoball
Finding a jacket that’s warm but doesn’t take over your entire suitcase is tough, but North Face’s Thermoball fits the bill. This jacket uses a synthetic insulation that’s much thinner and lighter than down, but still just as warm—plus it works in both cold and wet conditions. Not wearing the jacket? Just pack it neatly into its own zipper pocket.
Duofold Thermal Clothing
Champion’s Duofold clothing line is an inexpensive, high-performing collection for men and women. The 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.
Clever Travel Companion Leggings
Leggings are the perfect layer under snowpants, jeans, or just a dress, and these ones by Clever Travel Companion have two hidden pockets large enough to hold your passport, phone, or cash. The pockets are zippered for security, so you can feel confident that your stash will be safe.
Heat Holders’ Thermal Socks
Warm socks are key to comfort in the winter, but if you try to wear bulky ski socks with your regular boots, you’re basically asking for blisters. Heat Holders’ Thermal Socks are “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.
The only way I’m able to dress somewhat respectably during Boston’s frigid winter is by wearing fleece-lined tights, like this pair from Berkshire. 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.
Although silk doesn’t sound super warm, it can be, especially when it’s combined with thermal fabric, like with Terramar’s Thermalsilk line. This engineered fabric is designed to adjust to your body temperature and lock in warmth, all while preventing odors and offering four-way stretch comfort. Plus, it’s incredibly lightweight and thin for the level of warmth it provides.
ColdPruf Base Layers
ColdPruf is a great line to check out if you want warmth on a budget. The company has shirts, leggings, long johns, and more, all at a reasonable price. The line performs just as well as some of the high-end brands, thanks to the unique blend of polyester and merino wool. I like its Thermachoice Rating System, which lets you know exactly what type of weather and activity each piece is designed for.
Under Armour ColdGear Gloves
Keep your hands warm but nimble with a thin glove that lets you easily grab and grasp things with your fingers, like Under Armour’s ColdGear Gloves. The special ColdGear Infrared fabric has a thermos-conductive inner coating to absorb and prevent body heat loss. The back of the gloves is padded to keep you even warmer without losing functionality.
Arcteryx Atom AR Hoody
Arcteryx’s Atom AR Hoody is one of the warmest packable jackets out there, thanks to its Coreloft insulation. It’s a lightweight insulation that’s great for outdoor activities like hiking or snowshoeing, and best of all, it has a sleek look rather than the “puffy” design of most other packable parkas.
If you’re looking for an all-around great baselayer, you can’t go wrong with Smartwool’s line. This is wool redesigned—Smartwool lost the itch and heaviness of Mernio wool and gave it stretch, moisture-wicking power, and wind resistance (thanks to a nylon facing).
More from SmarterTravel:
- 10 Ski Gear Essentials You Need This Winter
- Fall Travel Clothes for Changing Seasons
- The Best Snow Gear for Winter Travel
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.