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senior couple ice skating wearing winter gear

The Worst Winter Travel Gear (and What to Pack Instead)

Between dressing up for holiday functions, keeping warm, and staying dry in blizzard conditions, winter is by far the hardest season to pack for. Here are some of the worst winter travel gear items you can bring on any trip and what to pack instead. These 20 winter travel gear pieces look stylish, will keep you warm and dry, and won’t take up too much room in your suitcase.

Instead of an Oversized Coat …

Pack a compressible jacket that will still stand up to the cold. L.L. Bean’s new PrimaLoft Cross Core jacket material is both warm and lightweight, and packs away in a stowaway pouch. It’s available in both men’s and women’s styles, as well with or without a hood.

If you are going somewhere really cold and need more than a lighter-weight, pack-away jacket, consider one that does double duty, like the Adidas Climawarm Jacket. Not only is it water-repellent and double-insulated, but it’s also made of recycled polyester. A similar style for men is also available.

Helly Hansen’s 3-in-1 Helsinki Raincoat is another multifunctional waterproof coat. Though it’s not as easy to pack, it’s great for wetter climates.

Instead of an Irresponsible Down Jacket …

down jackets from eddie bauer.
Eddie Bauer

Many companies don’t source their down material responsibly and instead do so from facilities that live-pluck and force-feed waterfowl. The Responsible Down Standard (RDS) ensures humane treatment of the waterfowl that provide down and feathers for clothing. Look for the “RDS-compliant” indicator on winter travel gear products from companies such as Eddie Bauer and prAna.

The women’s Yukon Classic 2.0 jacket can be dressed up or down and still keeps you warm even below freezing; it is perfect over midweight layers and doesn’t feel too bulky. For men, check out the Superior 2.0 Down Jacket for a warm, attractive option.

Instead of Bulky Shoes …

To save suitcase space, wear your winter boots on the plane and pack only one other pair of shoes, like a stylish flat from Rothy’s. The company currently has five styles, all made from recycled plastic: The Flat, The Point, The Loafer, The Chelsea, and The Sneaker. Comfortable and lightweight, these shoes go with almost anything. Pick from neutral colors or fun prints based on your style.

Another way to avoid overpacking is by packing a multifunctional boot like Cole Haan’s Newburg Chelsea boot. The waterproof material, classic style, and sturdy traction make it functional, yet the small heel dresses it up. For men, the water-resistant Phil Chukka boot from Forsake has good traction and works just as well in the city as it does on hiking trails.

Instead of Fabrics That Are Hurting the Environment …

sweater and shirt from prAna.

Pack warm and naturally insulating layers from innovative fabrics that aren’t itchy or made from unhealthy chemicals. Kora’s Xenolith Sweater is a useful mid-layering piece that comes in both a men’s and women’s style. Using yak and merino wool, as well as Polartec Alpha (an alternative to down), this will be your warmest layer.

prAna also prides itself on sustainability, offering sustainable and recycled fabrics. This women’s sweater is equally appealing for family dinners or travel days, while this RDS-certified down insulated flannel jacket (made from bluesign® approved recycled polyester with DWR finish) for men is a functional layer that works for meeting the parents or a last-minute grocery run.

Smartwool is another brand that strives to use sustainable materials, like merino wool, that are moisture-wicking, self-insulating, and even cooling (when needed). Merino wool fabric is ideal for a base layer, but it’s also useful in hats, scarves, gloves, and socks.

Instead of Non-Waterproof Gear …

Trust me: This is the one winter travel gear item you won’t want to skimp on. Winter weather can strike at any time, and being wet only makes you colder. Patagonia makes a number of high-quality jackets for men and women that are both packable and waterproof.

If you’re headed into extreme conditions, you’re going to want to make sure all of your shoes are waterproof, too. For women, Cougar’s Donato Foldover Waterproof Boot and Helly Hansen’s Cora shoe are stylish, durable options. And for men, the Ashwood Park boot is a multifunctional, waterproof option from Timberland.

Lastly, waterproof gloves are a must. SealSkinz makes all-weather cycling gloves that are protective enough for tough winter weather. This style isn’t too athletic-looking and can pass as a blizzard-proof option.

Instead of Clothing with No Pockets …

There’s nothing more convenient than being able to put your phone, keys, or wallet in your pocket once you’ve coat checked. For women, this tends to be harder when dressing up. Luckily, Toad & Co’s endless selection of dresses with pockets is here to help your travel wardrobe. Classic styles like the Cue Wrap Cafe Dress work for holiday parties and drinks, while the Intermosso Hooded Dress is great with tights for the office or catching up with friends at a brewery.

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Ashley Rossi is always ready for her next trip. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram for travel tips, destination ideas, and off–the-beaten-path spots.

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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.

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