Watch CBS News

How To Pack Light For Winter Trips

(credit: Thinkstock)

Packing for a winter trip doesn't necessarily have to involve checking in over-sized pieces of luggage. In fact, with a little advance preparation, you can actually avoid the excessive baggage fees simply by packing everything in your single carry-on luggage and your personal item. Besides, by packing light, can avoid standing in line to check your luggage or risking having your personal items damaged. Think you can't make it happen? Just read on and see how easy it can be to pack light for a winter trip.

Make A Checklist

Before you even begin packing, make a list of essential items needed (and not needed) for the trip. For instance, if you really want to travel light, do you need to bring your laptop? If you also own a tablet computer, it could easily be a smaller and lighter alternative, or you can simply leave any unnecessary gadgets at home and just bring your smartphone. Another example is to consider whether you need to bring a lot of toiletries, especially since most of these items can be found in the place you're staying or can be purchased at a nearby store. Other items to consider leaving at home include jewelry, an additional camera, paperback or hardbound books and magazines. However, don't forget to bring along essential items such as your smartphone charger, lip balm, sunscreen, sunglasses and, if applicable, prescription medications.

Nylon Winter Jacket With Polyester Lining (credit: Randy Yagi)

Wear The Right Fabrics

While you should include a certain amount of outerwear, such as base and mid layer items, two pairs of pants, a winter hat and head covers, all of these items should be made of fabrics that are appropriate for winter wear. The recommended types of fabrics include wool and lighter materials like Gore-Tex, Spandex, nylon, polyester and polypropylene, but leave behind any items made of cotton. Because this type of fabric absorbs water, cotton will not help insulate you if you sweat or are exposed to moisture, which will weigh you down or, worse yet, potentially lead to hypothermia. Other items like denim, flannel, corduroy, canvas, terry, velvet and even fleece are all different forms of cotton and should also be left at home. Can you imagine wearing a pair of denim jackets after they've gotten wet? If you like the comfort and warmth of a fleece jacket, it should be made of polyester or Polartec, which can easily wick water away from your skin and keep your warm. The bottom line is to pack only items that are lightweight, quick-drying and versatile.

Water Resistant Boots (credit: Randy Yagi)

Wear Heavy Items On the Plane

Your heaviest items, such as a parka, down puffer coat or your heaviest pair of shoes (if you're bringing two) should be worn on the plane. Smaller items such as gloves, scarves and winter headwear can also be worn or easily stored in your carry-on luggage, backpack or a purse. If you're really concerned about packing lightly, you can also wear layered clothing, including thermals, on board the plane. After finding your seat, you can always remove items for comfort on your flight.

Storage Bags (credit: Randy Yagi)

How To Pack Your Luggage

You already know what to pack. But how should you pack these items using the least amount of space possible? You have several options to choose from. Many experts recommend using packing cubes from reputable brands like Eagle Creek or American Flyer. Others say forego the extra weight and use Ziplock-like storage bags. Finally, another group of experts will recommend that you simply roll your clothing instead of layering one item after another in your luggage. Naysayers argue rolling clothes causes more wrinkles, but if you bring items made of the recommended fabrics your winter clothing shouldn't be affected.

Hand Washable Gloves (credit: Randy Yagi)

Wash More, Carry Less

Another way to lessen the load of your carry-ons is to wash your clothes during your trip. This is especially important if you're planning a trip that exceeds one week. For example, instead of packing two week's worth of clothing, just pack for a single week and hand wash your clothing items in a sink or at a laundromat. If you brought items of the recommended fabrics, the drying process should be relatively quick and easy. Lastly, if you plan on bringing back gifts or other items you purchase, consider throwing away unwanted pieces of clothing, or leave it behind for a charity.

Randy Yagi is an award-winning freelance writer covering all things San Francisco. In 2012, he received a Media Fellowship from Stanford University. His work can be found on

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.