European Winter Packing List: What To Pack For Cold Weather In Europe
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When I first travelled to Europe on my round the world trip (2011), I arrived in the fall. My original plan was to travel around the world and have a year-round summer. Due to life’s circumstances that were out of my control (my mother passing away), things changed. I had this idea that I would travel through Europe in two months and leave before it got really cold. Lo and behold I was in Europe from late October through the following February.
Since then I have spent several winters in Europe because my brother and sister-in-law moved to Spain. I know packing for harsh weather can be daunting so I wanted to share my European Winter Packing List.
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More European Winter Packing List Ideas
When I was researching for my round the world trip, I looked at photos and packing tips from other female long-term travellers. If my memory serves me right I recall wincing at the idea of packing a lot of tech fabric clothing and hiking boots. It sounds very superficial but I also didn’t want to unstylish. There was no inspiration for how to pack for a stylish round the world trip. A style icon I am not, but I wouldn’t say I have bad style either.
When I first arrived in Europe in late October of 2011, most of my clothes were pretty lightweight. Inside my suitcase were a Nike Goretex rain jacket and a cotton Uniqlo military anorak. White converse sneakers and my suede moccasins from Canada were my shoes of choice.
I remember starting to feel the chill come when I was in Madrid, my first stop on my round the world trip. There was nothing I could do about the weather and I didn’t have enough warm clothes. H&M and Zara in Madrid’s Salamanca neighbourhood was my first stop.
While I try not to shop at fast fashion stores anymore, back then H&M, Zara, Mango, Uniqlo, TopShop, and other European retailers helped me remain warm (and stylish) at the same time.
As much as I wanted to buy designer items in Europe, it’s really senseless for a long-term round the world trip. When you pack things for a trip of this length, you have to pack light and wear the same things over and over again. To the point of wearing them out. As you travel and things wear you, you have to replace them. Also by the time you get home, you have the strongest desire to set fire to most of the things you packed. I did!
Here are a few photos from my time in Europe on my RTW trip:
Bundled up in front of the Louvre in Paris
When I was in Paris in November of 2011, it wasn’t quite yet winter but it was very cold. Underneath jacket and pants, I wore tons of layers. You have to remember I was travelling for several months and only had one bag.
What I’m wearing
Jacket: Nike Sportswear Gore-Tex jacket protected me from the rain which I actually didn’t experience a lot of.
Circle scarf: Brixton. It came with me from California.
Pants by Isabel Marant. To make it winterized, I wore tights underneath or heat tech long underwear by Muji.
White leather Chuck Taylors by Converse I found more durable than the canvas ones.
Tote bag: Hudsons Bay Company
*Helpful European Winter Packing List Tip: Dres In Layers*
Freezing in Bruges, Belgium. Beanie by Brixton
In front of the IAmsterdam sign. Wearing every and all layer I packed possible
Lots of layers in Prague
In Europe on my RTW trip, I bought two thick, chunky cardigans, a big wool scarf, and beanie with pom pom from H&M. At Uniqlo, I bought some heat tech long underwear, a flannel button-up, and cord pants. In Zara, I bought a long sleeve shirt.
When I was In Berlin right before Christmas, my friend Ines loaned me her winter coat. She felt sorry for me! Also in Berlin, I bought a thick fleece long hoodie by Dunderdon which I still wear till this day, 8 years later.
In London. It was not as cold as the rest of Europe except my last day when it snowed
Very thick weight long hoodie/coat. Photo by Dunderdon (now defunct)
Not too cold in Spain in January
Spain is quite south compared to the rest of Europe so it isn’t as cold as say the Czech Republic or Germany. During my round the world trip, I spent Christmas and New Years in San Sebastian. It was very brisk because it’s on the water but it was not freezing. Layers and bundling up in my scarf and gloves were the way I dressed for the cold. A heavy jacket wasn’t necessary, as seen in the photo above.
If you do plan on going to Northern Europe to Germany for the Christmas markets, I do recommend something much heavier. Now that I have spent a few winters in Europe, my go-to coat for the cold is my puffy Uniqlo jacket. I recommend something like that since it’s budget-friendly and then you could layer underneath with their fleece-lined Heat Tech layers.
After being in Europe on my round the world trip, I circled back to Australia and Asia. If you’re wondering what happened to my clothes, I donated them to my friend Kori who was studying in London at the time. She was a starving student doing her Masters and was more than happy to get some new clothes. Some of the clothes, I did mail home to California via Royal Mail. It was going to be summer in Australia and in Southeast Asia I wasn’t going to need winter clothes or carry all that weight in my suitcase.
European Winter Packing Tips:
- Pick a colour palette that you will wear so that your clothes can be easily mixed and matched. I tend to wear a lot of black and grey but will add a colourful accessory.
- Dress in layers for the cold. It’s much easier to remove clothes if you get too hot when you move indoors.
- Invest in some lightweight but thermal layers especially fleece-lined leggings and turtlenecks
- Very warm but lightweight coat – I had a rainproof jacket that did me no good. I suggest more of a long puffy long coat, like this, that you can layer underneath. Uniqlo has an anorak with a removable fleece liner which would be great also
- Turtlenecks may not be your thing but I love them. I bought a fleece-lined one from Uniqlo and wore it almost every day during the winter.
- Gloves or mittens (My hands are small so a lot of gloves don’t fit me)
- This is not a fashion tip but do not wet your hair in the shower unless you have access to a dryer or time to dry it. Having wet hair and then going outside in the cold is the worst! If you’re in a pinch, don’t wash your hair and use dry shampoo or wear a hat.
- Pack some beanies. My favourite brands are by Carhartt or Supreme.
- Heavy socks. I buy brands like Wig Wam that make negative degree weather socks. They last forever too!
- If worse comes to worst, buy things in Europe. I don’t want to promote buying fast fashion but I did wear all of my clothes till they were no longer wearable or I donated them.
- Packing light is also important since the cost of a checked suitcase to Europe ranges from $80 or more.
More Photos From My Recent Winter Trips To Europe:
Uniqlo puffy, fleece-lined tights, big scarf