There’s a marvelous Nordic maxim that says, “There is no bad weather, only bad clothing.” Despite months of darkness, frigid temperatures, and incessant snow and sleet, people in the Nordic countries don’t hibernate inside until the return of the midnight sun. Children play outside for hours in the freezing rain; people go for runs during what would be called a snowpocalypse in the American South; couples ice-skate and peruse Christmas markets in below-freezing temperatures. The key to not being miserably cold and suffering through endless teeth chattering is, as the oft-repeated adage goes, to simply take the cold seriously and dress properly for it.

But if dressing for the cold is an art form, packing for the cold is even more so. Anyone who has ever tried to stuff a full-length down puffer jacket into their carry-on knows that packing for the cold takes a bit more strategy. However, it is still possible to dress warmly while packing light! Here are seven tips for staying warm and stylish on your layovers.



Forget fancy jackets, the real key to staying warm is layering. Adding base layers to your suitcase instead of bulky sweaters or coats helps you stay snug and takes up less space in your bag. It also makes it easier to pack for airport standby or being on call in the winter, as your outfits can easily be adapted to a variety of temperatures simply by modifying what you layer underneath. During the winter, for example, it’s a good idea to pack a cami or tank top, long-sleeved shirt, turtleneck, and tights or leggings as base layers, as they could easily be layered under a pair of jeans and a sweater. A fleece vest is another great layering piece because it adds significant warmth without the bulk.

If there’s one piece you splurge on, make it a great coat. A packable, waterproof coat with a hood is best because it will not only pack nicely in your suitcase and keep you warm, but the hood will keep you dry when it’s too windy for an umbrella. If you only have a wool coat, try layering it under a lightweight rain jacket with a hood so that you stay dry if it starts to drizzle.

It is impossible to stay warm if you’re wet! Avoid cotton anything – even socks – because the fabric soaks up moisture. Instead, choose natural fabrics such as wool or synthetics that are designed to be wicking and drying. This is especially important for both the layer closest to your skin and your outermost layer or coat, which should serve as protection from rain, snow, and wind.

Don’t forget about your lower half! Layering a pair of tights or leggings under your pants is an easy way to help your body retain heat and will go a long way toward keeping your whole body warm.

Avoid packing any boots with a heel or a slick sole and don’t pack anything that might get ruined if it got wet. Spray your boots with a waterproof spray for extra protection from the elements and bring wool or cashmere socks to keep your feet nice and warm. You can even add boiled wool or fleece insoles for extra insulation without bulk (they usually sell them at the European Christmas markets). While knee-high boots provide stylish warmth, they don’t pack well and take up too much space. Look for a Chelsea-style ankle boot instead.

You lose most of your heat through your head so always pack a hat that covers your head and ears. Scarves are also a traveler’s best friend, especially in winter. Wear them Scandi style with it wrapped around your neck and the outside of your coat (in between the hood and your back) or Russian style with it wrapped around your neck and head. And don’t forget gloves! Tech-friendly ones make it easy to text, check a map, or get on Instagram without losing any fingers to frostbite.

When the weather gets frightful, it can be a good idea to keep some electric hand and foot warmers in your suitcase. They don’t take up much space in your bag but slipping them into your gloves, pockets, and shoes is sure to keep you toasty.

Shannon Hill
Blogger @ Tramontanetravel
Flight Attendant, USA