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Long Term Travel: How to Pack for Hot AND Cold Weather

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A few months into my longest travel stint (12 months), I departed the cold climates of Scotland and found myself in Barcelona. Despite both being in Europe, the two were dramatically different in terms of climate. Scotland was cold – harshly cold – the bitter kind of cold that sends a shiver up your spine! Whereas Barcelona was starting to heat up leading into the summer and whilst I still wouldn’t have dipped more than my ankle in the ocean at this time of year, it was warm enough weather for a dress and sandals… and sunny enough for a hat!

There was no denying it: these two countries required a completely different wardrobe.

Packing for long term travel often requires packing for both hot and cold weather. There are a few tips of the trade I had to learn through trial and error, each of which are outlined here for your benefit (don’t make my mistakes!)


The Secrets to Packing for Hot and Cold Weather (in one suitcase)

The first secret is simple: Only pack what you need and buy anything else you decide you need there.

The second secret is to stick to neutral tones (or be that person in a tropical singlet in winter ‘cos you had nothing else to wear that day). Neutral tones suit both summer and winter, as well as the in between seasons.

The third secret is to pack clothes that suit both climates, such as plain coloured t shirts (by themselves in the summer, layered in winter), comfortable shoes (converse are a great options), and sandals (perfect for all climates apart from winter, making them 75% useful – not a bad ratio).

The fourth secret is Primark, H&M, Forever 21, and Zara. These are cheap worldwide chains (ranging from cheapest to more expensive but still moderately priced) that follow trends and always have clothes that are in season, stylish, and for a discount price. Don’t blow your budget on clothes when you could spend that money on more adventures!

So, How to Pack for Hot and Cold Weather?

Pack less;
Pack light garments and layer in the cold;
Pack neutral coloured clothes for versatility;
Buy what you need there; and
Know where to buy to stick to your budget!

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    M. Murray
    February 17, 2016 at 10:16 am

    I live in a very cold climate and sometimes there are plane cancelations and I am stuck sleeping at airport hotel. I always have a pair of p’s and change of undergarments. But most important aside from layering in travel clothes, I have a packable down jacket with a hood and a cashmere hat. I never go anyplace without them in the cold months. You can even fit it in a large tote bag because it folds up light and small…good luck!

    December 27, 2015 at 7:27 am

    I could have done with this post about two weeks ago when I packed for a holiday in Australia and moving indefinitely to the UK in winter!! I struggled haha. I need to invest in a good coat and more plain shirts for sure. Thanks for the great post!!
    Jess x

    November 26, 2015 at 5:13 am

    lovely post & thanks for the tips!! really helpful :))

    November 26, 2015 at 12:15 am

    What do you recommend about a coat? I mean if you’re going to be in a place where a real, heavy winter coat is necessary- some places, layering in winter simply won’t cut it! A cheap winter coat bought at Forever21 doesn’t really keep you warm but they’re big and heavy to pack…

    • Brooke Saward
      November 26, 2015 at 1:36 am

      Hi Steph! I usually just layer lots of clothes and always pack my Tommy Hilfiger jacket which is suuuuuuper warm. Once you have a good coat its like a good pair of tweezers – you never let ’em go!

    November 25, 2015 at 10:24 am

    Thank you! This blog post will be ridiculously helpful for me next year!

    John Gentry
    November 25, 2015 at 10:18 am

    Great ideas on travel packing, and even though I am experienced with international travel I always like to learn new ideas from others. Thank you for the information.

    November 25, 2015 at 9:45 am

    Great ideas – thanks so much! x

    Cest La Vibe
    November 24, 2015 at 1:04 pm

    Great tips. I like to pack Under Armour clothing Heat Gear in cold climates and Under Armour charged cotton in cooler climates. They both regulate your temperature, dry quickly, and are easy to pack.

    November 24, 2015 at 4:30 am

    Hi Brooke! Do you mean “they are both in Europe?”☺️

    November 24, 2015 at 3:53 am

    YEs, travelling throught different climate zones is a challenge for any girls who want to keep her luggage as light as possible . I would go for buy there throw there method 😀

    November 23, 2015 at 11:20 pm

    Get long underwear in merino wool and you’ll survive most cold weather! Also great for sleeping in when in warm countries with cold nights (northern Thailand, deserts and such). Get them without funny colors and you can wear them separetly as leggins/sweather AND wool keep you warm even if its WET!!!!

    November 23, 2015 at 8:39 pm

    Often have the same problem – especially travelling during autumn and spring. Agree on packing clothes in neutral tones.


    November 23, 2015 at 7:35 pm

    Great tips, which will help me on my next cold-warm trip.

    November 23, 2015 at 6:28 pm

    Great tips! This December, we’re traveling from the Canary Islands to Helsinki so I know packing for these two destinations will be more than interesting. This tips will definitely come in handy when it comes time to pack!

    November 23, 2015 at 5:16 pm



    November 23, 2015 at 4:29 pm

    I love that black zip-top bag, could you share the brand & style name?

    kenzie negron
    November 23, 2015 at 11:28 am

    such a helpful article! I can’t say that I have ever traveled for such a long period of time where the weather changed so drastically from hot to cold- but I hope that in my future I can!

    Sarah Hickey
    November 23, 2015 at 11:07 am

    I assume you meant “…both being in Europe”. We all have our slip-ups! Lol.

    I remember this struggle from my last journey in February from Toronto-Grenada-England, packing for three vastly different climates was intimidating to say the least! But you offer some great tips here, I especially like “stick to neutral tones” it makes mixing and matching so much easier!

    Sarah Lynn

    November 23, 2015 at 10:37 am

    What is that suitcase? Super cute!

    Joanna Filipiak
    November 23, 2015 at 10:00 am

    I traveled so many times and I have learnt not to take too much cosmetics. But I still have a problem with packing up my clothes. Thank you for you tips, I will try them before my next trip.

    November 23, 2015 at 9:59 am

    I appreciate the tips. I just did this with my Missouri capsule wardrobe on a USA cross-country train trip, with a side rowboat trip to Alaska. This was the near the end of the season in Alaska, so the weather was iffy. Coming from Missouri in the US, it was hot and humid, but we expected the rest of the country to be more comfortable. So a minimalist wardrobe of t-shirts, long sleeved v-neck tee’s, leggings, skinny jeans, a couple of nice button ups, a cardigan, in neutral colors, plus a sharp looking military style jacket with lots of pockets, all got me through the 3 week trip with only a carry-on bag. And I could swear we shop for ankle boots in the same shop, going by your picture. I wore my ankle boots everywhere, and kept a pair of black sneakers for casual wear. I even hiked to the glacier in Juneau in my ankle boots, they were that comfortable! Scarves, pretty jewelry, and a healthy complexion took care of the “color” in my wardrobe.

    November 23, 2015 at 9:30 am

    This post is extremely helpful! I find packing difficult for some reason, I always want to pack my entire wardrobe! But thank you for this post.

    xx Tess

    November 23, 2015 at 8:52 am

    I’ve done this a few times now, the hardest to pack light for was Siberia to South East Asia in late autumn in a carryon! My secret is merino thermals which I can layer under regular clothes to make them super cosy. Cashmere is my absolute go-to knitwear, great in both climates and very light to pack.

    Rachel Oliver
    November 23, 2015 at 8:45 am

    aah some great tips, so jealous you had a trip that lasted 12 months!

    Rachel //

    November 23, 2015 at 8:45 am

    and then there is not anticipating the need for warm clothes in a normally hot climate! Egypt between November and February can be unbearably cold indoors, so the winter clothes that get you there will be useful when you get there. I always pack a thin cashmere sweater for a layer and my Ex Officio down jacket that doubles as an airplane pillow is essential. Last February in Cairo I wore them both to bed inside a sleeping bag to survive the cold. I was surprised by the cold weather, colder than January.

    Ashleigh Jade
    November 23, 2015 at 8:21 am

    Hi Brooke! Do you mean “they are both in Europe?”☺️

    Great post!! Just what I needed for my trip to America/Mexico in two weeks! xx

    Photo Editor
    November 23, 2015 at 7:54 am

    Coming December I will go to Cox’s Bazzar in Bangladesh for few days and your tips help me to packing.