A survey of American travellers by Cheapflights.com revealed that 55% of jetsetters tend to overpack, not wearing everything in their suitcase. At the same time, 57% of travellers aimed to pack carry-on only. If this sounds like you, don’t worry, you’re in good hands. I’ve been to 33 countries and lived in 3, so I’ve had plenty of packing practice over the years. Let me share my carry-on only, travel capsule wardrobe formula for winter and cold climate destinations. If you’re looking for my summer/warm climate travel capsule wardrobe formula click here.
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Basic packing rules
I have three simple rules for packing that cover any destination, and any length of time.
- Select a colour palette and stick to it—you need everything to mix and match as much as possible to reduce how much you pack overall and ensure wearability.
- Choose natural fabrics wherever you can, because they are breathable and therefore are more comfortable and need washing less often—cotton, linen, silk, merino wool, cashmere and alpaca are all good examples. The exception is swimwear and items that should be waterproof such as rainwear.
- If you truly want to jetset carry-on only, you need to pack for a one-week block and be prepared to wash and re-wear your core 7-day pack over as many weeks as you travel.
3-2-1 Winter travel capsule wardrobe formula
Three tops – Two lighter, long sleeve tops for layering in silk or cotton, and one heavier/warmer piece in alpaca, cashmere or wool. (Tops pictured were thrifted through Thredup)
Two bottoms – Usually a pair of jeans and a pair of tailored wool trousers that can be dressed up or down. (Jeans above by Patagonia and wool trousers by Everlane)
One dress and leggings – Again, choose a dress that can be transformed from casual to dressy with accessories – shoes, bag and jewellery. A sweater dress made of warm material is ideal. (Dress pictured by Amour Vert and leggings by Icebreaker)
One outerwear piece, scarf, hat and gloves – Choose a single warm coat that you can wear over everything else you’ve packed. It may be cropped for milder climates or knee-length for lower temperatures. A scarf, hat and gloves are essential for cold climate destinations. (Items pictured include Patagonia jacket, Landsend gloves, Kangool beret and Amour Vert scarf)
Two bags – You will need a day bag such as small backpack or tote, and an evening bag or smaller cross-body for dressier occasions. (Rebecca Minkoff backpack and Anya Hindmarsh clutch thrifted through TheRealReal)
Three shoes – Two pairs of shoes are generally sufficient—a comfortable pair of walking shoes and something more formal for the evening. Depending on your destination and/or activities you may need heavier boots. (Images above are Sorrel snow boots, Everlance ankle boots and Sole Society smoking slippers)
Underwear and small accessories – including thermal base layer and jewellery are unlimited but remember you only need to pack for a 7-day timeframe.
Try to pack from your wardrobe first because those items are likely to be tried and tested—you never want to pack a brand-new bra or pair of shoes, believe me! If you don’t have the right items already, consider shopping one of these sustainable sources for your travel capsule. See here for the summer version of this 3-2-1 capsule wardrobe formula.
Peace, love & inspiring travel,