Winter travel and coats

I am in a quandry. We are trying to decide what type of coat to take with us to England/France, and have gotten feedback from friends in Abingdon & Oxford. Besides being water repellent, they're saying make sure it's thick enough to keep us warm.

Here is the problem. I don't want to invest in new coats for all just for this trip, but at the same time, I want to make sure everyone is toasty.

My daughter has a Northface "down" jacket that is not very bulky but is supposed to keep you warm. She doesn't have the problem I do of being cold all the time. My problem is thyroid related (low).

Son has a coat that has a fleece lining (like two coats in one) that could be perfect for him. It's only 2 years old and hardly been used. If he gets too hot (like in Brittany) he could unzip the lining and either use the fleece/windbreaker shell or use the main coat which wouldn't be as bulky.

Hubby has one that's not too bulky but he says it keeps him warm enough.

I have a Banana Republic Down coat that hits below the hips, and worked quite well last year when we were in Branson and it was super cold. It's bulky though...I want to be warm but not look like overstuffed.

What to do? Any advice? I did get the silk thermies (don't keep me that warm), and also an Icebreaker top (love it), and also taking one LLBean wool blend thermal top because I can sleep in that. So I need a coat that will keep me warm, yet not be overly bulky to travel in.

Any advice? What do you winter travellers use?

Posted by Jennifer
Lincoln, NE, USA
390 posts

Well, in all my time in London in the winter (a lot), I've always just worn a wool peacoat (very warm but not water repellent), scarf, gloves, and carried an umbrella. Being from Nebraska where it's oh...12 degrees right now, I find that the weather in London and Paris in December is great -usually 40's - low 50's.

I think the rest of your fam. will be fine with what they have. If your Banana Rep. coat keeps you warm, then wear it. Don't worry about it being too bulky. (Unless it really bothers you). You'll be warm and that's all that matters. Good idea to bring the thermals - I think they'll help a lot. When I was in Paris last Dec. it was quite chilly at night so I put on some ballet tights under my jeans and it worked out great!

Posted by Frank II
USA
4377 posts

You've heard it before, you'll hear it again....you're not gong to the Antarctic. You're going to England.

Think layers.

More important, is a hat. People lose most body heat in their extremities--feet and head. Warm socks and a decent hat will help.

Worse comes to worse, you buy an extra "jumper" when you're over there.

But you need to, and no pun intended, chill out. Focus more on the fun you're going to have rather than all the worrying you're doing now. England is not a third world country. You'll be fine.

Posted by AKF
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
191 posts

I second Frank's advice. A reasonably warm coat (your family's all sound fine) and a hat. I would also suggest gloves. Not super-bulky ski gloves or anything, but lighter wool/cotton ones, just to not have bare hands if it gets cold.

Posted by Mme Eli
XXX
1170 posts

I know it's not Antartica I'm going to Frank, but where I live was 27 this morning, and it's 35 right now. I wore the coat I have, silk undies that were recommended here, a mixed wool sweater and the cold was right through me. It's like all the way to my bones. I just have a hard time getting and staying warm. One thing missing was a hat, so I'll try that when I go out again.

Posted by Tom
Hüttenfeld, Hessen, Germany
9130 posts

Don't forget a scarf. This prevents a surprising amount of heat from escaping your torso and neck.

And to echo Frank... London is not that cold in winter, its usually warmer than large portions of the US at that time. You can overdress much easier than underdressing.

Posted by Mme Eli
XXX
1170 posts

Tom, we will visit London at most two days, most of the time with be in Abingdon/Oxfordshire. And if I remember correctly, late May was COLD, damp and cold :-) I had to buy a hoodie in Oxford to help underneath my windbreaker.

I used a scarf this evening. It helped a little, but I only stayed out like 3 minutes. Thank goodness for cars and garages.

Posted by Pamela
New York City, NY, USA
3313 posts

Layers, hat, scarf, and gloves. I live in Wisconsin and these are the things that keep me warm. In the UK I suspect that the outer layer should be waterproof. Waterproof your leather shoes before you go and have nice wool socks to keep your feet warm. Pam

Posted by Mme Eli
XXX
1170 posts

Pam, do you also suggest Scotchguard?

What type of fabric do you use for layers?

Posted by Laura K.
Ohio Valley, USA
123 posts

I have been wondering the same thing. My husband has a great jacket that keeps him warm, but I hate wearing bulky jackets. So I have decided to take UnderArmour shirts, cotton long sleeve skirts, a black fleece, and my Columbia rain jacket. I would rather layer than wear a bulky jacket. Plus I am bringing a few warm sweaters....if all else fails I'll put on everything I have with me or buy a jacket. We are going to Münich and from what I've read about a high in the 30s.

Hat, scarf, gloves, and wool socks are also lifesavers.

Posted by Frank II
USA
4377 posts

Eli...if you were that cold in 35 degree weather then you are the exception to the rule.

Silk undies are then worthless. Get a good pair of thermals (tops and bottoms). Flannel or thick microfiber shirts, Heavy sweaters (wool or thick microfiber.) A hat that covers your ears, gloves and scarf are mandatory. Wool socks and closed shoes. And, of course, a coat. Have an additional sweater one size larger in case the above isn't enough.

Oxfordshire is about an hour outside London so the weather won't be that much colder.

If you're still cold, I suggest battery operated heated socks and gloves. Hunters use them when outdoors for a long period of time.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4764 posts

You can get these little hand warmers that you just kind of squeeze to activate. They look like gel filled pouches. Keep those in your pocket to warm up. No batteries to use. I like to wear turtleneck t-shirts, sweater and a scarf. The weather here is damp, cold, and rainy and it will just seep in if you aren't protected. Nothing beats a warm coat. A long one is good too as it keeps the legs warm. So what if it is bulky looking, who cares as long as you are warm.

Posted by Jane
Pacoima, CA, USA
21 posts

Eli, I'm cold blooded, too. I was in Italy a few years ago in October-November. Here's how I kept warm: silk or thermal undershirt, cotton turtleneck shirt, densely-knit wool sweater (pullover), twill raincoat with zip-out liner, scarf around the neck, gloves, and wool beret. Below the waist I wore thermal pants under a pair of washable wool slacks. I didn't need these every day, but there were some miserably cold ones when I was very glad I brought it all.

Posted by Jennifer
Nashville
4 posts

I too have a bad thyroid, and an unrelated circulation problem that makes me cold at any temp less than 70F.

Since I am often cold even indoors, I wear wool socks and wool/cashmere sweaters. Sometimes I wear fingerless gloves indoors as well (I knit mine, but you can buy them or cut the fingers off of regular gloves). For outdoors, mittens are actually often warmer than gloves. I love my wool peacoat, but it would be bulky for traveling. Have you looked into places like REI that carry outdoor sports gear? They often sell good quality lightweight/not too bulky warm coats, for people who do winter sports.

But like everyone else said, layering is key- start with the silks/other baselayer/thermals, then your normal clothes, a wool sweater/fleece, wool socks, all before you get to your jacket. And drink lots of tea and coffee!

Posted by Laura K.
Ohio Valley, USA
123 posts

How do you fit all these bulky items in your carryon? I have been smashing my clothes down and they barley fit without toiletries. I am thinking about getting a few compression bags...do they really work?

I have a longer cotton jacket with a faux fur hood that I bought from Gap last year and its fairly warm but I would have to layer under it. I am running out of room in my bag so I guess I would have to wear it on the plane along with my sweater and fleece.

My hate of been too bulky is not how I look it's how I feel. Too confining with so many layers but I don't want to be miserable walking around Paris or Münich freezing my butt off for hours at a time.

Posted by Mme Eli
XXX
1170 posts

Laura & Jane, I'm so glad there are others who understand what I mean about feeling cold!

We are not carrying our luggage on board, checking them through like we did in summer. I am not sure how these bulky clothes are going to fit in those tiny Ebags weekender and the Rick convertible because we haven't started to pack. I'm still buying and collecting things in a box. Will start over this weekend. I also bought another of Rick's totes (had one in summer) and it was a lifesaver. We used it for grocery shopping and on the way home, I stuffed it with clothing and whatever couldn't fit in the weekender.

Yesterday I bought Cuddle Duds at JCPennys. I find the silk extremely thin (though they gave it three ***), so just in case, I can put the CD over them. I'd rather go prepared for colder temps than to get there and feel miserable.

About the down coat I have. I don't care how I look when I'm cold (this one is from Banana Republic and more flattering than some), it's just that the lining in back was so thin that I froze yesterday while out. Will be checking out some other coats that come with a fleece type lining interior that could be taken out and is also water repellent or waterproof. Those tend to be shorter though. Someone had mentioned a fleece or down vest...might get one of those, or even get a fleece zip up top that could be used on "warmer" days in Brittany.

Frank, I did invest in more Smartwool socks (the taller ones), got myself a pair of Born boots with shearling lining. My daughter tried hers yesterday in the cold here, and she said they were super warm. I also ordered wool/cashmere scarves, and will get something for my head. Gloves are leather and cashmere lined.

Posted by Laura
London, UK
355 posts

I also have a dodgy thyroid so know what it is like to be colder than everyone else.

I would go for a warm, but not too bulky coat and perhaps bring a thin fleece which you could wear under it or shove in your bag. I personally find bulky coats a pain if you want to go to a cafe or to the theatre. A scarf and gloves is also an essential. And an umbrella as it seems to be permantly raining over here at the moment. I also think a hot water bottle is an essential, but that might just be me!

Posted by Mme Eli
XXX
1170 posts

Laura, I was actually thinking about bringing along a hot water bottle because we're staying at a B&B in Abingdon for the first two nights, and then moving to a cottage next door for a week. They said something about keeping the thermostat down, and I could only think...BBrrrrr.

I agree about the bulky coats. Will try to figure out something that would allow me to layer to my heart's content but not be big and poofy. Thanks. Oh, the rain could do us all a favour and quit while we're there at least, LOL

Posted by Frank II
USA
4377 posts

Well, there is one last item you could bring that will help to keep you warm and doesn't take up much room...

a flask.

No joke....it works. (It may not actually make you warm, but after a few swigs, you don't care.)

Posted by Mme Eli
XXX
1170 posts

Frank! You naughty guy, LOL

What about mulled wine? Sounds yummy. And by the way, what would YOU put in a flask? I thought of hot tea, but I'm certain our Frank did not have that in mind!

Posted by Frank II
USA
4377 posts

Tea? Tea? I like tea...I make PG Tips at home...but not in a flask.

I say follow Rick's advice and drink the local...in Germany it might be Schnapps, in France perhaps Cognac or Brandy...in England, that's tough one? Scotch? Sherry?

I'm open to suggestions.

Posted by Flight Attendant
Niagara Wine Country, Canada
808 posts

I'm with Frank and others! Layers! Consider wearing things like "Under Armour". First Responders swear by them. Or even try one of those half turtle neck like things. I think they call them "Dickies" or something if I remember correctly.

Sometimes I'll wear a thin wool pea type zip up coat and put a rain resistant shell over it. Pea Coats with buttons I don't find to be quite as warm somehow. But maybe that's just me?

By all means take whatever you feel comfortable in. Just keep in mind that traveling with heavier winter type coats can be a bulky bother at times. I wear mine to the Airport only and stash it in my trunk! Unless I've got a 3 in 1 type layered coat. Those are great!

You could ask to hang your coat in the closet but space is limited and they do tend to fill up quickly. So you may end up having to stuff it in the overhead bin on top of all the other luggage. (That actually drives some people mad!)

Posted by Jane
Pacoima, CA, USA
21 posts

Bulky items in my carry-on? What bulky items?

I wore on the plane the wool sweater,those washable wool slacks, and the coat. I was not asked to put my coat into my luggage. My gloves, scarf, and hat were stuffed in the pockets of my coat. In fact, I was glad to have my warm clothes on me because the airline terminal and the plane itself are usually wa-a-a-y too air-conditioned for me. I lay my coat on the seat and sit on it, then later use it as my blanket.

For the congenitally cold like me, we WEAR our bulkiest items and carry the other usual stuff in our bag...no problem.

Posted by Toni
Charlotte, NC, USA
2846 posts

Consider buying a windbreaker-type shell that has a light flannel lining and that is about 2 or 3 sizes too big. Wear it over a fleece and a good sweater. Under that wear a turtle neck shirt and the thermals. Instead of a hat, consider a hooded scarf. Then if the wndbreaker has a hood, too, you are really set. Take a flannel nightie and plan on wearing it over the thermals to keep warm when you sleep. Thyorid problems can be hard to deal with. Good luck.

Posted by Tina
Long Beach, CA.
51 posts

The only problem with down jackets is they're not waterproof and it really sucks when the down gets wet :( but I personally love that they're lightweight and keep me warm!!! :)

Have you ever considered jackets that have a removable zippered fleece lining - you can separate the fleece lining (and make it a light day fleece jacket) from the shell...

ex:
Marmot Cosset 3 in 1 jacket (http://www.rei.com/product/770984)
or
The North Face Lotus 3 in 1 jacket (http://www.rei.com/product/770830)

Just think, layers. A base layer (thermals), mid layer (fleece or wool) and outer (jacket). With the 3 in 1 jackets I feel those take care of the majority of my layering.

Bulk wise I don't know if you'd consider these 3 in 1 type jackets, bulky, as they aren't as lightweight and don't compress like down jackets... BUT, unlike down, these jackets are waterproof and breatheable.

So would you ever consider 3 in 1 jackets? Coz you can remove the inner layer.

Posted by JER
Seattle, USA
981 posts

Hi Eli,

I notice you said you bought Cuddle Duds long underwear from J C Penney. According to the website, they are cotton and nylon on the outside, not silk. So no wonder you found they didn't help much. This is one instance where you get what you pay for.

For others thinking about this--do not try to cut corners on long undies. Buy heavy weight silk, a silk and wool blend, or some of the hi-tech synthetics available from REI or other outdoor apparel specialists.

Posted by Mme Eli
XXX
1170 posts

JER, I bought the "heavy" weight silk thermals but didn't find them all that warm, so I went and got Cuddle Duds to add to my silk. I also bought an Icebreaker top to try, and so far, I think they're better than everything else I tried, but I have to layer several pieces.

My down coat got wet a bit the other day when it was cold here and it did not help much, so I'm going to the mall to find one of those 3 in one that was mentioned.

Posted by Janet
Seattle, USA
120 posts

Eli: One place that sometimes has good deals on thermal underwear and other assorted winter gear is an Army Navy surplus store. Not the most fashionable, but you'll find stuff to keep you toasty.

Posted by Pauline
British Columbia, Canada
188 posts

Another thing to consider is whether you'll be spending most of your time outside (standing versus walking)or outside and then going inside. I found it easier to remove one warm coat and carry it around in a warm museum then a couple of layers.

I am also cold most of the time and do find wearing a hood or hat (as much as I dislke it) to make a big difference in keeping my little bit of body heat in. Something you might look forward to is having those hot flashes!! I've actually had to unzip my coat outside once in a while to cool off!! Have fun and keep warm!

Posted by Nancy
Fort Montgomery
22 posts

Eli: My mother traveled frequently to England. On her first trip (in summer) she was freezing in a wool suit. Her friends took her shopping immediately for what they called "woolies". She was outfitted in a sleeveless vest and underpants that were knee length. These were a light weight wool. Worn over her regular underwear these kept her very warm. I have not seen these for sale (but haven't been looking) but supposedly quite common in the U.K.
All posters have given good advice. Layers and add more layers if necessary. I find thermal long johns and shirts under cashmere sweater(s) and corduroy trousers keep me very warm.

Posted by Mme Eli
XXX
1170 posts

Thank you all for the brilliant suggestions. I've been buying and trying new coats (with a variety of tops I plan to take), and the last one I liked a lot had a zip off fleece interior (I think it's a 3 in 1), BUT the sleeves are so thick with the extra "inner" body of fleece that I would not be able to wear a whole lot beneath it. It does cover my derriere which I tend to favour. This one says water resistant, but no mention of being breathable.

The other one is waterproof, is a 3 in 1, but not as bulky, and also was not quite as warm. I could use more layers with this one, it's a "Columbia" that I picked up. Does not cover the derriere though...decisions, decisions.

Nancy, I will definitely look for those "woolies" while in the UK. I'm betting that what we sell out here as "thermal underwear" is nothing.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4764 posts

The best to keep you warm are the coats that come down to your knees or even a bit longer. They will also keep you dryer if it rains. I would not even think about a winter coat that did not come down below my hips. The longer the better.

Posted by Mme Eli
XXX
1170 posts

Don't do that to me please, LOL

I would love to take my coat that is almost down to my calves but I keep thinking of the weight and bother to haul it around. I am sure that I will end up regretting not taking anything that long...

Got a Columbia fleece zip up top today, and I am planning on wearing that as an extra layer.

Posted by Ms. Jo
Frankfurt, Germany
4764 posts

I always wear my coat onto the plane. A longer coat is not that much more to carry than a shorter coat. If you go into museums they usually have a coat check. I just think you will be happier with a long, warm, winter coat. I don't know how it is in the places you are going, but Frankfurt, which is usually not THAT cold this time of year, is freezing and we have already had snow. This is really unusual to have snow in Nov. It is also very foggy which makes it damp too. Be warm, have fun.

Posted by Tina
Long Beach, CA.
51 posts

Eli,

when they say 'breatheable' for a lot of the lightweight, waterproof (not water resistant) jackets... they sometimes have zippers just under the armpits which opens for ventilation, which is kind of silly because your armpits, bits of the arm and torso are exposed making it "breathable" <-- this has been my experience with the three lightweight waterproof jackets I have.. I have two Marmots and one REI (but I LOVE THEM ALL!).

I love them because they're lightweight and they are truly waterproof (some have nice visors so the rain stays out of my face and glasses) but I wouldn't bring it to a cold place since they're thin (and snugger to the body).

Good luck again!

Posted by Mme Eli
XXX
1170 posts

Tina and Jo, your comments are greatly appreciated.

Since our winters aren't as long or cold as some parts, it is truly difficult for me to figure out which coat would be best. I am still at this last minute, buying and trying. We do get quite cold here, but not for long. Plus I drive everywhere, so it's not as important.

I'll figure it out. For one thing, I plan on taking my silks, wool blend and fleece just to make sure I have a bit of all to try over there. Plus I could always look at what they sell "woolies" and see if they're any better.