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10 weeks-3 seasons-how in the world does one pack light?

Jean from Hayden suggested I start a thread about my upcoming 3 season trip because honestly, I haven’t a great idea where to start and end the packing to keep it to one small suitcase at less than 22 lbs if possible and a 20L backpack- the carryon. We will need to check our suitcases as we will have trekking poles with us.

I have looked at past weather in all the areas over the last 4 years which just means I’ll need clothing for every possible situation!

The destinations:

Lyon: late March, early April. Tends towards mid 50’s-mid 60’s and partly cloudy
Les Arcs area: early April. I am NOT skiing, but will be walking a lot and joining the skiers for lunch some days. Tends towards a huge mix of temps and weather!
Torino: early April. Tends towards high 50’s-low 60’s and more sun than not
Vicenza: mid April. Tends to mid to high 60’s and partly cloudy
Venice: end of April. Tends to high 50’s-low 60’s and cloudy
Vinschgau/South Tyrol: end of April, early May. Difficult to really assess weather through the valley. This is a 6 night, 5 day hike through from Resia to Merano. Hiking boots/sturdy shoes, the backpack and hiking poles!
Milan: early May: most anything I’ve already packed ought to work here.
Bologna: May to June. High 70’s to mid 80’s. Will not be comfortable wearing the same clothes ALOT in Bologna as I’m attending classes and will just want variety-mix and match and????

So beyond the obvious of warmer clothes for the beginning of the trip and cooler clothes for the finish, I want to keep choices to a minimum but very ‘workhorse’. I have merino tops, a puffer vest and an all purpose raincoat. I have hiking shoes/boots which will work for Les Arcs area also besides the hike. They may be a bit much for city wear-just not sure yet. I have dresses, both merino and full on summer, plus hiking pants and regular slacks. I have a wardrobe to choose from, but………10 weeks worth? Yes, we will have laundry facilities-a godsend when gone this long.

I’m good at having a capsule wardrobe but usually only comprising one season or a slight overlap, which means it is much easier to compile. A conundrum for me so please, offer up particular solutions. I’m all eyes/ears/smiles and tears!

Besides clothing, there are a few sundry items for 10 weeks that will take up more space than I’m used to such as vitamins/meds and some product, so means less for the clothing/shoes portion. Usually I share items like charging cords with my husband, but I will need my own this time. Every little thing takes up a bit of space I may not have needed for earlier trips.

I WILL practice pack(several times) starting the beginning of March, but would like to have clothing well dialed in by then.

Posted by
7338 posts

This sounds a bit like our Scandinavia trip this past September/October, which included balmy weather in Copenhagen, then sun, wind, lots of rain, and some snow in Norway, followed by cold rain again in Denmark. Some thoughts:

Trekking poles - I invested in some shock-corded poles that, disengaged, fit into my international-carry-on-sized suitcase. None of my telescoping poles would fit into the suitcase, even compressed as much as possible and placed diagonally in the suitcase.

Would low-top hiking boot/shoes work on your mountain excursion? Mine have a rugged sole, are waterproof, and a blue-green color, and in a city environment, don’t look quite like high-fashion shoes, but also don’t look like expedition boots. They were multi-purpose, and I took just one other pair of shoes to alternate in cities.

I took 3 tops, 2 pants (one was lightweight nylon hiking pants), a ski underwear top and a pair of ski underwear bottoms, a beanie, a sweater, down vest, and a raincoat. Socks, underwear, bras, nightgown, lightweight Lands End short robe, and flat slippers that once came with a hotel room. My hiking parka stayed home.

An advantage of being in Norway was finding markdown Kari Traa cross-country ski tops and bottoms for sale. Her fashions are expensive in the USA, but were a steal in Norway, and I came home with more clothes than I started with. My husband and I brought home the extras in a very lightweight, compressible REI duffel that was folded up in his suitcase for most of the trip. He didn’t bring poles. I wonder if any ski clothes/layers will be on sale in South Tyrol in late April - end of ski season?

You might or might not want more than 3 tops. Any that you brought that were short sleeved and cooler could be worn along with your warmer wool tops when things were colder. One dressy top, combined with a dressy, lightweight scarf (bring two for variety), can work well when going to nicer places.

Posted by
35 posts

Indeed a challenge! I will be traveling a month earlier than you, with many of the same temps, for a week less. I pushed my trip a month ahead so some items are being re-evaluated, as we speak. However, I've done something differently this trip -- thrift store finds. I am not wedded to most of my wardrobe although I have chosen quality and color wisely. I have a sturdy rain shell I purchased new for all its pockets. I don't intend to display a purse. I have a hooded, down sweater that packs into a pocket that will also be a pillow for me and I'll never be cold. A sweater, two pairs of pants, a shirt or two and 2 t-shirts, 1 tights, one pair of boots, one pair of shoes. I just found a navy JCrew light cotton, 3/4 sleeve cardigan that may look dressier than a shirt. Not sure, yet. One scarf, one Buff (brand name) neck gaiter that will double as my jacket pillowcase, headband, cover my head, colorful -- these things are terrific. Maybe a vest. Will buy a skirt if I need it. The point is I can trade an item for something I find locally. Tights and tee will be pajamalike. Heavier sock = slippers. Light, scrunchable, "disposable", wash, repeat. It sounds like you're doing a very good job. I have worked for several airlines. If trekking poles are why you're checking bags -- get different ones!! DO NOT check anything or all your wonderful planning will be out the door if they lose it!!! Layers, 3 colors, pack, repack, you've got this.

Posted by
6281 posts

Well, one thing I would consider is once you get out of the area with a cooler temps, pack up your cold weather clothing, and ship it back home. I’ve done that before, and it works quite well. If you’re layering your clothing for cold weather, then just send home all the top layers, and keep the clothing for the warmer climates. Once your warm weather clothing is gone, you might think about buying some new items. That will give you some additional variety and some fun clothing, souvenirs.

With regards to the trekking poles, you run a high risk of them being confiscated by TSA if you try to put them in your carry-on. So that’s a reason right there to check your bag. I’m just going to play devil’s advocate here and say there is nothing wrong with checking a bag. I do it all the time. I still pack very light, but I don’t want to deal with a bag at the airport. Sometimes I want to bring things that I can’t carry on. And unless you have multiple layovers, your odds of your bag being lost are slim. Just make sure you have something like an AirTag inside it.

I get that you want to wear a variety of clothing when you’re around others every day and that’s perfectly understandable. Make sure you pick clothing that is very lightweight and bring things that go together so that you can mix and match each day. Travel Fashion Girl is a great website for getting some ideas for that. A lot of us here go there and she has all kinds of ideas for packing light and yet still looking stylish.

Your trip sounds like a fabulous opportunities, so don’t make the mistake of stressing out too much about your packing. It’s not worth it. 😊

Posted by
4306 posts

Since you will be able to wash clothes, you could get by with only 3 pairs of pants total. One of my three pr of pants would be flannel lined-Rohan sells quick dry pants. I also have lined pants from Eddie Bauer and LL Bean which I wear in winter at home. I always pack silk long underwear which takes up very little space. I also take a pair of leggings to use as an extra layer and to sleep in. I would pack a foldable bag that slips over your small suitcase(I assume it's wheeled) that you can use as a personal item on the way home.
If you're willing to wear t-shirts in your classes in Bologna, you could buy some of those during your trip as souvenirs. Good luck with this challenging packing situation.

Posted by
11139 posts

Packing a Merino Icebreaker top was very helpful to me when traveling to cold temps. It doesn’t take much room and was a lifesaver for me. A relative who had hiked in Nepal told me to pack one of these tops.Great advice!

Posted by
699 posts

Wow! Such wonderful replies and ideas. Thank you all.

A couple of side notes:
I won’t shop for clothes unless I absolutely HAVE to! I like spending my time far differently than shopping so in general that’s a no go for me. I don’t even souvenir shop. No fun, I know.
My husband packs more than I do, so having an extra folded bag probably won’t work although I am hoping to give him some of my heavier clothing when he leaves me in Milan. Then again, he will have ski boots and a helmet which he will have stuffed with all his ski stuff so I’m probably dreaming there.
I’m not a clothes horse by any means but over our past four longer trips I have managed to put together a good capsule wardrobe that takes me from late summer into early November. I think the possibility of full on winter conditions in Aime (Les Arcs) is what has me stymied, plus the addition of specific hiking needs that haven’t been needed in the past.

@Cyn-
Thank you. My trekking poles fold to 15” so will fit in between the bracing of my suitcase. I love that!
My hiking boots (Joseph Seibel) that I will take can certainly work for ‘city’ shoes in Lyon and Torino as long as I wear pants. If I were in my 20’s I would wear them with dresses as that does seem to be a common sight. I’m far beyond my 20’s! I have worn them quite a bit for some hikes and although they don’t really resemble a true hiking boot, they will suffice for the one we are doing. If the hike had more difficult terrain, I would be taking a more traditional boot.

@Jhodee-
I understand the concern of checking the bag, but I don’t want the possibility of TSA having a fit over them, so I will check that bag! Normally we don’t check our bags on the trip over but will cross our fingers and toes that all goes well. We do have AirTags in hope that helps if they go astray. (Then I WILL have to shop! Rats.) We only have one transfer.
I tend to run warmer than cooler, so heavier sweaters, etc., have never made the cut. I will have a pair of heavier tights and a pair of Marmot winter tights may go along.

@Mardee
We have been intrigued by the idea of shipping things home but have never ventured down that path. This might be our first time. I can see shipping from France as our experience with the French postal system is more positive than that with the Italian postal system. We do enjoy the quality time we get to spend in the Italian post offices as they are quite grand, the system not so much.
I do subscribe to Travel Fashion Girl and have purchased a number of her recommendations for travel items, but her capsule wardrobes are way too young for me, although I can pick and choose and have done so.
Thank you so much for reminding me that this is really nothing to stress over! It isn’t, but……..keeping that bag to 22 lbs or less? All of us look to Jean. Maybe she could make a trip over the pass and pack for me!

@Cala-
I think I will only have 3 pair of pants-2 for hiking/ casual city and 1 pair dressier. I do want to take one pair of Bermuda shorts or a capri as I’m hoping to do the San Luca visit a few times while in Bologna and I’ll need cooler clothes for that. I always have one pair of leggings that work for yoga and lounge wear. They can also work for hiking, but I’m not one to wear them out and about. Personally, I look kind of stupid in T-shirts so I stay away from them. And being cotton, using them for anything where I’ll sweat (and I do!) isn’t good. Thinking about that though, I wonder what I will use for San Luca-hmmmm….Have done it once and I don’t remember what I wore.

@Suki-
I have 2 Merino wool tops, a turtleneck and a round neck. Both of them are going as they are definitely in the workhorse category.

Lots to ponder, but all of your answers really have me thinking which is what I needed. Thank you!

Posted by
7261 posts

Hi, I’m looking through my pages from last summer where I weighed everything that even had a remote chance of making the final cut.

  • Some of the savings in weight came from changing from my normal toiletry kit to a Clinique free bag. That saved me 8 oz.
  • My summer shirts ranged from 3.7-8.0 oz. Some were a surprise! So, the lowest weights gave me an extra shirt to bring.
  • You want organization, but some of my packing cube options were 3x the weight of others. And I substituted a gallon Ziploc bag for one -.4oz. and waterproof for misc. stuff.

If I was going to be taking a class in Bologna, two items I would be bringing are my navy Royal Robbins sleeveless travel dress, and a black quick-dry short-sleeve shirt, along with two colorful shirts or dresses. Last summer I was able to add variety to the neutrals with a few fun pairs of earrings, a big necklace and colorful scarves. All of those were lightweight ones and made a changed look.

Even though you don’t like to shop, you could wait and just pick up those accessories in Bologna at one store. In fact that would be a great way to get acquainted with some fellow students. Say you hate to shop and need these items, and they can go with you after class your first week. : )

Posted by
138 posts

I think you have received wonderful advice and are on track for a great trip. As a friend of mine said on her last trip to Italy in September and October; thin layers are your friend.
Regarding shipping, we have shipped things to friends in Europe (The Netherlands and Italy) via government mail. While in both cases the items arrived, it was like the packages were processed via the pony express. The package to the Netherlands, which left from our home on the northeastern Gulf of Mexico, arrived in the Netherlands over a month later, having been through Polynesia.

Last year, our friends in Italy gave us many gifts during our visit including three jars of homemade passata; which was so delicious and wonderful, but with all the other things they gave us (not to mention potential customs issues), we shipped it home via DHL. All the items were packaged in front of us in the DHL shop in Florence on Friday, and by Monday afternoon our neighbor packed up a perfect, undented box (with three, intact, unleaking bottles) from our front porch. It was NOT cheap as it was the largest box DHL uses in their standard line up, but we are DHL fans now, and would not hesitate to use them in the future; especially to make our travels easier.

Posted by
699 posts

@Jean- And that means we can practice purchasing in Italian!! Unfortunately, I only wear three styles of earrings, no necklaces and definitely no scarves unless it’s a winter scarf that I’ve knitted. An occasional bracelet or perhaps a brooch-is that word even used anymore?-pin! But maybe i miei nuovi amici will need to shop. I’ll find a gelateria-Vorrei due gusti in una coppetta, per favore.

I now have 3 RR dresses and we know they are lightweight. I have a black lightweight workhorse skirt too. At least two of the dresses will go as will the skirt. Tops for that skirt aren’t as plentiful yet!

I’m not as concerned about my lighter weight clothing choices as I am in limiting the colder and heavier weight clothes I’ll need. It all adds up. I have a hand held scale and I weigh everything too. Yes, some of my compression bags are much heavier than I’d like and I’ll look at changing them out this trip-thanks for that reminder.

Posted by
699 posts

@salbeachbum-
Thank you for the DHL info. I wouldn’t have a very large box, but I like the quick delivery. Will definitely keep it n mind for mailing things home if it comes to that.