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Am I packing too light? - Spain in winter/early spring

I head to Spain for 60 days from mid February to mid April 2023 and just compared my packing list to the Rick Steves packing list for women. I am taking fewer bottoms than the RS list and am second guessing myself. We will be checking our bags due to restrictive carry on rules from Australia.

I have also looked at Sarah Murdoch videos and while I am probably taking heavier pieces than she packs, I am taking fewer of them. I have never liked wearing silk - in trousers or tops. There's something about the combination of me and silk that seems to generate static electricity. The 5 tops I am taking are merino or moisture wicking activewear. I am also taking one cotton shirt for sun protection.

For my lower half, I am planning to take:

  • 1 pair lightweight cotton blend black jeans (weight 14 oz)
  • 2 pairs quick dry travel pants - one navy, one gray (combined weight 1.5 pounds) - dry quickly after a sink wash
  • 1 knee length black stretch wrap skirt (weight 10 oz) - to be worn alone if weather is warm, and with leggings if weather is cold.

On the plane (27 hour flight) I will wear yoga pants (weight 9.5 oz) which will double duty as loungewear, gym wear and pyjamas.

I am not taking a dress as I don't think I will need one in addition to my skirt. I am taking two very lightweight mesh cardigans that "dress up" the black jeans and skirt for dinners in nice restaurants.

I am torn about whether to take a pair of capris or not. At home, I wear capris a lot, but my favourite ones are quite thick and heavy and take ages to dry after washing. We don't use a dryer at home and so I have no idea if my clothes can be tumble dried.

Has anyone ever regretted "packing light"? I am not a big shopper overseas as I have a petite plus figure and can't just walk into a shop and buy something easily - pants, skirts and dresses are generally way too long and hems need to be shortened.

Suggestions and/or reassurance welcome. :)

Posted by
27352 posts

Wanted to know where you're going in Spain. It's a country with significant climate differences.

You may need more layers for warmth.

Posted by
496 posts

Sounds perfect. After all if you REALLY want capris - news flash - Spain has shops :-) And places that do hems. But frankly you'll be perfectly fine.

Posted by
979 posts

You may need more layers for warmth.

Forgot to mention I am taking a packable down vest, fleece 1/4 zip top, lightweight wool cardigan and rain jacket. All of these can be layered if needed. Also taking a scarf that doubles as a wrap on the plane and a wool buff that can be used as a hat or to protect my ears from cold winds.

Wasn't too sure about the packable down vest but when packed into its bag it is just the right size to use as a lumbar support cushion on the plane so it has earned its place in my travel bag.

Wanted to know where you're going in Spain. It's a country with significant climate differences.

We fly into Madrid but head immediately for Barcelona and will stay in the south - Catalonia, Valencia and Andalucia - for a month. We are then heading for the northern Atlantic coast via Extremadura and Madrid. Will be in Bilbao for a week just before Easter, then to Valladolid for Easter and back to Madrid to fly home. Using public transportation everywhere so there might be some chilly times waiting at railway stations and bus stops.

Posted by
1259 posts

Just me. of course, I never travel with jeans: too heavy and cotton is a disaster if it gets wet. I'd swap those out for wool, winter weight wool/poly blend or, if you can't/don't wear wool, a fashionable synthetic. REI has a good selection of women's synthetic travel clothing. Pants mass about as much as the jeans (14oz) but are more practical.

so I have no idea if my clothes can be tumble dried.

Oooh, that's not good. I only travel with hydrophobic clothing. I know how each piece reacts to washing and how fast they dry in a variety of conditions.

I am also taking one cotton shirt for sun protection.

Wouldn't take that, either, but again, just me. Swap that for a stylish UPF/UV protective fishing or sun shirt from Columbia. Multiple secure pockets, long tail, high collar, button-up sleeves:

Columbia women's pants.

Columbia women's sun shirts

You certainly do NOT need to replace any of your clothing just to travel. But you've got plenty of time to find some more appropriate outfits. Try to have fun shopping.

Posted by
380 posts

Your packing sounds fine. I like my jeans for cooler weather. No wool as we live in Florida. Add a cheap pair of stretchy gloves just in case. Also consider a small umbrella or a plastic poncho for down pours. As you know, layers are the solution to warm to cold weather. We had snow in Plitvice Park in Croatia in May on a RS Eastern Europe tour. A rare occurrence but we put on all our clothes and enjoyed the hours long hike through the waterfalls and woods. Very warm weather is also possible. Have a wonderful trip. Remember Rick’s and Sarah’s rule about carry on luggage only.

Posted by
979 posts

But you've got plenty of time to find some more appropriate outfits. Try to have fun shopping.

I leave in 12 days time so don't have plenty of time for shopping.

Remember Rick’s and Sarah’s rule about carry on luggage only.

We are flying from Australia with QANTAS so have a smaller carry on allowance than American-based airlines allow. We always check our bags and haven't lost them yet in over 10 trips. Our carry on is a small daypack each and I have a small crossbody bag with all our important stuff in it.

Posted by
2732 posts

I can’t imagine why you would need more pants. I never take jeans, but some people do, so your call. No to anything that is heavy and takes a long time to dry.

I wouldn’t take a cotton shirt, and mesh cardigans don’t appeal to me. If I take a cardigan, I want it to keep me warm. Cotton takes too long to dry. (I never use dryers home or away.) you might feel differently and that’s okay.

I’ve never regretted packing light. I have regretted taking something I didn’t wear. I think you’re on the right track.

Posted by
6363 posts

No suggestions, (well, maybe a couple) but mostly reassurance. I don't think you're taking too little; if anything, I'd drop an item or two. Or three.

You have 4 pair of pants, counting the yoga pants, and one skirt. That's plenty. If you really want the capris, take them instead of one of the other pants, instead of "as well as." And you have 6 tops! I'd be tempted to drop at least one of them.

You have plenty of items for layering; I would probably drop one of the mesh cardigans, especially if their primary function is to dress up the other bottom pieces, but that's a minor change.

packable down vest, fleece 1/4 zip top, lightweight wool cardigan and
rain jacket. All of these can be layered if needed. Also taking a
scarf that doubles as a wrap on the plane and a wool buff that can be
used as a hat or to protect my ears from cold winds.

I would be tempted to cut back here a bit, as well, but that would be for doing carry on only.

You're fine. Don't think you're taking too little; you have plenty of items to mix and match, and plenty to keep you warm and comfy.

And take all our suggestions, including mine, with a grain of salt. Trust yourself, and have a wonderful trip.

Posted by
5936 posts

I was in Barcelona in January. I didn't have a down vest or jacket. What I did have was a long underwear LS top, lightweight fleece top, heavier fleece hooded jacket (that packs very small) and a raincoat. Those items should would be flexible for use in southern Spain, too. Bring gloves and a hat. I brought 3 pairs of the cheap, stretchy grocery/drug store gloves which pack super small. I wore two pairs at a time in Barcelona at night. I liked and used this idea, because I found Andalusia nights a little chilly and wanted to use lightweight gloves at night.

I try to pack light and only bring carry on luggage to Europe. I have never regretted packing light and often scold myself for bringing as much as I do. The exception is shoes. My feet can be "cranky". On my last trip, I brought 3 pairs of shoes. At least they were lightweight and my feet are on the small side. I was happy to have the 3 pair.

Posted by
16706 posts

I like my black Uniqlo jeans and always take a pair. They are very lightweight ( like the OP’s).

I have found that a cotton (or cotton blend); fabric with some Lycra (4% or so) helps them dry much faster than pure cotton would. I sink wash them when we have at least 2 nights in one hotel, so they have a full 24 hours to dry. After squeezing them by hand to get as much water out as possible in the sink, I wrap them in a towel, lay them on the bath mat and “dance” on the package with clean bare feet. They come out damp-dry, as they would from a good spin-dry in the washing machine. Then I hang them in an airy place (like near an open window if the weather permits) and they may be dry by morning. If not, they have the rest of that day to finish drying.

Posted by
5936 posts

Lola, what a great process! I will be using. Thanks for sharing.

OP, I shop Eddie Bauer outlet. I've noted they often have cute lightweight capris that dry fast.

Posted by
7395 posts

“ I am torn about whether to take a pair of capris or not. At home, I wear capris a lot..”

I think what you’re planning to bring is completely fine, except when I read that you really prefer capris. Since your favorite pair is thick & heavy, do you have an alternate one that is a little more travel-friendly? Reading that sentence, I think you will miss your favorite type of pants you normally wear.

Posted by
198 posts

Lola, I use the same process you do for drying! I'm able to hang dry just about everything that way when traveling.

AussieNomad, I think your packing list looks great and has lots of versatility for different types of weather. I traveled this past summer with lightweight black jeans, and they were versatile, comfortable and dried easily. I probably wouldn't take the heavy capris. On the other hand, 60 days is a long time. If the capris will make you comfortable and happy, take them along. I love packing light, but one downside is I'm usually tired of the clothes I've been wearing by the time I get home! So do what works best for you.

Posted by
697 posts

I was in Spain last year in December/January, and I would have been comfortable wearing what you’re bringing.

We were in Toledo for a couple of days and then in Andalucia for the rest of the trip. We had a combination of chilly (Toledo and nights in Granada) and warm (75 and sunny during the day in Granada, which was warmer than usual, 60’s in Cadiz).

I did wear a hat and gloves at times (lightweight merino), and I live in a place that gets cold in the winter, so I’m used to it. So maybe add a pair of light gloves to your list.

Otherwise, looks good!

Posted by
27352 posts

I would want a bottom under-layer, and I hope at least one of fhe pairs of pants you're taking is a bit water-resistant. (Mine are 96% or 97% nylon, and they shed water pretty well.) With merino wool underneath, my legs usually stay dry even when it's raining, which helps to keep me comfortable on cold or chilly days.

Check out the climate-summary charts in the Wikipedia entries for Bilbao (an average of 13 rainy days in April), Caceres and Madrid. All of those places have average low temperatures down in the 40s F, even in April. I had a really unpleasant 24 hours or so in northern Andalucia on April 10 or 11 in 2019. Even in the daytime it was very chilly, and there was a hard rain.

Don't just look at average high temperatures. You'll be outdoors at times other than the middle of the day. Spaniards eat dinner between 9 PM and midnight.

The Basque Country is not often really warm even in mid-summer, and as the Bilbao precipitation data suggests, you are quite likely to get wet. Cold, wet cotton jeans sound miserable to me.

For actual, historical, day-by-day weather data, take a look at timeanddate.com for the appropriate month for the last few years in your key destinations.

Bilbao historical weather April 2022

Use the pull-down box just above the graph at the right to check other months/years. Use the Search box near the top right to find stats for other cities.

The above notwitstanding, I can't imagine taking three cardigans. I take a fleece jacket (which would get used every day on this trip if I were the traveler) and a packable down jacket that makes a bundle about the size of a softball (which I have almost never needed, but I haven't been in Europe before April 8, and that was in southern Spain). I always take an underlayer top (which would be merino wool for this trip). I can fit all those layers plus a regular top under my rain jacket. I own a lightweight merino cardigan purchased specifically for travel, but I haven't taken it to Europe even once.

I think you'll end up starting and ending most days wearing at least one warm layer, so it's mainly one of the warm garments, rather than a decorative cardigan, that will be visible.

I also doubt you'll have many days that are warm enough for capris at the time you leave your hotel in the morning or return at night.

Posted by
1625 posts

YES! I have regretted packing light. I took one black long open front cardigan type (knit), well somewhere between Paris and Nice I lost it. I have big arms and it is how I cover them up and usually wear tank tops and it was my "dress up an outfit" solution. Not having it made me self conscious and not feeling put together for the rest of the trip. It was so light I could have taken three and still been ok. Never again!

Take the Capri's, you will be surprised at how much you really do not need to wash them. I usually never wash my jeans on a 21 day trip, there is no need. It's not like I am exercising in them, just normal walking. If they get soiled I just spot clean. If I really feel like they need freshening up I will wash them and hang dry giving them a good 2 days, flipping them mid dry.

Posted by
170 posts

I agree with the packable down vest. Great like you said for a lumbar support on plane and you can put it under a jacket if you're cold - it is such a great add-on.
I bring stretch jeans in the winter/spring because the ones I have do not bag out so I can wear them for many days. Also wanted to say Spain has laundromats and you could do a load of wash and not just have to keep washing out individual things in your room which can get a bit old after a while.

Posted by
979 posts

OP, I shop Eddie Bauer outlet. I've noted they often have cute lightweight capris that dry fast.

I am in Australia. We do not have Eddie Bauer, REI, Lands End, or Columbia stores.

like my black Uniqlo jeans and always take a pair. They are very lightweight ( like the OP’s).

My jeans are Uniqlo. My husband also travels with Uniqlo jeans. They are so comfortable and do dry fast.

Add a cheap pair of stretchy gloves just in case. Also consider a small umbrella
Bring gloves and a hat.

I wear arthritis compression gloves most days so will just add a pair of lightweight gloves to go over the top of these. I always have a lightweight baseball cap in my bag for sun, and my wool buff can be used as a winter hat.

Since your favorite pair is thick & heavy, do you have an alternate one that is a little more travel-friendly? Reading that sentence, I think you will miss your favorite type of pants you normally wear.

As I live in a usually warm country I tend to wear capris and Birkenstocks for three seasons of the year. I also often wear yoga pants so I think my yoga pants can substitute for capris - I could even pull them up at the bottom 😂

I love packing light, but one downside is I'm usually tired of the clothes I've been wearing by the time I get home!

This is why I am packing the two mesh cardigans. Packed into a gauze jewellery bag they weigh less than 6 oz and take up no more space than a pair of socks. They will give me my boredom relief. We are staying at a couple of Paradors and I wanted something a bit nicer for dinner.

If it turns out to be hot, they will also look OK as a lightweight cover up over a tank top with my skirt.

I think I am finding making packing decisions hard as I am coming from summer weather (95 F degrees today) and going into European winter.

I will let my kitchen scales make the final decisions!

And although we check our bags, we keep them to carry on weight and they are only just over Australian carry on size (so would be carry on for a US airline).

Posted by
1259 posts

I am in Australia. We do not have Eddie Bauer, REI, Lands End, or Columbia stores.

Bummer. We're such colonialists. Oh, wait, you have Uniqlo. Probably lots of Merino. And the internet.

Posted by
270 posts

By chance do your quick dry travel pants have zip off legs or roll-up button-up legs? That seems to be the style I see when searching "quick dry travel pants".

If you needed/wanted to buy something because you really missed them, I'd opt for purchasing capris. Might not be the perfect length for you, but shouldn't be dragging the ground like full length pants would on a petite person.

You'll be in Spain. Call them Gaucho pants instead of Capris!

Posted by
979 posts

By chance do your quick dry travel pants have zip off legs or roll-up button-up legs? That seems to be the style I see when searching "quick dry travel pants".

No, they don't have zip off legs. One is a pair of golf pants (Australian brand Black Pepper) and the other is Champion brand that I have had for over a decade. The closest US equivalent would be the Brooklyn or Attitude II recycled polyester pants that Athleta sells. Mine are pull on ankle length pants with a drawstring and zippered pockets. As I am only 4 ft 10 inches, ankle length pants are perfect full length for me.

Posted by
2 posts

I am also in Australia, and share your dilemmas about packing light. I also love capris pants, and usually take a pair.

As you have already decided that you cannot make the Australian limits of 7kg total weight (carry on plus personal item), if the capris pants fit in your bag, and you can still manage the bag on and off trains and up stairs, why not just take them?

If you do want to try to find some lighter weight capris in Australia, another option is Uniqlo Airism joggers, and get them hemmed to capris length. Also, BirdeeSport have lightweight pants and capris available online, a bit more expensive though.

Have a great trip.

Posted by
979 posts

Uniqlo Airism joggers

Hi Cal, this is what my yoga pants are. Best things ever!

I will do without capris and just take some 3/4 leggings to wear under my skirt should I desire a capri experience, or buy some capris in Spain if it is hotter than expected.

I rarely shop for clothes on trips. Last time I did buy the best packable travel rain jacket ever in Norway (where they really know rain) and also had to buy my husband two T-shirts as he packed too light - both Airism from Uniqlo in Gothenburg.

Where would we be without Uniqlo?

Posted by
993 posts

I Went to Spain for 13 nights in March 2022. The lowest temperatures were 44-48 Fahrenheit. The highest temperature was supposed to be 69 F, but it didn't feel warm. Maybe what I read was a mistake and it was really 59. Make sure your pants cover your ankles. Skip the capris or 3/4 length pants. It won't be hot enough. I wore Patagonia hiking pants, the kind without zippers or drawstrings at the bottom of the legs. Maybe see if they make a version for women. I don't like to wear zip-off pants. In seville-granada-cordoba, outside in addition to my normal undershirt and button-down shirt I had on the outer layer of a Columbia winter jacket that came with 2 layers that zip together, or sometimes I added a heavyweight cotton long-sleeved shirt and then the outer layer of the Colombia jacket. In Madrid outside I switched to just the inner layer of the colombia jacket over my undershirt-outershirt base-layer, along with sometimes gloves and knit beany hat. I had a colombia-boony sun hat on outside when I didn't have the beany hat on.

You may need lightweight gloves. You need a sunblocking hat. You might need a warm hat sometimes. A knit beany hat would be good enough.

I air-dry all my clothes at home and while traveling, too. Because I think it will make my clothes last longer. Most of my fellow Americans probably use an electric clothes tumble-dryer. Yeah i am a man. My suggestions may still work for how to keep warm.

Posted by
979 posts

Yeah i am a man. My suggestions may still work for how to keep warm.

I am taking a man with me on my trip so your comments are very welcome. My man doesn't like gloves except for cycling, but I might slip an extra pair into my bag. He has compromised and agreed to take a scarf and his favourite North Face jacket that was fine in Switzerland in November. He refuses a beanie, but I will try to talk him into it.

All our pants cover our respective ankles. My travel man is bringing shorts but only to use for gyms in hotels. At home, he uses a gym five days a week and so I try to book hotels with fitness facilities.

We only understand temperatures in Celsius but quickly converting your numbers I think we are packing for the potential conditions. Our proposed clothes will be fine for 45-60 degree weather, and we can add our rain jackets if it gets any colder.

My capris will stay at home in Australia and await my return.