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Best outerwear for function and versatility across 4 months in Europe

I need to decide on best jacket choice for the following trip: 2 month in Italy in summer (no jacket needed), Austria, Slovenia in September and Croatia/Bosnia in October, and perhaps further adventures beyond. The trip will include outdoor adventuring/hiking in the Alps as well as chilly evenings in Vienna and dressy events like the Opera in Vienna, etc. I have an REI pull over substantial gortex rain jacket that can fold into a substantial pouch with substantial weight. I also have an attractive knee length black puffy down zipper jacket. Also other options. Thoughts?

Posted by
85 posts

I should have added the additional dilemma of a black cashmere sweater vs. a zip micro-fleece outdoor jacket as layer of warmth.....of course the cashmere is dressier and great for evenings out while the zip fleece perfect for daily wear and hiking. Hmmmm. So, as a 50 year old woman, seems packing light means I am posed with the difficult choice of the backpacker look or something more attractive but need to serve both purposes of expedition and classy events. Help.

Posted by
503 posts

I've done a few trips (with one coming up!) that range from mountain hiking to city dress up - in one bag! So for what it's worth - it's ALL about the layers!

Here is what I pack for such an adventure. Black gortex that can pass for city wear - inside I line it with another jacket - a lightweight down jacket - those get carried on. For the plane I wear a pair of low black boots, long black ponte knit leggings, a t shirt, merino wool sweater ( that is an open fall style that can zip for a draped look) a t shirt and a scarf.

In my carry on, I have a thin nike pullover for hiking, as well as thin, longish drapey type sweater. The nike pullover, plus the down and gortex covers me for just about any weather conditions for the hiking portion of the trip. Between the sweater I wear on the plane and the thin, longer drapey sweater, serve for anything I do in whatever city I'm in - both sweaters easily go under the gortex in case it's wet, windy, or chilly. One sweater is black the other a grey - paired with the leggings, boots and jewelry, I'm good to go.
Given the time of year you're going, I'd leave the knee length puffer at home. Look for dressier, thin sweaters (which can take the place of a jacket) and scarves/jewelry to dress up your basics!!

Posted by
4618 posts

For our Switzerland/Italy and Germany/Austria trips, I needed similar clothing requirements that you’re mentioning. We were there three weeks for each, so I packed two microthermal long-sleeve scoop neck shirts that I could either pair with a cardigan and beautiful scarf for the opera or paired with my Columbia rain jacket for hiking. I also packed a pair of cheap tights to wear under my dress pants if it was really cold outside at night.

Since you’re traveling so long, I would plan to just purchase a sweater when you hit the coldest time period vs. carrying it with you for a couple of months.

Posted by
3189 posts

I've packed for similar 4 month trips 3 times in the past. We traveled from late August to December through a variety of climates, outdoor events and festive outings. As others here have said, think of layering and don't tend to pack complete outfits for multiple events. Lay out color and layering possibilities on your bed and see how much you can mix and match for your varied activities. I like your two coat ideas which both sound like they are good space savers. You could get by with 2 pairs of shoes; a pair of walking sandals and an attractive leather ankle boot.

Posted by
1179 posts

If you want versatility you’ll need outerwear AND some under layers.

I suggest

  • Packable unlined waterPROOF jacket. I like trench coat style to cover my rear. I have the REI Kyoto jacket.
  • puff jacket. Primaloft is superior to down as you can get it wet. I have the Patagonia Nano-puff jacket
  • a nice merino or cashmere sweater.
  • a thin base layer top. Scoop neck filament weight silk is undetectable under city clothes
  • a thin base layer bottom. Silk leggings are duel purpose. Wear with the skirt, wear under the pants.
  • a light to medium weight t-zip base layer top. This lets you vent during hiking. Use a medium weight if from REI or a light weight if from a high end dealer like Patagonia. I suggest black as you can pass it as an extra top in the city, either as a turtleneck or open.
  • scarf, hat, gloves.

The rest of your wardrobe. (4 or 5 shirts, 2 pants, a skirt)

These will let you go hiking or into the city. The puff jacket and trench are stylish enough for the city but rugged enough for outdoors. This is the combo I used for a 5 week trip trekking in the Andes and later running around Lima and Quito.
I’m not a fan of micro fleece because it is heavy, bulky, and less fashionable. I’ll only bring it if I’m going into a cloud forest with constant rain.

Layer as needed. I bring a thin dri bag for hiking and I put the base layers etc in that. Or use a zip lock. The sandwich size zip locks are nice for the city. You can duck into the toilet, remove the base layer, and stuff it in the zip lock if you get too hot.

Posted by
28145 posts

So Poland is off? And Croatia and Bosnia for your non-Schengen time extenders?

The other advice above is all good - best simple premise is layers. Use them as you need, take them off when you don't.

Posted by
85 posts

Thanks everyone for your very helpful advice. Not sure if I'll have time for Poland this trip....but it is high on my list. Shoe option still challenging as I walk all day most everyday so will be taking tennis shoes, black sandals for Italy (nice enough for dress), and would like to take my everyday street shoes...black Merrell shoes that fit like a glove and soothe tired feet. Not sure that I should take all 3 but they all seem quite important.....and then the idea of ankle boots above....thoughts?

Posted by
85 posts

Nigel.... Croatia, Bosnia, and Montenegro remain a strong possibility if health and energy hold up. This is my first Euro adventure after contracting Lyme and tick borne infections in Germany 3 years ago. Hoping and planning for the best.

Posted by
3261 posts

I love the silk layers-I use them a lot in winter at home. They take up little space either on you or in your luggage.

Posted by
28145 posts

It takes courage to come back from Lyme Disease. Congratulations on getting back on the horse.

I hope it all works out well for you.

Posted by
3261 posts

Sally, I understand if it's too painful to remember, but if not, it would be helpful to others to know-did you begin feeling sick in Germany? Were you treated there? Did you not know you were sick until you got home? I've read that Lyme is an increasing problem in US as well and if you learned anything that would help others, please share. Have a great trip!

Posted by
85 posts

May 2015 I was blissfully unaware of Lyme disease being present in Europe despite my being from PA which has about 38% of lyme cases nationwide. I discovered a tick embedded in my side a day after a walk between villages on a forest path on the border of Germany/Switzerland/France....near Basel. I went to a doctor who dug it out and told me I need not worry about lyme unless I got a bull's eye rash within 3 weeks....if not, all was fine. I was not given any antibiotic treatment...just told to watch. I had a lingering flu at the time and had been traveling for 6 months. After 3 weeks and no rash, I thought I'd dodged a bullet. The flu I had lingered. I had a bout of insomnia and lots of fatigue. A month later (still in Europe) I had some falls, headache, continued fatigue and then was hit over the head with flu, fever, and arthritis in both knees....so severe I could hardly dress or bend knees and pain reliever didn't touch it. There always seemed to be a reason: worn down from travel, vulnerable to infection, etc. When I got home, 2 months after bite, and rest did not resolve the terrible fatigue, and my eyes even were inflamed with infection, I woke up one morning with the thought of Lyme disease for the first time since May. I looked it up on Mayo Clinic website and saw I had just about every symptom except the rash. My heart fell when I saw that only a small percentage get the rash. The doctor I saw in Germany was ill-informed....actually was a Brazilian woman who apparently wasn't well educated in the importance of immediate treatment with the attached tick in a high lyme area. This began a 3 year nightmare of fighting for my life and vitality which hasn't ended yet. It is critical to get antibiotic treatment ASAP before it disseminates and becomes tenacious chronic lyme disease which has no clear cure at this point. I went through 7 months of antibiotics (which I don't recommend after a couple months) and year of antibiotics just to try to keep an upper hand on it. Every day is a challenge. It is also important to know that lyme is often accompanied by other horrid tick borne infections which complicate healing immensely. Lyme is a sophisticated disease that has evolved excellent strategies in evading treatment. So my advice is the be vigilant in inspecting your body and getting immediate treatment for tick bites. The day I acquired the tick bite, I was wearing shoes, socks, long outdoor pants, a Gortex rain coat, etc. The tick found its way up my pants and latched onto my waist on that fateful muggy May day. :(

Posted by
85 posts

I meant to say years of herbal antimicrobials, detox, and support.

Posted by
3261 posts

Thanks so much for sharing the info on Lyme Disease-my takeaway is to insist on an antibiotic immediately if I ever have an imbedded tick and the European doctor won't give me one, go back to US. It's helpful to know that you cant' count on the rash as a symptom. Hopefully your horrible experience will keep someone else from going through what you went through.