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Need Help w/ Winter Clothing!

Please help! I'm going for a couple weeks to London, Prague, Vienna, Budapest, and spending a couple days in the Alps through this December. Mainly walking around town and inside museums/bldgs with outdoor activities for the couple days in the Alps. I really need help knowing what to wear. I'm from FL where our severe winter weather consists of a couple days where it might dip into the 40's, and have never seen snow, so my current knowledge base is very low for the kind of weather I'm expecting for this trip. I've done research but not sure on base layers and outerwear.

Base layers - do I need to wear both thermal tights and a thermal top together? Does the top need to be long or would a short/ 3/4 sleeve work if it's being worn under a regular long sleeve shirt? How long can you wear them before washing?

Outerwear - I'm worried the most about this as I only have light jackets/cardigans. How many types of jackets/coats do I need and what should I be looking for in them? I'm only bringing a carry-on so space matters and they all look big and puffy.
Any help would be appreciated and thank you in advance!

Posted by
15620 posts

Thermals are your friends. Tights under pants, at least one top layer. You can wash them at night, roll them in a towel to remove most moisture and they'll be dry in the morning. Your bulky jackets and cardigans may be of little use, unless they are wool. If you're going to be in and out a lot, you want a warm coat that's easy to shed when you go inside. A lot of layers will be impractical. But for the days you'll be outside most/all the time (in December the big attraction in many European cities is visiting the outdoor Christmas markets), you'll want a warm layer or more underneath to keep you warm. Get a coat that's waterproof - rain is as likely as snow and if it's not real cold, snow will melt and and you'll be colder than ever in a wet coat. Down coats are very warm. Another alternative is to take a rain poncho to wear over your coat in rain or snow. The big advantage is it will keep your day pack dry too.

I've found that hiking shoes are best. Since you're in Florida, if you buy expensive boots, you may never wear them again. I wear Ecco low-cut hikers with 2 pair of socks, one regular base layer and then thick wool ones to keep my feet warm. You also need a good pair of gloves. I love my Italian shearling gloves, they are thick and warm but I can still use my camera without taking them off. If you keep taking gloves off for photos your hands are going to get really cold. I did see a woman who wore those "finger-less" gloves under warmer ones, so her hands were still somewhat protected when she took photos. The shearling gloves won't work on touch screens, so you'll need a stylus that you can access readily if you're using a phone as a camera.

Wool hat and scarf too - but those you can pick up as souvenirs in Europe. For bulky items, use vacuum bags. Wear your bulkiest clothes on the plane.

Buy some chemical hand warmers (there are foot warmers too but I haven't found them to be as effective). They will help keep your hands warm if it gets really cold, or if you're outside for many hours. You can put them in your gloves, or just keep them in your pockets.

Posted by
12040 posts

It may not be nearly as cold as you might expect, especially in London.

I'm going to take a contra-stance. Unless you plan to spend hours at a time outside in a sub-freezing temperatures, skip the thermals. Otherwise, if you're walking around in cities, constantly going in and out of buildings, thermals will be too hot, and you will start to sweat... which will make you feel much colder than you need to. If you're planning to ski or participate in some other activity in the Alps like winter hiking or snow-shoeing, thermals might be a decent idea if the temperatures are particularly cold. However, keep in mind that these activities will significantly raise your body temperature. If your plans consist of simply taking a viewing excursion up the mountain, I wouldn't bother with thermals. Not worth the time, effort or lost packing space for the 10 minutes or so that you might be exposed to freezing mountain air. If you hit temperatures that your legs can absolutely not tolerate, you can easily just go to a store in Europe to buy a pair of thermals.

A jacket or windbreaker might not cut if the temperature drops below freezing, but at the same time, you don't want to go overboard with a something like a parka. A ski jacket might fit the bill, because they're adaptable to a wide range of temperatures, usually rather water resistant and you can easily layer underneath if needed. They're usually not too puffy, so you could simply carry it on board the flight, then wear it when you arrive.

Underneath: don't underestimate how much warmth a simple scarf can deliver. Get a decent winter sweater and let this and the scarf do most of the work.

Pants- Once again, unless you know you will stay outside in sub-freezing temps for hours, regular long pants will likely be all you need.

Footwear- You will walk quite a bit more than at home, so good support for your feet should take priority. A pair of wool socks will keep your feet warm enough in regular closed-toe shoes for most of the temperature ranges you can reasonably expect to encounter. Don't worry about water proofing. In four years of living in Germany and taking almost daily outdoor walks, my shoes got soaked through exactly twice. Once when I had to jump in a canal to rescue my dog, and once when I got caught in a high-altitude Alpine squall.

Excessories: Of course, gloves and a tuque that covers your ears.

That's where I would start. If you need anything else, just buy it in Europe.

Posted by
5697 posts

MD, as a third-generation Californian I understand your dilemma -- did a Christmas markets trip to Paris, Austria and Germany last year and my "regular winter wear" items weren't enough. I hit the thrift store and found a GoreTex down parka (wore on the plane and on trains -- never packed it ) -- and for $35 I don't mind having it sit unworn in my closet until another winter trip. Leggings under wool pants, wool socks (got mine from Costco and now wear them all year when it's not sandal season) For museum days, easier to take off one coat (and maybe check it ) than to pull off multiple layers and carry them around.

Posted by
4059 posts

Except for the Alps, expect a climate not much different than, say, Washington, not Boston or Minneapolis. Layers will do it. Pay attention to both ends of your body. I think one pair of water-resistant walking shoes, worn on the plane to save weight, should be fine, with a light pair packed as backup. At the other end, a warm hat is essential, and it should cover your ears. Also buy a comfy scarf or even shawl in your first European destination; both women and men will be wearing them and a smart-looking one makes a nice souvenir. It's worth noting that outdoor time may be more limited than you expect since in December darkness begins about mid-afternoon.

Posted by
14098 posts

I agree with the being careful about wearing base layers especially if you are inside. It is easy to shed your outer layers but not your base layers. Having said that, do you have an good outdoor store near you, such as REI? I would go and look at what they've got. Some of the puffy coats will squish down really small, but as someone else said, you need to get waterproof not water resistant. or have a plan for shedding precipitation such as a poncho. To me ponchos always seem to be in the way so I hate them.

I would probably also look at a polarfleece vest. I would get a 100 level thickness. Take a look at the ones from Lands End. If you sign up for their emails, I swear you get a 30% off and free shipping coupon every day. This vest would probably work for your coldest days in FL depending on where you live. It's been years since I lived in the Tampa Bay area, but when it got down to freezing the vest and a long sleeve shirt worked for me. Hmm, just thought, I lived last winter in Lands End Thermaskin Heat Crew shirts. I sized up, got them in the print fabric and used them for a regular shirt instead of a base layer. The prints don't look long underwear-ish to me but they are lightweight and hand wash and dry beautifully. (Check your Sears to see if they have a Lands End department, but I usually order from home and seem to get it faster.)

http://www.landsend.com/shop/-/N-jra?cm_re=nav-_-outerwear-_-catagories-_-Long-Underwear

You are going to wear all of your heaviest layers on the plane, or carry them on with you. Do NOT pack your coat/hat/gloves/scarf. If by any chance your bag doesn't make it you will need those right away. It does not matter if you look dumb in 80 degree temps with a coat and winter layers over your arm as you head for the airport!

I would probably also look at LLBean and their waffleweave thermal shirts. These are regular shirt, just a bit warmer.

Someone also mentioned the Costco wool socks. They are Kirkland brand, I think they are labeled hikers, 80% or so merino wool. they are fantastic. $12.99 for 3 or 4 pair, you can't go wrong.

If you are just now buying shoes, wear these socks when you try them on. You do not want your shoes to be tight if the socks you wind up with are thicker than what you used when you tried them on. Tight shoes = cold feet.

BTW, I have no interest in Land's End or LLBean, just use their clothes myself for usually reasonably priced, durable clothing.

Posted by
980 posts

My typical winter layering in Europe is t-shirt, sweater, then mid weight coat (wool pea coat). If it's really cold I'll wear a long sleeve under the sweater. I've never needed thermals but my wife likes to use tights.

I have found a good scarf, hat and gloves much more useful for staying warm.

DJ

Posted by
8542 posts

don't overthink it. If you decide you need more layers, you can always find what you need over there.

Posted by
7365 posts

The scarf, hat & gloves will really help. And, the difference between me being cold or warm outside in the winter is to wear a pair of grocery store tights underneath my pants and a thin, lightweight thermal top under a shirt. I picked up the thermal tops from Costco (maroon & a black one), and I've also worn them as an outer top with a pretty scarf & black pants to go out to eat in the evenings.

Posted by
1994 posts

Having had the experience of moving to the upper Midwest without previously having seen snow, I would be cautious about taking advice from people who live in cold-weather parts of North America. It was my experience that your perception of what is "cold" changes when you're living in the middle of it.

I find silk long underwear (long-sleeved top plus bottom) to be a lifesaver, and I even use a silk liner inside my gloves for extra warmth. The silk weighs almost nothing, and will dry overnight. I typically bring two sets, sometimes three, depending on how long the trip is. I also find that a waterproof rain shell over fleece can keep me warm when it's not bitterly cold – and both are really lightweight and can be stuffed in a pack.

For the Alps, I would go to an outdoor store like REI to get a feeling for the temperature range covered by various types of outerwear. I also seem to remember that Lands End is pretty good about rating their outerwear based on temperature range.

Posted by
82 posts

My advice is to buy merino wool as your base layer. You can wear merino wool multiply times before washing. I can wear the socks for 3 days before washing (they get a bit stretched out or I would not even wash them then). Icebreaker, Ibex and Smartwool are my go-tos for anything merino wool. I wear short-sleeve merino wool t-shirts and tops even in the summer in middle Tennessee because merino will keep you cool in the summer as well as warm in the winter. Merino is expensive, but well worth the price. You can get by with a few less items if you take merino wool base layers. I wash mine in the washer on cold and hang to dry. They dry overnight in my laundry room so you should be able to travel with them and launder them in your room easily. Wool is the warmest thing that you can put next to your skin, plus it dries faster than any man-made material. Layering is definitely the way to go. You definitely do not want to take a big, heavy coat. There are lots of sites out there with advice on how to plan your travel wardrobe that you might find helpful: http://www.theviviennefiles.com/, http://ladylighttravel.com/2012/05/13/how-to-plan-a-travel-capsule-wardrobe-for-vacation/, http://herpackinglist.com/category/travel-gear/clothing/
You can find Ibex at www.ibex.com. Icebreaker & Smartwool can be found at www.zappos.com, www.rei.com, www.6pm.com, www.altrec.com, and www.moose.jaw. Icebreaker can also be found at www.icebreaker.com. Smartwool can also be found at www.smartwool.com. Good luck!

Posted by
2205 posts

I'm with Sherry on the slik thermals. I get mine from Sierra Trading Post. I travel with one pair and wash. I think a short sleeve one is fine. You might also want to look at a down vest - I like the ones I get at Costco that fold up into a little pouch. I wear them under a rain coat. I use a rain coat because I like something that covers my hips and thighs. Scarves will keep you amazingly warm. My trip was in January and I wore leather shoes. If they got wet, at the end of the day I stuffed them with newspaper to dry.

Posted by
846 posts

MD, to answer your questions on base layers. I really like to travel with a bottom and top set of light weight thermals in winter. If nothing else, if I'm cold at night and can't sleep, I put them on . I usually wake up hot, and then throw them on the floor! For the top, you would be ok with 3/4 length sleeve or full length. Mine are full length. Sometimes I roll them up so they are like 3/4 length. I sometimes use the top as a shirt and cover up with a cardigan or fleece pull over.

For washing, it depends how much you sweat! Buy something that dries fast. I don't wash them every day.

I love fleece tops. I have some light weight pullovers. They dry quickly. They will keep you warm even if they get wet. I wear some that I bought for my boys. The sleeves are short -- they're like 3/4 length sleeves-- but they were cheap. For winter, I would bring a medium weight fleece and something waterproof. I have a gortex jacket but I also have a LL Bean rain jacket that keeps me very dry (and protects me from wind). You need fleece (or wool) for warmth and something for wet and wind.

Absolutely bring a hat. Fleece is warm and light, good in rain. Bring a scarf -- or buy one. Bring something for your hands. Again, fleece is easy. Fleece mittens will keep your hands warm. They're not elegant but they're effective. You could always buy gloves when you get there.

Don't fret! If you don't have it right when you get there you can buy something better in Europe.

Posted by
4163 posts

As a person who lives in the dry heat of Tucson, the only really warm clothes I have are used for trips to Europe or to WA. You will need to be prepared for cool to cold and damp to wet.

Do wear your heaviest or bulkiest clothing on the plane or in transit on other modes of transportation. That will free up carry-on space. Some "puffy" jackets, be they down or synthetic, are designed to be smushed into a small size precisely for travel.

After a cold and wet April trip to the Netherlands and Belgium, I became a devotee of vests. Fleece or puffy, they help moderate body temperature. A fleece hat is warm, light and won't take up much space. The same is true of gloves. Scarves keep the neck warm and add some spark to the outfit. A good thing for those of us who hate turtlenecks.

Unless you plan to do more traveling to colder climates, I wouldn't go too wild and crazy with buying special clothes for your trip.

I have never worn any kind of base layers or long underwear, even when I lived in Germany. I know I'd get too hot. I can't wear leggings, tights or wool.

I often wear tunic length tops over pants. Combine those with knee high Sockwell circulator compression socks and Ahnu Montara boots which I wear everyday on my trips, regardless of terrain, and I don't really need anything else on the bottom.

I was surprised at the anti-layering comments. That's usually the answer for any weather challenge.

For my trip to the UK in May, I will probably take 6 tops, all of which will coordinate with 2 vests, 2 cardigans, 2 scarves and 3 pairs of pants. The cardigans can be buttoned up and worn alone as sweaters. My only real outerwear trip garment is an Eddie Bauer MacKenzie jacket for rain and wind.

For help with making the most out of coodinating and packing light, take a look at the Vivienne Files. She shows more and different garments than many of us take and at a higher price point, but it's the concepts that are important.

Posted by
10255 posts

I remember getting the headaches in Vienna in December when the cold air hit my forehead, just the way I did with the wind blowing off Lake Erie from Canada in winter when I was a kid. The further east, the colder it gets. Wool hat, gloves, scarf, sweater, socks, ordinary tights under your pants, and a full-length puffy coat with a hood. A few wool sweaters--thin flat-knits-- and only one coat should do it. Just wear cotton t-shirts under your sweaters. I wear my short-sleeved Chico cotton t-shirts from summer. Then as someone said, use compression bags for packing. How long can you wear them without washing? Longer than you think. You can change the t-shirts and tights more often and just keep wearing the same outer garments. I'd look for used clothes or at Sierra Trading Post on line, as you'll probably have few occasions to wear these clothes again. You'll also need thick-soled shoes. Not those flimsy little Florida things. London will be much milder but rainier than Central Europe. You'll be able ditch the tights and t-shirts and loosen your scarf there. Wool socks are necessary everywhere. Acrylic doesn't cut it in winter weather.

Posted by
1221 posts

Grew up in Michigan and ended up in Florida in part because I hate Midwestern winters.

I agree about thermals probably being overkill during the day if you're being active. However I would take a thermal layer set to use as pajamas at night in case the hotel rooms ends up drafty. Also a nice set of 'room socks' (think loose socks made out of polar fleece) for the same reason.

Uniqlo has some nice down coats for reasonable prices and they can compress down into their own pouches and fit into a handbag when you don't need them:

http://www.uniqlo.com/us/women/outerwear-and-blazers/ultra-light-down-water-defender.html

Posted by
15620 posts

If you're hiking, you'll probably keep warm. BUT if you are walking through the Christmas markets in Prague or taking a walking tour in London, you'll be outdoors for hours at a time walking slowly and standing in place often. You may be lucky and have mild weather, but I'd rather be prepared for cold, wet, windy than hope for sunshine in Europe in December.

I agree with Sherry - pay more attention to those of us who live in warm climes. I grew up in Chicago and I wouldn't even consider going back for a visit in winter. On my European Christmas market trip, I often wore 2 layers of thermals to keep warm. People who live with cold winters don't understand that you probably don't own any wool clothes, and your winter wear consists of long pants (probably cotton) and long-sleeve light-weight tops. If it's any consolation, I found that if I wear my thermals at home in the winter, I don't have to turn the heat on.

Posted by
528 posts

Costco has some very light down jackets. We just picked up two, each was less than 40.00. They have both men's, women's and children's jackets/coats. There was even a vest, only in men's sizes. The woman's coat is about mid thigh, zips, with two zippered hand pockets, and has a hood. There was a woman's jacket, but the arms and sides were knit, think fleece like. I wound up purchasing a man's size small jacket--a little too big, but like it better than the two women's options, and there were no XL boy's jackets. All versions were ultra light and some came with their own self packing bag.

Costco also had long sleeved, thin, thermal undershirts, for both men and women. They are really cheap at less than 10.00 each. Unfortunately, they do not have the pants. Men's and women's wool socks are available, also.

Posted by
5837 posts

As Chani notes, keeping warm is not a problem when you are active (hiking, skiing etc). I need a good base layer, especially lower body (legs), more for the time spent standing around than for active activities. And being inside an unheated cathedral during winter can be colder than being outside in the sun.

The balancing act for base layers is staying comfortable both while standing around waiting for a bus and staying comfortable while in a heated environment. Taking off upper body layers is easier than removing lower body base layers.

Posted by
11613 posts

I do what Sherry does (I am originally from Miami), silk will keep you warm but not too warm as a base layer. I also took a pair of stabilicers (lightest possible) because I thought I would slip on snow or ice (they attach to the bottom of almost any shoe). I only used them when I was out walking with friends in Austria, for whom no vacation is complete without some kind of Alpine survival experience.

Posted by
3800 posts

One useful lightweight item is a "windbreaker shirt". Can be found at all ski shops or possibly REI. As a former avid skiier, I used to put on a cotton turtleneck as a base, then the windbreaker shirt--made of polyester, buttons up the front--then my wool sweater or fleece jacket over that. The windbreaker shirt does as its name suggests; stops wind from blowing through your clothing. It is lightweight, and thin; folds down into a square about the size of a handkerchief or washcloth.

Posted by
725 posts

This New Yorker votes for silk long johns (also known as thermals)tops and bottom, a zip up fleece , warm gloves, hat and scarf and a land's End or LL Bean winter jacket. During the winter, I use my silk thermals under business clothes - keeps me warm (esp pants) during commute and not too hot in office. Very versatile, light weight and easy to pack. Wool hiking socks and sturdy shoes (I like the slip on weather proof shoes from lands ends).
For my last trip I did buy a LL Bean winter jacket - it was about 70-90 dollars - I used it alot . I think that if you are travelling in winter, make the investment so you can be comfortable.

Posted by
846 posts

MD, if you are confused by all this conflicting advice, don't worry. There are many ways you can stay warm -- choose something that makes sense for you.

Posted by
10255 posts

MD--Have all of our suggestions convinced you to stay in Florida during December? You're very brave.

Posted by
18302 posts

I Spend Every 2nd OR 3rd Christmas in Budapest. At first I worried about it then I discovered it was easy. Forget the wool, you can't clean it. Thermal skivvies and a goose down filled medium weight coat are all you need for a central European fairy tale winter vacation.

Worry less and have fun and know that Central Europe has all sorts of clothing stores if you should feel you need more.

Posted by
3217 posts

I'm a life long New Englander so consider that when you review my technique. However, I find the most important items when traveling in Europe in the winter are: leather gloves, earmuffs/hat and scarf. If your extremities are warm, the rest of you tends to be. I used to travel with an unlined leather jacket over a sweater type item or boiled wool blazer over a blouse on the coldest days. Warmer days I just wore the leather jacket over a blouse. The only time I have ever worn long underwear is on the coldest of cold ski days at home. I wear my usual leather shoes. I'm usually walking when outside and that does a lot to keep me warm. But as comparison, I don't think I'd ever leave a building in summer/autumn in Florida as I'd think the heat is unbearable to me, but I had to post here anyway... You can always buy something in Europe if you aren't warm enough.

Posted by
67 posts

Another vote for silk longs johns (top and bottoms). I like Eileen Fisher silk jersey tees and camis too. They can be used for layering or as standalone tops. Expensive initially but they are easy-care and last for years. Merino wool clothing is a lot more accessible than it used to be. Costco has been carrying sweaters, socks and base layers for a while within the range of $20-
$25. Layers work for me. I know some folks think is easier to take off a big coat than to peel off layers but I like to take off or add layers as needed. If necessary I can roll a lightweight layer or two into my daybag or tote. I don't buy specialty clothes for winter travel, but I live in NJ so whatever I buy gets lots of use at home. I invest in quality items that pay me back in cost per wear. If you live in a climate that doesn't require winter clothing, check thrift shops and consignment stores for affordable options that you can perhaps resell when you're done with them.

Posted by
18302 posts

I spend a few weeks in Budapest and areas nearby about every other winter and have been doing this for about 12 years.. This year we will be in Budapest in February.

Each to their own but I pack
mid weight thermal unders (1 top and 2 bottoms).
2 pairs of nylon fishing pants that wash and dry in minutes
2 lightweight nylon easy to wash and dry shirts
one medium weight sweater (rarely use it)
one fairly warm goose down jacket. This goes in one of the packing bags that you compress and squeeze all the air out of. Because it is goose down it flattens to a very small package but expands to a really, really warm jacket.
wool cap and gloves
Waterproof shell
tie
Waterproof (show proof) shoes

On the plane I wear:
one pair of dark grey wrinkle resistant wool slacks for dinner and shows
one wrinkle resistant dress shirt for dinner and shows
wrinkle resistant sports coat
really flexible soft sole oxfords

And yes, it does fit in carry on (legal size and weight)

I avoid a lot of wool stuff because its heavy and bulky. I have discovered that Europeans do have the means and methods to do laundry and so I do laundry ever few days so I can carry less.

Then in the spring or fall we go back to do some fishing in which case the luggage gets pretty extreme.

Posted by
14098 posts

Actually, I find the merino wool is not at all bulky like the old fashioned wool (like those old Pendleton wool shirts??). It does wash well either by hand or in a machine and dries quickly. Next time you are in REI or a similar store, take a look at what's out there now, starting with the main brands of SmartWool, IceBreaker, Ibex, etc. Even the Costco merino wool shirts are of good quality and they are very light.

I took a Land's End cashmere sweater this fall to UK and France. It also is very light...and well, perhaps more flimsy than you would want for something that is more than I usually pay for a darn cardigan...but it worked very well warmth and weight-wise. Lands End always has sales going on so you can get them at at least 30% off if you get their emails.

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you everyone for all of your advice, it definitely gives me a better idea of what to look for and take. I feel better hearing that I don't need a bunch of different jackets (I really worried about that one), but will probably need thermals just in case - I get cold when it drops to the 60's :-)

Posted by
48 posts

I'm from Chicago. During our cold winters, I do a lot of layering. You will need some thermals, tights are nice if you want some insulation under your pants and not thermals on some days. Wool socks. Pretty much anything wool will keep you warm. I wear a lot of wool and cashmere in the winter time. A nice cashmere hat and scarf will do or wool. You can't go wrong with wool, cashmere, and thermals. I also wear Uggs.

Posted by
6 posts

Take a hint from the European women -- and men -- and wear a warm scarf around your neck. Wool or cashmere is the way to go, not acrylic or polyester. I traveled with some Swiss women who wore a scarf on the train in the middle of summer so as not be "chilled" from the air conditioning. Same for a wool/cashmere cap -- an uncovered head is like a chimney where body heat escapes. And if it's a mild day, a scarf and cap are easy to tuck away in pocket or purse.

Posted by
3 posts

Lands End is having a 30% off everything sale right now through Nov. 10, even works on items already on clearance. I have some of the Thermaskins tops and love them, also wore and washed Icebreaker tees on our trip in September, they were great. I bought them at the Icebreaker factory outlet in Woodburn Oregon. When I shopped there, they told me they will do telephone orders too--503-902-3000. I also do like the socks and shirts from Costco mentioned above. The thermal type shirts are under $10 and are the same ones Macys has for over $20. I have Keen Toyah shoes, similar to Keen Presidio, that are a very comfortable walking shoe, wore them on the snow when we went up to the Jungfraujoch last year with those Costco wool socks and was perfectly comfortable. The temp was in the mid 30s the day we were there.

Posted by
1 posts

Silk long underwear. 2 pairs, turtleneck top and bottoms. Pack down to nothing, easily hand washed and dry in a couple hours. A down jacket that packs in its own pocket. Can be use as a neck pillow also. Have fun!

Posted by
65 posts

I bought a jacket which is outer windbreaker, inner fleece - worn together, but either piece can be worn separately. Works well for a trip with variable weather (London is not likely to be as cold as Budapest, but can be bone-chilling damp).

Definitely take thermals mostly because they can also be used for sleep if the room is too cool and they don't take up much room - recommend the polyester or silk kind which will dry much faster than the cotton ones and take up less room. I have also purchased as I go (plaid gloves in Glasgow as souvenirs, but also because my hands were cold; a scarf in a Paris street market).

Definitely think layers, but don't worry too much. You're not going to the moon and can find whatever you need, if what you have does not suffice. When doing museum days, opt to be a bit chilly in transit rather than too warm throughout a museum visit - or, if you really mind the cold, accept that your first stop will be a bathroom to remove some layers...

Posted by
1 posts

I live in Texas, so I understand the need to stay warm in a cold climate....we spent 2 weeks in Germany/Austria in December, and I found that the best base layer was silk long underwear. I purchased the lightest weight (ankle length bottoms and a camisole top), and put them under cords or wool pants on the bottom and under a sweater and wool jacket on the top. Silk will wick moisture away from your body, and also "breathes" so you don't get damp under your layers. A warm scarf and hat are great, and if you have an extra pashmina (which doesn't take up much space in a carry-on bag) you can always drape it over your jacket, secure with a colorful broach, and be fashionable as well as warm. I lost one of my gloves the first day in Munich, and purchased a pair of wool gloves in a department store--they are so wonderfully warm and made a nice souvenir! I ALWAYS take an extra pair of shoes along because stuff happens (stitching works loose, heel falls off, etc.) and I want to have footwear that fits and is comfortable or else my vacation is ruined. Remember, in many places in Europe the stores close at mid-day on Saturday and do not reopen until Monday so you would not be able to purchase clothing for quite a while. It rained quite a bit, with moisture turning into snow, so I recommend taking a small umbrella for your purse or backpack. My wool jacket was not waterproof, but it did manage to shed the few raindrops that came in under the umbrella.....have a great time!
Suzanne

Posted by
3 posts

I spent several weeks in Germany and Austria in December to see the Christmas markets and found that a good warm coat (mine was down with a hood) and lightweight sweaters were all I needed. The coat I wore on the plane and the sweaters were easy to pack since I took mostly cotton turtlenecks. I also was worried I would need boots but I ended up wearing my sneakers with wool socks and my feet were warm. I do agree a waterproof coat is a good idea since we encountered more rain than snow. From personal experience I find that a pair of leggings work well under pants/jeans and fit better than thermals and I feel they are warmer. But you have to consider all this from the perspective of someone from a snowy climate---Colorado...someone from Florida may feel colder in the same temperatures. Oh, I almost forgot gloves are a must!

Posted by
1 posts

Two Decembers walking around London. Weather similar to upper Midwest at the time. Normal wear is lined slacks. Probably online for someone in Fl (LLBean, EddieBauer,Duluth Trading etc). Wear lined cargo pants for storage. As former airline worker on ramp found base layer of tank top helped warm torso without bulk in arms. Long sleeve tshirt over and tneck or mock tneck. Stocking hat and hunter's shooting gloves if doing much photography.
Be Sure to check out night ice skating at Somerset house.

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ExOfficio clothes are good quality winter and summer clothes. They have excellent features which you can select to tailor to your needs. They come in basic as well as bright colors. They have been our core clothes for several trips. Buy them online or if you ever get to Seattle, you can go to the downtown store where they have rooms of clothes at great discounts. I usually look online first and then head downtown to shop the discount rooms. Another good tip is REI's website: watch their videos on layering. They have an excellent system and once I mastered that, I was able to pack in one small carryon for four seasons of travel anywhere in the world. It is fun to shop as you travel, but if you won't wear it back home, it just becomes one more donation item. Sarah Murdoch's blog is also good http://adventureswithsarah.net/ Happy travels :)

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Kathleen!! What a great blog! I did not catch the webcast of Sarah's packing session today at the RS Travel Festival but it should be linked in a couple of weeks.

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I have found my goretex parka and polarfleece jacket meet every need from cool to cold, even hiking in the Alps and over a glacier. I use them alone or together to fit the need. The parka folds into its pocket for compact storage and the polarfleece compresses into a small space. They came from LLBean or Landsend.

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I will put in a vote for layering either with silk or merino wool. I wear merino wool a lot during the winter; most of the shirts are nice enough to wear on their own and provide a lot of warmth. They also wick sweat and tend not to smell even when they have been worn for several days in a row. They also wash easily in the room.
I like to take two jackets, a fleece jacket and a windbreaker/rain jacket that can be layered over the fleece. Since you have never seen snow before you are probably less used to cold. Here people wear shorts in 10 degree weather. I would get a winter coat (I like the ones that have an inner warm and outer wind/rain layer). This allows you to seperate them if you only need part of the jacket. I like Columbia although any ski type jacket will work. Don't forget a hat, scarf, and gloves. I like the disposible toe and hand warmers when I will be outside for a while. Make sure your shoes are closed toe and water resistant.
I think you will want to err on the side of warm with your packing and dressing. You don't want to be limited with your trip because it is too cold. Wind and wet will also make you feel much colder.
Have an amazing trip.

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I am also traveling this winter to Europe.
I'm taking, to wear outside:
Warm Lined waterproof rain jacket that goes past my hips, it also has a lined attached hood.
Warm yoga pants.
Waterresistant pants, like the ones that zip off, as an alternative to the yoga pants.
You can put tights or thermal bottoms under these.
Lined lightweight boots you can walk in all day.
I just bought Cobb Hill's "fresh excite", and they are attractive as well as light and waterproof, and really comfy.
Lightweight silk thermals, make sure top has long sleeves.
Long sleeved Tshirt.
Lightweight zip up fleece jacket.
Gloves, fleece hat, pashmina sized scarf.
I'm going to be cozy, and can delayer if needed.
I'm from the Pacific NorthWest and feel the cold!
If necessary, look in Goodwill for warm clothing , as you won't need it again till your next trip.
Have a wonderful time!

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Having just spend the entire winter in Europe - Nov - Feb in various countries including UK (England and Scotland), Netherlands, Switzerland, France, Italy ....etc, its pretty cold. I come from Australia and contrary to popular opinion it can get pretty cold down that way too and Australians are pretty familiar with camping and things like that so we have some great gear.

Merino thermal underwear is a great way to start. I lot of people will tell you to go for the polyurethane stuff, it isn't as worm and can make you sweat in a cold aggravated kind of way - they are kind of harder to find merinos that are 100% merino - be aware that a lot of the packs that say merino, have only a very small percentage of wool in them. Will socks are a must - merino again is great - you can pick these up in most outdoor stores.

I came to europe will all my high tech gear and froze! It was horrible, in the end I ended up with a basic routine. Merino underlay, a really good thick merino jumper - the great thing about merino wool is that it will not shrink on you like normal wool. Sometimes I had two wools - I picked mine up in Paris shortly after arriving for an unbelievable 50 euros (although this took a lot of walking up and down through the streets of paris an turned out I ended up buying my jumpers from a boutique three doors down from eh hotel that I overlook in the first place. Coming from AUS a country that is flooded in sheep merino is insanely expensive - a jumper from merino is roughly between 300-400 AUD which is absolutely ridiculous.

On top of that, I had one of two option. I picked up a really warm down jacket in Switzerland in an upscale outlet store in Zurich fro about 200 euros - it was great, but it was also a stunning butter cream so it was possible to keep clean in the winter. Also while a lot of tech store will insist that you coat is waterproof - in most cases it is water resistant - and nothing smell worse than wet down!

The other option I discover was shearling. Heaps of people where shearling in Europe, but not your average frumpy shrilling. I spent some time in Italy, and everybody there wears shearling, and they have beautiful designs - but if you are travelling in season, the price tag are huge. There is this really great online store HW Hamilton - www.hwhamilton.com they sell beautiful shearlings all made in italy so you know its great quality. Nothing beats a shearling in the coldest of winter, a puffer never comes close. It is the best feeling!

As for pants, I just wore my jeans, a good thick pair of jeans and I was okay - although it was fairly dry winter so not much snow this year. If I was cold I just put a pair of wool tights underneath, more comfortable than long johns.

Shoes, important to get a good pair of shoes. You can buy hiking boots (although you will find most of these are made in Asia), but if you are looking for something a bit more refined a lot of brands have Gortex boots, which will keep you nice and dry while looking great.

Also, tip, if you are a lady, wear an handbag under your arm. I know on a trip it is tempting to wear a backpack or a cross the shoulder bag that hangs by your hips, but for security its best that it is under your arms, and in a non visible colour.