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packing light in winter

I will be in Rome for 3 months this coming winter, starting in mid-December. I have been there for 3 other winters, so I know what the weather is usually like, but I did not manage to pack light those other times. I will be in two different apartments, so I won't be moving around much. I know I need: a wool sweater; a scarf, hat and gloves; a raincoat; a collapsible, wind-resistant umbrella; knit pants; long-sleeve tees; blouses to go over them and to dress up a little; comfortable--and water-resistant--shoes. I thought I would carry my coat and not pack it, but how do I get everything else to fit into one 22" suitcase and a totebag as my purse (the airline's "personal item")? So far, I haven't been able to make it all fit. How have you "packed light" for winter?

Posted by
15686 posts

You are going for 3 months with one move in the middle. Why are you so worried about not checking a suitcase?

Posted by
14288 posts

For your wool sweater, take a look at Land's End cashmere. It's light but warm. If you see something you like sign up for their emails and nearly every day you will get a 25-30% off code which is helpful since they are kind of pricey.

I would probably take 2 pr pants and take a base layer to wear under them. I like the brand Hottotties but there are many out there. Since you know how chilly it gets in Rome in winter and I don't plus I am probably more cold tolerant than you, you can decide about a base layer for your top instead of Tee shirts.

I'm not sure from your post if you are taking both a coat and a rain coat?? If you are considering 2 pieces of outerwear I would go with a vest (either one of those light squishy but warm down ones or a polarfleece) and a rain layer instead of 2 coats.

Posted by
1021 posts

I agree with the others. Since you won't be moving around, use a 24-25" wheeled bag to take everything you'll need.

Posted by
792 posts

I think bulky winter clothes are a great reason to use the vacuum seal bags. Or I know some people prefer large Ziploc bags. Just make sure the bag doesn't go over the carry on weight limit of your airline. Wear all of your heaviest clothes on the airplane- the wool sweater, the winter coat. Put the scarf/hat/gloves in the pockets of your winter coat and they won't take up room in your suitcase.

Do you have laundry facilities at either of your apartments? Plan to do laundry every 1-2 weeks and you won't feel stressed about bringing loads of clothes with you.

Did you over pack by a long shot last time? It sounds like you are trying to avoid that. If all else fails, I agree with the others that a 24/26 inch suitcase is a nice compromise. You can't carry it on but it's not too bulky to move around a few times.

Posted by
2768 posts

With only one move, I'd just check a slightly bigger suitcase, and only carry on the personal item. There is no need to overpack, but winter clothes are just bulkier, so I wouldn't stress about bringing a 25 inch suitcase or whatever. One decent size suitcase and one totebag is light enough for a trip with only one move.

If, however, you really need to fit it all in the carry on, or for others who will be moving about a lot in the winter, I have a few suggestions. Lightweight sweaters, maybe layered over very thin long sleeve ts (thinsulate if you're really concerned about the cold, or just lightweight ts if not), instead of bulky cotton ribbed knit sweaters. A blouse could also go over the same ts, or under the sweater. I'd go 3 pants, thick tights to go under the pants if you're concerned about cold, 3 sweaters, 3 long sleeve t-shirts, 2 blouses that go with the ts and can go under the sweater, and two pairs of shoes. Including what you wear on the plane. A skirt or dress only if you plan on some dressy occasion, and if so, opaque tights to go under it. Then your outerwear - gloves etc - and underwear. Use compression bags or just extra large ziplocks to force all the air out. Roll your clothes, then put in bags, then force the air out and seal - every inch of space will count. Put the gloves in your coat pocket and wear it on the plane. Hat too. Put the scarf over the coat, under the lapels, so that when you take the coat off, the scarf stays there.

You've been to Rome in winter, so I won't argue with you, but for anyone else: the average low is 39 degrees F in December, 37F in January. Given that the lows are often in the middle of the night, I don't think extreme cold weather gear is necessary. It's not even freezing. But I'm from Minnesota :) A sweater, coat, and light gloves and you're good, in my experience with those temps. No hat necessary, and scarves only needed if it's windy, but they're also good for fashion, so I'd bring one anyway. I'd lean towards a fashionable scarf, not a heavy duty winter scarf, though. If there's a freak cold snap, buy something there. But people from warm climates may disagree.

Posted by
2081 posts


If you can find a coat/rain coat combo, i would opt for that instead of bring both and/or wearing one onboard.

as far as the "wool sweater" i would dump that and go for 1 or 2 "wool long sleeve tees".

of course i have no idea on what else you plan to bring.

also as some have mentioned about checking in luggage for that duration. i would give some thought into that.

happy trails.

Posted by
33339 posts

Since you are used to living in Rome in the winter and only have to move, within the same city, once - I'm also confused by your need to pack light.

Jan, can you give a bit more detail of your situation, please?

Posted by
4175 posts

For 3 months in one place without moving around, I'd pack a larger bag with only what would fit in the 22" one and buy stuff there.

However, I did pack a 22" (with wheels so really 20" capacity) for a very cold trip to the Netherlands and Belgium in April, 2013. I wore my trench with the button out lining, my heaviest pants, boots, sweater and a scarf on the plane. Yeah, the folks around me in Tucson and Atlanta thought I was nuts, but I was warm enough on the plane and perfect when we arrived in Amsterdam.

I packed 2 more pairs of pants, 1 more pair of shoes, 5 more tops, 1 more scarf, 1 cardigan and 1 open sweater vest. I took 1 pair of pajamas.

Counting what I wore on the plane, I took 3 pairs of compression socks, 3 bras, 3 shapewear tanks and 8 pairs of panties.

That 22" roller also had my 3-1-1 bag and my other grooming items. My clothes are all XL or XXL. I could not pack so much if I didn't use packing cubes for everything. Still, even with all that, the bag only weighed a total of 20 pounds.

I wore a moneybelt and a small crossbody purse which easily fit into my Baggallini hobo tote for going through security. In the tote also went my electronics and meds.

I should mention that everything was color coordinated, so I could wear absolutely anything with anything else. And they weren't boring neutrals either. Take a look at the Vivienne Files for help with that.

Posted by
5837 posts

Winter travel minimally increases the weight and volume of my baggage other than winter activity specialized clothing and gear (I.e. ski stuff). I am packing heavier extra clothing such as wool pants in place of lighter weigh synthetics and will have long underwear.

I wear/carry my winter outer garments - fleece jacket, weather shell with gloves and cap in jacket pocket.

But that said, why not bring a checked bag? If anything I would have a partly full checked bag to bring back stuff.

Posted by
9 posts

I had nearly finished a reply, when I apparently clicked on the wrong thing and it disappeared! Many thanks to all who took the time to respond. I really appreciate the detailed suggestions for packing in a carry-on and the "permission" to go ahead and check a bag. I had hoped that I could figure out a way to just take one carry-on and a personal item, but as some of you pointed out, some winter clothes are just bulkier, even with the compression bags. And I will have a washing machine in both apartments.

The wool sweater I have taken in past years and the one I was planning to take again is a cardigan. My winter coat is an all-weather coat, but it does not stand up well to the hard rains and wind that Rome can have, so I have found that a raincoat is necessary, but it packs pretty flat. The hood doesn't protect my glasses well enough, so a sturdy umbrella is also needed (the first winter I was there in recent history, my umbrella was broken in the first wind). I am not very cold-natured, but being out in the elements, occasionally even snow, walking across the city or waiting for a bus, makes it feel colder. In the past, I have found that the long-sleeved Pima cotton tees and linen or cotton blouses, along with silk camisoles for underneath, offer a good mix, depending on how wintry or spring-like the day is, but maybe I could take fewer of them.

Has anyone gone to Rome in the winter for more than a couple of weeks with just a 22" carry-on and a smaller bag? How did you do it?