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Winter Packing List - tips please

Hello, my family & I are planning a trip to Western Europe in December 2022/January 2023 for several weeks. The Rick Steve's recommended packing list is very helpful however aimed at more warmer months. As residents in a warm climate year-round (even in winter time it is 30 degrees Celsius) I would really appreciate some advice on items to pack for a very cold time of year. Winter clothing items are very limited locally to purchase so I would like some time to order appropriate clothing for us to take. Thank you, Lee p.s. we have never been to Europe or seen snow before.

Posted by
1566 posts

I suggest layers. In particular, merino wool or silk tank tops or undershirts and merino socks will add a lot of warmth without adding a lot of bulk. The bonus is that those materials also don't hold odours easily. Fleece makes a good second or outer layer, too, and is a fabric that dries fairly quickly.

Gloves and hats are a must. Also, some of those countries can be damp in winter, so waterproof layers and an umbrella will help, as well as some type of waterproof footwear.

Posted by
286 posts

I suggest a 3-1 coat. Jack Wolfskin makes a great one-- I know I had to buy one there because my jacket was inadequate for the cold. a 3-1 jacket could be handy in cooler evening temps as well as rain that may occur in your area of the world. You'll also fit right it because Jack Wolfskin was really popular when I was there.

Merino wool could be useful too in warm weather due to its cooling/warming properties. Ice Breaker is a good brand.
Smart Wool socks. That's the brand name--Smart Wool.
Patagonia layering items. I love the capilene stuff they make.

Boots-- durable soles and water proof. Again, I go to the Jack Wolfskin site and bought some nice shoes and boots-- great for cold, snow as well as hiking in summer.

I suggest Jack Wolfskin because they are international and could be found on Amazon.

If you have access to REI or Patagonia- these could be good resources. too.

Consider buying now, you may be able to get some deals for winter stuff. .

Posted by
5445 posts

I've been to Europe twice in that same time frame. It's all about layers. Have you check info about the "average" weather conditions? What countries are you going to?

Posted by
6113 posts

Where are you going? Not all of Europe will have snow in December and January but most places will be cold and wet.

It’s all about layers. You need a wind and waterproof jacket with a hood. Forget about umbrellas, as they just get in the way. The most important item is footwear - waterproof shoes or boots and thick socks. Ideally 2 pairs, as there’s nothing worse than putting damp shoes on the following day.

Scarf, hat and gloves are essential as is moisturiser and lip salve. I wear thermal base layers, particularly at night.

Snow is fine, but beware of black ice if you aren’t used to the cold - I fell and broke my wrist last winter whilst out walking, despite wearing hiking boots with plenty of grip. The hills were ok, but as soon as I got back to the tarred road, I hit a patch of black ice. My messy fracture needed surgery.

Posted by
5990 posts

I agree that it would be helpful to know a bit more about where you are going. Does Western Europe mean Faro or Kiruna?

Posted by
2 posts

Thank you all so much for your suggestions, they are most appreciated. In response to queries - travel will be to Germany, Switzerland, Austria, Slovenia and Italy. I look forward to working my way through your suggestions and getting some good gear in preparation for travelling.

Posted by
881 posts

Layering, layering, layering. Follow the principal of base layer, middle layer and outer layer and you will stay warm and just as important dry. Europe can be wet and cold at the time you are traveling, but a lot of fun. Also, make sure you have appropriate footwear for wet, slushy and snowy streets and sidewalks. Something waterproof or at least water resistant. The thread that Frank II posted is excellent starting point. Do some shopping around there are always deals to be found both online and in various stores. REI is getting ready to have their Labor Day sale, a good place to go try on gear and see what you like, if there is one in your locale.

Posted by
10846 posts

Buy a merino wool layer. We have Icebreaker brand plus REI house brand. They don’t take up too much room nor add much weight.

Posted by
5445 posts

So on one of my trips that started at the end of December, I went to Barcelona where it was 55-65 highs. Then to Vienna where it was 40-50, Salzburg and Switzerland cities where it was about 30 or colder and definite winter and Paris where it was about 50 and sunny. Even Switzerland varied a lot. Geneva was about 40. Luzern and Lauterbrunnen were about 35-40 while the mountains next to them were about 10-20 degrees. We got a fair amount of wet snow and the raincoat was great as a top layer. I say all that because that may likely be your situation. Parts of Italy perhaps warmer.

So this is what I had--long underwear tops and bottoms, long sleeved shirts, tneck, lightweight wool sweater and lighter weight fleece, spring/fall type quilted jacket made for about 40 degree weather, and a rain coat. Also, warm socks, gloves, mittens, hat and gaitor. I did not bring an actual winter coat. Where it was cold, I wore every layer. Otherwise, I adjusted my layers accordingly. I had about 3 pair of warm socks.

We did only carry on because we moved around a fair amount.

Posted by
985 posts

A few years ago we spent five weeks in the Netherlands during December and January. Temps ranged from 40F down into the 20's, without the wind chill. This is what I needed and used the most:

For base layers I took Land's End thermaskin top and bottoms and also Fleece Cuddl Duds from Walmart. Most days I only used the thermaskin top under my clothes. Thermaskins are fairly thin and slick so your tops and pants just slide right on over them. I found I sometimes needed the Cuddl Dud top on days we were outdoors but not very active. I like merino wool but only on my feet. Undershirts I tried made my skin itch so I passed those on to my husband and he liked them.

I took mid weight mid crew length wigwam socks which are part merino wool and part nylon. I found that heavyweight socks were too thick and made my boots pinch. With my Teva de la vina boots (took two pair - one high boot and one low boot) my feet were never cold. We only had snow for a couple of days and it wasn't very much, but I still appreciated the high boots as they kept my lower legs warm without needing bottom base layer every day.

For regular tops I took a few pullover long sleeve shirts and a couple of button up flannel shirts to wear on top if it was very cold. The flannel was easily unbuttoned when entering museums or restaurants. I don't want to have to remove layer after layer every time I enter somewhere for more than a few minutes.

My bottoms were jeans and corduroy leggings. With the advance in jean material to add stretch I find mine dry just as quickly as any of my other pants. Besides, I want to wear what I am comfortable in when traveling, just as I would at home.

My coat was a Backcountry water resistant fleece lined thigh length hooded jacket which I had sprayed with waterproofing. It held up extremely well during light rains as well as walking through a few lengthy downpours.

We did a tremendous amount of walking through wind and cold. My most important outer items other than hooded jacket were a thick knit cap which covered my ears, my big square fuzzy scarf (Walmart again) which I folded in a large triangle, looped around my neck and tucked down into the front of my coat, and some lined gloves. Hubby had those same outer items. I think the scarf made all the difference in my comfort.

A good place to do some lower cost shopping is Sierra Trading Post. I also like Land's End during their sales.

Sounds like a marvelous trip. Have a great time!

Posted by
5835 posts

My winter travel for cross country skiing has been between late January and early April. We usually would spend a few days on first arrival in Europe at larger urban gateway cities before traveling to the higher elevation villages and smaller towns. The lareger population cities are usually at lower elevatios and have more snow removal resources (or property owner laws) than the higher elevation smaller towns/villages. Boot traction devices (i.e. Yaktracks, Ice Trekkers etc) are more essential in these venues because sidewalk pavement snow removal is slower than the more urban areas. In either case, waterproof hiking boots with Vibram-like soles with traction lugs are good for walking on snow that hasn't iced.

All good information on layers and extermities (cap and globes/mittens). A good layering resources:

I use fast drying synthetic base layers and underwear. Sink washing syntheics will usually dry overnight.

Note on air tavel during winter. I wear (or carry) the heavy (e.g. boots) and bulky outer insulation and wind/rain jackets on the plane. The weight and bulk do not count on your "carry on" allowance and are with you when you stop out of the terminal into a winter environment.

Posted by
4474 posts

For our 2019 Xmas markets trip, I found a full-length, hooded, down coat on sale in July. Full length means to my ankles. Inclement weather could not get to me. I also sprayed it with waterproof spray and took a rain parka. Make sure gloves, scarf, and hats are wool or cashmere- synthetics aren't warm enough. We also took a package of hand warmers, which we used inside our gloves. And- we traveled all carry-on. Have a great trip!

Posted by
1343 posts

I always say this when people recommend "layers," because yes, absolutely layers, but be sure to try them all on together --- you might need bigger sizes of the outer layers than your usual size. Voice of sad experience while camping in winter.

Posted by
1326 posts

In case no one has already mentioned this (I confess i skimmed through the comments) avoid cotton, especially if it will be wet. Unlike wool, cashmere and many synthetics, cotton will not keep you warm, in fact it will make you colder when it gets wet.

Posted by
5445 posts

Trotter is absolutely correct and I will add, cotton socks reek when wet! Plus, cotton takes forever to dry.

Posted by
1888 posts

+1 for the cotton and socks comments.

I have a bunch of Smartwool thinner socks that I take for regular winter travel as they are not bulky at all like my hiking socks are. When our daughter went to Iceland in late December one year she borrowed all of those socks. She runs cold and said those were the best, which I already knew;) We are going together this December to Germany an Austria, so she will need to bring her own this time.

Since you are from a warm weather area, you might take a look at thrift stores and the REI outlet (they have an online store) to buy things for less.