Cold Weather Packing List – Carry On Only!

Packing is challenging enough for any trip. Now that airlines are charging for each peice of luggage it kind of sucks having to pay that extra $25 US each way. The only way to get away from those fees is to pack carry on only. That $50 US is enough to pay for an epic tour somewhere or even a hostel stay for a couple nights! Packing for warm weather trips is easy enough, the clothes are smaller and, lighter. The challenge really is packing for winter with just a carry on. One great thing to help with this is packing cubes, they help keep everything organised. 

Since I love travelling in off season (you can see why here) the weather isn’t always perfect, it is usually autumn or spring and a little chilly for an island girl, so I figured I’d write down my cold weather packing list.

I have just finished packing up my 36 L Osprey backpack for a 2 week trip to Iceland with one day in London. We needed to be warm and waterproof. So basically I packed the same stuff I took to New Zealand and realised this is pretty much a standard cold weather packing list.

Cold Weather Packing List (Carry On only!)

  • Hiking boots ( I love these Columbia Newton Ridges) or converse (depending on trip type)
  • Flip flops (hostel showers or campsites)
  • Socks (usually about 7 pairs and one awesome thick wooly pair)
  • Fleece lined leggings like these (2 pairs travelled in the 3rd pair)
  • Tights (under leggings as base layer)
  • Camisole (base layer)
  • Sweat wicking long sleeve top (base layer)
  • T shirts (enough for a week, 5 long sleeves and 2 tees)
  • Pajama pants and top
  • 2 Sweaters
  • 1 Columbia Mighty Lite Jacket (lightweight, compressible. This jacket kept me so warm even just wearing a long sleeve shirt under it)
  • 1 Columbia Arcadia rain jacket (Packable and bright for rainy days)
  • 1 Columbia Storm Surge Rain Pants
  • 1 bright beanie, gloves, scarf
  • 1 Turkish towel (compact, absorbant, great for hostels as privacy screen on beds)
  • Electronics
  • Nikon D3300, zoom lens and filters
  • Tripod this was so small compact and worked really well! Especially for $20!
  • Selfie stick
  • GoPro with extra batteries and cables
  • Kindle
  • Ipod shuffle and Bose headphones
  • Cell phone and charger
  • Documents

I normally pack stuff like my Mighty lite jacket, scarf, gloves and beanie into another very small carry on bag so they are easily accessible when I land so I do not need to dig through my big pack for warm gear. Also, I normally keep passport and pen within close reach.

Usually with this amount of stuff my pack weighs just under 20lbs, which means I can easily lift it and place it in the overheard bins without almost knocking anyone out. At that weight it is also to explore a city with it on my back without feeling too weighed down and exhausted which is great.

Rainy day on the Golden Circle. Cold weather packing list.

Rainy day on the Golden Circle. Rocking our Columbia Rain Jackets and rain pants with beanies that I made



  • Elaisha Green October 25, 2016 at 1:28 pm

    Yes! Carry-on travel is the way to go. I aways have a backpack as my ‘personal’ bag too so I can bring all of my must-haves.

    • Stace October 25, 2016 at 1:39 pm

      Yes I take a small bag to put my inflight necessities so everything is close

  • Meg Cale October 25, 2016 at 1:59 pm

    I love how so many brands are making compressible cold weather gear. The Columbia line is sooooo nice. Makes it so much easier to pack light without the bulk.

  • Sarah October 25, 2016 at 2:51 pm

    Yes it’s certainly a lot easier if you just have carry-on. I get tired of throwing out my shampoos, deodorants and such every flight and then having to buy new when I get there though.

  • Tina and Jimmy October 25, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    Thats a pretty good packing list. I don’t back pack and sometimes if I don’t want the hassle of baggage claim I can usually cram quite a bit in my small carry on luggage which fits nicely overhead. Winter packing on a carry on for adventure is a different story though. I would think the hiking boots would be the most challenging. As an outdoor enthusiast though it’s nice that there are so many light weight clothing options now that keep you warm

    • Stace October 25, 2016 at 4:30 pm

      Yes I always wear my boots when Im travelling though!

  • Jamie October 25, 2016 at 5:44 pm

    Love this! When I (a Floridian) moved to Spain for a year, I made sure I could do it only with a carry on. Fortunately I didn’t own any real winter clothes, and I left them all in Spain! I suppose it’s easier to dress for only one season, though!

    • Stace October 25, 2016 at 5:51 pm

      One season is def easier but I always layer up so if I needed to I could mix it up and travel around

  • Kassie October 25, 2016 at 9:45 pm

    I’m starting to get better with carry-on only packing but I haven’t tried it for a cold climate yet! I will have to keep this list handy as I tend to be an over- packer!

    • Stace October 26, 2016 at 7:52 am

      I actually feel like I may have overpacked but it worked out well since you really cant wash and dry things in Iceland lol! So i had enough for the 2 weeks

  • Maja | Mexatia October 26, 2016 at 2:29 am

    I always envy those who are able to pack in the carry-on only! Next time I will try to follow your list to see if I would manage it for the first time.
    My hubby also uses Columbia’s jackets and loves them.

  • Sasha October 26, 2016 at 5:07 am

    Carry On is definitely the way to go hey. The first few years I was backpacking with a 65 litre and whilst I always started with only 12kgs the extra space meant I always collected too much along the way and ended up breaking my back trying to carry 30kgs. Those days are over, carry on is the future, ha.
    This is a great list! I recently visited Iceland with carry on only too, the only thing I didn’t have which I wish i did was waterproof pants, apparently everyone else got the memo but me. I was soaked through after heavy rain one day.
    Thanks for the post, very helpful.

    • Stace October 26, 2016 at 7:49 am

      Oh gosh I read mixed reviews about bringing them but was so glad I did or else I wouldve been soaked and miserable everyday we were there!

  • Delaine Dcosta October 26, 2016 at 7:13 am

    Thanks for sharing this! I’m always looking to escape the warm weather in UAE too by visiting cold places. We’ve planned Europe for December & like every year, we struggle to fit those massive jackets & boots in our suitcase. ( I’m a fan of Columbia too btw ) Your tips will really help.

    • Stace October 26, 2016 at 7:51 am

      I usually always wear my jacket or boots if they are too bulky! But this new mighty lite is perfect! Worn it with just a shirt under and it kept me so warm!

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    […] Next time, I have to betterĀ pack for Iceland’s cold weather! […]


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