While many are happy at the prospect of snow and making snowmen or going skiing and sledding, not many people are very fond of the cold, especially if you’re not used to it yet. Travelling during winter season can be a frustrating affair, having to decide what to bring.
I know I live in a tropical country, and probably won’t be able to understand what it’s truly like having to experience the cold, bitter winter. I’d however spent winter season in Europe when I did my 6-month student exchange in Rouen, France. That experience taught me a thing or two about surviving the cold.
I also posed these questions to seasoned travellers:
What is one winter item you can’t live without? What to pack for Europe in winter?
Along with my time spending winter in Europe, this is what they have to say about essential winter items you must have for every Europe winter trip.
Don’t fret, you can still enjoy the winter season without having to lock yourself in your own home and waiting for spring to come.
Before we get started on the winter packing list for Europe, here are some practical tips on how to dress for winter to stay warm.
- How to dress for winter
- Best Cold Weather Clothing Brands for Europe
- Winter Gloves for Europe
- Winter Scarfs for Europe
- Winter Jackets for Europe
- Inner Wear for Europe
- Best Winter Materials for Europe
- Best Winter Brand for Europe
- Footwear for Europe
- Face Care for Europe
- Wellness for Europe
- Candles for Europe
- Winter Camping in Europe
How to dress for winter
1. Choose a quality base layer
In building a structure, the foundation is a very important part of the process. The same is true when you dress up for the winter, but this time with your base layer.
It’s very important to wear a base layer because this is the best way to increase your body’s temperature. There are some people who even wear a base layer even if they are just staying at home most of the day.
You can choose thermal underwear that is moisture wicking so that you can keep yourself nice and warm.
2. Learn to layer your clothes
After choosing a good base layer, it’s time to learn the skill of layering your clothes. It’s a practical way of dressing during the cold months and makes it more versatile for easy packing.
After the base layer, you can choose a long-sleeved shirt or even a turtleneck. Then you can add a sweater, a jacket, and then a coat.
There are so many styles you can choose from so that you can still look classy and chic even with all the layers.
3. Invest a jacket that is built for winter
One of the most important investments you will make for winter is outer wear. This can be a jacket or a coat, depending on where you are.What’s important is that you choose it not for style but function.
Make sure to choose outer wear that is waterproof and windproof so that you are kept warm even the weather condition becomes worse. Choose coats or jackets that are lined with material that is lined with those that will keep your body temperature warm. Make sure to also invest in quality ones that will last you more than a season.
4. Have the right shoes on
Another important part of the outfit is the shoes! After putting some thick, wool socks on, you want to wear shoes that are durable and really made for winter.
Boots are, of course, the perfect choice. If you are going ice fishing, you will need to get ice boots, which are not just made to keep your feet warm but should have enough grip so that you can walk on ice safely.
5. Don’t forget to keep your head warm too
Of course, don’t forget your accessories which are not just for vanity but are actually needed for warmth.
Choose winter hats that have flaps so that your ears are protected, scarves to keep your neck warm (trust me, it makes a whole lot of difference!) and always cover your hands with gloves or mittens.
With that, let’s answer your question on the best items for packing for Europe in winter.
This winter packing list is for you to prepare as you set off for your great year-end wintry adventure in Europe!
Best Cold Weather Clothing Brands for Europe
Winter Gloves for Europe
When packing for Europe in winter, the first thing to consider is hands. They get cold much faster than the rest of your body. Winter gloves are your number 1 must-have winter wear when you visit a wintry country. There are a few variations on the type of winter gloves.
#1 – Fingerless Gloves
“During the winter, my fingerless gloves follow me around everywhere! I find that office buildings, hotel lobbies and even my own house can never seem to get the temperature right in the winter, which means typing away on my laptop can result in chilly hands. Your winter packing list for Europe must thus contain this one.
Although I haven’t quite figured out how to type whilst wearing normal winter gloves, I find fingerless gloves do help quite a bit in combating the cold. I have one pair of polyester winter gloves that go up to my elbow, and my second pair are woollen and just for the hands. When it’s super cold, I wear both!”
“After living on the East Coast of the US for many years, I learned the hard way how cold my hands would get whenever I’d take off my winter gloves to check my phone or even to make a phone call.
When they started making gloves that allowed you to touch your electronics without taking off your gloves, I was immediately sold. It has made a huge difference in terms of my photography. With cold fingers, it’s difficult to shoot for long periods of time, thus these gloves are super essential to pack for Europe’s winter.
I strongly recommend getting a pair of winter gloves that allow you to use your electronics without needing to take them off for your trip to Europe as travelling during winter means that you may want to use your phone or your camera to take photographs!”
Look for fabrics that are more water-resistant as snow and sleet can take a toll on your winter gloves otherwise.
#3 – Hand Warmers
Do you want to build a snowman? But, you don’t want the cold hands that come with it? The answer is… heat packs! Yes, every winter packing list for Europe needs this as much as you want warm hands!
These heat packs for winter may look small and innocent, but if you give them a shake and stick them in your winter gloves, before you know it, the cold won’t bother you anymore. You can build as many snowmen as your heart desires!
“Hand warmers have made viewing the Northern Lights, exploring the Harbin Ice Festival and partying in the Scottish Hogmanay enjoyable. I’ve also had warmers for my feet and to stick on my back, legs and arms (when it is -30°C, you can’t have too many). There is no need to feel miserable due to the cold when you have hand warmers!”
Winter Scarfs for Europe
When packing for Europe in winter, you need something that meets the dual purpose of accessorising or pairing your outfit and for keeping warm. You almost will not spot anyone stepping out of home without a winter scarf during winter!
#1 – Cashmere Shawl
Of course, the classic shawl that you don’t go anywhere without. Pick a neutral colour like black or beige so it can go with most of your winter outfits. It can also be used to add a pop of colour or texture against your plain winter coats.
“It goes everywhere and blends with anything I am wearing. It is an additional layer that is easy to carry and perfect for adding on when the temperature drops.”
“People would normally ask why I am always wearing my pink winter scarf everywhere. Even in summer, I try to take it with me even though the weather is hotter and it might not seem like the best idea.
The real reason why I wear it is because of the amazing pocket it has. I bought it from Speakeasy Travel Co and I was lucky enough that Bethany custom-made it for me.
She sent some of her cloth options and I fell in love with this one at first sight. From then, it has been in every single trip with me, and it is the way I feel the safest carrying my valuables doesn’t matter where I am. I definitely would love to buy a few more of these someday.”
Winter Jackets for Europe
Of course, another item that you can’t go without when packing for Europe in winter is a jacket or winter coat when it comes to protection from the cold winds and low temperatures. But, what are the qualities to look out for?
It’s a jacket that can easily fit into your pocket when folded up. Not only is it portable, but it’s warm enough to be in 0°C weather. And if it gets warm, simply take it off and stuff it in your pocket.
The material is water-resistant so it’s also great for rainy weather. While down jackets may be water-resistant, if they get wet, the down feather clumps together and no longer provides much heat.
Depending on the model and brand, your winter jacket may come with a nice hoodie to shield your face from cold gusts of wind or rain. In any case, you have to add this right now to your winter packing list Europe!
On top of that, some jackets may contain inner pockets and zip pockets on the outside. This is convenient for carrying valuables safely and have easy access to valuables such as your passport, ID, cash, etc.
“Since I love traveling and am always in a different climate, this is the perfect jacket. I’ve traveled around the world to 14 different countries in one month. I went from humid hot weather to very cold weather in the same week. My packable down jacket was my most valuable item on me during that trip!”
“I can’t live without my long down winter coat with a hood. Not only does it keep me warm but it is really comfortable, it feels like I am wearing a pillow!”
Inner Wear for Europe
Another item that your winter packing list Europe absolutely needs is the silky, thin and breathable material that this winter shirt is made from.
Let me tell you why it works awesome in many conditions – they can keep you cool and wick away sweat when warm from hiking, but also provide a great base layer of warmth in the dead of winter when camped out.
“As a full time traveller of over 5 years, I travel through many countries and many climates. I could be at the top of the rocky mountains one month to the beaches of Mexico the next.
One of the toughest locations to pack for is cold winter climates. You have to be prepared for rain, wind and possible snow.
There are many items I carry along to help keep me warm and ready for whatever mother nature throw at me, but the one item I never leave home without is my silkies, more generally called performance base layers.”
Hot Chillys are made for skiers who know cold. So when you ask yourself what to pack for Europe in winter, trust me, this is something you don’t want to miss.
Thanks to a bit of spandex, they shrink and grow according to your size, and hug all the curves. The silky finish means clothes glide smoothly over them. The stirrups are perfect under jeans or leggings.
Thanks to the stretchy stirrup foot, they don’t bunch up in your winter socks and boots. Plus, they make for a sleeker silhouette than loose or wrinkly old-fashioned long underwear! They’re ideal for the days you’re going between indoors and out.
There’s also a cropped ankle version.
“I’m extra sensitive to cold temperature after enduring some serious frostbite on my legs in a -40°C hike. It is their tights that let me enjoy winter again. I wear the Women’s Micro-Elite Chamois Stirrup Bottom tights.”
#3 – Bikini
A bikini would probably be the last thing on your Europe winter packing list, huh?
“No matter the weather or season, a swimsuit is always coming with me and an essential item on my packing list. Down to winter travel, think for instance of a sauna by a frozen lake in Finland or simply chilling at your log cabin’s outdoor whirlpool in the Alps.”
Would you skip those once in a lifetime experiences because you didn’t have a set of swimwear with you? I know I wouldn’t.
Best Winter Materials for Europe
Merino wool is the perfect winter wear material especially for travellers. It’s lightweight, soft, wicks moisture from the skin and doesn’t hold odour. Most importantly, it holds heat really well.
A thin winter shirt layer underneath your jumper will keep you toasty warm and it feels soft against your skin, a perfect must-have in your packing for Europe in winter list.
#2 – Merino Wool Socks
You can also complete your outfit with merino wool winter socks, hat and outer-wear for the ultimate comfort and warmth on the go.
“It folds up super small so it’s easy to slip an extra layer in your bag and it’s ability to withstand odour makes it perfect for winter hikes or skiing. I never go anywhere cold without my merino wardrobe!”
#3 – Merino Wool Thermal
Not only does it keep me warm, this winter shirt is also breathable. No matter how much you sweat, you will never smell bad. In fact, it’s such a cool material that you can even wear it in hot conditions, and you are still guaranteed to feel fresh at the end of the day.
“The most important winter item I can’t live without is my super versatile thermal. I only wear the merino wool thermal from Icebreaker. For me, this one is highly recommended for your winter packing list for Europe.
I had mine for two years now and it still looks amazing. It’s my travel companion and the best clothing item I’ve ever owned.”
Ordinary winter coats and jackets alone may not be enough, so it’s a good idea to update your packing list for Europe winter by layering your winter wear with underpants and undershirt with good insulating properties.
One such cold weather clothing material is fleece.
“Living in a tropical country (the Philippines), we never had to use these items. But when I went to Japan and other countries where winter is observed, I must say that this has been an important part of my daily life. It keeps me warm inside.”
Another variant of winter gloves that should make it to your winter packing list in Europe is the one that has a fleece lining.
Not only do they keep hands warm, they are also soft to the touch – a perfect complement to your winter wear clothing!
Best Winter Brand for Europe
Want to know what’s the best cold weather clothing brand? I ask many people, and they always give me a resounding Uniqlo!
So many of us swear by Uniqlo for its heat insulating properties! The Heattech material provides warmth, while also being breathable.
The scoopneck and soft, non-static material of Uniqlo’s winter shirts make them perfect to wear under any outfit, whether it’s shopping the Black Friday sales in New York or husky sledding in Lapland!
“The items I can’t live without in Winter are my Uniqlo Heattech scoop neck long sleeve tee, leggings and winter socks. This is how all my winter outfits begin. As a traveller, I love that they still hold its shape no matter how you wash them.”
Footwear for Europe
#1 – Snow Boots
Some favourite features of these boots are:
The elastic cord and toggle lace fastener – this helps them super quick and easy to get on and off.
There is no opening to the boots except at the top, so this keeps the snow from getting inside thus keeping your feet dry.
The snow-collar at the top of the boot with another elastic cord and toggle that you pull tight to keep the snow from going down into your boots!
This waterproof winter boot is good for up to -4°C weather, which you’ll need if you want to keep your feet warm and dry for hours while you’re outdoors.
“My absolute must-have for winter are great snow boots. I’m not talking about boots that you would wear while walking around the city during a snowstorm, I’m talking about extreme snow conditions in which good boots could save your feet from frostbite.
One of my favourite new outdoor activities to do in winter, now that I live in the Pacific Northwest, is hiking and snowmobiling from early morning until sunset in some pretty remote areas of the Cascade Mountains here in Washington and Oregon.
Baffin’s Snogoose Boots is my favourite choice for doing exactly this. While the price tag is a bit shocking, these boots will last for a few years and many, many snowy days playing outside.”
A good pair of snow boots is a must not only to keep your feet warm but to also prevent slipping on ice, so this needs to be included when you pack for Europe in winter asap!
“My snow boots are lined with faux fur on the inside and are waterproof so I can walk in the snow and slush without getting my feet wet. They also have a rubber sole with a thread pattern so they are not slippery when walking on ice.”
This is the perfect winter gear if you’re visiting a place with heavy amounts of snow.
Whatever you call it, these ice grips are easy to put on under your boots and take off from your boots. For a small price, you can quickly pack them up in their pouch for the indoors, then put them back on when going outside.
If you’ll be in an area with lots of snow/ ice, this is not going to even be an option on whether you should pack this for Europe winter because this one is a life-changer. You no longer have to worry about walking on the treacherously flattened snow.
“When visiting Finnish Lapland in winter, it took me 10 minutes to cover 100 meters of icy sidewalk. None of the locals had problems with it – going even as far as trotting down the street in high heels – but I definitely needed an aid to be mobile.”
#4 – Shoe Insoles
You know that nice and cosy feeling when you’re lazing at home during winter? Wearing shoe insoles makes you feel almost right at home, with its soft, comfortable material and its ability to keep the entire body warm. This surely needs to be in your winter packing list for Europe.
“I hate having cold feet in winter. Thus, sheep wool insoles or fleece shoe insoles are my absolute favourite to keep my feet warm during days of snow or simply cold temperatures.
My favourites are those that you can buy at market stalls, such as the German ones from Alpenweit or Natural Schafwollprodukte.”
Slipper boots are more flexible than the outdoor footwear version, so you can comfortably sit on your couch pretzel style while wearing them, and they also have a waterproof sole!
This means they are durable enough to wear it to take out the recycling, and they also won’t get ruined if you wear them into the toilet on a long-haul flight. The thick sole also helps to insulate your feet from chilly tile floors. You don’t have to think twice before adding this to your winter packing list for Europe.
Slipper boots are a great alternative for people whose feet still freeze in fuzzy winter socks and Smartwool socks.
“During wintertime, I dream of curling up in my duvet to hibernate until spring. But with the aid of slipper boots, I can trot around the house without my toes catching frostbite. Slipper boots are simply boots that are created to be worn indoors. After all, you wouldn’t want to track dirt and road salt into your home from your regular outdoor boots.”
Face Care for Europe
Coming to the MOST essential part on what to pack for Europe – the face! The face is always the first to dry up when it comes to cold, dry weather. It is thus one area of the body we can never forget to care.
#1 – Lipbalm/ Chapstick
“It’s such a small and cheap item but one that so many people forget. Despite the chilly weather, it’s so easy to ruin your trip with burnt lips.”
“My lips always get super dry and cracked in the cold wind and so I make sure to pack a good lip balm (ideally with some SPF in it too).
At the moment I’ve been loving this Blistex medicated lip balm with fixes even the most chapped lips within a few applications.”
#3 – Body Moisturizer
“On family skiing holidays, we always stock up on NIVEA moisturiser to soothe our skin after a day in the cold whilst shooting down the slopes. Because of this, I always make sure to carry around a tub of NIVEA Soft moisturising cream. It’ll keep your skin feeling great even when the weather would normally have it otherwise!”
#4 – Face Moisturizer
Our wardrobes aren’t the only things that need to change with the seasons, sometimes our health and beauty products do too! When the weather starts to get chilly in many parts of the world, the air tends to get dry.
With cold, dry air, you can expect other things to dry up as well – like your lips and skin. In order to survive the winter, you cannot do without a facial moisturiser. This is the most important thing you should add in your packing for Europe in winter list because you don’t want to compromise on your skin while exploring Europe!
“There’s nothing worse than dry, cracking skin! It’s best to apply moisturiser on your face twice a day, once in the morning and then again at bedtime. I also top my moisturised face off with a layer of SPF before heading out for the day. Just because it’s winter doesn’t mean our skin is immune to sun damage.”
#5 – Medical Mask
Wearing a medical mask in public in the West can be a bit of a taboo. Yet in parts of Asia, it’s an absolute necessity because of the air pollution! Masks are usually worn when one is ill, as a courtesy to others.
“I also use these masks on public transportation to fight the germs floating around, especially in winter when people are prone to getting flu.
Bonus: it also acts as a wind protector out in the freezing cold! So trust me when I say this – this has to be in your winter packing list for Europe.”
Wellness for Europe
#1 – Yogi Tea
James, who come from Portugal, say that even they are not spared from the cold. Although winters in Portugal are fairly mild by European standards, the insides of the houses are incredibly cold. This is because the houses are designed to stay cool during the summer months, when temperatures often go above 4°C.
Central heating is very rare, so unless you have a fireplace, you have to do everything you can to keep warm.
“I drink a lot of warm drinks during the winter, but try to avoid too much coffee. If I drank coffee every time I needed a warm drink, I would be bouncing off the walls. Recently, I’ve found a very nice brand of caffeine-free teas – Yogi Tea.”
The Chai and Choco flavours are perfect for cold winter days and since they don’t have caffeine (or calories), you can drink them all day long to keep yourself warm. That’s why I recommend packing this into your list for Europe’s winter.
With winter comes lower immune system. While different people have different remedies to beat the cold, one remedy is pairing Korean red ginseng extract with honey in a flask to boost your immune systems.
One must-have item for beating the cold is this small Korean Ginseng Extract sachets!
“My favourite brand is >Cheong Kwan Jang, but a cheaper option is to just boil a fresh ginseng root. It also completely wakes me up, giving coffee a run for its money.”
Candles for Europe
Nothing creates a cozy feeling like a wintry candle! After a long day of skiing (or a morning of shovelling), light up a scented candle that reminds you of some of the best winter moments, so add it to your Europe winter packing list if you have extra space.
If baked goods are more your fancy, Voluspa also makes a delicious Cinnamon Ceylon fragrance.
Or, if you enjoy sitting by a log fire, try a Wooden Wick Candle and listen to the crackling flame.
These candles are the ideal accompaniment to a cup of hot cocoa, warm winter socks, and a good book.
Looking for a gift for a special someone this winter? DayNa Decker’s line of luxe “chandels,” with delicious scents, such as Kashmir Vanille, is a presentable yet useful gift for winter.
You just found another worthwhile item for your Europe winter packing list!
Winter Camping in Europe
The cold doesn’t stop some people from adventuring. Winter camping appeals to some, though the closest I got was road-tripping in New Zealand in their winter season, May.
“A lot of people think Australia doesn’t have ‘real’ winter. Perhaps that’s true – even though Australia’s coldest officially recorded temperature is -23º C! If you don’t want to risk getting frost INSIDE the canvas on your winter camping trip, you need two things: fire and HOT water.”
#1 – Fire Starters
A campfire provides warmth and entertainment – that’s why we call it ‘Outback TV’! So make sure you can get it started with Fire starters (and matches, of course)!
#2 – Solar Shower
A hot shower can add a touch of civilisation to your camping trip, so fill the Solar Shower bag with water, put it in the sun – black side up – and it’ll be hot by evening! If you want more heat, just boil a bit more water over the fire and pour it in. Perfect!
#3 – Shower Tent
Can’t find somewhere private to take your shower? No problem! Just invest in a Shower Tent!
Whether you’re in the woods or at camp, nothing beats staying warm and comfortable while you sleep in the great outdoors.
I absolutely adore having a nice lightweight, compact low temperature sleeping bag, rather than a big old bulky one. The one I have is great to -7ºC, though there were more pricey ones that are equally compact yet go to lower temperatures. In the summer I just lie on top of it, so it works year round for me! Can’t live without this – it makes winter camping a million times better than my old cheap sleeping bag!
Phew! That was a long list! So…what do you think? Are you better equipped for your year end winter adventure now? 🙂
Read other useful packing guides:
- The Science Behind Packing for Hiking; What To Pack, Why and How
- Summer Packing List; All You Ever Need for Every Beach Holiday!