Chasing Winter: Top Tips on Packing For Long Cold Trips
I pride myself on being a light packer, but that gets tricky when I’m headed out of town for more than a week. It’s even harder in winter when we need more layers. Throw in a variety of activities at my destination and I’m ready to give up and buy a bigger suitcase.
When I started packing for a trip to northern Finland in February, I challenged myself to fit everything I needed into a medium-sized suitcase, then use my Deuter Guide 35+ as my carry-on. Temperatures in Finnish Lapland in winter are usually in the single-digits, and our itinerary included a ride on an icebreaker ship, a visit to a reindeer farm, and tons of cross-country skiing.
So if I can manage to fit everything into my Deuter ACT Lite 45+10 for three weeks of backpacking, all would be well. I could do this, right? Well, here’s how I did it.
- No multiples. It’s tough to stick to this rule, and I’ll admit to breaking it for underwear and socks. Otherwise, I planned to do a little makeshift laundry at hotels and AirBnBs. I knew that I’d be under lots of layers, and no one would notice if I smelled like an adventurer.
- Everything has a purpose. And preferably more than one! I thought back to the rule an old ski guiding mentor always told me: If you’re having to think, “It only weighs X ounces” trying to justify bringing something, you don’t actually need it. This also meant not bringing more than one book, which is always a challenge for me.
- Stuff sacks are worth it. I usually forego stuff sacks for backpacking trips, since they add extra weight and my packing system helps me stay organized without them. But for this trip, I figured it might be harder to stay organized for two weeks abroad. Toiletries, under-layers, and ski-specific stuff (repair kit, headlamp, etc.) got their own stuff sacks.
- Get creative. Toiletries fit inside boots. Ditch bulky carrying cases for electronics and wrap them in your softer layers. Caveat: I only do this for fragile items I’m carrying on, since I know I can handle them carefully throughout the trip.
- Do a little research. I know learning the language doesn’t sound like a packing tip, but knowing how to ask where to buy toothpaste or socks can go a long way. It also enhances the travel experience to be able to interact with locals on a bit deeper level. I’m not a great Finnish conversationalist, but I can get by.