The Frugal Traveler

Frugal Traveler: You can pack light despite the bulk of winter wear

McClatchy-Tribune News ServiceFebruary 9, 2013 

Winter weather has a way of waging war against the light-packing efforts of even the most seasoned traveler. The extra bulk that comes with sweaters, scarves, earmuffs and mittens can make carry-on containment nearly impossible. By wearing as much as possible on flight days and including a few efficiently packed essentials, you can keep luggage logistics under control.

Footwear: Keeping your feet warm on a winter getaway takes planning, particularly if you want to meet carry-on requirements. In addition to a pair of dressy treaded shoes to wear to dinner, packable boots have a place on your list of cold-weather travel essentials. Teva’s Jordanelle boot for women and their men’s Chair 5 model each fold into themselves, taking up no more room than a regular pair of sturdy shoes. Each comes with a removable insulated bootie with a rubberized sole, forming what is in essence a slipper that can be worn inside cabins. Having two pairs of footwear for the price of one makes the price palatable, although with a minimal amount of online comparison shopping, both models can be had for between $100 and $130.

Socks are also serious business when it comes to making sure your tootsies remain toasty. For those who are willing to put in the research time, it’s possible to procure ones that are warm enough without being too thick and heavy. For example, PowerSox makes a number of sock collections suitable for snowy getaways, many of them available in multipacks for less than $25. Their cushioned men’s boot socks made of moisture-managing merino wool are one option, along with the women’s argyle crew.

Supplies: If you’re deliberately traveling to somewhere that’s likely to leave you with a case of the sniffles and some seriously chapped skin, it pays to pack preventatively. SkinFare offers several certified organic skin balms in retractable, biodegradable tubes. Used for a variety of issues from rough elbows, lip moisturizing, cheek chafing and even dry nostrils, the multi-scented balms cost $10 and are roughly the size of a piece of sidewalk chalk. Other items I favor for frosty destinations include wellness teas, lozenges, powdered flu medicines and deep conditioning treatments for dealing with split ends. I’ve also been known to pack beauty gloves and thin socks for longer cold-weather excursions. They take up minimal room in my luggage and allow me to perform DIY moisturizing treatments while I sleep.

Janet Podolak, food and travel editor for The News-Herald in Willoughby, Ohio, leverages her need for clean laundry in order to combat dry conditions. Says Podolak, “As a longtime newspaper travel editor I often go to cold places in the winter. Battling dry winter air is one constant dilemma.” Her solution? Using the room heater as a spot to dry undergarments and other light items she typically launders in her hotel room. When the air is exceptionally devoid of moisture, Podolak has been known to drape damp washcloths over the heating unit as well.

Gear: Wind resistance and warmth are critical things to consider when you are required to match wits the weather in order to achieve your desired itinerary. A large part of that battle can be won with hats. Seirus makes a number of winter-worthy options, although their quick clavas go the extra mile to provide a two-in-one warming solution for travelers. At first glance, they look like your typical mid-weight knit hat. What’s hidden inside is an easy-to-pull-down face covering that can be worn over the nose, leaving only the eyes exposed. With an MSRP range of $20 to $35, they’re an affordable solution for those who’d rather forego the extra suitcase bulk that comes with a heavy face scarf. An even more streamlined solution exists with the performance beanie produced by Headsweats. Made of a thin fleece, it’s designed to pack flat and comes with a discreet ponytail hole towards the bottom of the back edge that’s suitable for both genders. At $22, it’s workable for a wide range of budgets.

Quilted outerwear vests provide body warmth while avoiding the restrictive bulk that can come from wearing heavy sweaters under full jackets. Wind resistance and warmth can also be found in specially designed thinner garments, such as the Leadville jacket from Marmot. It’s strong enough to support spring skiing and alpine hiking, yet streamlined enough for efficient packing.

Hikebiketravel.com’s Leigh McAdam favors thinner gear as well, specifically the long underwear products available from Patagonia. As a native of Calgary, Alberta, she’s no stranger to shivery temperatures. According to McAdam, their expedition-weight pieces are the way to go when traveling in the bitter cold. Otherwise, mid-weight layers can get the job done. Her most affordable gear tip? Bringing along a Nalgene bottle filled with boiling water as an extra warming solution on a cold day outdoors.

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