While visiting Canada, I received the most amount of questions about a destination that I ever have. Not only about what to see and do (more on that in my itinerary found here), or the famous “You’re there in the winter? Isn’t it FREEZING?” but also: what did you pack to brave the tundra? From previous trips it doesn’t seem like I’m much of an outdoorsy person, but I am- I’ve just never had the chance, until Canada, to share that with you guys. I don’t ski or snowboard but I am into the other adventure-y sports like hiking, snowmobiling, and dog sledding (just to name a few).
Being from Maine, a place that is ice cold 4 months out of the year, I’ve learned a thing or two for what’s needed to keep warm even when the temperatures are below zero. Packing heavy jackets, sweaters and boots is never easy but when you do it strategically you can surprisingly fit a lot into one suitcase.
The base layer is the first layer of clothing you put on your body. Typically made of Merino wool or synthetic fibers, the point of this layer is to work as a moisture repellant. Have you ever noticed how hot you get walking about cities in the winter? Your face is freezing but your toasty on the inner layers and when you get inside, say a café or restaurant, you notice you’re actually sweating beneath those layers? That’s mainly because your “base layers” aren’t the correct material to repel moisture. A few of my favorite base layers are from Athleta: Flurry Base Layer Turtleneck and the Flurry Base Layer Top. For base layer bottoms go with the Powder Base Layer Tight.
These are exactly what they sound like: the layer between the base and outer. This is the layer that keeps you nice and toasty, keeping your body heat inside. Not everyone is the same, some need a thicker middle layer than others, so if you’re someone that is always freezing opt for a thicker middle layer. Remember how I mentioned being hot and sweaty walking around? Take off your outer layer and explore in just your middle layer for some ventilation. Fleece pullovers and quarter zips do the trick. Here are three of my favorite middle layers:
The outermost layer. You can purchase a 3-in-1 jacket which usually includes the middle, shell and outer layer, but for me I prefer to buy separate pieces and layer myself. You’ll see a range of outerwear options highlighted below. The reason being temperatures vary throughout the day and depending on the activity your needs will be different. The PrimaLoft and Xploric are thicker options while the Old Faithful and Shell are thinner for when you’re feeling rather warm! Water resistant is key as snow squalls are all too common on a daily basis in a winter wonderland.
Old Faithful Coat (pictured below)
Keep those legs nice and toasty ladies. Fleece lined leggings are my go to when I’m out adventuring in the winter but depending on the look you’re going for (or your tolerance for the cold) any type of pant should do. Again, DEPENDING on the activity! My favorite leggings are the Polartec Sculptek Tight
Let’s get some SHOES! Owning a quality winter boot is a must for me and having grown up in Maine I’ve learned a thing or two. But first socks. Avoid cotton socks when you’re in cold weather as they don’t keep your feet warm or repel moisture. My favorites are Smartwool socks.
You’ll want to look for boots that are water-resistant and that hit just above your ankle or higher. You’ll want to make sure the boot fits tight to your leg to keep in the heat and to make sure no moisture gets in should you walking through a deep pile of snow (common mishap in Banff!). Depending on the brand and how many pairs of socks you wear, sizing can vary. I can say with these boots below, they all fit true to size.
Worth noting, I did notice that after being in the subzero temps for long periods of time my toes did start to get cold even with Smartwool socks on. So cold that I couldn’t feel them! The main reason being the boots are not insulated and the only insulation you truly have is your socks. So, if you’re planning to be in the cold for longer periods of time opt for a waterproof and insulated boot to keep your feet both warm and dry! I’m thinking of trying these L.L. Bean Snow Boots for my trip to Sweden and Switzerland next month.
Boots perfect for light activities like walking around town or sightseeing: Tofino II by Sorel
Boots great for hiking or more outdoorsy activities- note these are not insulated therefore they are not meant for long days: Adidas Terrex Fast GTX Surround
Another boot great for everyday use: L.L. Bean Shearling Lined Snow Boot
Hats, mittens, and scarves- OH MY! Admittedly my favorite part of a winter get up. Here are a few of my favorite winter accessories both fashionable and functional.
Sweaters & Ponchos
And here are a few sweater options similar to the one photographed below and throughout the post.
Like I mentioned previously, packing winter gear can be so daunting- especially when you’re only given 50 pounds to work with! My main saving grace was that I wore the heaviest pieces I was bringing with me on the trip on the plane. That meant, boots, a jacket, a scarf and the heaviest sweater I was packing would all be worn throughout my travel day. Did I sweat? Yes. But was my luggage under 50 pounds? YES! It will suck but it’s worth it.
I hope you found this packing guide helpful! If you’re gearing up for a winter trip, like this one to Banff, let me know in the comments. I promise you it won’t be as miserable as you might be thinking- the winter scenes make the freezing cold temperatures so worth it!