How to Pack for Any Climate & Any Weather

Jenn Sutherland-Miller

Packing for any weather, any climate, and any trip in a carry on bag is possible. The key is to pack specifically for the trip you are taking and resist the temptation to include every single thing, for every possible eventuality. 

Start with a basic carry on packing list and then adjust it for the weather or climate you expect.

Here are some of our best tips for packing for all kinds of weather:

Packing for Warm Weather Destinations

Of course you’ll pack your swimsuit, but what else should go in your carry on backpack?

When traveling in warm weather, shield yourself from the sun with breathable and moisture-wicking fabrics. Consider a summer-weight shoe and don’t forget you sunglasses.

Here’s what to add to your regular packing list:

Read more about what to pack for warm weather vacations here.

Packing for Cold Weather

If cold weather travel is inevitable, what do you pack? And how do you pack it in just a carry on bag? All those layers and sweaters and coats take up a lot of space.

First, pack in layersnot bulk. Heavy sweaters and sweatshirts eat up a ton of space in your luggage.

Dress in thinner, insulating layers. The individual layers will take up less space in your bag and give you more clothing options. Jeremy discussed this strategy at length in his article on packing for an around-the-world trip.

Second, when picking clothes, wear wool. Wool is natural and versatile. A wool layer will help regulate your body temperature in any weather.

If the temperature heats up, you can still wear a thin wool shirt. It will help keep you cool. If you had packed a heavy sweater, it would be sitting uselessly in your bag.

If you follow these rules, you’ll be able to pack for a cold weather trip in a carry on. Yes, even with a bulky parka and snow boots. Remember: wear, don’t pack them.

Get the details on how to pack for a cold weather trip here.

Packing for Multiple Climates

The golden key is layering

It sounds obvious, but the key is LAYERING.

Don’t try to bring clothing designed for only one climate. Doing so would be expensive and waste a ton of space in your pack.

Everything you bring should be able to be worn in any weather. Winter-weight fabrics will weigh you down and frustrate you on the road. Any specialized items you may need, like gloves, can be bought locally and passed on afterwards. Focus on versatility and layer-ability.

You can always find a stylish piece that can be layered with other options to make it perfect for any climate. Use layers to dress smartly and look good.

Read the details of what and how to maximize layering to pack for multiple climates here.

Packing for Wet Weather

As travelers, we encounter every kind of weather from sweltering heat to freezing cold to torrential downpours. Sometimes on the same day.

Packing light won’t allow us to bring ideal gear for every one of these situations. Yet, walking around in wet socks is super gross.

Pareto’s Law says that in a given situation, 80% of the effects result from 20% of the causes. Here’s the shortlist of the 10% of gear that can provide 90% of your rain protection.

Here’s your packing list for traveling in the rain:

Read everything you need to know about staying dry while you travel here.


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