What to Pack for the Women’s March in Washington DC

Jennifer Sutherland-Miller

The Women’s March in Washington DC, January 21, is likely to be a historic gathering. It’s also likely to be crowded, fraught with public transit challenges, and cold. Very cold. Marchers will be coming from all over the world to join voices in support of women’s rights and gender equality for all people. Some of them will be people from warmer places who may not be prepared for the challenges that a large scale march can present, mid-winter.

If you’re going to meet us in Washington, and you’re wondering what to pack, both to wear to the march and in your daypack for the event itself, we’ve got you covered:

Travel Carry On

No matter how you’re getting to DC, it’s likely to be a madhouse. Flights are full. Trains are full. Bus lines are adding extra buses. It’s not just the march that’s happening that weekend, it’s the inauguration. Expect the metro to be maxed out and public transport to be standing room only.

To that end, less is more where luggage is concerned. Traveling in a carry on will mean the airline doesn’t lose your bag, there’ll be more room on the train, and you’ll enjoy maximum ease of movement at your destination. When you’re flying in and out for a long weekend, you don’t have time for lost luggage.

Of course the ladies of Tortuga will be rocking our Outbreaker backpacks, and we recommend you travel light too!

What to Pack for the Women’s March

I’m Canadian, crossing the northern border to join the demonstration in my second country, so I’m used to the cold; even long days outside in winter. If you’re not, then pay careful attention to this list. Cold is no joke, and it’s important to be properly dressed and prepared.

If you get cold at the march and need to warm up, Care Action is hosting a warming station just three blocks away from the march.


The key to winter warmth is layering. Here’s what I’ll be wearing under my winter coat:

  • Fleece lined tights
  • Fleece lined pants
  • Tank top
  • Long sleeve merino wool t-shirt
  • Light sweater
  • Down vest
  • Extra pair of socks over the tights


The biggest danger in winter weather is getting wet and then being unable to get dry and warm. To this end, your outerwear should be water resistant and anything likely to get wet you should carry a second pair of (think socks and mittens).

Winter Jacket

You want a legit winter jacket if you are going to be out all day in the cold. Not a mid-weight fleece jacket that you might wear for fall, and not a wool winter dress coat that is just warm enough for between car and restaurant. If you don’t already have one, you want something that is:

  • Long enough in the waist and arms
  • Hooded
  • Well padded with down or another warm filling
  • Water resistant
  • Has pockets inside and out

If you don’t want to invest in a brand new winter coat for the event (a good one is pricey) scour resale shops, like Goodwill. Look online at ThredUp, or Poshmark. Paying expedited shipping will still probably be cheaper than a new coat. Consider having it shipped to your hotel or a friend in Washington to avoid having to pack in on the plane.

Consider Snow Pants

It might sound like overkill, especially if it’s not snowing, but snow pants, or ski pants, can make all the difference in the winter. Their main function is to cut the wind and keep you dry. This matters.

Winter Boots

If there’s one item not to cheap out on it’s your boots. You want warm boots because your feet are at greatest risk in the winter. Numb toes are normal on cold winter days. Pain in your toes is not. Frost nip hurts. Frost bite can cause you to lose fingers and toes. Know the signs of frostbite and pay attention to your extremities, especially if the day of the march turns out to be frigid.

Your winter boots should be:

  • Well treaded, you don’t want to fall on ice
  • Water resistant at least, preferably waterproof
  • Fleece lined, the thicker the better
  • Well fitting

Ill fitting boots will be uncomfortable all day, your ankles will get tired, and your feet will be colder. Layer socks if you need to to get them snug.


A nice thick one, long enough to wrap twice. Tuck the ends in along the length of your coat zipper to block any wind that sneaks through.


Non optional. Your hat should be thick enough to be warm and block wind, the fleece lined ones are especially nice. It should come down over your ears and to the nape of your neck.


You could go with gloves, but mittens are warmer since your fingers are held together inside and keep each other warm. The really serious winter set up is a mitten-glove combo that includes outer mittens that come up over the sleeves of your winter jacket with gloves that fit beneath them.

Roots 3-in-1 Unisex Ski Mitt  and All-purpose Poly Fleece Glove is what I’ll be wearing. Costco carries them.

The finger tip of the liner gloves is the material that works with your touchscreen phone, as an added bonus.

If you don’t want to make the investment, then get a pair of inexpensive gloves and layer them beneath a pair of water resistant outer layer mittens.

Pay attention to the wrist gap. Ideally, your long sleeve layer will have a thumb hole in the sleeve that allows you to pull it way down into your mitten by hooking it over your thumb. If not, then make sure that your outer layer of mittens come up over the cuffs of your jacket. This is important.

Packing for the Day of the March

Bag Rules at the March

DC area law enforcement has outlined bag allowances for the march. The PA Chapter of the Women’s March blog page reports:

“Please note all bags may be subject to search.

Backpacks are not permitted.

Bags should be no larger than 8”x6”x4”.

Specifically for people who would like to bring meals, each marcher is permitted one additional 12”x12”x6” plastic or gallon bag.

For marchers who have medical needs or for mothers who need baby bags or breast pumps, one clear bag or backpack no larger than 17?x12?x6? will be permitted and subject to search (colored transparent bags are not permitted).”

A range of clear bags, as described are listed on Amazon.com.

For up to the minute info on the changing restrictions, rules and FAQ check the official Women’s March website.

Go Bagless

If possible go bagless to the march. Going bag free will speed up the process by avoiding searches. Choose a winter coat with lots of pockets, inside and out. Choose a water bottle with a carabiner that can clip onto a belt loop. Wear a vest with pockets beneath your jacket, or wear cargo pants.

If you want to get really fancy, ScotteVest has a range of clothing options designed to carry.

Items to pack the day of the march:

  • Chapstick
  • Water bottle (don’t contribute to the trash by buying water bottles!)
  • Snacks (go for nutritious things to avoid blood sugar spike and crash)
  • Thermos bottle with warm drink
  • Phone charger battery pack & cord
  • Extra pair of dry socks
  • Extra pair of dry mittens or gloves
  • Toilet tissue (porta-potties might not have it!)
  • Hot Hands air activated heat packs
  • Lozenges

Packing for Kids

If you’re bringing children to the march be sure to check out the Activist Mama’s Guide to Taking Children to a March for age group specific recommendations on what wear to keep warm, logistics, safety and involving kids in the march on their level.


The Women’s March in Washington is framing up to be a historic gathering. Since it’s happening in winter, and baggage restrictions have been enforced, plan and pack carefully for your trip to DC and the day of the march itself.

  • Travel in a carry on to avoid luggage drama of any kind on this busy weekend
  • Dress warmly, in layers
  • Do not skimp on your outerwear, staying warm and dry is important
  • Backpacks have been banned, EXCEPT clear bags of specific dimensions
  • Or, choose outerwear with lots of pockets and stash small items


Want more like this?

Get weekly gear reviews, travel hacks, and packing tips sent straight to your inbox. We’ll send you a carry on packing list right away.