We love winter travels and are embarking on our FIRST Spirited Navigators Tour this month!!
Where are we headed?
To one of our favorite winter destinations, Banff National Park!
The key ingredient to a successful winter trip is to ensure you’ve packed all the right gear! So here it is, our very thorough winter destination packing list.
Note: For each item, there are endless options in brands and price ranges, and it would be impossible to name them all. We share examples of just some of our favorites; we are not sponsored by any of the brands mentioned in this article.
Protection from the sun is as important in the winter months (even if you can’t see the sun shinning down on you) as it is during the scorching summer months. There are two main decisions to make when it comes to choosing the right sunscreen for your skin:
Chemical or Natural?
Spray or Lotion?
Once you’ve made those two distinction, the rest is relatively easy. Remember SPF 15 sunscreen blocks 93% of UVB rays, SPF 30 blocks 97%. SPF 50 blocks 98%. No sunscreen can block 100% of solar energy. So any product labeled higher than SPF 50+ offers only a minuscule fraction of additional protection beyond 98%.
Tip: Remember to reapply! When outdoors and bundled up, the skin sweats and SPF needs to be reapplied throughout the day.
These are the ones we interchange between: The Art of Shaving Eucalyptus SPF 15 Moisturizer, Hawaiian Tropic Silk Hydration Weightless Sun Care Sunscreen Lotion SPF 30, Banana Boat sport performance clear ultra-mist sunscreen SPF 50.
Even if you don’t generally have dry skin, the harsh winter atmosphere can cause your skin to dry and if you do have dry skin normally, then you will want to take extra precaution to ensure your skin remains hydrated. There are loads of great moisturizers, body butters, and skin oils out there and what works for us may not necessarily work for you. So be sure to find one that works best for your skin type. We really love the dry/very dry skin range of The Body Shop body butters, the Lush Shades of Earl Grey bar and of course the ever trusted, Cetaphil. These products are not only hydrating but long lasting as well.
Tip: If packing a carry on only, opt for the body bars or body butter to avoid dealing with TSA’s liquid limitation rules.
There is nothing worse than dry hands while out enjoying the snowy weather. It is incredibly important to keep your hands moisturized and feeling soft in the arid weather. We have really dry skin and find these products to be the most effective: L’Occitaine shea butter hand cream for dry skin and The Body Shop hemp hand cream.
Tip: Buy the travel size product and keep it in your pocket/bag for easy access throughout the day.
Having the right lip balm is as important as it is having the correct moisturizer and hand cream. In fact, it might be the most important considering its constant exposure to extreme weather conditions. Our lips tend to get dry real quick, which is why we love the The Body Shop hemp lip conditioner. Hemp seed oil is rich in emollients and restores lips from very dry conditions. We (well Saadia) also loves the EOS active protection lip balm because their natural lip balms have vitamin E, shea butter, jojoba oil, are free of paraben and petrolatum, and has SPF 30!
Tip: Exfoliating lips help keep them moisturized and help prevent dryness. So be sure to do that a few times a week.
This is not a needed item, however, after a full day of outdoors activities, it’s nice to come back to the room and put on a face mask and surrender to some spa-like relaxation. This need not be anything fancy. Just grab a couple of the sheet masks at Sephora, The Body Shop or if traveling in a group, grab a tub of Lush fresh face masks (they are travel size and can remain out of the refrigerator for up to 36 hours).
Tip: Pack one for each night of your travel, so you can have an at “home” spa day everyday!
Although you don’t need an additional foot cream per se, especially if your body lotion is hydrating and moisturizing enough, it is important to note that the feet does need some tender loving care after being on it all day. We find all the moisturizers we mentioned earlier to be great on the feet but if you need an extra boost of care, try Burt’s Bees foot creme or L’Occitaine shea butter foot cream.
Tip: To restore heat in your feet, use foot cream in circular motions from the heel up to the toes. This will both warm and moisturize your feet simultaneously.
Dressing in layers is key when visiting winter destinations because you’re always toggling between the cold outdoor air and the super warm indoor temperatures. This is why wearing lightweight, breathable material is important. It also helps with packing verses super bulky items. Merino wool is a great fabric for a base layer. However, polyester can work well too and are much more affordable. If you don’t have any specific winter wear base layers, don’t fret! Just grab any comfortable thin layer for your base and you’re still good to go. Here are some of our favorite picks from various price ranges: Uniqlo Heattech scoop neck t-shirt, Smartwool men’s midweight crew, Merinowool midweight tee, Columbia heavyweight long sleeve, and 32 Degrees heat long sleeve crew base layer.
Tip: Avoid cotton! It is not a wicking material, therefore, once damp/wet from perspiration, it retains the moisture. Not a feeling you want on your body.
Don’t forget your legs! Base layer is not just for your upper body, but for the lower as well. Some places to look for deals include Macys, Sierra Trading Post, Under Armour and of course, Amazon.
After the base layer, comes the layer focused on insulation. This is the layer that will keep you warm. This is often known as the fleece or wool layer, both are a great source of heat. Depending on the level of activity, there are usually three types of fleece layers to choose from (lightweight, medium weight and expedition weight). So be sure to find the one that suits your needs. The North Face make some excellent fleece layers.
Tip: If you tend to get quite cold, add a second layer on the bottom as well.
Snow pants are an absolute must if you’re going to be in freezing temperatures and especially if you’re going to be doing any type of snow activity. They keep you warm, dry and take away the stress of figuring out what to wear. When looking for snow pants, consider bibs (an overall style), especially if you tend to get colder than most. The insulated bibs keep you warm not just in your legs but all the way up your torso as well.
Contrary to what many may think, snow pants don’t have to cost an arm and a leg. Sure, there are the expensive brands such as The North Face, Columbia, and Patagonia. But if you do a bit of research online, you’ll find great deals on Amazon with brands such as Arctix and brand name on sale at REI Garage, Dick’s Sporting Goods and Backcountry.
Tip: If you want to layer up on the bottom and feel comfortable doing snow sports, consider going up a size in snow pants.
Depending on your insulation layer, you may want to opt for a outer shell that will keep the wind and rain at bay or a down parka that will provide both the warmth of the insulation layer as well as the wind and water protection of the shell layer. Within each of these, there are several styles to choose from. Some prefer knee length outwear whereas others prefer the more hip length outwear. Here are some of our favorites: 686 GLCR ether down thermograph jacket, Patagonia Wanaka down jacket, Zara down puffer jacket for men and Tommy Hilfiger hooded puffer parka, The North Face allchipsin jacket, and The North Face miss metro down parka for women.
Tip: Pockets are everything when looking for a winter jacket. The more useful pockets you have (look for zippered pockets and inside pockets), the better.
Even when you’re not playing in the snow sports, you’re going to want to keep warm, cozy but also stylish. Sweaters made of cashmere or merino wool are super soft, and often lightweight, which allows you to be warm without the bulk. Check out Uniqlo, Nordstrom, Macys, and JCrew to name a few. Cotton parkas are also great to swap out in exchange for your heavy snow jacket. We love the oversized cotton parka by COS and the long bomber by NY&Company for women because they allow for a chunkier sweater to be worn underneath. Zara creates beautiful and unique parka pieces for men which we are very fond of. In contrast, Patagonia has some classic parkas that are suitable for those who prefer a more casual/classic look.
Tip: Consider vests. They are versatile and can be layered with your sweaters in a chic way and still keep you warm from the winter temperatures.
Scarves are essential to keeping warm both on and off the snow. There’s really no need to pack a ton of them though, just pack two: one for when partaking in winter sports (look for merino wool products if you like lightweight material because although they are thin, they keep you very warm) and one for apres ski (cashmere, wool, oversized are great options for keeping you warm and looking stylish). Check out REI, Dicks Sporting Goods, Amazon, SmartWool, for great collection of scarves, neck gaiters and tube scarves for both men and women.
Tip: If scarf wearing is not part of your daily life, check out these two articles on how to tie winter scarves for men and blanket scarves for women.
Hats/Ear Muffs/Head Wear
Keeping the head and ears warm is crucial during the winter months. There are tons of items and designs to choose from, whether doing a combination of hat, neck gaiter and ear muffs or a one in all; the options are quite endless. The best way to find which items/combinations is perfect for you is by trying them out and focusing on which part of your head/face gets really cold. If you’re one to get too hot with a hat, consider a neck gaiter and ear muffs instead. If your head gets cold easily, consider a face mask or a hat with flap ears. Consider the material too. While wool is often recommend and very warm, some people are allergic and/or not comfortable in wool. As an alternate, there are tons of lightweight materials that are cold/wind proof worth considering. Loads of retailers now offer free shipping and returns (Amazon, REI, Northface to name a few) so you can purchase multiple items and return the ones that are not for you.
Tip: Always make sure the material of the hat does not cause itch, that can be an incredibly uncomfortable feeling when out in the cold.
We personally recommend mittens on top of a pair of liner gloves. This gives you double the protection and allows for easy access to electronic and other things. And although there are some fantastic and expensive snow gloves out there, we really don’t feel that it’s necessary to invest a ton of money in gloves. For a reasonable price, you can find the right balance between warmth and comfort. Here’s a few of our favorites: Dakine men’s titan gloves, Outdoor Research men’s adrenaline gloves, The North Face men’s Montana mitten, The North Face e-tip apex waterproof climateblock gloves, Burton Gore-Tex under gloves for women, Burton Gore-Tex mittens for women, The Mitten Company mittens for women and SmartWool winter gloves for women. As for the liners, Amazon has a variety of e-tip liners at various price ranges.
Tip: Fingers tend to get cold the fastest and since they are unable to produce heat, it’s important to ensure that the gloves you choose has extra lining and/or support at the seams. This is also why we recommend wearing double gloves as a precaution.
Where there is snow, there is sure to be a hot spring of some kind, and nothing feels more refreshing than a dip in the hot spring as the temperature around you continues to drop. So, don’t forget to pack your favorite swimwear and flip flops!
Body, Hand and Toe Warmers
These handy little things are probably going to be your best friend when you are out and about. While we can’t vouch as much for the toe warmers (they do work, just not as effectively), we can tell you that we swear by the hand warmers. They are absolutely essential and incredibly necessary! Don’t leave home without ’em.
Tip: In cold weather, phone batteries tend to die out cold. A trick is to put your phone in a small sock and then place it in your pocket with a hand warmer. This will keep the battery from dying too soon in the cold.
If you’re going to be skiing, snowboarding or dogsledding for a prolonged period of time, a pair of googles is useful to have. If you wear prescription glasses like we both do, then consider getting a google that sits on top of the eyeglasses, like these ones from OTG.
Tip: There is science behind which tint of snow goggles is the right one for you and it has nothing to do with your preference in color. Check out this site for details on what each tint color means and find the one ideal for your trip.
Most of the winter jackets are very well equipped with pockets which eliminate the need for a backpack or similar while out in the snow, enjoying the activities. However, the rest of the time, having a bag of some sort is preferred by many. We recommend staying hands free, therefore, backpacks and cross-bodies are our favorite choices. Pick one with an exterior that can keep your contents dry (waterproof, water resistant, etc.). The ones we love and use often are the Kate Spade crossbody, the Prada backpack and the Camelback Gambler.
Whether you’ll be skiing or not, ski socks are great to have on a winter trip because they keep you incredibly warm and they let your feet breathe – no sweaty feet! Ski socks can be much more expensive than your usual pair of socks, but if you do some research, you’ll find em on sale. Here are some of our favorites from REI, Darn Tough, and Smart Wool.
Tip: Avoid cotton! Your feet will perspire and cotton locks in moisture.
There are tons of great quality snow boots out there; what’s important is you have snow boots that you can rely on (keeps you warm, dry, and safe!). Make sure they will hold up against the ice/snow on the ground (good traction) and depending on where you’re visiting, the boots will keep your toes from freezing. Saadia favors the Sorel Caribou while Kapil loves his Danner Mountain 600.
Tip: Sorel boots tend to run big, so be sure to try them out before your first trip to ensure you have the right fitting. We had to go a size down on our pair.
Apres Ski Slippers
Apres ski slippers are great to roam around in your hotel/resort and be comfy and cozy. The Sorel Out N About Moc Slippers and the Alpine Moc Slippers are what we own and love.
Tip: This is my no means a necessity In fact, your snow boots as mentioned above are perfect for apres ski footwear. Still, if you feel the need to get out of the boots and slip into something different, then give slippers a shot.
One essential tool is carrying a spare power bank to charge your phone/devices. In the cold temperature, which can be freezing or below freezing, our phones even with 50% or higher charge will often die. Therefore, having a power bank to give it that boost to turn back on is a life saver. Is there anything worse than being on a snowshoe hike in the most beautiful landscape and having your phone or camera die? We think not. Try carrying something small or even solar panel if you prefer. We love the Anker Astro E1 5200mAh ultra compact charger and the GoalZero nomad solar panels.
Tip: Consider the importance of sugars area before purchasing. The larger the surface area of the solar panel, the more sunlight it collects and the faster it gets converted to power stored in a battery. They are also ideal for cloudy days and low-intensity light in winter. Charge times can vary from 4 to 16 hours of sunlight for the same battery, depending on surface area and light conditions.
Don’t forget your camera, of course! Whether you’ve got a GoPro, point and shoot, DSLR or even your trusty phone camera – just be sure you’ve got enough storage space for all the amazing photos and videos you’re going to want to take.
Tip: Bring extra battery! The camera/phone batteries die long before your adventures when you’re out and about all day. This is why spare batteries are an absolute must!
While packing your photography gear, make sure not to forget your lenses! Whether it’s for your high tech camera or your mobile phone, having a wide lens, zoom lens and even fish lens can be useful and sometimes a necessity! For camera lenses, we recommend borrowing from BorrowLenses ; this way you can get what you need, for the time frame you need it and not have to invest in them permanently. For mobile lenses, we recommend the Xenvo lenses (super affordable and great quality for the price but bulky) and the Olloclip (very lightweight and user-friendly but pricey).
Tip: Take the time to learn how your lenses work before your trip begins. It will save you a lot of time on the road.
First Aid Kit/Medications
If you’re not used to super cold temperatures, or even if you are, it’s always a good idea to bring some cold medicine with you. Although medication can be bought at a local pharmacy, you may not be able to find them in the pharmacy in a foreign country. Pack some cold medicine (DayQuil, NyQuil), pain medicine (Tylenol, Advil), preventive medicine (EmergenC, Theraflu) and vitamin supplements. If you’re prone to allergies, pack some antihistamine (Zyrtec, Claritin). Most importantly, don’t forget any prescription medication you’re taking.
Tip: Always have antibacterial wipes and antiseptic lotion on you for those “you never know” moments.
Bringing along some soft tissue for your nose is always a good idea. Catching the sniffles can occur in winter destinations and after a few nose blowing sessions, your poor nose can feel like it’s going to fall off if it’s not treated well. We recommend Kleenex with aloe.
Tip: Buy pocket size packs and leave them in various places (jacket pocket, backpack, luggage, handbag).
Weather Proof Case
Most of us take photos on our phones and when you’re out in the winter/wet conditions, you’re going to want to ensure your phone is protected from the elements of the outdoors. We both have iPhones and can only vouch for the following cases, but be sure to do your due diligence research before investing in one for your phone. The three that we know works and have not heard horror stories about are the Pelican Marine waterproof case, Lifeproof FRE, and the Ballistic Tough Jacket MAXX case.
Tip: Test out your weather proof case with a less expensive item before using it with your phone for the first time. Even the top rated cases have liability stories.
And that’s it, guys! These are our winter destination essentials.
We hope you enjoyed reading it and found it useful.
Did we leave anything out? If so, share below!
Can’t wait for our tour and we hope you will want to join us on a Spirited Navigators adventure in the near future!
Till next time, Happy and Safe Travels!