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Packing Cold-Weather Clothes in a Carry-on

It’s one thing to pack a carry-on for a trip to, say, Miami. Throw in a bathing suit, some flip-flops, and voila! But what about Montreal? In January?

The packing strategy for cold weather destinations revolves around a single, incontrovertible fact: Warm clothes tend to be bulky and take up a lot of space. But that doesn’t mean you can’t fit everything into a carry-on. Here are some tips:

  • Don’t pack your coat. I’m not saying don’t bring your coat, but carry it onboard separately, even if you’re departing from a warm climate. Your scarf, mittens, and hat can be tucked away in the pockets or shoved into the sleeves, freeing up more space in your carry-on.
  • Think layers. While that hand-knitted wool sweater may be cozy, it’s also about the size of a basketball when folded. Consider dressing in layers, with long-sleeve shirts of thin but warm fabric, such as microfleece or thermal knits, over short-sleeved shirts. Remember: The heat will likely be on whenever you’re inside, so dressing like an Inuit 24/7 isn’t ideal.
  • Compress, compress, compress. Even without that chunky sweater, your carry-on may simply be too small. At this point, try to compress your clothes as much as possible. One option is a space-saver bag, but you can also use large zip-top bags.
  • Don’t underestimate the power of the sock. Warm, thick socks can be the difference between a pleasant wintertime stroll and a miserable torture march, no matter what you’re wearing on the rest of your body. Socks roll up small and take up little space, so make sure you have them.
  • Lastly, this may not be a bad time to upgrade some of your cold-weather gear. Wind-blocking fleece products are generally thin and lightweight, and form a surprisingly sturdy barrier against icy breezes. Check out your local outdoor store to see what’s available.

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