Backpacking Packing List for Cold Climates

Last Updated | 24th February 2023

I know you’ve probably read it a million times but less is more. The last thing you want is to have too much stuff, which when backpacking and moving around regularly, soon gets very irritating. However, when travelling in colder climates this can be more challenging. Staying dry and warm is essential and involves packing warm insulating clothing, such as coats, jumpers, thermals and waterproofs. These items are often a little bulkier than say shorts, t-shirts and swimwear that you’ll predominately be wearing in hotter destinations. But by being savvy and packing the correct gear it’s still possible to visit these destinations without needing a convoy for your stuff. Below we’ve compiled a comprehensive packing list for those backpacking through colder climates. Perfect for destinations nearer the poles, or during the winter months in places such as Canada, Europe and New Zealand. Obviously, there is always room for personal preference and taste, but if you stick to, or take note from the below, you won’t go far wrong.


  • Passport – if going for a long time, check it’s not going to expire
  • Travel Insurance – save important phone numbers + a copy of your coverage
  • Money – not necessarily hard cash, but your bank cards etc – read this blog for our top money tips
  • Visas – know the entry requirements of your destination
  • Flight / Transportation Tickets
  • Driving Licence / International Driving Licence
  • Passport-style Photos (x8)

These are the essentials, the things that if you don’t have, you won’t be getting very far. In reality, as long as you have this stuff, nothing else really matters, as you can always buy things when on the road. A plastic wallet to keep passport / visa / documents safe is highly recommended too.

Your Bag

This is, without doubt, the most essential piece of kit while on your travels. After all, it basically becomes your home, containing everything you own and hold dear. It’s vital then to pick a good one, so be sure not to skimp out here. However, it doesn’t have to cost the earth for a good one. Additionally, you’ll also need a suitable day bag, which can be used while you’re out and about during the day. Be sure to read our blog on the best travelling backpacks for more.

If you’re short on time we recommend the following:

Vango Quest 40 + 20L = Perfect for shorter trips / can get away with carry-on luggage

Osprey Farpoint 70L = Great for longer backpacking trips


When travelling in colder climates a little more thought has to go into your clothing items. Firstly pack in layers, not bulk. Big cosy jumpers and coats may seem like a great idea, but they take up so much space. Therefore dress in thinner insulating layers, such as thermals, long sleeves and thin sweatshirts. Also make sure you wear your bulkiest items while flying etc, as opposed to trying to pack these. For example, a large winter coat can be stuffed in the overhead locker of a plane. The same goes for shoes, wear the big pair of walking boots. Pack a second lighter pair if required.

The below list is geared towards a male but with a few tweaks could easily be adapted for females:

  • Packing cubes – while not strictly clothes, they are so useful for keeping everything organised
  • x2 Long sleeve T-shirts
  • x2 T-shirts
  • x2 Thermal base layers – trousers and top
  • x2 Trouser – preferably a more waterproof pair & a pair of jeans
  • x1 Down Jacket – keeps you really warm and packs down nice and small
  • x2 fitted jumper / sweatshirt
  • x1 Rain jacket or poncho – again which packs down small
  • x6 Underwear
  • x4 Thermal socks
  • x1 Beanie hat
  • x1 Thermal waterproof gloves
  • x1 Sunglasses
  • x1 Lightweight scarf or snood
  • x1 Pair waterproof walking boots
  • x1 Pair of more casual trainers

Don’t pack anything you don’t mind losing or getting ruined. As things will be lost and will get ruined. Also unless you are heading somewhere really remote, you’ll have access to shops and markets wherever you go. So you can always buy things you think you need more of and replace items when they get too grubby. Besides in many countries, prices will normally be well below those on the high streets back home.


  • Phone
  • Camera (DSLR, Action Cam, Drone) + accessories, SD cards, spare batteries etc.
  • Laptop + charger, mouse
  • Wireless Hub / External Hard Drive – read this blog on backing up photos, videos & documents for more
  • World Travel adapter – make sure it comes with USB ports and a main plug socket
  • Charging cables and leads for your electronics
  • Headphones
  • Portable Power Bank
  • Travel SIM Card – read this blog for our tips on mobile data while travelling
  • Kindle

Not everyone will want or need to take a laptop. However, I found it very useful for writing my blogs and editing videos. But I wouldn’t say it was necessary, this will come down to personal preference. For most simply taking your phone will be enough. Additionally, charging cables will likely fit multiple devices so check you don’t need to take 300 different leads.


While this section is titled miscellaneous, don’t be fooled, the items here come in so handy while on the road!

  • Combination Locks – to lock your bag or use on hostel lockers
  • Travel towel
  • Waterproof bag cover – main bag & day bag
  • Penknife – just make sure you don’t keep this in your hand luggage when flying
  • Insulated water bottle
  • Pen – keep in your day bag, useful for filling in immigration and customs forms
  • Head torch
  • Travel clothes line
  • Luggage tags – to distinguish your bag from others
  • Eye mask
  • Ear plugs


  • Toiletry Bag
  • Toothbrush / Cover / Charger if electric
  • Toothpaste
  • Mouthwash
  • Shampoo
  • Body wash
  • Face scrub
  • Deodorant
  • Sun cream
  • Moisturiser
  • Nail cutters
  • Tweezers
  • Shaver / Razor

Ladies again feel free to add more as required, such as sanitary products and any essential make-up items you want. Things such as shampoo and body wash can be brought as 2-in-1 combinations to save space.

Medical Kit

  • Little zip bag to store your supplies
  • Plasters
  • Bandages
  • Antiseptic wipes
  • Antiseptic cream
  • Imodium
  • Rehydration sachets
  • Mosquito spray – containing 40% DEET
  • Ibuprofen & Paracetamol
  • Throat lozenges
  • Antihistamines
  • Any prescription drugs / personal medicines you may be taking
  • Condoms / Contraception
  • Hand sanitiser
  • Baby wipes

A small medical kit is essential. It won’t take up much room and it doesn’t have to enable you to perform surgical procedures. But should you get a little sick, or pick up a small cut etc you’ll be well prepared to handle it. Pharmacies can be found the world over though meaning you don’t need to take mountains and items can be easily replaced should you run out. Pro Tip: keep the hand sanitiser and baby wipes in your day bag. You never know when you could get caught short, or the toilet you use doesn’t have soap or tissue to clean your…

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