How to Pack for a Winter Trip to Canada

Lately the temps in Houston have been climbing into the 90s. And with humidity on top of that, the heat index has been sitting over 100°F. To say I am ready for cooler temperatures is an understatement. These dog days of summer have me dreaming back to Canadian winter. That’s how hot it is, I am seriously fantasizing about those -15°F mornings in Calgary. Oh, Texas.

A year ago Matt and I were purchasing our flights to Canada, and starting to plan out our trip. We knew that as Texans, we were not properly equipped with adequate winter wear. I had spent many years of my life in Germany, but after I moved to the US at age 16 I had no use for snow gear, so my parents got rid of it after a few years. We put together a list and slowly started to acquire our winter gear. Here’s what we packed for our holiday trip to Banff.

Note: You’ll notice there’s a lot of Columbia brand gear on here, I’m not sponsored or anything. One of my childhood friends is a manager at a local Columbia outlet and he very generously offered to put me on his family & friends discount list. So outlet prices combined with that give me the best deals on their products. But, everything I own from this brand is just amazing and I am so happy with every purchase!

And a quick disclaimer: I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for us to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com and affiliated sites. In other words, if you click any of the product links to purchase through Amazon, I will receive a small bonus at no extra cost to you.


First off, I advise packing according to the activities you’re planning. This list is geared towards general snow days, walking around the city, and moderate winter activity. If you’re planning to ski or snowboard, you’ll need to pack some extra gear that isn’t included in this list.

Second, the most important takeaway from this post is: LAYERS LAYERS LAYERS. Layer that stuff up, yo. It’ll save you from freezing your patootie off.

 

  • Jacket: Make sure you get a waterproof winter jacket. Matt and I had a mini panic attack when we realized the jacket he was planning to ski in was water resistant AKA in the end the water will absorb into it if there’s enough. So we had to make an emergency trip to the Columbia outlet on Christmas Eve. He ended up getting an interchange jacket (very similar to this one), which is great because it’s basically two in one. There’s a lighter jacket on the inside that zips into the larger, more durable one. While it was not temperate enough to wear just the lighter jacket, I could see this being a great option for the months like November or March, where the temps in the town are a bit warmer, but the slopes are still snowy and cold. He has since worn the lighter jacket by itself on other trips, like our Chicago weekend.I didn’t purchase an interchange jacket, and I regretted it. I layered my Mighty Lite under my Columbia Alpine Vista jacket, trying to get the same effect as the interchange jackets. While that worked just fine at keeping me warm, it was just too bulky for me. I definitely was not able to maneuver as well when I was snowboarding. I also just felt restricted. The interchange pieces are just better built layers, I’d really recommend looking at the Women’s Interchange Jackets.
  • Wool sweater: I brought my lopapeysa from Iceland, because it’s the best (and only) thick wool sweater I have. They have some cute options on Amazon, like this beautiful Merino wool piece. Or you could just buy a lopapeysa from Amazon and we could be twins.
  • Cashmere sweater: This was my more “dressy” piece that I wore on our NYE dinner date. I brought my favorite black cashmere sweater from Nieman Marcus Last Call, here’s a very similar, decently priced option.
  • Vest: Another piece that I packed mostly for the sake of having a “cute” but warm outfit when we went out. I brought my trusty J. Crew herringbone vest, because it’s my absolute favorite.
  • T-shirts: I just packed a few of my favorite long sleeve tees, to wear as layers. And of course I brought an A&M shirt, because I always have to rep my uni wherever I travel.
  • Base layer top: We purchased Columbia omni-heat baselayer tops, they have both men’s and women’s. They were amazing and we wore them under all of our clothes during this trip.

  • Snow pants: Even if you don’t plan to ski, snowboard, or play in the snow, these are nice to have for those bitter cold days. I kept resisting at wearing these, but after a while I gave in because I just wasn’t warm enough. They provide a great extra level of insulation against the elements. I purchased the Arctix Women’s Insulated Snow Pant on Amazon because they had petite sizes for lil nuggets like me. [Seriously though, my legs are so short, y’all] Their petite sizes are perfect, and I was able to get snow pants that were a good length on me. They were also high quality, and soooo warm! For Matt, we purchased the Arctix Men’s Essential Snow Pants and they were great as well.
  • Fleece lined leggings (or Merino wool leggings):
    These are the second layer that go over the base. I have several pairs from different retailers and they’re all awesome! Here’s a good pair from Amazon.
  • Base layer leggings: We purchased Columbia omni-heat leggings for our trip, and I absolutely loved them. They’re thin enough to go under thicker leggings and jeans, but they do help to keep you noticeably warmer.
  • Jeans: Just a basic staple of any packing list. I wore these over my base layer when we were in the city.

  • Beanie: I bought Matt and I some cute Columbia omni-heat beanies. They kept our heads and ears nice and toasty.
  • Ear warmer: I prefer them over beanies, so I mostly wore my omni-heat ear warmers during this trip.
  • GlovesMake sure these are waterproof!
  • MittensI prefer mittens over gloves, but not for every situation. Overall, I feel like they keep my hands warmer. Again, make sure these are waterproof if you plan on playing in the snow!
  • Snow boots: I absolutely LOVE my Columbia Omni-Heat Minx Boots! I purchased mine for $20 on eBay (I set an alert for the style in my size and waited until a cheap, lightly used pair popped up). They are so amazing! They’re lightweight, comfortable, super warm, and completely waterproof. When I got them I was so concerned that they wouldn’t keep my feet warm or dry, but hundreds of reviews reassured me they would. I had zero problems with them in Canada, and will always sing their praise as the best snow boots. They come in lots of different colors, mine have the shiny omni-heat foil on the outside, so they’re pretty glitzy. I wouldn’t have chosen that style normally, but hey, they were $20!
  • Wool socks: Matt is an avid believer in the liner socks, so we brought those to wear under our Smartwool socks. I have a few pairs of these Smartwool winter socks and they’re my fave. Wool socks are good because they breathe, wick moisture, and resist odors.
  • BackpackTo carry all your adventure gear, of course.
  • Purse: To carry the rest of your goodies.
  • Neck Warmer/Gaiter: I used this to pull up over my face and keep my nose warm. Definitely recommend having some form of neck gaiter or balaclava for this purpose.

Another few things to bring! (Beyond your normal miscellaneous gear like camera equipment, etc.)

  • Sunscreen: Snow reflects up to 80% of the sun’s rays, so you can get pretty gnarly sunburn on the slopes. Make sure you use sunscreen to avoid that. The Naked Bee brand is my favorite, it smells good, is not greasy, and also moisturizes your skin.
  • Lotion: Cold weather dries my skin out, so I have to make sure to pack my favorite cocoa butter lotion.
  • Facial moisturizer: I swear by Lush’s Skin’s Shangri La.
  • Chapstick: The cold weather also dried out my lips, so I was constantly applying chapstick. Carmex, for some reason, is the only brand I can use because of my allergies.

Don’t forget to pin this!

Happy wanderlusting, friends!

1 Comment

  • Ania | Snow to Seas

    Really great list of things to pack for the Canadian winter (I’m originally from Canada)! I worked in a sports shop, and I agree – Columbia makes good gear. I’m also totally obsessed with Lush’s Shangri La lotion!

    September 9, 2017 at 8:40 am Reply
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