Winter 2010 travel pack list

I’m leaving Saturday for a 2.5-week winter break in NYC, MA, NJ, MN, and MT, visiting friends, my family, and my boyfriend Nick’s family. A year ago, I spent about 4 weeks in OH, NYC, MA, NJ, MI, and back in OH, and I packed a backpack and a carry-on suitcase with about 7 days worth of thick winter clothes. I was proud of myself for packing “light” and not needing to wait for baggage claim. For this winter break, I’ll only be taking with me a 33 liter backpack with um, 2 outfits, one of which I’ll already be wearing (and other gadgets, of course). Sounds nuts, right? However, I’d rather not be walking around NYC for two days with a suitcase, and migrating frequently between other states meant that the less I packed, the less stressful traveling would be. The trick is to layer, and just change your base layer every day or few days. Merino wool clothing is amazing and key to packing light for all kinds of weather. Provided that it’s winter and I already don’t sweat that much, I can definitely last this break with only 2 outfits (less if I wanted/had to).

With inspiration from Tynan’s 2009 and 2010 gear list, I set out to create my own travel pack list. I’ll modify it depending on where I’m going, but the goal is always to be able to fit everything in my backpack and not break my back carrying it around all day. I normally like to shop on Amazon or Zappos, but you can get these items in some stores or on the manufacturer’s website. Disclaimer: If you buy using an Amazon link below, I get a commission.


North Face Base Camp Hot Shot
North Face Base Camp Hotshot backpackI had my previous backpack since high school and it was finally beginning to fall apart. What I liked most about it was that it had its own designated laptop compartment, and storage area in the front for miscellaneous things. However, I didn’t like the fact that rain would seep through the fabric, or that the front part usually bulged enough to annoy people on a crowded bus / require a lot of pushing and coaxing to get it under a plane seat. This North Face backpack is perfect because its front compartment doesn’t bulge out, and when full, instead of expanding to one foot, it expands to 7 inches maximum. It’s easy to reduce that by tightening the two side straps, which reduces my backpack bulge on a normal day to about 3 inches. Items inside stack upward neatly instead of every which way, AND it’s waterproof! It took me an hour to get used to its neon Tron-like markings on the back and straps, but when you put it on, it actually doesn’t look that bad. Oh yeah, and it has straps across the chest and hip straps that can be hidden away if you don’t want stuff to dangle everywhere.


Scottevest Fleece 5.0 Jacket
Scottevest Fleece 5.0 Jacket I got this after Nick’s mom recommended Scottevest to me. I was also looking for a fleece, something that I could wear indoors and outside, and Scottevest happened to have this sweet fleece jacket with 24 pockets and removable sleeves. What more could I want? Yes, there are a lot of pockets, but I am able to put all of my travel documents, lip balm, wallet, cell phone, mp3 player, Kindle (that’s right), and even a water bottle up this thing. It even has a handy extendable key holder that I’m totally attached to. Ladies, make sure you check out the sizing chart, as this is a men’s size item. I normally wear a women’s M and had to get the fleece in XS.

Columbia Interchange shell
Columbia shell with Scottevest
I’ve owned a Columbia winter jacket for several years now. I have an Interchange Basique but it seems like they’ve replaced it with newer models. It has a removable fleece jacket and a water/wind proof outer shell. To my surprise, the Scottevest fleece (XS) is actually exchangeable with the Columbia fleece (women’s M, above picture)! The shell is easily detachable and takes up little space when folded up.

The North Face Women’s Paramount Peak Convertible Pants Asphalt Grey 6 Short
The North Face women's Paramount Peak convertible pants
Oh man, oh man, these pants are AWESOME. They come in short and long sizes, zip off easily into shorts for warm weather or exercising, not to mention they are waterproof and warm in the winter (with leggings, below). Please note that they run pretty small, so get a size or two larger. They also come in gray, which I prefer, which pretty much means these pants are perfect.

Kamik Brooklyn Black boots
Kamik Brooklyn winter boots
I’m really picky when it comes to owning pieces of clothing and shoes. I could spend hours researching the best combination of style and usefulness. I can’t stand high-heeled shoes, and any shoes I buy must be comfortable walking in for any distance. They must also be compatible with just about any outfit, since I’m not one to hoard shoes. These boots are waterproof, really warm, and light. Awesome in the snow. I’ve walked in them all day in NYC and they are decent, though if I had space for an extra pair of shoes, I would have brought my Merrell sneakers for that. I wear black Classic Vibrams for warmer weather.

Convertible glovesI’ll be upgrading my gloves soon. I’ve stuck to my cheap Target fleece convertible gloves (similar to picture) for year-round use. They do get wet in the snow and are not completely warm when it’s really cold outside, but it hasn’t bothered me enough to make me buy new ones this winter.


Smartwool Women’s Next To Skin Microweight Tee

Smartwool Microweight Tee

Merino wool base layers are key to staying warm, and Smartwool and Icebreaker are my two favorite brands. I can wear this t-shirt as a single layer in the summer, as a layer in cooler weather, or as pajamas. They are very soft against the skin, and very lightweight. Please note that Smartwool and Icebreaker seem to have different sizes, so always check for your size on the manufacturer website before ordering.

Icebreaker Women’s Oasis Crewe Bodyfit 200 Top

Icebreaker Oasis Crew Bodyfit 200

This is my long-sleeved second base layer.

SmartWool TML Light Sportknit 1/4 Zip Sweater – Women’s

Smartwool Sportknit 1/4 zip

I bought this as a warm mid-layer, and because I loved the color and thumb holes! For someone who works a lot in a cold room, the extra warmth over my hands was very welcome. I wear it with either or both of the base layers underneath, and it’s really soft and comfortable. My next mid-layer will be from Smartwool.

SmartWool NTS Microweight Bottom – Women’s
Smartwool NTS Microweight Bottoms

I switched to the Smartwool leggings from the Icebreaker’s Women’s Bodyfit 260 Leggings because they were too long for me and the elastic goes up beyond my belly button and is really tight. The Smartwool leggings are perfect! I got them in small and they wrap tightly around my legs and ankles instead of loosely like the previous pair. Also, the waist is a thicker elastic, is super comfortable, and rests below my belly button. They also feel thicker than the Icebreakers.


I haven’t upgraded to merino wool underwear. I’ll be bringing 2-3 pairs of underwear, a pair of Smartwool Basic Kneehigh Socks, a pair of Icebreaker City Lite Crew Sock (they feel more durable than the Smartwool socks, which apparently are known to wear down pretty quickly) and two bras. Underwear is really easy to hand wash, and you can wear the backup pair while waiting for the other to dry.


Humangear GoToob 3 Ounce (3 pack) Travel Bottle
GoToob 3oz containersWoah, I can’t get over how cute and useful these are. The bottles are made of soft silicone so it’s super easy to squeeze out whatever liquid you put in it, so you can take your shampoo/conditioner/bodywash/toothpaste/lotion on the go. Since I will be visiting friends and family, I don’t need to bring any of these except for toothpaste (and a toothbrush). Otherwise, I would highly recommend Dr. Bronner’s Peppermint 18-in-1 Pure-Castile Soap. For deodorant, I prefer Tom’s of Maine. If you’re also prone to messy eating or like to wear white, bring a Tide to Go Instant Stain Remover for quick stain fixes.


Apple MacBook Pro 15-inch 2.53GHz Laptop

15 inch MacBook Pro

Netbooks, although more portable, are too low-performance and too quickly outdated to warrant my buying one. Yes, this laptop probably contributes to most of the weight in my backpack, but I can’t really justify the expense of buying another lightweight laptop just for travel purposes. I own a Apple Magic Mouse to make working at a desk easier. It’s actually really nice being able to work on the same computer no matter where I go. The only viable improvement would be a MacBook Air, but I can’t afford one.

Kindle 3G (3rd generation)
Kindle e-book readerAfter owning a Nook for 6 months and being driven crazy by its battery issues and super slow page turns, I gave it away and ordered the latest Kindle. Wow, what an improvement! It’s super light and small, has way more books than the Nook offers, has ridiculously long battery life, and is just really nice to use. It totally beats lugging around heavy books to read on flights. I own the WiFi version, but in retrospect should have gone for the 3G instead because it has worldwide connectivity. With the Kindle Leather Cover, it’s really easy for flight attendants to think I’m reading a physical book and not ask me to turn it off :)

T-Mobile myTouch 4G Android Phone, White (T-Mobile)
myTouch 4G phoneI recently upgraded from the T-Mobile myTouch 3G to the myTouch 4G. It has 4G speeds, a front-facing camera, HD video, extremely responsive, running the latest Android OS, and is probably the best Android phone that T-Mobile offers at the time of writing. Also, being on the GSM network means I can use it with international SIM cards, unlike Verizon phones.

Apple iPod Nano 16 GB Orange (5th Generation)
iPod NanoMy MP3 player history looks something like this…Rio Riot, Archos Gmini 400, iPod Nano 2nd generation, iPod Touch 1st generation, and I’m now using the outdated iPod Nano, 5th generation. The reason why I have a separate MP3 player is because I’m paranoid about the battery life on my phone and listening to music for hours would drain it faster. This nano is already pretty small but the newest touch screen model blows it out of the water. I can see myself replacing it next year when Apple releases their next model. I use Sennheiser HD 202 headphones which provide awesome sound, but it’s not collapsible, and the cord drives me crazy. It’s also great for blocking out some noise on an airplane.

Nikon D90 with 18-105mm lens
Nikon D90 I’m an amateur photographer, and I just love lugging around this baby. It’s a few steps higher from an entry-level digital SLR, but a lot cheaper than the professional models. It’s heavy, but takes amazing pictures. The 18-105mm lens that it comes with is great for normal day to day shooting. I bring my Nikon 50mm f/1.4D lens with me everywhere because it’s so light, and amazing in low-light conditions. I also have a Nikon 105mm f/2.8G macro lens, which I don’t bring with me while traveling because it’s just so heavy and bulky, but it takes amazing macro shots. For my flash, I use the Nikon SB-400 AF Speedlight Flash, which makes a huge difference in indoor shots. The Nikon wireless remote and Nikon rechargeable battery are must-haves for traveling, as are a few 8GB SD memory cards.

Aside from a few other miscellaneous items like Altoids, pens, hand sanitizer, and clip-on sunglasses, these are all the things that I’ll bring with me this winter break. Granted, the list would look a lot different if I were planning a backpacking trip around Europe (no laptop, for instance), but for domestic travel, it’s enough. My mindset in the past few years has switched to a more minimalist approach to owning things, and making sure that the few things I do own are high quality and long lasting in style and use. I’ll be traveling internationally at least three times next year, so the list will undergo scrutiny and revision. If you have any suggestions for this list or would like to share your own list, I’d love to hear about it in the comments!


Update 12/26/10: I’ve added some new clothing items as I’ve gotten them over the winter break. The new pants, socks, and leggings are great! See above list.

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