Packing for Cooler Weather

What’s in My Bag: Packing for Cool Climate

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So many of you have asked for my insider experience on how to pack light and efficiently. Well I’m nothing if not service-y, so I figured, give the people what they want. And, thus, What’s in My Bag, a series of how to pack for various trips and climates, was born (right here and now). First up: packing for fall-type weather.

This week had me ditching my warm weather duds—who am I kidding, it’s rarely warm in the Bay Area, at least in summer; I just flit around in sundresses, freezing my ass off and trying to fool myself—in lieu of fall and light winter wear. Where am I heading? Why, Australia in winter time, in fact. (Actually, I’m already here! Hi from the far reaches of Tasmania!)

If I can help it, my rule of thumb is to only take a carry-on bag. It saves the stress of losing your luggage and the cost of baggage fees if you’re not an elite member/you’re flying one of these crap airlines who charge $23 per bag (ahem, Delta, I’m looking at you). This time it was easy in the sense that I’m only going to be gone for nine days, making one small bag a viable option, but difficult as Tassie is quite windy and cool (highs in the mid-50’s, lows in the mid-40’s), so I need thicker duds that will keep me warm and, likewise, occupy more space in my bag. Still, it can be done. Observe.

I made this video as a tutorial, but as many of you read my blog from work, I also broke it down in writing below.

Packing for Fall Weather from Camels & Chocolate on Vimeo.

1. Dress in one color scheme. I usually pick one overall color family—in this case, gray; oftentimes, it’s tan/light brown—and match all outfits to it. This significantly cuts back on the number of shoes I have to take, which are the number one thing that weigh down my luggage. In this instance, I have one pair of flat gray boots that fold up rather nicely to wear over jeans during the day, one pair of silver-y pewter flats to dress up outfits for nighttime, and my gray TOMS to wear on the plane and around the city on days with a lot of walking. Ditto to accessories. Since I’ll be wearing all gray complements, this rules out gold jewelry entirely, and I can simply pack a pair or two of silver hoops and studs and one bracelet and wear them with all ensembles.

2. Layer. For this particular trip, when it’s going to be cooler than most and I’m going to be out and about in the thick of it, I brought two tees, two long-sleeved shirts that fit easily under the tees, two sweaters, two cardigans and a winter coat. All can be stacked and inter-mixed so I can get more wear out of the few items I brought and also won’t be cold as I always have another layer handy to throw on top. I don’t normally get dirty enough to need to wash things while traveling, but many hotels do offer laundry services so if I’m doing a lot of trekking, as was the case in Rwanda, I can always send my soiled duds out and have them back the next morning in time to wear again.

As far as on the bottom, I brought one pair of casual Gap jeans, another dark wash pair that can easily be dressed up, and a pin-striped denim skirt. Again, they all go with every top I brought, shoes too. I packed one dressy Language tank well suited for the darkΒ  jeans, and a dressier Anthropologie cardi for dinners. At the last minute—because I had minimal space to spare—I slipped in one thin Anthro dress (that match the pewter flats), just in case I decide to mix things up one evening. I am a newly converted jeans wearer, after all; going a week without a dress is comparable to a meth addict going a day without hitting the pipe.

3. Wear your bulkier items on the plane. I’m taking a wool pea coat for the 45-degree nights, and as I have zero room left in my bag for such heavy items. Airports and airplanes are always freezing anyway, so I’m more often than not happy to have it on me.

4. Go au naturel. Once I finally learned to leave the curling iron and straightener and make-up I never end up wearing in the first place, et al, at home, it freed up loads of space in my bag. You’re traveling! Go with it! You don’t need to look like an extra on The Hills. (Also, in this day and age, you’ll be hard-pressed to find a hotel that doesn’t offer hair dryers, so you can be slightly high maintenance and still pack light.)

5. Skimp on the toiletries. Again, every hotel—whether two stars or five—offers shampoo and body wash and lotion and bars of soap, and restocks your room daily. Conditioner, on the other hand, is not always a given, so I leave the others at home and take a hotel-sized bottle (or two) of conditioner along with me in case. Insider tip: If you don’t want to surrender your liquids to the security belt, quite simply, don’t. Just hide them really well. Typically, I bury my toiletries in the middle of the bag to hide them from the X-ray (still ziplocked, just in case), and in the three years since the liquids rule went into effect, I have been caught all of once. Just sayin’: It saves you time.

Next up in the packing series: what to take and wear on the plane. Until then!

  • July 21, 2010

    Loved this. I really like the idea of “What’s in my bag” as I always have a hard time packing and my fiance absolutely NEVER checks a bag. He says it wastes time and is just more of a pain. Do you have a preference on suitcase brand? Since you travel so much you must have a favorite.

  • July 21, 2010

    I love these little tips – seeing how someone interprets the basic rules of light packing always sparks a new idea or two.
    But more than the tips, I love the headband you’re wearing. πŸ™‚

  • July 21, 2010

    This is perfect timing. I’m going to the shore next month for a week and have been trying to figure out how to make everything fit in a carry on bag. Will definitely be referring back. Have a great time in Australia πŸ™‚

  • July 21, 2010

    This is so great!! I just bought my “dream luggage” for all my new business travel and have been struggling to get a week worth of clothes in a carry-on. I can’t wait to learn what to wear on the plane!

  • July 21, 2010

    Fun! I am a roller, too – I usually have to pack friends’ bags, too since I find all those nooks and crannies to stuff something into. If only there weren’t weight limits πŸ™‚

  • July 21, 2010

    Thanks Kristin, that was really helpful! I’ve done the one bag carry-on thing for awhile now, but I still suck at sticking to a color scheme and taking clothes with me that actually match each other. Usually I end up packing the night before and I get to my destination with a bunch of clothes that don’t go together.

  • July 21, 2010

    I just throw my toiletries and liquid goodies in with everything else in my carry-on, and have never been stopped by security. To heck with ziploc baggies.

  • July 21, 2010

    Love love love this! Thank you so much for the information! My trekking usually takes place in warmer temps so I have never really known how to pack otherwise. This “how to” will be perfect for my travels this winter.

  • July 21, 2010

    Hurray! As one of the askers, I’m so excited that you’re doing this. I find that the one-color rule saves me a lot of headaches, especially when you get to that point when you’ve already worn everything once. It’s so much easier to put together new outfits when you can blindly grab two things from the bag and you know they’ll work!

  • July 21, 2010

    Oooo … what are you doing in Tasmania? I live in Melbourne, and I have to say that I love love love Tasmania, even if it IS freezing there in winter (not compared to the US, obvs). I hope you can make it to Cradle Mountain and surrounds – so very beautiful.

  • July 21, 2010

    You so cute.

  • July 21, 2010

    Love the tips. Might have trouble with the “no makeup” one, but seeing as I’ve narrowed my routine down to 5 or 6 items it’s rarely a space issue. Oh, and when we *do* check luggage, medications and a pair of underpants always go in my carry on; I can stand to be without jeans for a couple days, but not my meds, and I do NOT reuse underpants.

    Not sure how that last bit was relevant, but it seemed important.

  • July 21, 2010

    Loved the video–you looked fabulous as always. πŸ™‚

    Great advice!!! I think the moment where you and I became carry-on chics was Cuba, huh?

    Have the BEST time in Oz!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • July 21, 2010

    Love this new series!

  • July 22, 2010

    You wear jeans now?? San Francisco did this to you, right? Every blog I ready from there complains about the 50F weather in June.
    Also, great series for travelers. Although I’m not proud that you can pack less than me.

  • July 22, 2010

    Loved this video! I would be interested to know how you pack your additional carry-on, though. I always have trouble determining what to do when I already have a roll-on suitcase, and my “purse” needs to fit a laptop, a DSLR with at least one other lens, compact camera, occasionally an external drive (not so much anymore, but this was a an issue last year), plus my other carry-on things, like books, magazines, glasses, passport, wallet, phone, maybe someday an iPad, etc. etc.

    In the meantime, I hope you are having fun down under!

  • July 22, 2010

    Great tips! Thanks Kristin!

    Since we are always traveling, we have traveling light down to an art form! πŸ˜‰ This year we will circumvent the world for 8 months and just take a small carry-on each & that includes are 3 laptops and homeschool stuff for kidlet. πŸ˜‰

  • July 22, 2010

    I love this. One of the best things I did while packing for my trip to Asia was skimp on the toiletries and trust that the hotels would have enough and that my sister would, too. It worked out perfectly, and my bag? Was SO much lighter.

  • July 22, 2010

    the rolling! am going to try this for sure. i totally agree that i have all kinds of liquids that never get seen so that’s always a plus.

  • July 22, 2010

    Thank you for considering us who are sneaking away and hardly working by typing up the instructions πŸ˜‰

  • July 22, 2010

    SUPER HELPFUL! (says the girl who will soon be packing for her two week honeymoon!)

  • July 22, 2010

    I usually will try to wear a pair of boots on the plane too, provided I am bringing them. Since the husband works for an airline and most of our flying is now done standby, we never get the luxury of a checked bag anymore; I have learned to be far pickier in what I bring. I hadn’t thought of the one color scheme though, I seriously will try that next time! (I just got home yesterday for a trip!)

  • July 23, 2010

    Good timing and cool information… I am leaving for northern Alaska pronto, and have been advised as to what to bring, dress in layers, etc… Your video reminded me of something I forgot to add to my list: scarf. Thank you.

  • July 24, 2010

    Ahem, it’s rarely warm in SAN FRANCISCO in summer. It’s warm in the rest of the Bay Area. It’s 80-90F and sunny on the Peninsula today.

    I’ve never heard of an international airline charging baggage fees. I don’t know who you flew with to get to Australia but Qantas has never lost one of my bags and their baggage allowance is very generous.

  • July 24, 2010

    PS I know you lived in San Mateo for a while – I’m pretty sure that’s far enough north to get San Francisco weather. It’s warm and sunny down Palo Alto way. I haven’t worn a jacket or long-sleeved shirt for months!

  • July 25, 2010

    This is great! I’m a carry-on girl also (Jet Blue lost my luggage on the way to my wedding. They found it but I was already scarred). Ever since then, I do only carry-ons but I have a hard time with warm weather bulky items. I like your idea of one color scheme. I’m doing that from now on!

  • July 28, 2010

    Fabulous advice! In fact, so fabulous that I am now fully packed for a trip that is a week away! We’re headed to NYC and then on to Bermuda for 10 days, and thanks to your great tips, I will be lugging only one petite carry-on! (Also, my hubby thanks you in advance for preventing the usual giant bag schlepping that occurs on our travels)

  • July 30, 2010

    Awesome tips! The one color scheme tip is so key. One major challenge I have when packing is wanting to bring too many different color schemes, with black shoes, brown shoes, and maybe silver and/or gold sandals. It’s so hard cutting down to one color scheme, but it always makes my life so much easier once I’m actually traveling!

  • February 8, 2011

    Thanks for the tips! Hubs & I are traveling to Ireland next week to celebrate our 10 year anniversary, and I was daunted by the thought of only being able to take one checked bag. Now you’ve shown that I can make it with just one carry-on. We will most likely have to have a checked bag as we will need one carry-on for electronics. Hubs worships at the feet of Steve Jobs and bought a new tiny laptop just for the trip. I’m so excited. Now I just need to figure out my one color scheme.

  • April 27, 2011

    If you need to shrink your stuff down further you can get travelproof compression bags from Eagle Creek or Lifeventure. You hand roll the air out and work well with sweatshirts and coats. I always roll up my underwear and push into shoes to save that essential space!

    • April 27, 2011

      Thanks, Chris! I’ll check them out. I used to use those vacuum bags you see on commercials, and they worked pretty well when I was home before departing for a trip, but then while traveling, I never had a vacuum handy to repack them!

      • April 28, 2011

        These are very similar but are made from heavy duty plastic with a honeycomb mesh through for them strength. Supposedly you can drive a car over them (but don’t try this at home as they say!!!)

  • October 28, 2011

    LOVED THIS! Hubby is always smug when he gets all his low-maintenance stuff in a carry on and a backpack for a week. I took it on as a challenge on our last 1 week trip to Philly. It was a success! Now wish me luck as I pack for Vegas for a week. I understand that I’ll be limiting my shoe selection (argh!) to sneakers and a couple of flats since I plan on walking everywhere. I put toiletries, some shoes, netbook, camera and very small crossbody purse in an oversized purse/bag and carry as my “personal item”. Of course all cards/travel docs are in that small purse.

  • February 24, 2014

    Love this!! I am going to New York, by train, with my boyfriend for a week over spring break this year. Any packing advice?

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