How to travel with hand luggage only for a ski trip

The trick is to pack thinner layers, rather than bulky separations.

Share this article

EEven if you plan to rent your skis or snowboard, a ski trip packing list requires a bit more coins than your typical tropical vacation. You’ll need goggles, gloves, boots, and thick socks, not to mention what you’ll be putting on off the tracks.

So you might be surprised to find that it’s entirely possible to pack up for a long ski weekend (or even a week) with just handbags. We don’t need to tell you to wear your bulkiest jacket and sweater and bulkiest boots on the plane instead of packing them in your carry-on. But you’ll want to make sure the gear you store in your case is also easy to pack down, so you can maximize what fits inside (packing cubesto like Paravel Compression Cubes$55, can do wonders for that).

The reward ? You don’t have to worry about a tight flight connection delaying your bag and leaving you in the cold, without warm layers, literally. And if you’re traveling with friends, showing up with a small carry-on makes it easier for everyone and their stuff to fit into a rental car.

Opt for a carry-on bag with maximum capacity

Not all carry-on luggage is created equal. For a hard-shell roller compact enough to fit in the top bin, but capable of storing enough on- and off-mountain clothing options for multiple days, you can’t go wrong with Paravel Aviator Plus Hand Luggage ($295). This recycled polycarbonate the case weighs only 8.5 pounds but offers a capacity of 52.1 liters inside. And the interior compression panel acts like a magic wand to abracadabra-ing whatever you need inside. Note that larger hand luggage like this (its dimensions are 14.7 x 22.7 x 9.6 inches) are fine if you are flying on US domestic airlines. But international carriers may apply stricter rules hand luggage size restrictions.

If you’re looking for a soft case that can fit easily among the many other bags in your rental car, the minimalist packers we know rave about how much you can fit inside a Tortuga Outbreaker Backpack ($299). It has a compartment for your laptop, weighs less than five pounds and has a capacity of 35 liters for your belongings.

For a larger soft case that’s still carry-on compliant, AFAR editor Lyndsey Matthews packed up for a recent five-night ski trip to Lake Tahoe using it. North Face Base Camp Small Duffel Bag ($129). With a capacity of 50 liters in a compact housing 13 x 21 x 13 inches, youThe expedition-style bag has a sturdy construction to withstand some rubbing, if needed, and compression straps that shrink it even more once you have everything inside. Backpack-style straps aren’t the most comfortable for carrying long distances, but will get you through an airport and airplane aisle with ease.

Kari Traa's merino wool base layers are stylish enough to wear off the track too.

Merino wool is your friend

Merino wool base layers are essential for staying warm on the mountain and take up virtually no space in your bag. The best part about merino (beyond the fact that it’s ultra-warm) is that it doesn’t trap odor-causing bacteria like synthetic materials do. Just hang up your wool underwear to air them out after a day on the mountain and you’ll be amazed at how fresh they will be the next day. For four days on the mountain, you can easily get away with just two pairs of merino base layers without creating a stink.

For warmth and style, we never get tired Kari Traa 100% Merino Base Layers for women (from $75), which are pretty enough to shake off your top layer for the afternoon. Along with styles for men and women, New Zealand brand Icebreaker also makes lush 100% merino base layers, which you can think of as investment pieces, like the Merino 200 Oasis Women’s Long Sleeve Half-Zip Thermal Top ($105) and the Men’s Merino 260 Zone Half Zip and Legging ($130 and $140).

The Aether Mission Snow Shell is waterproof and has pockets in all the right places.

Opt for a two-piece system on top, instead of a thick ski jacket

Instead of a bulky all-in-one ski jacket, opt for a lightweight down or synthetic down jacket layered under a thin shell jacket – a perfect combo for keeping the wind and cold at bay (especially with those layers). of merino as a base). And while down is great for protecting your body heat, it loses its insulating qualities if it gets wet. So you might want to opt for a synthetic puffer instead.

Combining the best of both worlds, the Arc’teryx Cerium LT Hoodie ($379, available in Men’s and women‘s sizing) comes with an additional 850 fill power and synthetic insulation strategically placed in areas where moisture is likely to accumulate. You can wear it on the plane to avoid chills or store it in its pouch and use it as a travel pillow. For a synthetic, water-resistant midlayer with good heat retention properties, we like the Patagonia Nano Puff Hoody ($249, for women and Men) and Arc’teryx Atom LT Hoody ($259, for Men and women).

For a shell, look for something that is windproof and waterproof, preferably with reinforced zippers designed to keep the elements out. Stio’s ID Jacket for women ($599) comes in bright hues of blue and orange that’ll make you stand out on the slopes (because there’s nothing less inspiring than a black jacket and black pants through a day blue bird as a shadow on an Instagram shot).

For men, Mountain Hardwear Firefall/2 Jacket ($250) also comes in a range of colors and is waterproof and snow-ready – with an internal snow skirt and Velcro cuff closures to keep the white stuff out. And new in the Aether Ski 2022 collection, the waterproof and windproof jacket Mission Snowshell ($895) is another choice for quality and style, featuring a three-layer Gore-Tex shell and a high collar insulated with PrimaLoft to keep you warm.

Lightweight ski pants exist

There are many insulated ski pants. And they are surely grilled. But unless conditions are exceptionally cold on the mountain, legs can stay toasty warm with just a base layer and a thin shell wrapping around them. In short, you don’t need anything too bulky here when it comes to ski pants. So look for softshell, lightweight pants that pack down small and leave enough room underneath for your base layers to take the weight of the interior warmth.

We love the purple pop of the North Face Freethinker Futurelight Pants for women ($450), as well as its removable straps that keep them as high and snug as you want them to be. And Arc’teryx Hadron Beta LT Pants for men ($350) are waterproof and windproof thanks to Gore-Tex while offering the solid abrasion resistance you’d expect from much heavier pants.

A pair of shoes will suffice

Provided you rent ski or snowboard boots once you get to the mountain, you might be able to get by with just one pair of shoes (make it boots) for a short trip. Pick the ones that will keep you safe and dry on snowy sidewalks, but also stylish enough to wear après-ski. The raincoat Lucie Sneaker Boot by Forsake ($150) will keep your feet dry and look cute with tights and a sweater dress. For men, waterproof suede Starting Explorer by Sorel ($105, was $140) fits like a sneaker but has sturdy rubber soles with great traction for navigating snowy terrain.

If you just need something comfy to take from your hotel room to the lobby restaurant, we like the unisex model too. Glerup slippers ($155) with their grippy rubber bottoms and 100% natural wool felt uppers.

Other tips for traveling light when skiing

  • Ski goggles, sunglasses, gloves and socks can all be stored inside the boots in your bag or in the outer pocket of the jacket you wear on board.
  • To buy Solar creamhand warmers and other inexpensive accessories when you get to where you’re going to save space.
  • If you’re bringing your BYO headset, strap it to your carry-on or backpack instead of trying to store it inside – no gate crew or flight attendant will argue if you explain you’re taking measures to protect your head.
  • Don’t overdo it with the après-ski outfit. Ski resorts are by nature laid back. Even in a place like Aspen or St. Moritz, there is always a bar or a restaurant where you can come as you are and dress in a sweater and leggings or jeans. Pants and a sweater or two will suffice.

>> Next: The AFAR guide to après-ski

The products we write about are independently reviewed and recommended by our editors. AFAR may earn a commission if you purchase through our links, which helps support our independent publishing.

Comments are closed.