Hi Frugalistas! My trip to Paris was originally planned to be a trip to Bangkok and Paris. While my circumstances changed and I’m no longer staying in Bangkok I’ve continued to think about the question of what to pack for a trip to two climates. Of course I want to keep to just one carry on bag. Of course I want to be dressed comfortably and appropriately. But Bangkok and Paris are clearly two different climates at this time of year. So how would I approach a packing list for two different climates? What makes it into my one bag, two climate packing list?
Principles for a two climate packing list
In thinking about a two climate packing list, I have identified a number of key principles to bear in mind:
- The total packing list needs to reflect the time spent in each climate. For example, for a 2 week trip, a week in each climate means 50% of the packing list should be wearable in each climate. A short 2 day stopover out of that two weeks means more like a 20%/80% split.
You don't need two complete packing lists. You don't need lots of hot climate garments if your stay in the hot climate is only a small component of your total trip. You don't need lots of cool climate garments if your stay in the cool climate is only a small component of your total trip.
- As many garments as possible need to multitask across both climates. The more items you have that can be worn in two climates, the more outfit combinations you can make and the less you need to pack.
- My generic packing principles also hold for a packing list for two climates. A consistent colour palette (suitable for both climates) such as this colourful packing list, pieces that layer rather than add bulk, and minimal pairs of shoes remain key.
Detailed one bag packing list for two climates
As usual, I’m suggesting four tops as a starting point. You may go for more (and then pack fewer layering garments) if most of your time in a warm climate.
The types of tops that will work well are items that are easily washed that can be worn alone in the warm climate, and then layered underneath warmer garments in the cooler climate.
Think singlet tops, T shirts, button through shirts.
I’m particularly loving the idea of a button through shirt for multiclimate flexibility at the moment. Worn alone with the sleeves rolled up or as an alternate to a light jacket or cardie in warm climates, it then goes under a jacket or knit for the cooler climate. Choose an easy care, breathable fabric that washes easily and you can’t go wrong.
With your layering items, pack fewer or more depending on your climate need. Start at 3-4 items and go from there. A combination of knits and jackets that can be layered according to the weather gives you maximum flexibility.
Now, what to wear on the bottom.
No, packing for two climates does NOT mean you need to buy and wear those dreadful pants with the zip off legs that convert to shorts. Unless you are hiking they are not necessary, and are not stylish.
Avoid shorts or capri pants that can only be worn in one climate. Jeans and heavy pants are also unnecessary unless you are spending significant time in a cold climate.
Plan on 3-4 bottoms. I vote for one skirt (instead of a pair of shorts or capris) at least. Choose carefully and there is no reason why that skirt can’t be worn for casual sightseeing, or dressed up with a jacket for a smart night out in a cool climate.
Shoes are where life can get difficult for most would be one bag packers regardless of the destination. Add in two climates and it just gets trickier.
Think back to my first principle. How long are you planning to spend in each place? Do you really, really need multiple options for each destination? Be tough on yourself – shoes take up a lot of precious packing space.
Light trainers may work well. If it’s going to be truly hot you will certainly want to pack an open shoe. I suggest either fancy flip flops or flat sandals that can be worn both day and night in a hot climate. Chosen carefully they will pack flat, which may enable you to pack three, rather than my usual recommended two pairs. If you decide to take lighter boots, make sure you wear them for traveling so they don’t need to be packed.
Regular readers will know that my go to coat in all but the coldest of weather is a trench coat. It packs down small and can easily be layered up or down depending on the weather.
What you definitely do not need to pack is an overcoat. Far too heavy and bulky and too limiting. For cold weather my choice is a down coat that can be packed into a small draw string bag (like a sleeping bag) for efficient, light weight packing.
My secret weapons for two climate packing are thermals. Both long johns and a top. Add them under long pants and a knit and you have plenty of extra warmth, without bulk.
What are your “must pack” items when you are crossing different climates?